UX Design Principles That Will Have Your Users Smiling
There are many important UX design principles organizations must consider when building products. These UX principles complement the design thinking process, placing the user at the center of all decision-making.
This article looks at 16 UX design principles organizations can use to build better products.
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Number 1: Focus on the User
While it might seem obvious to focus on the user, many designers still make decisions based on personal preference or bias rather than fully understanding their users.
Designers also get sidetracked with design and technical innovation that doesn’t always solve users’ problems or add significant value to the product.
The best design decisions come from understanding your users and fulfilling their needs. Why?—because you’re designing products for people!
Many experienced UX professionals believe focusing on users rather than humans creates a disconnect where designers forget they’re dealing with human beings.
Reframing the term to human-centered design helps UX teams shift from solving design and technical issues to helping people.
Building a framework based on design thinking principles will always keep the user front and center:
- Empathy—know your humans (end users)
- Define the problem
- Generate ideas
- Test and iterate
You can read more about human-centered design here.
Number 2: Be Consistent
Design consistency is a vital ingredient to providing a good user experience. An inconsistent user experience means people will have trouble using parts of a product or might have to relearn how to use it with every feature release or update!
A designer’s goal is to build a product that fulfills users’ needs without worrying about inconsistencies, ultimately building trust and loyal customers.
Creating a design system can help develop consistency, so designers, product teams, and developers always use the same elements, typography, colors, components, assets, etc.
Don’t have a design system? Check out our 7-step process for building a design system from scratch.
Number 3: Easy to Digest
Create content and experiences that users can easily digest. Designers must recognize that people will always look for the easiest route. If you don’t provide something easy to use in this highly competitive tech landscape, someone else will!
If your product requires onboarding, ensure your documentation is easy to understand with step-by-step instructions.
The UXPin documentation is a perfect example. Firstly, we categorize instructions, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Next, we organize content with subheadings, step-by-step instructions, and explainer videos, making the information easy to follow and digest.
Number 4: Don’t Make Users Think
Information architect and user experience professional Steve Krug states in his book, Don’t Make Me Think, “As a user, I should never have to devote a millisecond of thought to whether things are clickable or not.”
UX designers must follow design standards for product, app, and web design. For example, don’t hide navigation where users wouldn’t expect to find it. Make sure buttons, CTAs, and links are obvious to find and take users to their intended destination.
Creativity and innovation come from solving problems competitors haven’t thought of, not creating experiences where users have to relearn fundamental standards and processes.
How human psychology and cognitive load relate to UX design is something every designer must learn. Optimizing product design to minimize cognitive load will foster better user experiences and trust in the brand.
Number 5: Points, Lines, and Planes – Understand Visual Grammar
First defined by the Bauhaus school in the early 1900s, the building blocks of all design comprise of three core elements: points, lines, and planes.
The best UX designers understand how to use these three elements to minimize design complexity, making products easier to navigate thus creating better user experiences.
If you feel your designs are getting too complex and complicated, return to the basics and figure out how to create the same user experience using simple design elements.
Number 6: Identify the Problem First
Identifying problems comes from thorough UX research and testing—not designer intuition.
UX researchers should keep asking why a problem exists to understand the root cause and find the right solution. Testing and iterating prototypes play a crucial role in helping to identify and solve problems.
If you don’t have proper prototyping and testing tools, you might get inaccurate results or even create problems that don’t exist!
UXPin is the world’s most advanced prototyping and testing tool. Designers can use a design system to build high-fidelity prototypes for testing quickly. Share prototypes straight from UXPin to identify problems through testing, make changes, and iterate!
Sign up for a 14-day free trial to discover how UXPin can identify and solve user problems better than any other design tool.
Number 7: Simple Language Is Best
Language should be as simple as possible, and designers should avoid using jargon or insider terms that people won’t understand. Alienating people through complicated language is a quick way to lose customers!
Readability can have a significant impact on cognitive load, even for highly educated users. It goes back to point four, Don’t Make Users Think.
According to the widely-used writing aid Grammarly, you should use eighth-grade language (13 years old in the United States) for written content.
Number 8: Have Empathy for Your Audience
Empathy is the heart of human-centered design—taking designers beyond understanding to connect with users on a deeper level. Designers use empathy so they can relate with users, their struggles, and their environment.
An empathy map is a UX research tool that helps designers empathize by identifying what users:
Teams use empathy maps during initial research and usability testing to identify different feelings and emotions. Understanding users on a deeper level can help identify problems they might not express or verbalize.
Number 9: Provide Feedback
For example, if your product needs time to process an action, use a throbber or loading icon to let the users know to wait. Ensure error messages help users correct the problem, like highlighting missed required form inputs.
Use consistent feedback that aligns with brand messaging to ensure you always provide a positive user experience.
Number 10: Don’t Forget the Business Value
Designers must satisfy two entities, users and the brand. While focusing on users is vital to building a successful product, designers must also ensure designs create business value.
Business value and human-centered design often overlap. For example, a smoother, faster eCommerce checkout experience will improve the user experience (user-centered) while increasing conversion rates (business value).
Whenever you’re trying to solve user problems, always look for opportunities to create business value simultaneously.
Ewelina Łuszczek from the Polish-based agency, HERODOT, summarizes a designer’s obligation to business value in one concise sentence, “A great UX designer will manage to link user goals with business goals so that both users and the company reap benefits.”
Here are four great examples from a 2014 INFRAGISTICS study, The Business Value of User Experience:
Bank of America
- Designer action: user-center redesign of the registration process
- Result: registration up 45%
Anthropologie (clothing company)
- Designer action: UX redesign of the checkout process
- Result: sales up 24%
GFK (consulting firm)
- Designer action: buy button redesign
- Result: sales up $500 million
- Designer action: user research
- Result: online ticketing up 200%
You can read INFRAGISTICS’ complete 12-page study for more information about creating business value through UX design here.
Number 11: User testing
Like point six, Identify the Problem First, user testing is crucial for designers to understand real user issues rather than making educated guesses.
Usability testing provides UX teams with valuable feedback and user insights, including:
- Validating design concepts to solve users’ problems
- Exposing usability problems to fix
- Discovering opportunities for improvement
- Learn more about the users
- Identifying business value opportunities
Teams should test from conceptualization to final design handoff—constantly looking for problems to solve and validating their solutions.
Learn more about testing in this article: What is Usability Testing and How to Run It.
Number 12: Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy helps organize a product or screen layout so users can identify important elements and quickly scan to find what they need.
Designers create visual hierarchy by using distinct variations in color, contrast, scale, and grouping.
An excellent example of visual hierarchy is how writers use header tags to structure and organize content in an article—as we’ve done with this blog post!
Check out this informative article from the Nielsen Norman Group, Visual Hierarchy in UX: Definition.
Number 13: Accessibility
Accessibility is an important design consideration to make products inclusive for users with impairments or disabilities. Accessibility should also consider who Google calls the “Next Billion Users” (people using technology for the first time).
Some key accessibility considerations include:
- Ensuring screen readers can interpret content and instructions
- Ensuring colors and contrast don’t impair readability
- Using a combination of icons and text so that all users understand links and navigation
- Using legible fonts and text sizes
UX designers often forget about these considerations because design tools don’t provide accessibility checker functionality.
At UXPin, “We believe no one should feel excluded from digital experiences because of their visual disabilities.” So, we built Accessibility Features into our design editor.
Sign up for a 14-day free trial and start building more inclusive products with UXPin!
Number 14: Give the User Control
Where possible, always make it easy for users to change their minds or edit the information they submit. For example, providing a back button on every screen in a checkout flow gives the user control to fix errors or make changes.
Never force people to commit to a decision they’ve made, and always ensure your product does not mislead users—whether it’s intentional or not.
Many organizations intentionally make it difficult for users to cancel a subscription by hiding the option in settings or making them contact support (where they usually try to offer incentives to continue the subscription).
Limiting the controls users have to change their minds or edit information creates distrust in the brand and pushes customers to find other solutions.
Number 15: Design Handoff
Although it’s an internal process, a poor design handoff can adversely affect users by causing unnecessary delays or introducing technical errors.
UX teams, product designers, and developers must work together to develop processes and protocols, so design handoffs run smoothly with minimal errors.
UXPin Merge can help bridge the gap between design and development. Firstly, Merge allows designers to sync components with a repository (via Git or Storybook integrations) so design teams can build fully functioning high-fidelity prototypes—improving testing and reducing usability issues.
Secondly, UXPin’s Spec Mode facilitates an easy handoff process where developers can get detailed information about designs.
- Inspect properties: grab CSS for elements and components, including sizing, grids, colors, and typography
- Distance measurement: hover over elements for the distance between elements and the canvas edge
- Style guide: a summary of the product’s design system with the option to download assets when applicable
Number 16 — Reevaluate and Revise
One of the beautiful things about UX design is that it’s constantly evolving, allowing organizations to improve products and user experiences continuously.
Once you launch a new product or release, the work of analyzing data and reviewing designs begins.
- How does the product perform when thousands or millions of people use it?
- Do users use the product as intended?
- Do users take shortcuts that you can use to improve their experience?
- What do heat maps tell you about user behavior?
- Where do users drop off on signups or checkouts?
When analyzing a product’s performance, teams should always look for ways to improve the user experience while exploring avenues to increase business value.
Hopefully, you can use these 16 UX design principles to improve workflows and create better product experiences for your users. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so we recommend you always look for ways to improve your processes.
UXPin is a collaborative design tool that can help foster healthy UX design principles for your company. It’s the only design tool that successfully bridges the gap between designers, product teams, and developers to improve every aspect of the UX design process.
Get started with a 14-day free trial to explore a new world of design with UXPin!