Behind every great user experience, there is great design.
Great design results in products that are useful, aesthetic, and understandable. Legendary designer Dieter Rams, father of the famous 10 principles of good design, explains that good product design "... clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.”
As designers, this is our duty. When we commit to great product design, we commit to focusing user attention so that they understand and get more value out of what we offer. This is key.
UX Design in Three Phases
In this article, I want to address some of basics to building a good product. With digital products in particular, there are a number of practical themes to consider, themes like accessibility with ADA compliance, SEO, searchability, transactional scenarios, and responsiveness.
At Modyo, our process to address these themes is iterative, helping us continuously improve our design with feedback. This UX process is more of an approach or way of thinking than a hard definition, as it often differs between organizations.
That being said, there are three phases to how we approach UX: research, conception and user testing.
Research, “Building a good product”
Also called "Discovery," we define the scope of the product and the business goals according to stakeholders constraints and end-users needs.
Conception, “Building the right product”
This second step is where we design low-fidelity wireframes—interactions to emphasize the information architecture and structure we defined in the previous step.
User testing, “Building a useful and usable product”
Test your product with users, and learn what you need to change. User testing is the strongest influence you have on design decisions. It helps ensure you aren’t forcing user behavior down unnatural paths, and also counterbalances stakeholder feedback.
Cognitive Load & Visual Hierarchy
Taking a closer look at our product conception step, let's explain how we consider all constraints. When we design a product, we always have the following five constrains in mind to ensure that we stay aligned with user expectations. We need to always:
Focus user attention
Lead users to the final goal
Reduce mental effort, maintain flow
Maximize and standardize compatibility with the user’s natural tendencies
Minimize errors, avoid frustration
Both leading users to different elements, while also focusing their attention on particular tasks is a tricky challenge, because we have to walk a balance between cognitive load and visual hierarchy. Digital products are scanned, not read. We can't ask a user to multitask, because their attention is necessarily selective. As it should be, and nearly all users do this: we scan headline first, then subheadings, and only then after, copy blocks.
It's important to understand where your user is focusing.