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Ten Commandments of Amazing User Experience Design [The UX Consultant’s Perspective]

Aug 247 min read

Joanna Borkowska

Freelance technical writer and translator.

It’s been already three decades since Donald Norman gave user experience its name. Throughout that time, UX has evolved from a theoretical concept to one of the most fundamental aspects of product and service design. 

 

Although the discipline is undergoing constant innovation, in essence, it boils down to the same principle — seamlessly navigating the user toward achieving their goal, with minimum disruption and maximum ease. Similarly, certain principles of excellent UX design still hold up today, despite the passing time. Any successful user experience consultant should become familiar with those rules. 

Two books every UX designer should read at least once: Don Norman’s UX design Bible, The Design of Everyday Things and Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

10 Core Principles Underlying Amazing User Experiences in 2020

It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or an old hand at UX design, the following timeless principles will help you cut through the challenges of your profession and raise your game as a UX consultant.

The State of UX Design in 2020

UX design has come a long way since its infancy. In 2020, it’s dominated by contemporary, technology-studded trends that leverage AI, big data analytics, and robotic components to enhance user interactions.

 

The awareness of these trends is essential for keeping your designs aligned with the evolving user expectations. However, before you apply them, make sure you’ve covered the bare fundamentals of UX design. 

Augmented and virtual reality

In the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of excitement around AR and VR solutions. These technologies that originated in the gaming industry are gradually breaking into other domains. By putting the user at the forefront, they offer a completely immersive user experience, blurring the barriers between the physical world and digital products and services. 

 

Examples: FC Bayern's AR fan experience, Volkswagen’s virtual motor show, Zalando’s virtual try-ons

Voice-based technology

By now, voice-based design has become a standard in a majority of digital products. According to The Infinite Dial’s research, over 76 million Americans aged over 12 own a smart speaker at home, with nearly 50% using a voice-operated personal assistant on their smartphones. These numbers account for the surging popularity of voice interfaces, which makes them a must-know technology for any UX consultant.

 

Examples: HSBC’s voice recognition phone banking, Voicer’s voice message sharing app, Google’s speech-to-text browser extension

Storytelling techniques

Interactive storytelling is heavily used in latter-day mobile apps to engage and support the user. By using stories that resonate with their users’ lives, brands exude authenticity, and establish close-knit bonds with the audience. Narrative-driven UX helps them set the stage for a call to action and persuade the user to interact with a product or a service. Stories play out particularly well on the product and ‘About us’ pages and in user onboarding.

 

Examples: Yellow Leaf’s About us page, Babbel’s mobile app permission priming, Heineken’s employer branding campaign

Microinteractions

While the massively overused phrase that ‘the human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish’ is not entirely true, there’s no denying that people have their hands full these days. They appreciate brevity. They like it simple. They want bite-sized content. Since microinteractions convey a single purpose, they are a great fit for today’s overloaded users. By guiding the user through a website or an app, they make interactions as painless and efficient as possible, saving much of the user’s time and hassle.

 

Examples: Apple Card’s animated status information, Nintendo’s 404 page (do a barrel roll;), Evernote’s quick actions button  

#1. Develop a user-centric mindset

Cliche as it may sound, your user always comes first. That’s why if you’re looking to flourish in the UX design field, you must learn how to take other people’s points of view.

 

If you are struggling to develop this level of empathy, try asking yourself these basic questions:

    • Who is my user? Pin down their age, demographics, profession, and background. How proficient are they in the use of digital and mobile technology? Try to understand where they come from and how that is going to impact your design. 
    • What do they want? Identify the users’ goals. What do they need from your product? Why would they bother to use it in the first place?
    • What do they feel when interacting with my design? Take off your designer’s hat for a moment and try stepping into your users’ shoes. Does using your product make you feel content, cheerful, and fulfilled, or the opposite — annoyed, frustrated, and lost?

#2. Know your role 

To deliver results, you must know where you stand in a project and what others expect from you. Start by getting familiar with the software development lifecycle (if you need a hand, here’s how it looks like at IdeaMotive) and key roles in the process. Then talk to your project manager, and ask him or her to explain the project workflow. Settle on specific project delivery times and assets you will need to provide at each stage. Ensure that the delegation rules are clear for you and everyone on your UX design team.

 

By spelling out everyone’s responsibilities and dependencies within the project, you will be able to organize your work efficiently and anticipate most problems and bottlenecks. 

Make sure everyone knows what they are doing in the project. Including yourself

#3. Document your progress

Ever heard of the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve? It demonstrates the speed of forgetting over time. According to some studies, we forget up to 50% of new information within an hour of learning it. There’s no denying it: human memory is inherently fallible. 

 

That’s why one of the best hacks you can use as a UX consultant is getting into the habit of documenting your work as you go. Jot down project details and remarks, passing thoughts, and creative ideas. Bookmark relevant scientific research, blogs, articles, and other inputs that you may use now or in the future. Also, remember that your notes prove useful for other people. Think about what would happen if you suddenly had to move on to another project. By recording your progress, you will do your replacement a good turn. And you know, karma comes back to you;)

#4 Read! And read more!

UX design is a multidisciplinary field, which draws upon psychology, cognitive studies, communication design, software engineering, and other disciplines. Anyone who wants to succeed in it must always be on the ball and display an insatiable thirst for knowledge. If you want to advance your career in UX consultancy, get yourself to read.

 

Start from covering the UX fundamentals. There’s a ton of expert publications on the topic. The essential list includes books such as:

 

Still, don’t limit yourself to reading on UX design only. Remember that creativity comes when seemingly unrelated ideas collide in novel, unexpected ways. And the best way to trigger these collisions is by exploring diverse content from various disciplines.

#5. Focus on convenience

When you think of the hierarchy of the user’s needs, convenience lies at the very bottom, underpinning other features. Every single action and flow you design should be as simple and convenient as it gets. Unfortunately, the road to attaining user goals is full of hurdles. Your task is to clear them away. How? Here are some general guidelines: 

  • Reduce the user’s cognitive load by eliminating usability barriers and distractions.
  • Use patterns that your users are familiar with. If anything new appears, explain it!
  • Provide visual and sound cues to guide the user through the interface.
  • Whenever you can save the user a click — do!
  • Maintain design and workflow consistency. 
  • Remember about accessibility features. 
  • Avoid creating dead-end pages.

User convenience takes priority. Just don’t overdo it

#6. Remember that less is more

Do you know an instant user experience turn-off? Over-the-top decoration and design. Just listen to Albert Einstein, “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” Preach! 

 

Next to the user convenience, simplicity is every UX designer’s best friend. Be thoughtful about introducing any new features, paths, and controls into the user flow. Make the CTAs stand out, use button names that communicate their function, support the user with search and filtering functions. Basically, adopt the ‘less is more’ principle and stick to it. 

#7. Learn how to accept feedback

You know what they say, “Ease of use may be invisible, but its absence sure isn’t.” As you’re dealing mostly with the inner workings of a digital product, sometimes, you may feel that your efforts go unnoticed until your design fails. For that reason, you may be one of many UX designers who cringe at the very thought of taking feedback, which usually comes only when issues occur. 

 

However, as a professional, you need to learn not only how to accept feedback with grace but also how to seek and encourage it. After all, your entire work revolves around making others’ lives easier. To do it, you must know their honest opinion. And if this seems like too much to handle, mark these words by Seth Godin: “You do not equal the project. Criticism of the project is not a criticism of you.”

You’re not going to make your UX design shine by avoiding feedback

#8. ...and how to provide it

Here’s the good news! As a UX consultant, you don’t only take feedback; you also provide it. Well, sort of. 

The users interacting with your website or app must know exactly where they are heading and what’s going to happen as a result of their action. Excellent UX achieves this by managing user expectations with prompt feedback. By aiding your users with progress bars, spinners, steppers, and progress animations, you prevent them from guessing what comes next.  

#9. Embrace the power of data

We’ve already mentioned that an excellent UX consultant must wear many hats. One of them is that of a data analyst. While you don’t need to immediately dive deep into statistical programming or spin up data-crunching ML machines, you might want to make friends with Google Analytics and similar tools to make your designs more appealing and relevant.

 

By incorporating data analytics into your UX practice, you can dig out precious insights about end-users that would otherwise remain hidden. Harnessing large volumes of data allows you to find out how users interact with your website or app, how they move around it, and whether they are successful in achieving their goals. 

#10. Keep your eye on the ball

How to tell a skillful UX designer from an excellent one? The former has learned the ropes of the profession and now takes it easy; the latter stays on his/her toes, constantly ready to take up challenges and learn new things. 

 

If you aspire for greatness, there’s no easing off your efforts. The UX and UI design industry is constantly evolving with new concepts, technologies, and approaches aligned with the shifting user expectations. To catch up, you must switch to the permanent growth mode. Look for a local UX design Meetups, join one of Slack communities or LinkedIn/Facebook groups, and sign up for blogs, vlogs, and podcasts to stay up-to-date with the latest on UX design.

In Conclusion

OK, we’ve nailed the basics of amazing UX design. Now, equipped with this knowledge, bring your whole self to work and move forward with enthralling user experiences. And if you would like to put your skills to test and join our network of vetted UX and UI consultants, give us a shout! We’re on a constant lookout for exceptional user experience talent.

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Joanna Borkowska

Joanna is a veteran content writer and translator with hands-on experience in IT and marketing.

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