This post is not titled “5 Weird Tricks to Take Your Designs to the Next Level.” This list is going to seem obvious, and that is precisely why I created it. As you improve as a designer, it’s all too easy to skip (intentionally or otherwise) the fundamentals that will help you produce your best work. Nine times out of ten when a design project is going in circles the root cause can be traced back to one of these steps being skipped.
Don’t Start Solutioning Before Defining the Problem (and Scope)
Without a well-defined problem for a specific persona, your project is doomed. Especially when working in a fast-paced environment or on a project that you are very familiar with, moving straight to the solution you envision is tempting. I’ve seen it (and done it) time and time again, and it never ends well. Next time you are bouncing from solution to solution or find yourself asking whether or not X feature should include X functionality, revisit the problem statement. If it doesn’t have the answer, it’s time to refine it.
Never Forget the User
Too many product discussions turn into “Oh, we could do this!” Yes, you could do almost anything, but the conversation always needs to start from the perspective of the user. Every time you are contemplating a design decision, ask, “What is the user trying to accomplish?” There is a reason they will be using your app at that moment. Focus on enabling them to do that task as easily as possible.
Iterate in sketches and don’t worry about pixels until you absolutely have to. Whiteboard/sketch as many solutions you can think of (within reason). Show those sketches and get feedback. Try something like this:
- Do several high-level sketches around UX. Try to find 3 or 4 ways the page or user flows could be organized.
- Get usability and feasibility feedback for those sketches.
- Get specific. Once you find a UX that appears to work, write the actual text, create a graph from realistic data, and be sure the experience fits within the larger product you are designing.
- Get more feedback.
- Now you can make it pretty. 🙃
Research How Other Apps Work
Anytime you are creating interactions/functionality in your app, look to existing designs of products people enjoy using. Before you try to reinvent how multi-select works, check out Gmail. If you are designing a date picker, go use Airbnb. Take advantage of all the resources that went into developing these components, and the familiarity your users will likely have with them. Pay close attention to the details of the functionality, and most importantly, don’t try to be too clever.
Collaborate Early (Both Inside and Outside of Product Team)
Everyone wants to be part of the product building process, so include them. Whenever you are designing something, be sure to talk to people who will be using, selling, or supporting it. Make sure it aligns with their expectations. Enabling people to be a part of the process is important. Everyone will have different thoughts on what or how it should work, and don’t try to please everyone. But, if you do this, you’ll be fostering a sense of ownership that will motivate the team and greatly increase your project’s chance of success.
I know this list is nothing new, but I hope you keep it around and glance at it from time to time as a friendly reminder of “How to Take Your Designs to the Next Level!”
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.