The basic principles of great UX design

Creative UX, not just the usual stuff.

When most people think of what creative UX needs to deliver they’ll think of the Generic values of UX design like function, intuitiveness, aesthetic values. These are important, but only part of the story. If design was just a case of presenting stuff nicely, then you can stop here. But if you believe design is a vital communication tool, then you need to think deeper.

Less obvious than the Generic values are the Specific values to do with target audience, mindset, proposition. This is where creating genuinely effective customer journeys comes from and where the creative adds value. Get those in place and what makes it really special is the vision for the brand and the vision of the UX leader. It’s the vision that will drive the UX to excel, to innovate and to keep the entire project on task and to create a genuinely unique and great design. It is the designer’s vision that sets the bar high and gives us something to judge the design by

In this article I’m going to deal only with the generic values but please do also read the related articles listed below.

Functional – does it do what the business needs it to do?

The UX design has a job of work to do. This means it has to deliver on the business requirement that has stimulated it. So great design has to be born out of a need like getting more customers to convert online or to recruit more of the right kind of customer who will stay with you for longer. It might be to make workflow smoother or to get employees working better together. Whatever the need, the very first thing design needs to do is the job the BRD needs it to do, everything else just makes it better.

Intuitive – does it feel natural?

Websites need to be obvious. Well signposted. And design should not get in the way. The journey a customer is taken on needs to feel natural, things should be where they expect them to be, interactions shouldn’t come as a surprise, results from action should be what they were after. Because if a customer gets lost in their journey, it’s not the design they’ll feel negative towards, it’s the brand they were trying to buy into because it’s made them feel stupid.

Messaging – is it clear?

Design is as much about copy as it is visual and function. Design has to work hand in hand with messaging, headlines and copy. UX Design is the platform for clear communication. It sets the ‘mood bed’ for the story. Good UX designers know how to vary the cadence of the story to their advantage.

Aesthetic – it better look the part

It needs to look good. This is pretty obvious isn’t it? But this should happen naturally if you’re telling the right story. So the questions to ask are: does it reflect the brands values as well as the brand design? Does it support the brand’s vision? Does it look the part? Does it look professional? Does the brand look credible? The acid test for any design is ‘ is this enhancing or diminishing the customer’s perception of the brand?’

Innovative – does it represent progress?

Is the design doing anything new? Is it doing things better? If it isn’t, why change from the old version? New design is the opportunity to push the brand forward. Every single piece of work is an opportunity to make things better, if it isn’t then you’re imperiling the brand.

Joined up – makes sense

Good design can be consistently applied to every last touch point. Is the design concept strong enough to be recognizable even down to the most humble tool tip or email? How does the design concept develop pre, during and post a website visit? How does it support the CX mapping? Does it work in paid and earned media channels where the noise is greatest, as well as it works in owned media?

Trends not fads

Great design needs to be aware of trends, and great designers are those that know their trends from their fads. So for instance, current trends are being determined by the massive growth of tablet and smart phone use: Simpler navigation, more scroll than click, micro-interactions and of course, responsive design. And truly integrated digital journeys have led to more valued content, better use of imagery and detailed and varied content strategies. Also trends driven by SEO leading to multiple and varied content strands.

Trends are sustained innovations and they are sustained because there is a real reason for them to be there. Fads are subjective and fashion led. There’s a fashion for full screen bleed pictures on home pages these days, it reflects a greater appreciation of the visual language, but is it a fad or a trend?

These are generic values. They should be a given. Really, they are just your ticket to the game, if you want to add real value you need to go much further. If you want your digital creative solution to genuinely engage customers, then you need to start to look to specific customer values, and your vision for digital communications creative.