Ok I didn’t really go up a mountain, and God didn’t really give me those ten commandments to share with the world — That would have been really cool though.
My aim is to reflect on what the foundational values of UX are, technically and ethically. It is hopefully a discussion starter, and I’d love to hear what you would consider the core UX principles to be.
I. You are not the user
It is so simple. Yet it’s easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t do x so why would anyone else do”. UX is about the users, and users will think and act in ways that will defy your expectations without fail. Knowing it is not enough, you need techniques to turn that awareness into methodologies and actions (eg Empathy and Journey Maps).
II. You shall consider uthers superior to yourself
Yeah, I just made up a word. Uthers is users + others. I’m on fire.
Question yourself every time you get a chance. Yup, that includes when you know you are right. Ego is not a great ally for team work, co-design and moving forward. Sometimes you need to compromise, and trust your influence in the long run.
III. You shall not kill (the research)
Admittedly, research for the sake of research is a waste of time. Especially when handed over poorly. But it is no excuse. Even if time and budget is limited, you should consult existing research, and adopt Lean UX techniques like guerrilla research.
IV. You shall not base your judgement on assumptions
Assumptions are a necessary evil. Us intelligent human beings can be quite good at guessing stuff. But keep in mind it only goes that far. Whenever you have to start with assumptions (I often do), validate them as early as possible with user input.
V. You shall not covet (features)
This one applies to everything product-design. Adding a spanking new app section because it makes sense, because it is so cool, who wouldn’t want it? is a temptation that should be resisted.
Are you solving a problem for the user? Does it add any value? Time for some research and maybe a risk/value matrix. It’s not about how much you can add, it’s about how much you can cut.
VI. You shall ask why relentlessly
Why? Looks like you’ve already started. I like that.
With the 5 whys technique, you can dig deeper into the business motivations for a new feature (business), or the user’s motivations for acting a certain way (experience). If we weren’t inquisitive we’d be doing something else, right?
VII. You shall build accessible, inclusive products
A report published by the United Nations in 2011 estimated there were 1–1.3 billion people with disabilities in the world (more here). Accessibility and inclusion are not an option or a nice to have.
VIII. You shall make decisions your children’s children will be proud of
Can you make the user stay longer, spend more than they should, or get just a little more addicted? Can you lie to them? Can you guilt-trip them to get what you want?
Yes, we totally have that sort of power, and the realities of business will potentially result in someone asking you to do so, some day or another. I know where I draw the line.
IX. You shall steal (all the best UX out there)
Do not reinvent the wheel, and if you do, make sure it’s better than the wheel. Like every trade, we need to both know our classics and stay up to date. The latter can become a bit overwhelming with the UX information overload these days. There are so many blogs, newsletters and conferences out there that you need to pick your channels and focus on the most meaningful ones (like this fantastic article you’re reading right now).
X. You shall always respect and defend users
It starts with the users, it ends with the users. We are their advocates and their defenders. Keep fighting for them to remain at the centre of the products we build, they are so easily left out… Getting users involved is often seen as a waste of time, or put in the too-hard basket.
That’s why we need you to step up and stand for them.
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