The 10 promises of user experience design

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This article began with me referencing a variety of sites and other articles about user experience. I began borrowing ideas that I was going to attribute here, but as I did this, I realized that none of what I found, for me, truly captured the feelings we have at USAGE where user experience is concerned. Much has been written about UX, there’s the oft-referenced Nielsen Norman Group site, and their articles about UX, I also found a great Slideshare presentation that framed Walt Disney as the first UX designer by @josephdickerson a UX Lead at Microsoft, as well as dozens of “commandments” and rules regarding UX, but when I finally put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, as it were, I just didn’t feel like any of those truly captured the promises of UX the way that we view them here at USAGE. So, here goes — The 10 Promises of User Experience design:

1.) Know your users
Knowing your users is rule numero uno for a reason. If you don’t know your users from user interviews, personas, testing, etc… then you’re shooting in the dark. You have to cater the user experience to their usage and their needs.

2.) Focus on your users needs
Focusing on the user needs is the primary thing that one gets out of user and usage research. Understand the user, what they want, how they’re trying to accomplish tasks and what might make their lives a little easier and build that into the design.

3.) Design for the user
Like a series of building blocks, you can’t design for the user if you don’t know your users and their needs. When you know who your users are and what they need, designing for them is a cinch. Also, when you know you’re designing something that will help and serve your users it’s also very satisfying work, but that’s just a sweet little bonus!

4.) Make it seamless
So, you know your users, you know their needs and you’ve got a design that pretty much nails it on all accounts… at least until you’re given some third-party tool that must be integrated, can’t be customized and sticks out like a sore thumb. You have to make the experience as seamless as possible. You’ll note that the title of this bullet isn’t make it absolutely seamless, because that’s impossible, and, anyway, relative… the definition of seamless resides in intention… When you’re working on the user experience, put simply, you do the best you can… and that’s not always perfect.

5.) Set user expectations early on and maintain them consistently
There are many things that you can’t control, but if you set expectations early and do this consistently you can establish a positive user experience. Again, nothing’s perfect, but there are ways that allude to perfection even if you’re not able to achieve it absolutely.

6.) Don’t make users work to figure things out
This one is an allusion to the very first book we here at USAGE read on Usability, Steve Krug’s classic Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. The title of that book pretty much says it all, but I’ve added a bit of specificity to it. If something is designed well then your users won’t have to figure it out and there won’t be much of a learning curve. This could really be part of the next bullet about instructions.

7.) Keep instructions to a minimum
We here at USAGE don’t like designs that require instructions, whether it be a website, a mobile app, or IKEA furniture… Life is short, time is at a premium, we have to do the heavy lifting for users and get the design to a place where they can walk up and do what they need to do. Specifically, as human-computer interaction increases its those products that do this in the first release that will rise to the top.

8.) Measure, Test and Refine
How do you get your product to be highly usable by the first release, well, that’s where measurement, testing and refinements come in. Whether you’re in a pre-launch phase or have a website or app that’s been out there a while, you have to be measuring, testing and refining based on that research. In fact, this brings to mind one of our favorite quotes from W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality management who said: “You can’t manage, what you can’t measure.” Measurement is a key to success and testing is just another form measurement. Take all of this and use it to make refinements.

9.) Know what you’re good at and focus on that
Knowing what you’re good at when considering user experience might seem a little counter-intuitive, because of course, you want to serve your users, but just like McDonald’s doesn’t make cars, and Ford doesn’t make hamburgers, don’t try to be something you’re not. Do what you do well and hire out the rest to folks that do it better.This probably fits somewhere within creating a seamless experience, but we felt it was important enough to stand on its own. Play to your strengths.

10.) UX is iterative – Repeat steps 1-9
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. User experience design is iterative; it doesn’t end. It continues on and on for the life of a product or service. Repeat these steps and you’ll be fulfilling the promises of experience design and you’ll always be doing your best to ensure that you’re creating the best possible experience for your users. After all, perfection may be elusive, but making something better is well within reach.

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