User experience incorporates a lot of areas and it is essential for any UX design practitioner to acquire a set of specific skills to excel in this discipline. In this article, we discuss a few important rules for every UX designer so they can offer an exceptional experience for their users.
1. Understand the meaning: The first essential rule in UX designing is understanding that it is not the same as UI. User Interface is simply a part of User Experience and not the same thing. User Interface is a junction at which humans and products or applications interact while User Experience comprises the overall result and emotional fallout of those interactions. Of course, the user interface plays a crucial role in forming the overall user experience. A good UX designer should avoid this common mistake of considering these two terms as one and should focus on providing the best emotional relationship between the audience and a product.
2. Understand your audience: The next important step is thoroughly researching your audience. It is crucial to have complete knowledge of what your users want and what they may like so that you can create a desirable product. Keep your users at the top of your mind while designing anything for them as it is only then that you can build a valuable product that benefits users and is their most preferred choice amongst all available options.
3. Keeping your choices separate from the users: A common error that UX designers make is mistaking their thoughts and likes as the users’. The target audience may not necessarily follow the same behavioral patterns or reactions since people come from different backgrounds, mindsets, mental models and have varied goals. Therefore, it is crucial to test any new product with real users to gain essential feedback and opinions.
It is recommended that designers use the technique of usability testing to overcome the false consensus bias, which means considering your opinions as to the same as your audience. To create something that users may love, you need to test it with real users. The process may be time-consuming but surely the only way to ensure that users will actually like your product.
4. Modify designs for decreasing attention spans: Too much information can be overwhelming for your users. Human attention spans have gradually declined and anything more time consuming than what the users can concentrate on can cause loss of interest. Hence, it has become imperative that designers adjust their offerings to acquiesce with this behavior and provide all necessary information in the shortest time possible. Also, designers need to simplify interfaces by removing irrelevant elements or content that does not complement user tasks. They can employ the technique of functional minimalism to achieve the same while retaining valuable user experience.
5. Adaptive UX process: A single design process may not work for all products and hence, it is important to redefine your design process as per the product requirements. UX process is a crucial aspect of UX design and therefore, it needs to be clear, concise and directed towards crafting a memorable experience for the target audience. Moreover, each project is unique in its requirements and outcomes and a designer should use a flexible design process based on the project demands to create a noteworthy user experience. As an example, if you are designing a new product you might require more time for research and user requirement identification. But to design an existing product, more time may be required on design validation. You cannot use a similar approach for both these scenarios.
6. Prototype testing: Prototyping means creating a working model of the actual product for testing in real-life scenarios. It allows you to test your hypothesis before you spend your time and effort on building the actual product. Every designer should include the prototyping stage in their design process as this helps identify what works and what not and can save a lot of time, money and effort. Designers use different prototyping techniques, like rapid prototyping, which is a way of quickly creating the future state of a product, be it a website or an app, and validating it with a group of users.
7. Use actual content while designing: Content makes up a significant share of any product. Text, images or videos, all comprise content in one or the other form. Yet many designers ignore the importance of real and solid content and use alternative ways to compensate for the same. To create a real and notable customer experience, designers should fill their designs with actual and useful content from the beginning so that the final result is as close to their expectations as possible and does not lack a lifelike quality.
8. Be simple and consistent: A great user interface exudes simplicity and consistency rather than complicity and abstraction. In the context of digital products, simplicity means it is easy to understand and interact with a product. Users need not read instructions to figure out how to use an app or have a map to navigate through it. As an interface designer, it is your job to make things clear and easy to walk through. Again, consistency requires interfaces to be kept even throughout a design. Using excessive color schemes or variable design patterns often causes confusion and frustration rather than providing an attractive look. It is advisable to utilize complimentary design elements that constantly reinforce the important facets of your product at every point.
9. Easy to recognize elements: Filling your design with elements that are easy for users to identify gives them a comfortable and relatable atmosphere that they would like to visit or use again and again. Designers should ensure users can automatically recognize how to use certain features of their product instead of making them recall this information. Aim to minimize the cognitive load by making information and interface functions visible and easily accessible.
10. Easily accessible design: Designers should make sure their design caters to a diverse set of users and is usable and not just aesthetically appealing. It is definitely important to have a visually appealing design, however, excessive focus on aesthetics can divert from the actual usability information.
Accessible design allows users the ability to navigate, understand and use digital products without any hurdle. A well-designed product is accessible to users of all abilities, including those with low vision, hearing or cognitive impairments, or motor impairments. Working on the product’s accessibility may need more time and specific design inclusions but it works to significantly enhance the design’s usability for a different set of users.
11. Teamwork: What one can gain with teamwork cannot be accomplished alone. A collaborative effort between designers, developers, stakeholders, and users is what builds an exceptional user experience. The more the number of engaged people, the higher the number of ideas, insights, improvements, and feedback. The result is often a well-defined and less flawed product that is more appealing and useful for users.
12. One problem at a time: Design is an iterative process. The UX process includes several phases like ideation, prototyping, testing and delivery, and modifications may be required time and again. It is preferable to be open to new ideas and feedback and refine your design as and when necessary so as to offer a great and flawless user experience. Take up one issue at a time and proceed to improve all areas slowly as the product user base increases.
13. Prevention is better than cure: Try and keep potential errors to a minimum. Errors are unavoidable and may be caused due to numerous reasons, but how they are handled can have a huge impact on user experience. Users dislike errors and obviously don’t like to be the ones to cause them. As a UX designer, strive to either eliminate error-prone conditions altogether or check for them and notify users before they commit to the action. Try and create an environment with the least amount of errors so as to get a positive user reaction and build a successful product design.
The rules mentioned above are just certain things UX designers should pay specific attention to so that their design process is successful and appreciated by users. Apart from product technicalities, a little focus on these areas can go a long way in helping UX designers move up their career chart and attain customer recognition.