Improve Your UX Design Skills by Criticizing Everyone Else

Recently, we looked at some big name brands that make serious UX mistakes and the intention was simply to remind ourselves how poor user experiences really are across the web. That’s great news in many ways, because it means you don’t have to try particularly hard to beat the likes of Forbes and some of my other online favorites (guess I won’t be getting published over there any time soon).

But all this slamming other websites isn’t just to make ourselves feel better about our own work, though. It’s a vital part of analyzing the competition, learning from what they do well, and exploring what they could do better. This, ladies and gents, is how to improve your UX design skills by criticizing everyone else.

 

Turning hypercriticism into better designs

Today’s exercise is simple. We’re going to run through a number of websites that look great, function well and would do just about any webmaster proud. And then we’re going to pick the first flaw we can spot, moan about that for a brief moment and move on to the next one.

Why? Because the quicker you can do this, the quicker you’ll spot and remove flaws in your own designs. Better yet, you may not even create them in the first place. Make it a habit to pick apart award-winning web designs and you’ll be inspired by the best of them and, hopefully, learn from the worst. The aim, of course, is to make better UX design choices by nature for better results, faster.

 

Will Design For

UX design skills

First up we have Will Design For, the portfolio page for UK designer Andrew Jackson. Great imagery, strong typography, and perfect visual balance are all over this design.

 

UX design skills

Sadly, navigation quickly becomes and issue though. Most web designers will quickly understand they have to use the arrow keys to navigate vertically and horizontally, but most web designers don’t hire other web designers. It tends to be the small and medium size business owners who may have never used navigation like this before.

That said, there aren’t any clues on this website that Andrew Jackson actually wants business owners to hire him in the first place. There’s no web copy, no hint of a call to action, and barely so much as a contact page.

Time to spot UX flaw: 1 second.

 

Farm Drop

UX design skills

Farm Drop is a pretty cool concept and it basically follows the handbook for UX best practices, page by page. Strong visuals, good page content and calls-to-action aplenty make it obvious what Farm Drop is all about and what you need to do next.

So much so that, even as a new user, I was ready to click “Start Shopping” and get right down to business. That was until I started trying to put items in my basket and I came unstuck by Farm Drop’s lack of product filters.

 

UX design skills

Sure, you can narrow products down to categories like “Fruit & veg,” but there aren’t any filters allowing you to browse potatoes only, view the range of peppers available or browse through the selection of herbs. Pretty frustrating.

Time to spot UX flaw: 15 seconds.

 

Defringe

UX design skills

Defringe calls itself “a curated online gallery that filters creative content on the web.” Unfortunately, I had to visit the about page to get that much of an explanation about what Defringe tries to be. You certainly won’t find any clues on the homepage to help you come to this rather vague conclusion.

It’s pretty interesting (to put it politely) that a website, which revolves around curating content, doesn’t use any content of its own to tell users anything whatsoever about the site. Even the design itself doesn’t communicate the theme of a news portal, blog or any other type of content-orientated website.

Time to spot UX flaw: 0 seconds.

 

Graze

UX design skills

Graze is a tempting little number right from the go and all I had to do was look at that hero image before I was clicking “get started now.” So, call me awkward, but that’s precisely when I ran into problems. (Oh internet, why do you hate me so?)

 

UX design skills

Okay, so maybe I’m not just awkward, but greedy on top of that. Because, when I go to select a variety box and a protein box, it turns out I can’t. On closer inspection, I’m told I can change or add to my order later – after I create an account.

UX design skills

Erm, actually, I can decide; you just won’t let me choose what I want. And now you’re asking me to create an account for the sake of getting some snacks delivered in the post.

Time to spot UX flaw: 11 hungry seconds.

 

Red Collar

UX design skills

Visually speaking, Red Collar is a wonderful design and that hero section alone is a treat for the eyes. In terms of web content, though, I think the language barrier got the better of our friends in Russia.

 

UX design skills

I’m pretty sure these guys aren’t selling prime beef on the side; I think this is one of their clients.

 

UX design skills

Thankfully, Inforza is a Russian firm and I’m assuming Red Collar does a much better job with web content in its own language.

Time to spot UX flaw: As soon as you stop drooling over that hero section.

 

World Science Festival

UX design skills

The World Science Festival in Brisbane this year is going with the theme of “explore something big” and the concept is clear to see in this design. We have some nice visuals and a subtle bit of parallax going on in the background too. We even learn a thing or two about our relatively shallow oceans when compared to a moon of Saturn and Jupiter.

 

UX design skills

So far, so good. And then we come to the big feature, the main event, the crux of the whole website’s experience: an endless scrolling session that literally takes the piss out of your poor fingers.

 

UX design skills

 

You’re not really selling this to me.

 

UX design skills

 

Yeah, thanks for that.

 

UX design skills

 

Finally…

 

UX design skills

 

Oh, go **** yourself.

 

And if you think that’s bad, try visiting the site on mobile. Seriously, that much scrolling is a human rights violation and I’ll be penning a strongly worded letter to the UN about this.

Time to spot UX flaw: Somewhere between Earth and Enceladus.

 

Unlike the finger slaves over at World Science Festival, I’m going to end the scrolling here for today. But, more than the specific examples we’ve looked at, I’m hoping you see the value in this habit of criticizing site designs – especially the award winners. It’s not about picking holes just to be awkward, but training that eye of yours for spotting potential UX issues. Once this becomes second nature to you, you’ll be churning out better user experiences in a fraction of the time.