More often than I would like to, I experience broken user experience design across the web. Although a service that is expected to provide great value, I end up not using since it just doesn’t make an already complicated life any simpler.
I work for an internet printing company called Raksul, making commercial printing more accessible, simpler and faster. I figured out that lack of design consistency across our services over a period of time has led to broken user experiences at multiple touch-points.
Looking for answers, I attended UX Strat Europe 2018 held in Amsterdam on 12–13 June followed by CSS Day 2018 UX Special on 15 June. The contents of the events ranged all the way from high-level design organizations and decisions to actually creating delightful products. Speakers from renowned companies and agencies such as Google, Salesforce and Frog design shared their experiences of building the foundation and implementation of design in their products.
I felt having design principles could be a long-term solution to the design inconsistency problem we have, and hence writing this blog to share my learning.
What are design principles
Out of all the speakers who talked about design principles, the talk by Alla Kholmatova (author of Design Systems) was the most dedicated one to design principles. She explains design principles as:
Design principles are the shared criteria for what good design means for a specific product and team.
While there might be various definitions for design principles floating over the internet, this one is simple and straight.
Here is a more comprehensive definition by Interaction Design foundation: Design principles are sets of generally applicable laws, guidelines, human biases, and design considerations, all of which reflect the accumulated knowledge and experience of practitioners and researchers. They serve as a starting point for the creation of new designs to solve problems. Design principles usually combine developments across all design-related disciplines, including behavioral science, sociology, physics, and ergonomics.
Design principles form the foundation for teams to orient product development in one direction. They ensure that the product development is consistent over a period of time, not being affected by a change in team or business constraints.
Why should companies care about design principles
Consistency across products
Design principles ensure that products that fall under the same service or a brand behave in similar ways when users interact with them. They ensure that users have a consistent experience across products and what they know works for one product, if replicated in another, will behave in a similar way. This consistency can be seen in a wide range of Atlassian’s products. Their design principles revolve around 3 axes, tweaking the intensity of each depending on the need.
There is a high chance in business companies that they work on the same product for years, or even decades. During this long time span, change in business constraints or teams leads to inconsistency in the final user experience delivered as good design might mean completely different things to different teams. Having design principles at the core of product development ensures that the experience is always evaluated using the same parameters no matter when or who develops the product or conducts the evaluation.
A common language across the organization
Well defined design principles lead to an efficient design system where the players in an organization understand and speak the same language regarding product development and evaluation. This makes sure that related teams are on the same page, leading to working efficiency, helping teams specially in agile development.
What are the leading companies defining design principles
Orange’s new online banking unit, Orange Bank, onboarded over 100,000 customers four months from release on Nov. 2, 2017. The former French telecoms monopoly launched Orange Bank with the aim of winning 2 million clients in 10 years, or 25 percent of the country’s online banking. [source]
According to David Ruiz Martinez, Head of Design at Orange Bank, the organization fixed the following as design principles when they first started to develop the service. [presentation source]
Emotional: Delivering an outstanding experience at those moments in life when the user is in an emotional upset will generate the definitive link between them and our company.
Reassuring: Provide advice, care and guidance to customers at any moment in order to make them feel confident and allowing them to regain control of their finance.
Engaging: An innovative and personalized experience provoking enthusiasm, trust and fidelity.
Pleasant: Animations, transitions, interaction components, sounds and graphics are key factors for providing an intuitive and enjoyable experience to users.
Efficient: A reliable organization, providing technical and human responsiveness, is able to adapt itself to customers’ needs and meet them any time.
Rachael Liu, Lead Experience/Service Designer at Pearson Education, faced problems in localization of their service initially made for the west, towards expansion in the east. From the insights obtained by creating and comparing customer journey maps in the two regions, the company agreed upon the following design principles towards localization of their service in the east. [presentation source]
Be clear with me: to provide clarity in an intuitive and accessible way.
Build trust with me: to reassure I am making the right choice and investment.
Inspire me: to keep me motivated and engaged.
Guide me: to help me be successful and know I am on the right track.
Herve Mischler, innovation director at Salesforce, talks about empowering the workforce using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Many customers are noticeably uncomfortable with use of personal information to create complex AI systems. AI “eats data for breakfast”, says Herve and hence realize the need to define responsible AI design and start designing AI for good. Salesforce works around the following design principles to make sure they are designing AI for good.
Human centered: Make for humans, not companies.
Value aligned: Everything revolves around values to be delivered to the user.
Private by design: Individual data must be private at each level of design. Respect privacy.
How to set good design principles
Getting back to Design Systems by Alla Kholmatova, good design principles age Genuine, Opinionated-have a point of view, Actionable and Memorable-to make sure that the team has them on their fingertips at all times.
Anyone having a knowledge of design process, understands that any output needs testing and iterations to make sure the it expresses what the team originally wanted to do and to confirm they are not heading in a different direction. The same stands for design principles as well. It is important to make sure to iterate design principles such that they are in line with the company vision and the value proposition towards the customers.
The following are some tips for defining your design principles!
Ind.ie advocates for human rights, privacy, and ethical design. They have extracted the Ethical Design pyramid from the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to create products and services that respect human rights inside out. I personally like to refer to this to create more meaningful design principles, that would lead to products doing good for the society.
In this article we talked about the definition of design principles as a common language on the basis of which good design can be made. The definition might not be enough to convince why design principles are needed for someone to start designing their own from scratch. We talked about the importance of having design principles and looked at some examples of design principles about how other companies have been defining them. Making it more concrete, we discussed how we can define good design principles and some tips about it. Lastly, shared the ethical design manifesto to make sure our designs do good for the society!
The two conferences gave me insights on how can business firms define design principles and use them to create consistently delightful services. We (Raksul) are primarily a business oriented startup company that started its current service 6 years ago. As we grew, we understood the importance of user centered design, however lacked the expertise to implement it on an organization and service level. We have since defined our design principles as follows, and the next step is to test and iterate to see if we are aligned with our company vision.
I would love to hear what your company is doing for creation and implementation of design principles in final products and services. Share in the comments below!
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