User Experience design, commonly shortened to UX design, is the process of creating designs and application interfaces that are easy to use, intuitive to the user, and leave people feeling good about the product or service being used. Many claim that these are simply the goals of any designer, and to a large extent they are. A designer that doesn’t create simple, attractive interfaces is probably not a very good designer, but I believe that where UX design differs is in the research that precedes the initial design work.
When creating a website or application, you will often hear of wireframes, site maps, and prototypes, and these are the purview of most UI designers. However, when you enter the territory of UX design, you start hearing things like personas, user stories, and card sorts. UX is focused on the user and making the best possible experience, and to do that, you can’t jump right into the design aspect – you have to do the research. This leads to our first mistake…
Not Knowing the Audience
It’s easy to be a cookie-cutter design shop. Find a design that works and tweak it to work for everyone. Unfortunately, your client is more likely to want something unique that works for their particular customers. That means going through their website analytics, researching competitor targets, and simply asking the client who their audience should be. Maybe they haven’t given much thought to it themselves.
Misunderstanding the Product
Lucky is the designer that works exclusively in one product domain. Most of us will cater to many diverse businesses, ranging from pet care to military-grade security equipment. This makes it difficult to have a thorough understanding of the client’s needs and concerns.
Spending a day in the life of your client can quickly bring you up to speed, but that’s often not feasible due to time or location constraints. So, it’s important to have a good discussion to help understand where the pain points are and how the current process can be improved.
Forgetting About Accessibility
With all the cool things websites can do today, there’s a constant pressure to jump on the sparkly bandwagon. We see something amazing and want to take advantage of it in our next big project. But, before rushing into a potential disaster head-on, consider how this amazing thing will scale to the whole audience. Will it work well on a smart phone? How about a 60″ TV? Does it require a pointing device, like a mouse? What about laptops that support touch as well as mouse input?
Good UX design starts at the bottom, ensuring support on the most basic of devices, and it builds from there, adding new features for devices that support them.
Not Using the Medium to its Fullest
Just because it has to be accessible, doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome! If you’ve used your phone’s geolocation feature with an app like Google Maps to navigate an unknown city, then you’ve witnessed the added – and sometimes essential – bonus that comes from an understanding of both how the product can be used and the device’s capabilities.
Technology is constantly evolving, and a good UX designer is aware of the latest and forthcoming changes that can add that extra nicety that may one day become an essential.
Expecting Too Much in Return
Many businesses expect their website to provide some kind of recompense in return for their valuable information; and this makes sense in many situations. For example, a news website spends much time and many resources to bring its stories to its readers. A toy company has invested similar work in bringing its products to market. These needs are usually satisfied through sales or by advertising and subscription services.
However, some try to dance the line of how much they can get from their users. I’m referring to websites with lengthy forms that stop short of asking where you received your first kiss (data mining) or ads masquerading as news articles (deceptive advertising). Intrusion and trickery never make for good UX design, and when you employ such methods, you are losing out in the long run.
Avoid these common pitfalls, and you’ll be on your way to providing superior designs. Good UX means understanding your users’ wants, your client’s needs, and your design’s canvas.