The world of UX is complicated. And it's hard to take the time to learn something new without falling down the rabbit hole of endless internet clicking—reading article after article, trying to find the best stuff. So I thought I'd make the process of learning something new about UX way easier. Check out these 11 incredibly short but extremely powerful tips that I've discovered from these smart and talented UX professionals.
[clickToTweet tweet="Successful products solve a painful problem. @lauraklein" quote="Successful products solve a painful problem. @lauraklein"] Do you know what the #1 thing is that causes pain for your potential customers? In one of our interviews with usability expert Laura Klein, she said: "If you can identify something that is causing people pain and you can develop a product that takes that pain away, that product is very likely to be successful. The goal is to find the most important pain point and then to find a way to solve that pain point for people in a usable way that doesn't actually cause them more pain."
[clickToTweet tweet="Everything a designer does affects the user experience. @bokardo" quote="Everything a designer does affects the user experience. @bokardo"] This is the first rule laid out in Joshua Porter's 52 weeks of UX. He goes on to say, "From the purposeful addition of a design element to the negligent omission of crucial messaging, every decision is molding the future of the people we design for." With great power comes great responsibility. And it's up to us to be purposeful in our design decisions.
[clickToTweet tweet="You can't design experiences, but you can design FOR them. - Liz Sanders" quote="You can't design experiences, but you can design FOR them. - Liz Sanders"] In one of her research papers, Liz Sanders said "There's no such thing as experience design." An experience is a moment in time that's felt individually. It's inside each of us, and it exists where our memories of the past meet our dreams of the future. We may not understand our own particular experiences for weeks, months, or even years after they happen. So if we can't even understand our own experiences, how can we be so egotistical to think we can design someone else's? We can't. But Liz says that even though we can't design experience, we can design for experience. That one small word makes a big difference.
[clickToTweet tweet="Observe people's behavior and put yourself in the end-user's shoes. @ideo" quote="Observe people's behavior and put yourself in the end-user's shoes. @ideo"] Human-centered design is IDEO's guiding principle. Their main tenet is empathy for the end-user of their products, and they believe that the key to figuring out what humans really want lies in doing two things:
If the IDEO team was designing a vacuum cleaner, for example, they would start by doing two things. First, they would watch people vacuum. And then they would use the vacuum themselves. This helps them understand what the current user experience is really like, and then they use that information to fuel their design solutions. IDEO designers trust that as long as they stay connected to the behaviors and needs of the people they're designing for, their ideas will evolve into the right solution.
[clickToTweet tweet="Design for mobile first. @lukew" quote="Design for mobile first. @lukew"] The mobile experience for web apps is usually designed and built after the desktop version has been finished. But Luke thinks web apps should be designed for mobile first because it's exploding as a channel. Building for mobile first makes your team eliminate every extraneous element, focus only of the key tasks that users want to accomplish, and prevents your team from "limiting themselves to an increasingly dated set of capabilities."
[clickToTweet tweet="The ultimate purpose of wireframing is to create an ideal space for collaboration. @dtelepathy" quote="The ultimate purpose of wireframing is to create an ideal space for collaboration. @dtelepathy"] When you think about the purpose of wireframing, you probably think it's about creating a visual design plan for how you want your users to process information on a page. And while that's what it is, the reason why we do it is to promote collaboration. In a detailed article on the Digital Telepathy blog, Dana said, "Wireframes, whether created on scraps of paper, a whiteboard, or in a software program, serve to establish relationships between elements in a project such as: navigation, imagery, and calls to action. But if we think of wireframing as a tool, it’s ultimate purpose is to create an ideal space for collaborative conversations about design solutions, while supporting iterations and driving rapid ideation."
[clickToTweet tweet="You are not your user. Watch people interact with your site. @conversionxl" quote="You are not your user. Watch people interact with your site. @conversionxl"] When you spend time and energy building something, it's impossible to see your creation the same way that a new user does. You're too close to it, and you don't have fresh eyes. You have the curse of knowledge. Like Peep Laja said in his conversion optimization ebook, "You may have designed what you believe is the best possible experience in the world, but watching real people interact with your site is often a humbling experience. Because you are not your user." But that's why it's so important to observe people actually using and interacting with your product or website. They'll show you all the issues you've become blind to. And they'll also help you uncover the design issues that, if addressed properly, will really make your solution more useful and intuitive.
[clickToTweet tweet="Not all user experience designers are alike. @whitneyhess" quote="Not all user experience designers are alike. @whitneyhess"] Some UX designers love to sketch, build prototypes, code, and have mastered Photoshop (and the rest of the Adobe design suite). But Whitney argues that those skills are "in no way a requirement to being a user experience practitioner.” In her article ‘The Enduring Misconceptions of User Experience Design,’ Whitney offers a set of skills that she says “every user experience designer must exhibit, regardless of sector, seniority, or specialization.” Here’s her list:
[clickToTweet tweet="Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. @jmspool" quote="Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. @jmspool"] Most people come to your site, not because they want to admire your visual design, but because they want to do something, learn something, or accomplish a specific task. That being said, poor design can actually distract them from accomplishing what they came to do. Jared gives a great metaphor in this article: "Think of it like a room’s air conditioning. We only notice it when it’s too hot, too cold, making too much noise, or the unit is dripping on us. Yet, if the air conditioning is perfect, nobody says anything and we focus, instead, on the task at hand."
[clickToTweet tweet="There's only 3 ways to understand people: what they do, what they say, what they make. @mak0ski" quote="There's only 3 ways to understand people: what they do, what they say, what they make. @mak0ski"] Most of traditional research is based on what people say. This includes surveys, interviews, focus groups, and the like. The problem is that most people do very different things than what they say. Observing people’s behavior gives you deeper insights, but the deepest insights come from what people make. Any animal can consume, but it’s only human to create. And humans are far more creative than we give them credit for. Bring regular people into the middle of the design process and give them materials to build their dream solution. All you need are simple tools like paper, Post-It notes, Sharpies, and Play-Doh.
[clickToTweet tweet="Don't hire a UI/UX designer. @craigmcf5" quote="Don't hire a UI/UX designer. @craigmcf5"] Wait! Before you start throwing rocks, just hear me out! Craig makes a really interesting argument in this article. He says that UX designer and UI designer are such vastly different roles—and are both so important—that a single person should not be hired to be responsible for both. Considering the importance of each of these two areas, he believes that each role deserves a specialist to take ownership. Because even though there are some overlaps (which is the case most people make when hiring a combined role), the people hiring them aren't taking time constraints into consideration. Have a UX tip to add to the list? Tell us about it on Twitter @usertesting.
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