UX Design Principles

I was at an enterprise designer meetup last night.  An interesting topic came up which was, “What are your enterprise design principles?”  I thought I had collected quite a few over the years that have helped me design.  Here they are with very short explanations.

1. Don’t move the cheese
If a user knows how to do something, don’t move it.  It’s annoying to relearn muscle memory.  If you HAVE to move something, prepare for alot of angry customers. More details on moving the cheese.

2. Simple things should be simple.  Complex things should be possible.
Part of this means, “use intelligent defaults”.  When you add something, have it in working order right away.  Allow the user to do the happy path right away.  Power Users don’t mind jumping through hoops to make their edge cases work.  In other words, don’t burden the beginner/intermediate users with advanced features.  Hide them inside “edit details” actions.

3. Customers can’t afford to pay attention.
They already pay for your product.  Now you want them to pay attention too??  You are greedy.  Realistically, users don’t read instructions and don’t pay attention to details.  Make things obvious, or better yet, just do the right thing for them and don’t allow bad behavior.  More details on user distraction.

Great example:  In JIRA, I did a search and it said, “No results.”  In a line way underneath it said, “Maybe you should login.”  My principle would be to protect the user and forward them automatically to the login screen.

4. Remember the three travelers
It’s a story about three experiences.  Perfect, Terrible and Bad at first with a positive recovery.  See details about the three travelers.  The punchline is that bad at first with a positive recovery is actually better than perfect.  (Spoiler: Perfect doesn’t actually exist)

5. Consistent is better than perfect.
It’s always tempting to design the perfect UI for every specific situation.  It’s better to be consistent with the rest of the application than to introduce new patterns all the time.  New designers to an organization are often tempted to invent all new patterns.  Users don’t appreciate it.  They want consistency. More details on consistency.

6. Minimum Lovable Product – not Viable.
I hate minimum viable products (MVPs).  They usually suck and are lame.  People don’t want task completion.  They want a delightful experience.  Make sure it’s lovable.  It’s not about features, it’s about the quality of the feature you release.  People don’t remember the date you released.  They remember how it made them feel when they first used it. More details on MLP.

7. Five pennies is better than one dime.
Ask any child and they know it’s true.  Five small features trump one big one.  Instead of delivering big features all the time, release a bunch of small features that are easy to love.  More details on Five Pennies.  Also more details on how the little things matter.

8. Fun to use is better than easy to learn.
Lots of things are hard to learn.  Surfing, skiing, tennis, chess, UX, programming, guitar, etc etc.  Yet people obsess about them and do them all the time.  Why?  Because they are fun.  Make your application fun and it will pay off in the long run.  Not stupid fun (like with useless irrelevant gamification), but fun in that it makes people happy to use.  A great designer should aspire to a design that thrills people to use. More details on product fun.

9. Don’t fall in love with your own work.
A wise man once told me, you have to learn to eat your young as a designer.  We called it “Eating your baby”.  When a better idea comes along, you throw away the old and focus on the new.  A great designer knows when a better idea is presented and immediately adopts it.  More details on Eating your baby.

10. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to be proud of it.
I have two bars: Perfect and Proud.  As long as it’s over the Proud line, then I feel good about releasing it.  Enterprise software is impossible make perfect and include all the features needed.  But don’t accept it if you aren’t even proud of it.  We use a concept at work called “Chips”.  When you care alot about it and it’s not making you proud, you can say, “I am willing to use my chips on this.”  We don’t keep track of chips, but people know you are serious when you go “all in”.

Ten principles seems like a nice round number. I love these principles and they guide me every day.  I hope they help you in your UX journey too.


5 responses to “UX Design Principles”

  1. Katie Avatar

    Re #6, Maya Angelou is rolling her grave. Or nodding in agreement.

  2. Glen Lipka Avatar
    Glen Lipka

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    ― Maya Angelou

  3. Atanasio Segovia Avatar

    This post is super practical – thanks for compiling the list. #9 is the most painful principle to embrace for new UX Designers. It requires a slice of humble pie.

  4. ranzeeth Avatar

    # 6 @ -GLEN LIPKA – It was great meeting you @ the enterprise designers event.

  5. Amit Jain Avatar

    Rule 6: Ah, Glen, you hit the nail right where it ought to be! I have has a very similar view on MVP’s. I once termed it, “Minimum LoVible Product” (Lovable+Viable = Lo-Vi-ble). Your thoughts are so much real, and such a joy to read! Congratulations, thanks and all the best!

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