We UX folks have read all the articles and blogs on best practices.
Ours is an industry of shared information rather than closely guarded secrets. After a few blog articles, the tips become redundant. I’ve noticed myself skimming through because I already know what they’re going to say.
How many times have you been in the heat of designing something, under pressure from deadlines only to realize you’ve completely forgotten a cardinal rule of UX design?
And you think, “I’ve read 56 blogs about this! WTF was I thinking?”
It’s the worst.
I find it’s easy to lose sight of best practices with my nose to the grindstone, but I’ve decided to kick this habit by keeping these 9 rules close at hand on my desktop. It’s basically my mantra now.
Empty states. What is the initial experience? What are those surprise and delight interactions that can go overlooked? This is your chance to teach users (and take advantage of that opportunity. Seriously.)
“Theophilus understood thorough recompense throughout exacerbating circumstances.” Ew. Always try to design with real content. Check out InVision’s new content plucker for Sketch named Craft.
Extra Long or Short Names.
This goes with ugly content but worth it’s own weight. How do Joe Wu and Elizabeth Bridgewater work? What about Benedict Cumberbatch?
Too much content juxtaposed to too little content.
If you’re designing without content, or you’re designing for user-input content, make sure you account for what it looks like if there is a long text entry next to a short text entry. Common solutions include designing cards that can adjust and shift depending on length or creating a standard content reveal level (i.e. only showing 4 lines of text in each.) Basically, just check out Pinterest.
One content piece vs. a lot of content pieces.
What works for a few doesn’t always work for many. Using large images to represent content is beautiful…until there are 100 entries and users need to scroll forever. Maybe it’s broken up into pages or loads more to the bottom of the page. Just be sure you consider how the design handles so much content—like, crazy amounts.
If your delightful stock images will be replaced with user-inputs, how will it look with an over-filtered, poorly lit, low res image of your friends cat? (Answer: awesome. Because cats.)
Find all text and buttons of similar action — are they located in similar places? Are they treated the same? Will they take you to the same place? Is this consistent with current user mental models? How many font styles do you have? Can you condense this number?
Can you show anyone a screen out of context and they can figure out where they’ve been, what they did, and where they will go? Are they right?
The Right Direction.
Finally, and most importantly, never, ever, lose sight of why this product is being created. What is the problem you were tasked to solve? What did your users say in your research? Why did they say those things? Does your solution lose sight of these touchpoints? It’s so easy to get caught up in the cool secondary features that you miss the biggest reason for the work. It may be cool, but that might not be what you’re being paid to design. When I get about halfway through my design process, in the thick of the project, I take a moment and step back to reflect on where I’m going. What do users NEED? Am I making it simple for them to do that? What makes this unique? Is this the best experience?
Without further ado, here are your desktop wallpaper checklists. Save them, send them, tell people all about it. Then make your own!
It’s funny—some of these lessons I’ve learned through experience, some from those infinite blog articles, and others from strange places. Number 9, for example. In school we were told to stop sketching every once in awhile, pin our work to the wall, take a step back, and look at the big picture. You would notice how terribly out of perspective you were or, even more embarrassingly in my case, how phallic your design was. My professor would just have a field day making fun of it, drawing the whole class’ attention to the resemblance of my beautifully ergonomic pepper grinder that, I admit, may have looked more like male anatomy than something you want your waiter to twist over your plate. But, I guess it happens to the best of us.
So, fellow designer, may your work be inspired, genuine, flawless and never phallic.