Sorry about the headline. It’s not meant to offend anyone, but rather to get your eyebrow raised a bit, wondering what those UX design practices could possibly be.
For starters, we can all agree that the world of UX design is vast. There’s a lot of information and advice circulating around, new trends popping up left and right, all of which makes separating the wheat from the chaff rather challenging.
So how do you find your way in all that and identify the practices that, albeit appearing perfectly fine at first glance, actually don’t bring much value? To get you thinking – and questioning some common UX design advice – we’ve gathered a list of 7 such practices for you to ponder:
1. Reinventing The Wheel All Over Again For Each Project
As a UX designer, you should constantly be building up your portfolio, but not only in a way you probably think. Granted, just building a catalog of projects to showcase to new prospective clients is one thing, and still a crucially important step to take, but this is about something else.
Each project that you go through, and even if you’re just starting out (with only one or two projects under your belt), gives you new experiences and grows your skills and knowledge in the UX design space. Of course, the gaining of experience on its own will happen regardless, and there’s nothing you need to pay special attention to in that regard. However, what I’m talking about here is building a “catalog of experience” deliberately and consciously as you complete every single one of your projects.
This can be a special notepad or a series of entries in your favorite note-taking app. So for each project, open up that notepad and try answering the following questions:
What did I learn from this project?
What were the problems?
What to focus on next time to prevent these problems?
What would I do differently?
What was great about the project and/or my execution?
What to do next time to make the good parts even better?
Of course, you can do much more and create additional questions, or even start compiling whole resources for yourself that will come handy later on. Those can be things like, say, a list of the common mistakes that clients or project managers always make, or things to ask every client prior to getting to work, and so on.
After a while, having insights like that will be invaluable and will help you start every new project on strong foundations that are rooted in everything that you completed before.
2. Disconnecting From The Actual Users
There’s this thing called the false consensus effect or bias. Defined by Wikipedia as:
[The false consensus effect] is an attributional type of cognitive bias whereby people tend to overestimate the extent to which their opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical of those of others (i.e., that others also think the same way that they do).
What does it have to do with UX design? Well, it’s more or less the reason why we tend to disregard the user, thinking that we know exactly what they think, what they need, and how much they will enjoy the thing we’re building.
In other words, the false consensus bias is what convinces us that we’re the user, and that the others will bend to our will.
This won’t happen.
To truly resonate with the actual users you need to do serious user research and learn about the real-world personas that will actually end up using the product of your work.
Though it might sound unfortunate, we don’t matter, users do. It doesn’t matter what we like seeing on the screen. It only matters what users think about it.
The first step to that: really getting to know those users. This is perhaps much easier said than done, but you can get there by taking one small step at a time:
Do your initial research. Get to know all the demographic data. Talk with the client about this, look at who the competition is targeting, etc.
Reach out to a small group of users and let them test the first version of the product (or interact with the first version of the website).
Get that first demo to them as soon as possible.
Incorporate the early feedback. But don’t believe everything users say – rather pay attention to what they do.
Then, after the project is done, do an audit, reflect on what could be done better, write it down. This will help you connect better with your own ability of working with the target users and understanding them better for future projects.
If you’re really devoted, come back to the project after a while, take a look at how the users interact with it at that point. Has anything changed compared to the behavior of that initial user group?
3. Not Refreshing Your Toolbox
UX design, much like any other professional field, sees a slew of new tools being released literally every week.
We should all be on top of that, yet we rarely are.
I bet you have your favorite set of tools that you always work with, and you revise this list very occasionally – probably only when one of those tools gets shut down or discontinued.
Every new tool on the market is there in a response to a valid user pain and aiming to solve it more effectively than the tools that came before it. Basically, by definition, new tools can bring tremendous value and improve your processes a lot. Of course, not all of them, but if you ever want to single out the gems, you have to have your finger on the pulse and pay attention to what gets released.
On that note, have you tried Adobe XD yet? It’s a prototyping and wireframing tool built especially for UX designers.
4. Focusing On “Appearance,” Not “Experience”
I get that; it’s really easy to lose yourself in the process of designing the next thing that cool kids use and focus way too much on the appearance of it rather than on the actual experience it brings to its users.
Moreover, your clients will sometimes encourage you to do that. After all, they want to get a great-looking product out of it too. And it’s hard to blame them, actually, when I think about it.
Still, you shouldn’t allow yourself to get sidetracked like that for a longer period of time. Always try reminding yourself that what you’re building, how it looks, what features get highlighted, and so on, all depends on the user experience that you want to provide.
And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about not allowing yourself to simply work on how things look from time to time, but more about snapping yourself out of it when enough is enough and circling back to the overall UX goals of the project.
Even something as simple as a sticky note saying, “How does this improve UX?” somewhere on your desk can be enough.
5. Adding Too Much And Not Removing Enough
They say that good design is not about how much you can add, but how much you can remove and still achieve your goals. And this rings more true in UX design than perhaps anywhere else.
After all, the more elements you have, the less clear things get for the user as to what they should be doing, thus impeding the overall user experience. So, how do you know exactly what can be removed? That’s the toughest question.
One thing that can give you a helping hand here is some good ol’ data. Whenever it is possible, you should make your decisions based on real data that you’ve gotten either from reliable usability tests or real user input (e.g. from that initial group of users that got to use the demo; see no.2 above).
What elements of the design the users ignore completely?
What are they confused about?
What is more than clear to them (the things they interact with right away without hesitation)?
What is the biggest obstacle that keeps them from achieving the main goal?
Based on input like that, you can start removing elements reliably and not have to worry that it’s going to break the user experience, butrather improve it.
6. Not Giving The User Any Feedback On The Actions They Perform
Building your interface in a way that’s intuitive and conveys all the possible actions (plus effectively points out the next step that the user should take) is one thing. We all know we should do that. However, what’s just as important is then confirming that what the user has done is “a okay.” This last part is something we often forget about.
Consider the following example; this is howDuolingo – a language learning app – does some of their exercises. Right after the user taps on the “check” button, a quick badge pops up. This provides the user with the final confirmation that their answer was correct and that they did exactly what the app meant them to do.
As you’re working on a project, be on the lookout for places where you can include those seemingly small “nuggets of UX.”
7. Not educating yourself regularly
Thinking that you know enough – whatever the field – has no value at all. It leads nowhere.
There are always things you know you can do better, things you don’t know you can do better, and more places to take your information from than you can shake a stick at.
But this is not only about reading an occasional blog post here and there. I’m talking about some structured education via platforms that have been built specifically to provide you with that kind of education. Places like Interaction Design Foundation, Treehouse, and Coursera come to mind.
Though, no matter the platform you choose to help you train your UX design muscle, the bigger point here is making it a deliberate practice in itself. If you set aside even three hours a week to educate yourself on UX design, it will make you a significantly better designer by the end of the year.
Not to mention that “catalog of experience” that we talked about at the very beginning of this resource. It will be a goldmine of information for you on its own after you have a handful of projects under your belt.
That sums it up! Is there anything that you’d like to see clarified a bit more? If so, don’t hesitate to comment! Also, please share this resource with your friends if you think they might benefit from the information.