Working at a tech startup in a leading UX role, I’m finding new ways to guide us in the right direction when I explore the structure that will shape our product in a couple of months.
Right now my team members and I are making key decisions which determine what our product will be like, what it will offer and ultimately drive its level of success. In the last few weeks we have identified the major pain points of our potential users by research and initiating a dialogue. Understanding our users and the problems they’re experiencing, is absolutely necessary if we want to succeed.
You cannot build a successful product if you don’t understand what issues your product is solving, because users don’t care about your solution, they care about their problems. More often than not they’re unable to tell you what they need until they see it. Once we understand the problems that need to be solved, we’ll naturally ask ourselves: ‘How will we solve these problems?’
You can think of dozens if not hundreds of different ways of solving them, so what will pull us in which direction? What will help guide our decisions and what will fuel our strategy in all of this?
In order to make it, you must have a clear vision of WHY you are doing this and continuously echo it into the world around you in everything you do.
Why you-do-the-things-you-do should be at the very core and will help when you come to a crossroad and it’s time to make decisions. I can recommend watching Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk about a concept called The Golden Circle, where he explains this in-depth.
But when faced with the reality of an Agile development environment it becomes hard implementing what we’ve just learned. Since Agile and Scrum are development driven by nature, it will only address development related things and certainly won’t help doing product design. Therefor having an Agile framework in place is not sufficient if you consider the entire process of creating and designing a product from scratch.
I have learned that the preparation phase, the phase that gets the least attention when reading up on the matter, can and will break the entire chain that follows, when not executed in a thoughtful manner.
If you don’t have a clear vision, your team will become rudderless and they won’t understand where they’re going, let alone why they’re going there (which is a major energy sucker!) since their focus will be restricted to the 2 week sprint. You have to understand that your development team should be the ambassadors of the product or service they’re building. If you can’t get your own team onboard, how will you ever get potential users on board?! They need to live and breathe the vision and have a deep understanding of why you’re all doing this.
Are you going to push features or create an experience?
If you prefer to create an experience, please read on.
So how can we enable our team to create an experience — as a team? By having a clear vision of what our product will be, how we will accomplish this, but most importantly WHY we are doing this (for our users). This must be a shared understanding across all team members and only then will you be able to create a product which addresses the user’s pain points in a way that they will love.
Why Should we Use UX Principles?
They help focus decisions and
get everyone on the same page.
Used to help determine
what concept we move forward with.
To assist us in creating a consistent
and purposeful experience for our users.
Like specifications, they are
the explicit goals that a project must achieve
in order to be successful.
Meet UX Principles in the Flesh
Writing this article has accompanied me in creating our own UX Principles, to guide us in making the right(!) design decisions when we are in doubt. (And by “we” I mean my team members and I, we don’t design on an island.)
- Users are in control
Our users should always feel in control of the software rather than feeling controlled by the software. Users should be the initiators of actions rather than the responders.
- Be consistent
Make use of a UI component library so that our interface is consistent. Navigational mechanisms, organizational structure and metaphors used throughout the design must be predictable and reliable. When things don’t match up between multiple areas, the experience can feel disjointed, confusing and uncomfortable.
- No unexpected surprises
The behavior of our software should be predictable for the user so that he feels at ease when using it. Don’t be different for the sake of being different. Everything we do should serve a purpose, otherwise just drop it.
- Error prevention
Even better than good error messages is a careful design, which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place.
- Straightforward over complicated
Our software should be easy and straightforward to use all the while retaining an appearance of being easy to use. Simplicity of usage and perceived simplicity are not the same thing! While it’s sometimes more tempting for a team to add features rather than take them out, reducing the clutter in a user interface and leaving in only the essentials is the way to go.
- Let the machine do the work
A primary goal of experience design is to make things efficient for the human before making things efficient for the computer. Efficiency allows for productivity and reduced effort, and a streamlined design allows more to get done in the same amount of time. Reduce the user’s cognitive workload whenever possible. Be consistent and clear.
- Gradual engagement
Present the right user interface to the right user at the right time. Gradually reveal complexity as users let you know they are ready for it.
- Making sense of information over quantity of information
In a time where everyone is dealing with information overload it becomes increasingly difficult to choose what to pursue and what not, especially when context is lacking. Provide help (i.e. machine-assisted analysis), and support the user in making an educated decision.
- Avoid jargon
Be clear and use widely understood terminology. Our application should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
- Two heads are better than one
Sharing is caring and should feel natural for our users. Community is key in going against upcoming threats, therefore the sharing of intelligence plays a central role and is a key concept within our application.
So take a minute before writing any code, it will be worth it in the end!