3 UX Design Basics Most Designers Get Wrong

UX Design Basics

With UX design being in the mainstream these days, we’re used to complex discussions about color psychology, cognitive load and the ambiguity of symbols. And, while it’s great that designers and our clients alike appreciate the importance of such things, we risk taking our eyes off the fundamentals.

The risk is real, too, when most designers are making fundamental UX mistakes (or at least tolerating them) on a consistent basis.

There’s not much point fretting over the UX implications of font sizes and button shapes when you overlook the most basic (and often important) design principles. Here are three classic mistakes I see everywhere these days.

#1: Creating inconsistent experiences across devices

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Responsive design is a great solution to the multiple device problem. In fact, it’s still the best option we’ve got, including mobile-first and the other responsive spin-offs. But the freedom this gives designers leads to a new problem entirely.

Instead of creating the most consistent possible experience across devices, many designers go for drastic layout changes. This kind of stems from the old days of having mobile-only sites that stripped down the layout and content to the bare minimum.

The problem is, users have a knack for visiting the same site across different devices. This is especially true when it comes to buying products and changing navigational elements or other key elements at this stage might not be the best idea.

In fact, generally speaking, creating inconsistent experiences only opens up to UX problems. You might not be able to maintain the same experience 100% but it’s a good idea to get as close as you can.

#2: Confusing the hell out of users with A/B tests

Even worse than creating inconsistent experiences across devices is creating inconsistent experiences on all devices. Sadly, this is what happens when you configure your A/B tests incorrectly.

You don’t want the same visitor to see both the control and variation in your tests. Not only will this contribute to user confusion, it invalidates your results from these users.

Most A/B testing platforms randomly select one version from your test and show it to users. Which means the same visitor could see different versions of your landing page each time they visit. So make sure you’re able to assign test versions to users over multiple visits, not individual sessions.

This isn’t a fool-proof solution by any means, though. So keep these problems in mind when you conduct any A/B tests.

#3: Mistaking simplicity for UX design

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Logo rocks because you have to build it before you can play it

Simplicity is a pretty good design principle but it’s not always the desired result. You don’t use Photoshop or Sketch because they’re simplistic. Quite the opposite, in fact. Likewise, there needs to be a certain complexity to security systems, whether we’re talking about unlocking a phone or locking up a warehouse.

The point is, simplicity doesn’t always constitute good UX design. Nor does it always result in higher conversion rates. Yes, removing friction is an important part of designing for conversions but it’s not the end goal.

Forms are a classic example of this and I’ve recently talked about instances where longer forms perform better than shorter versions. Users expect to fill out a detailed form when they apply for loans, university courses, licenses, insurance and all kinds of other conversions. Anything else simply looks like a scam.

In fact, a perfectly valid (but undervalued) design principle is that friction can improve your UX. IKEA makes customers build their own furniture, Korean BBQ joints force people to cook their own food and DSLRs require you to actually know how to take a photograph. Yet all of those users are far more satisfied and engaged than some website visitor who signed up to yet another newsletter at the touch of a button.

Accepted design flaws

These design flaws are widely accepted in the industry these days. Which is why I say designers are either making these mistakes or simply tolerating them (a mixture of both, I’m sure). When half the web is made up of themes and templates with these issues built into them, it’s no surprise.

Also, the transition from mobile-only sites to responsive designs – plus the freedom the latter came with – justifies some space for experimentation. But we’ve been designing responsive sites for quite some time now and the notion of consistency should have caught on by now.

Sadly, it’s another example of designers on the whole simply accepting the current trend rather than designing for the project in front of them. Perhaps it’s a by-product of the low-cost, quick results environment we typically work in these days. But letting the basics fall apart while we pursue complex goals (eg: A/B testing every design element on the page) is counterproductive.

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