In the emerging world of UX and UI design there is a sea of voices trying to be heard. Some will tell you that good user experience design is all about utility. Others will say that the foundation of UX is built upon bringing users delight. There is a sea of different opinions out there, but they all are saying basically the same thing. In order to help you with your own design projects, we have put together 5 UX design principles that we believe you should live by.

These principles are similar to what you may have read about UX before, but boiled down and simplified into the core meaning of what they are trying to say. Think of these as the fundamentals of UX or the groundwork that you then build up from. However, before we get into these principles, let’s talk about what UX means.

ux design principles

What is UX?

According to the experts over at Invision, the simplest explanation of what UX is goes something like this.

You know when you’re using a website, an app, or your phone and you get frustrated when it doesn’t do what you want it to? My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Just like with our UX design principles, the basics of UX are pretty simple. As a designer, it is your job to make sure that the user experience is the best that it can be. How you go about that and what methods you employ is up to you, but the user always come first.

UX Design Principles

Now that you have a good definition of what UX is and what it means, let’s move on to UX design principles and how to use them to create the best user experience possible.

1. Be contextual

When it comes to mobile app design centered around user experience, think of the user journey as a book. If you were to open a book to a random page without the proper context, you would have no idea what was going on. The same thing happens when you throw your users into a new environment without the proper context.

As a designer, it is your job to provide the context for how your user interacts with your product. Like with a book, your user should understand who and where they are in the story. If a user doesn’t know that they are supposed to do something without constant prompts and guides, your design isn’t contextual enough and it’s probably not working.

2. Be human

While it may be true that a machine could create the most efficient design possible, without a human touch the user experience can feel cold and robotic. Be human in your designs. Be trustworthy, approachable, and honest with your users. Not only will they benefit from extra information, but they will know there is someone on the other side of their experience that actually cares about them.

This also means that you plan for mistakes. As Alexander Pope said, “To err is human.” Your users are going to make mistakes, but what are you going to do to help them when they do? As a designer, being human is a UX design principle you simply cannot ignore.

man and robot shake hands

3. Be findable

Have you ever been just about to look up how to do something and a prompt pops up answering the very question you were just asking yourself? That is what it means to design with the concept of being findable. While you shouldn’t clog the screen with pop-ups and tips, you should establish a strong information scent.

By providing wayfinding signs to your users, they shouldn’t have any problem finding what they need. Again, as a designer looking to follow these UX design principles, easy accessibility is key. Your users should have what they need before they even know they need it.

4. Be easy

A common problem designers have with something like iPhone app development is making things too complicated. While your design should be intuitive and complex, it should never be complicated or difficult to use.

Be easy when it comes to your user experience. Makings things too difficult is a surefire way to turn good customers into unhappy customers in a hurry. What does it mean to be easy? It means that you users shouldn’t have to have pre-existing knowledge to use your product or platform. It means that unless they make a serious mistake, everything they need is right before them. Keep it simple, keep it clear, keep it easy.

5. Be simple

Our final UX design principle places off of #4, “Be easy,” with a slight twist. While designing to make thing easy means be consistent and clear, being simple means staying on message. Avoid distracting jargon or long loading times in your design when possible. If you come across a section of your design that seems unnecessary, get rid of it.

Keeping things simple is all about reducing clutter whenever you can. If this means that the design won’t be as aesthetically pleasing as you hope, but works better, that is a sacrifice you should have no problem making.

man works on ux design

Layers of UX design

Now that you have the foundation of the UX design principles, we are going to take a brief look at the layers of UX design that you should consider at each step in the design process. These are factors that UX designers like to measure when trying to figure out how their design is working.

Your design can and should impact these different layers, so be thinking of your next project as you read through these and start thinking of how you can impact your users in the following areas.

  •      Discoverability: Can your users discover how to use your product the first time they interact with it? The first time they look at it?
  •      Learnability: Can users learn and then predict how to move from one step in the process to the next? On repeat visits, can they remember how to engage with the product to accomplish their objectives?
  •      Efficiency: Once your users start using the product, can they repeat tasks quickly and with higher efficiency the next time they use it?
  •      System performance: How nimble is your user interface when users interact with it? If it is slow, designers need to do their part to improve the overall user experience, including system response times when users perform tasks.
  •      Delight: Does your product instill delight in your users? If you can harness an emotion connection with your users, they will champion your product and cause til the better end.

While each of these is important, delighting your users should always be in the back of your mind. If you can really blow them away, you fully understand UX design principles and be on your way to success!