Principle 1 — don’t make the users think
Any product that needs a manual to work is broken. — Elon Musk
People find your product and they hope that your product would be the solution to their problem. They have spent some time to read the product description and finally sign up for a trial. When they start using your product, they realise that there is a steep learning curve, despite with the aid of your customer service team and knowledge base. If your customers are leaving because your product is too difficult to use, you may want to check the design of your product to see if you can simplify some steps or rearrange some functionalities to make it easier to use. Often times, when users complain that the product is too difficult to use, the company usually would think about improving the knowledge base, add more tutorials and so on but the company doesn’t realise that the cause actually lies within the product.
Principle 2 — Think beyond visual presentation
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. — Steve Jobs
When designing a product, for instance, a website, appearance usually comes first. People usually start with the layout, the colour palette, the typography and so on but pay little to zero attention to the usability and user experience. Undeniably, the appearance creates the very first impression but if your product just has a pretty outlook but does not provide a great experience when using it, your product is not a complete product.
A good example (from my personal experience) is Instagram. Instagram has a good user interface, I see lots of great images and posts every day and the users can add a filter and a caption, etc. to their images. However, it is not possible to add a clickable link to an image. Instagram becomes a popular and effective marketing tool in recent years but this missing feature does drive some marketers away.
As a user, when I saw a delicious food image from a home chef, I want to read the recipe. To do that, I have to go to the home chef’s Instagram profile, click on the link to her blog and then look for the recipe on her blog — don’t you think it would be much easier if a clickable link could be included in the Instagram post? This is a very good example of having a pretty interface but the product is lack of a great user experience.
Principle 3 — let your users get involved in the product design process
To be a great designer, you need to look a little deeper into how people think and act. — Paul Boag
You may have a world class UI and UX design team but the people who know your product the best are your users. They use your product so often that they may find a bug before your developers. This is the same for your product design. Your users would be able to point out the design issues before your designers suggest some improvements.
So how to get your users involved? The easiest way is to get feedback through surveys but surveys usually can only give you some quantitative insights, for instance, how many people like the UI instead of why they like the UI. If you add the “Why” questions in your surveys, the response rate would be low as your surveys would become too long and boring.
To solve this problem, you can have both surveys and focus groups. Surveys can serve as the first line of getting some quick feedback and focus groups provide you with more qualitative insights. During a focus group session, you can ask your users some more in-depth questions so you could get to the bottom of the design issues.
Principle 4 — keep your product design consistent
As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product. — Jef Raskin
Most users do not like surprises (in a bad way) when using your product. Let’s take Microsoft Office as an example. The way to save a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet and a Powerpoint presentation are all the same. Once you know how to use Microsoft Word, you more or less know how to use the basics of Microsoft Powerpoint. By keeping the basic features and interface the same across the entire product series, your users would save the time to learn when using them and thus better user experience. Apart from the features, it is equally important to keep the branding design consistent. We go back to the Microsoft Office example, their user interfaces use the same typography, the same line height, the same letter spacing, the only difference is the theme colours — Word is blue, Excel is green and Powerpoint is orange. By having the consistent interface design, users feel more comfortable and confident when using your products.
Principle 5 — Make your design work for everyone
I noticed some websites and apps are using a black background and the text is in darker shade of grey, for me, I have no problem with reading the text but for colour blind people, they would have a really hard time to interact with such websites and apps because the background colour and the text do not have enough contrast.
When designing your product, keep the people with disability in mind. Colour blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women in the world. This is not a rare disability and lots of designers don’t consider how accessible the product is for this group of users.
Another example is, if your website or app’s target users involve elderly, you may want to add a function to enlarge the text so they would be able to read the text more easily.
It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives. — Don Norman
The quote above is so true and every designer should keep that in mind. Design a stylish, good-looking product is easy but design a product that can bring joy and a great user experience requires more time, effort and empathy but these won’t become a waste, your users would appreciate everything.