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6 key things all UX designers should keep in mind

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User experience designers never stop learning. Sometimes the lesson is eye-opening and lands you at a brilliant solution, while other times it shoves you straight back to square one.

I’ve spent years as UX designer and product strategist, and I publish a weekly newsletter, The UX Notebook, that helps people learn to think like designers. I’d like to share a few of my favorite insights on great UX design, along with a couple of questions and activities to try out with your team to spark ideas.

1. Feedback won’t slow you down

Feedback fuels momentum. Seek frequent feedback to help adjust course faster.

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Hindsight. It’s a great thing. There’s nothing worse than launching a new product or feature and then realizing people aren’t using it.

When you finally stop and think about it, hindsight shows you probably failed to get feedback from people early enough.

In product development, it’s easy to get sucked into the details of execution. This momentum is great when it’s time to get things done. But, you have to be constantly asking if you’re getting the right things done.

“Create time in your product development process to seek out feedback.”

Create time in your product development process to seek out feedback from other team members, people outside your team, and users. Feedback serves as a critical reality check to keep you from going too far down the wrong path.

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. Reflect on a time when your team created a product or feature that wasn’t a success. Did you get feedback during the product development process? If not, why did you skip feedback?
  2. Think about a product or feature you’re working on right now. Commit to getting feedback in the next 2 weeks. Brainstorm how you could go about getting this feedback.

2. Think beyond the screen

Tunnel vision. It’s easy to get fixated on a single screen or a single feature in a product. When we’re passionate about what we’re working on, we can easily get stuck in the details.

When people are using your product they aren’t going to think “Wow, that one screen was amazing.”

It’s not about one screen. It’s about how all the screens fit together to help solve the user’s problem or complete the task at hand.

As much as we want it to look perfect, it doesn’t matter. We are not the normal users. The average person using our products is happy when it solves a problem, not because it’s pixel perfect.

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. For every screen that you work on ask yourself 2 questions: What did someone do before this screen? Where will they go next? These questions help establish context that’s so easily lost when you focus on one screen.
  2. Is your team stuck on a single page? Take a moment to zoom out by sketching out a rough screen map (site map) so you can see how all the screens fit together.

3. Get comfortable being wrong

To create new ideas, you have to be willing to go into unchartered and uncomfortable territory.

No one likes to be wrong. But as designers, it’s impossible for us to always be right. Part of being a designer is about being wrong because on the road to a great idea, we throw away a lot of other ones.

“Constantly ask yourself if you’re getting the right things done.”

You have to learn to be fearless. But there’s a difference between being fearless and being reckless.

Fearless means you are thoughtful and calculated. Reckless means that you don’t think enough before you had.

New ideas require that we get comfortable being fearless, exploring new ideas, and committing to validating those ideas through feedback and data from our customers.

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. Gather your team and have a discussion about what you would do if you didn’t have any time, money, or resourcing limitations. What ideas would you explore if you had no constraints?
  2. What has stopped you and your team from pursuing new ideas in the past?

4. You must create space to think

Great designers spend a lot of time thinking, not doing. Focus on learning to think like a designer.

When you’re working on a project, it’s exciting to see the progress. This often fuels teams to keep working away based on whatever is on the project checklist.

The danger getting into a cycle of doing is that you never give yourself a chance to think. Moving from task to task can easily stop you from enough time to think.

“Find time this week to schedule a ‘thinking’ session.”

A lot of times, ideas and insights come in the quiet spaces. But if you’re constantly in do mode, then you’ll never have time to think.

There’s a reason that people have ideas in the shower or when they’re out on walks or while driving. It’s these quiet moments that allow your brain to actually think.

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. Find time on your calendar this week to schedule a “thinking” session. Then, plan an activity outside of your office for thinking—a walk, a lunch outside, a trip to a museum.
  2. Encourage your team to share their ideas by creating an idea board that people can always be adding to and reading. Don’t make this electronic—it will definitely get lost!

5. Confirm the problem before creating a solution

A lot of products fail because they didn’t solve a true problem. So how do you avoid this? How do you make sure that you don’t invest a lot of time, money, and energy in something people don’t want?

Get into a habit of validating each idea before you spend too much time on it.

Sometimes the solution can be like a mirage. You get so fixated with the solution that you fail to stop and and ask why people actually need your solution and if there is a real problem within sight.

“Great designers spend a lot of time thinking, not doing.”

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. For the product you’re working on, ask everyone to write down the problem you’re solving. Have people do this anonymously. Then compare notes and use it as a chance to get on the same page.
  2. If you have not confirmed the problem yet, then commit to doing some customer research in the next 5 days.

6. Sometimes you just have to make a decision

Every decision we make has a corresponding impact to our team, product, and users. The problem is that in our quest to make the right decision, we waste a lot of precious time—one of the most important variables in product development.

Decision paralysis leads to slowed momentum, second guessing, and a sense of unrest on your team.

There’s a time to deliberate and there’s a time to get it done.

The challenge lies in knowing the difference. And this comes from experience. A good gauge to consider is the ease at which the decision can be measured and changed.

Questions and activities to help spark discussion and ideas on your team:

  1. What decisions are paralyzing your or your team? What’s stopping a decision from being made? What’s the worst that can happen?
  2. Test the decision by asking why. For the decision at hand, force you and your team to ask and answer why and justify the decision. Do this 3 times for each decision.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about UX design? Tell us on Twitter: @InVisionApp. And if you’d like UX tips from Sarah that you can hold in your hands, check out her Shopify store here.

Read more from Sarah Doody

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