While the world of user experience design has been growing over the past decade, it’s only recently that we’ve started to see common design principles emerge within the industry as a whole. While not every UX designer will agree on which principles are most important, there are certain concepts and laws that seem to crop up time and time again in discussions between designers and clients alike. The top 10 UX design principles and laws every designer should know are detailed below, along with some examples of how they have helped shape successful products in the past.
1) Design Is a Job
Designers shape the way people live their lives, work, or just exist in this world. The best designers don’t blindly follow established norms or put out whatever someone asks for; they challenge the status quo. User experience design is about building products that go beyond form to take into account function. It’s about being mindful of the user–every step of the way.
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2) People Don’t Think How Things Work, They Think How Things Look
One of the most critical pieces of design is how the interface will visually communicate with people. Think about it: The user won’t be reading any instructions to know how things work. They will only be interacting with what they see. The more efficient your design is, the less a user will need to think about what it does or what they have to do to make it work because your product has been made intuitively clear for them.
Every designer should always keep in mind that people don’t think in terms of functions or operations, they think visually: What does this button do? Is this highlighted text a link? It’s so important that your designs are clear and communicated effectively before spending time building something no one can use.
3) Good Interfaces Are Natural
Don’t be afraid to let your personality show through. As we said before, a good interface should be natural. A computer is doing the work behind the scenes, so don’t hide what you’re doing or shy away from what you’re creating. You are expressing yourself in the interface and it should feel personal, which goes back to our earlier point about working out a design that’s intuitive for you. If it feels as though you can’t get creative with your designs due to constraints or confinements, then this might not be the right project for you.
4) Simplicity Is Not Simple
Simplicity is not simple. We’ll just get that out of the way right now. By simple, we usually mean easy or concise. But a concept that is easy to understand isn’t necessarily easy to create. In fact, simplicity usually involves an incredible amount of effort and refinement. As the saying goes, it’s much easier to make something complicated than it is to make something simple.
5) Emotion Matters
A lot of people think the only thing that matters is to create something that performs well, but in reality, the experience a user has is just as important. That’s why UX design incorporates not only the technical requirements for a project, but also how it will make people feel. This feeling has to be consistent for every element so that people always know where they are in the system and what they’re doing. A well-designed interface is made with these principles in mind so users get feedback from using it, know how to use it, don’t become frustrated trying to do too many things at once, and have an enjoyable experience.
6) Speed Matters
Speed matters. Studies show that the maximum time users will wait for a site to load is 8 seconds. Time spent waiting impacts users’ satisfaction with the website, their opinion of the company, and their likelihood to return. One study found that 34% of visitors to a site who are subjected to delays in loading time of over 8 seconds abandon the site; more than twice as many as those who face delays between 4-8 seconds. For this reason, it’s important to prioritize performance issues during testing.
7) Simplicity Leads to Predictability
Good design is based on simplifying the experience. If you are able to make something intuitive, people will not only be able to use it with ease, but will also be able to predict what will happen when they do use it. Predictability is a fundamental component of good design. You can’t blame the user for actions that weren’t predictable in your interface.
8) Test Your Assumptions
One of the most important design principles is that designers should test their assumptions as much as possible. If a designer wants to test whether a button would work better blue or green, then they should design both variations to see which one users click on more often.
Designers should also think about how their designs will function with new devices. Even though we’ve all been using laptops for years, smartphones have become ubiquitous, and users expect interfaces to work in a similar way on these devices.
9) Prototypes Help You Test Assumptions, so Build Them Early!
Prototypes help you test assumptions, so build them early! Here are our top ten UX design principles and laws that every designer should know:
- Prototypes are the best way to validate your product’s user experience. The sooner you start, the sooner you can make changes and the more confident you will be in what your design team has created. You’ll need to prototype how a feature or functionality works by simulating clicks on it or by showing a video of someone using it on screen. The goal is to find any unnecessary steps that could be eliminated to make it faster or easier for users to achieve their goals, as well as pinpoint any glaring usability issues that require attention. Keep iterating until your prototype meets this objective!
10) Invest in Validation. It’s Okay if it Changes. Then Change it Again.
A common misconception among designers is that what they design is a finished product. For this reason, they often fail to take validation seriously and make time for changes. Validating the user experience is not an optional part of the process; it’s the critical foundation of any user-centered process. In order to test your assumptions, you’ll need to validate with your users before moving forward. Changes will be necessary from both iterations. But as long as you are acting on real data from end users and not just developing assumptions, you’ll be able to iterate with confidence in each step of the process.
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