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Follow These 15 Rules to Create Winning UX Designs

Offering a delightful, friendly, inspiring user experience is the key to success in the digital age. Products need to go beyond addressing a specific need; it’s not enough to endow them with the required features. Today, how products deliver the results assumes greater – and often critical – importance.

Successful UX design companies internalize UX-centric thinking in their design approaches. Their strategies are earmarked by powerful, proven, clearly laid-out techniques. Now, you can also follow these guidelines to transform your design projects. We’ll review a few important ones here.

UX takes a lot more than good-looking UI

It’s quite common to see people mixing up UI and UX, and even using the terms interchangeably. These are actually different design aspects. User interfaces are building blocks that influence the user experience. Simply put, they represent the elements that help users interact with the product. User experience is the emotional effect triggered by these interactions. UI design primarily aims to provide users with suitable controls to access the product’s features. UX design grapples with larger questions: how to kindle the user’s interest, what will make it attractive for them, and how to ensure they come back for more – in short, creating a fulfilling, enjoyable experience for customers while they leverage the product’s functionality.

Define and understand your users

Understanding the target users is the first step in the UX design process. What potential users want and need will determine how attractive — and hopefully indispensable –your product will be. Learning user expectations warrants systematic research. Besides collecting data on user expectations, you have the freedom at this stage to explore ideas and seek how aligned they are with real-world requirements. Keep the user at the focal point of every design task and watch your products instantly strike a chord with them. It will demonstrate your earnestness to create value for users, reinforcing your image as a customer-focused organization. It’ll also reorient your design efforts toward delivering the intended benefits rather than populating the product with features.

Test, test, and test again – with real users

It’s easy to fall into the trap of introducing your subjective biases in the design. What you think users want is, in most cases, what you want. Projecting our opinions onto actual users creates what’s known as false consensus. This misdirects us into thinking others will interact with the product the same way as we do. The real-world user is, in all possibilities, a totally different person in terms of attitudes, emotional make-up, skill sets, and expectations. This is where usability testing helps. Getting real-world users to try your product is a very effective way to judge its utility. Their feedback will shed light on what’s good and what needs improvement. It will also reveal design flaws and anomalies that would have escaped your attention.

A typical reservation about usability testing is the additional time it demands. But, it’s a pivotal step that determines how the product will perform in the real world, and it’s worth the days it takes — and more.

Catch the user’s eye before their mind wanders

Humans have a notoriously short attention span – and it’s getting shorter. Between 2000 and 2015, it dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. It’s likely to be even lower today. What does this mean for UX designers? It simply signifies the compelling need to give users the information they need before they get distracted. And you must do this in an engaging, coherent manner without missing pertinent details.

This is best achieved with interfaces that are simple and easy to relate to. Apply the principles of functional minimalism to create simple designs. Include only those elements that are indispensable to meet the immediate objective. Overwhelming users is counterproductive. Objects or content that are unrelated or of secondary importance must be deleted or moved elsewhere.

Tweak the UX process for your project

A thoughtfully-drafted UX process facilitates design leaders to stay in control of tasks. It helps them drive the project in an organized, result-oriented manner. The UX process sets expectations right; it eliminates misinterpretations and misunderstandings; it defines delivery milestones and their dependencies; it creates a collaborative space where everyone can contribute. Many UX designers follow a standard process template for all projects. While this appears to be a good practice, such an approach can negatively impact the quality of the product and its delivery timelines. Each project has unique requirements and characteristics, and the design must be optimized to fulfill the specific needs.

The steps in the design cycle may be similar across projects. But depending on the project’s scope and nature, the role of some tasks may be more significant in shaping the final product. For example, testing and validation are critical for redesign work; a brand-new design requires additional efforts invested in research and requirement analysis.

Gain from the utility of prototypes

In their attempt to save time and costs, some designers may be tempted to skip the prototyping process. The risks in this approach outweigh the apparent benefits. Prototyping indicates, early in the development cycle, how the intended design can potentially reinforce or impair the user experience. When a design is finalized without a prototype, it can fall short of expectations or become frustratingly unusable.

Prototypes can start as simple hand-drawn sketches depicting user flow, input or output options, and what functions they’ll serve. With digital tools, visually accurate models can be built with countless variants for each design element. Most professionals rely on rapid prototyping, a widely employed technique that provides quick and reliable answers. It enables realistic visualization of design ideas, which can then be validated and fine-tuned to enhance the user experience.

Never lose sight of the content

While creating the design, it’s common to apply placeholder text (lorem ipsum is a universal favorite) where the actual copy should appear. While this is acceptable in mock-upsat the initial stages, using real content becomes necessary as the design takes shape. This is important because of two reasons. Content, such as text, images, and videos, is central to the project’s functionality. All the design elements represent attempts to enhance the content’s appeal. Unless the content’s size, type, or length is considered, the product’s visual quality may be drastically different from how it appeared in the wire frame. The second reason pertains to the style or mood that needs to be emphasized. The design and the content must support each other to heighten the emotional flavor, and one cannot weaken or neutralize the other. Unless actual content or a reasonably current draft is used, an accurate evaluation of the design’s suitability is impossible.

Simplicity and consistency are imperative

The more intuitive the controls are, the less stressful it’s for the user. The simple rule is that if you need to provide instructions, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The goal of the designer is to establish a friendly, inviting environment that makes the user’s journey rewarding. The principles of functional minimalism offer guidelines on keeping the interface simple while delivering the required functionality. Consistency is another critical design requirement. The product must offer a familiar experience across all its facets. Maintaining a uniform appearance ensures hassle-free interactions and fewer surprises, translating into ease of use. In addition to the visual design aspects such as typography, color palettes, and placement of controls, it’s also essential to ensure the design’s alignment with the corporate image and values.

Human memory is quirky — don’t rely on it

Controls and content must be conspicuously placed to kindle users’ interest. When they want to interact with the product, they must be able to recall the UI element that would trigger the required action. Unfortunately, our short-term memory is scrappy – we can’t reliably recollect more than a handful of features at a time. It’s safer to use options that customers readily recognize rather than relying on their memory power. Customers are annoyed when they’re forced to learn a new method to reach their goal. This doesn’t mean you cannot be innovative. What’s important is your creative streak must not raise the cognitive load on users. Offering a unique yet comforting experience is a surefire way to keep customers delighted.

Design for everyone

Designers must overcome their obsession with aesthetics, a pitfall that can derail the project. Functionality and ease of use must always take precedence over appearance. When you make a product suitable for persons of diverse skills and abilities, its reach widens, and the value multiplies. Incorporating accessibility features is not just about ethos, corporate philosophy, or moral codes. It’s also a statutory requirement in many cases. With appropriate typography, color selection, and contrast settings, readability improves. When optimized, the size and position of controls minimize possible misjudgments and misclicks.

There’s some truth in the common notion that accessibility requirements introduce a few constraints. Interestingly, you’ll find that such designs can enhance the experience of regular users when best practices and guidelines are followed. When interfaces are simpler, the product becomes easier for everyone to use.

Gain from collaborative efforts

UX design is all about teamwork, and it’s impossible to assure a fulfilling user experience if you work in isolation. Designers need to collaborate with multiple stakeholders throughout the design cycle to exchange ideas, validate approaches, and acquire insights. Delightful user experiences are possible only when we acquire all the required information. Open discussions eliminate information silos and facilitate a better understanding of the requirements and opportunities. They encourage designers to draw up pragmatic project plans, streamline activities and fulfill delivery expectations.

For collaborative work to yield results, participants need to internalize the broad objective of the design. A coherent design process fixes the responsibility and accountability for each task. For trouble-free fulfillment, periodic reviews offer feedback and indicate possible process enhancements.

Be prepared for iterations

Design workflows are never linear. We may wish to complete one step after another, hand over the project to the client, and move on to the next assignment. This is not just hard to achieve; such a rushed approach can also impact the quality of the final product. Each phase of a UX project attempts to build upon the learnings obtained elsewhere on the development journey. As fresh insights are obtained through research, prototyping, and usability studies, we need to revisit the ideas, assess how they must be tweaked, and apply the changes. This starts a new cycle with a more refined design. While it’s true that diligent, in-depth research can shorten the cycle, we still need to plan for unknown surprises that can pop up at a later stage.

Learn how to prevent and manage errors

Errors do happen, despite your best efforts to deliver a flawless design. Users make mistakes while interacting with a product; there could be a failure of the app or the system that hosts it; the connectivity may malfunction; its usability may be disrupted by another active product in the same environment. It’s futile to aim for a faultless design – especially one that demands its users to be perfect. Instead, designers must estimate where and how mistakes can occur and try to minimize such possibilities. Still, when errors do happen, they must be explained in a concise, unambiguous, and comforting manner. The last thing users want is a machine telling them they made a stupid mistake.

A little feedback goes a long way

Users interacting with a product expect their actions to be acknowledged quickly. Feedback is of crucial importance in UX design as it directly influences the user’s experience. The type of feedback depends on the UI control. It may be a simple mouse-over effect, which visually indicates that the user’s cursor is over a button, a descriptive message when a button is clicked, an animated spinner that represents the loading of content, or a progress bar showing the status of the user’s request. The feedback must be direct and easy to understand. It must also be instantaneous to prevent users from losing interest. Friendly, helpful messages reassure users and pave the way for closer customer engagement.

Redesigns can surprise but not shock customers

Massive, dramatic design revisions overawe users and impair their experience. Studies indicate that customers detest seeing significant changes in the products they regularly use. Even a reasonable objective, such as an attempt to introduce a beneficial feature, may fail if the user has an unsettling experience. It’s safer to make haste slowly when considerable modifications are required. Whenever possible, introduce subtle, gradual changes over some time. Users intuitively make minor adjustments as long as their experiences are not stressful.

If you’re revamping the graphic icons used for UI controls, consider using similar-looking images to avoid confusing users. And if new icons are added, pick popular representations that can be recognized without trouble.

Looking for top-notch UX ideas that deliver? Talk to us. Ours is among the best UX design companies in India, and we’re driven by a passion for excellence. We love building new-age design strategies for businesses keen to benefit from futuristic thinking. With our customer-focused approach, agility, and positive attitude, we fulfill the exacting needs of global organizations. Our services span the entire UX spectrum, addressing the unique challenges and expectations of startups, mid-size companies, and enterprises. Partner with the best UI/UX design agency in India. Get in touch with us today.

Author avatar
Mathuram N, Lead UX Strategist, Ambian