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March 8, 2016 /UX/UI Design /

Experts Weigh In: What Are Your Non-Negotiables When It Comes to Designing Great User Experiences?

We recently came across an article in Fast Co. about their take on the “three commandments” of great UX design. The article talks about how when it comes down to it, a good user experience needs to be useful, usable and enjoyable. Fast Co. says that when a user experience contains all three of these components, the user is given something more.

This got us thinking. Every designer seems to have one or two non-negotiables of his or her own. We thought we’d reach out to a few experts to find out where they put their foot down when it comes to developing a stellar user experience. From designers at NASA to Netflix, here’s how they make sure users are enjoying their experiences.

1. Consider User Emotions

kryspicI really believe you need to add in a little delight. Even if your application or website revolves around a heavy, solemn topic like a funeral home, you should put extra effort to anticipate the user’s needs and meet them.  In this example, the likelihood is that most of the people who are visiting you are going through something rough in their lives, so why not take a few extra minutes to build in personalized, compassionate messaging?  Why not link them to additional resources that can help them in a time of grief?  The benefits of building a delightful application go way beyond just engaging users and moving them through a workflow. They also build loyal promoters.

~ Krys Blackwood, Lead User Experience Designer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

2. Optimize

Performance is crucial. An interface that doesn’t respond quickly is going to cause your users to feel uncomfortable – they’ll either decide they did something wrong and feel bad about themselves or decide your app is broken and feel bad about you.  Either way, everybody loses. It’s really important to optimize your interactions, code, images and workflows. Think about anywhere that you’ve got unavoidable slowdowns and use animation or early confirmation messages to give the user a feeling of progress and movement.

~ Krys Blackwood, Lead User Experience Designer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

3. Be Pragmatic

At The Nerdery, one of our five core values is “Solve Problems Pragmatically.” What this means is that it’s up to us to solve our clients’ business problems within that client’s context and constraints. When working with a client that has, say, budgetary constraints, instead of cutting out user research or testing, as often happens elsewhere, we build lower effort methods into our project approach. For example, we might do a small pop-up survey on an existing site for research, or run a short unmoderated usability test of the prototype. We believe that pragmatism doesn’t have to come at the cost of value.

~ Fred Beecher, Director of User Experience and Design, The Nerdery

4. Serve the User

Kevin OConnorWhen you work for a for-profit company you’re always juggling usefulness for both the user and the company you work for, and sometimes those two things are at odds with each other. My personal approach is, “serving the users typically serves the business.” I usually approach projects from the user usefulness end and then make sure through testing that were also positively affecting the business (as opposed to looking for opportunities to affect our core business metrics up front, then retroactively making those additions feel useful to a user).

~ Kevin O’Connor, Product Designer, Netflix

5. Make it Beautiful

Making things beautiful is the most fun part for me. There are stages in the process where I’m designing at sloppy, low fidelity to quickly iterate on layout ideas, but when it comes to the final product, I’ve spent as much time fine tuning the visuals of what I’m working on as I originally spent exploring the possible ways to handle whatever feature/ experience I’m working on at the time. There is something really powerful and often underestimated about beautiful, polished design in the UX world.

~ Kevin O’Connor, Product Designer, Netflix

6. Iterate

Michael MacArthrIterative design is the single most important aspect of creating any compelling user experience. We humans have a tendency to default to the quickest, easiest, or tried and true solutions. We must always check our egos at the door and constantly remind ourselves that failure is the greatest contributor to success, regardless of timing or budgetary constraints. UX problems won’t be solved by rushing to propose solutions. We learn from each of our mistakes, and as such, failure must be part of the process. Failures can be identified through user research and analysis, providing insight for future iterations, in order to continually optimize the experience for ongoing success.

~ Michael McArthur, Director, User Experience, Klick Health

7. Give It Purpose

Brian HoweA great user experience on the web is frictionless. In a well-executed design, the goals are clear and the intentions are obvious. I consistently ask, does everything serve a purpose? If not, remove it. There is no ignoring the basic fundamentals of design, but experiences are emotion-driven. The heart, mind, body and digital environment create a current. Anything interrupting those channels will immediately register with the user. Our job as UX designers is to ensure the waters are smooth in a vessel the user can sail with confidence.

~ Brian Howe, Director of UX & Design, Business Insider

What are your non-negotiables when it comes to designing user experiences? Share with us in the comments below.

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  • By Laura Vrcek - 4:59 PM on March 9, 2016  

    I like what Michael said about failure — it IS a great contributor to success.

  • By Michelle - 2:28 PM on March 10, 2016  

    “heart, mind, body and digital environment create a current” legit reasoning Brian!