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14 Smart Habits That Will Make You a Better UX Designer

UX Planet — Medium | Guy Ligertwood

Create habits that’ll improve you as a designer

Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

Habits are fundamental in shaping our lives. More than 40% of your daily actions are habits rather than decisions. They also grow stronger over time.

Neuroscientists have found that most behaviour starts in a a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, the area directly behind our forehead. It’s here that we make decisions. As behaviour becomes automatic (a habit) it moves into the basal ganglia, near the centre of the skull. As this happens the decision making part of the brain goes into a kind of sleep mode.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits” (Brian Tracy)

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
(Mahatma Gandhi)

1. Go to user testing sessions

“Usabilty is the killing field of cherished notions” (David Orr)

As a UX designer, one of your goals is to understand your users. You can look at personas as much as you like, but there’s nothing like talking face to face with your users. The better view of the real people using your product the better your designs will be.

2. Talk

“UX is no longer about creating deliverables.” The new UX is about meaningful conversations. “( Chris Thelwell )

Chris Thelwell did a great article on how the new UX is all talk. In it he states that are meaningful discussions with other designers, developers, stakeholders and customers are the keys to finding out what we need to deliver a brilliant solution.

3. Test the words on your interface

“Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out”

The way you talk to users is crucial. Be clear, concise and useful with the words you use. Be sure to think of the context when you communicate with people. Talk to them like a human, not a computer.

4. Step away from the computer

“When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. (Gerard Huerta)

Designers hit dead ends. All creatives have their way of dealing with this. Whatever you choose to do, get away from your desk and computer. Get some fresh air, take a walk, sleep on it, talk to a friend or work colleague. Don’t fight the block, let it digest and when you’re hungry again, you can jump back in.

5. Get the basics right first

“Nail the basics first, detail the details later”

Jumping ahead with solutions is natural, but you need to hold off. Make sure you get the fundamentals right at the start. Areas you didn’t think of will rise to the surface at this stage. Do your research, talk to your customers, then dig into your ideas.

6. Always ask ‘is this design accessible?’

“Accessible design is good design” (Steve Ballmer)

Your users may have accessibility issues, such as being colour blind, partially sighted, deaf, or disabled. You need to consider a wide range of people that may have problems using your technology.

7. Remember content over design

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration. “(Jeffrey Zeldman)

An interface looking good is great, but only if the content works well for the user. Remember not to confuse good looks with an excellent experience.

8. Follow your process

“Step by step and the thing is done” (Charles Atlas)

UX without a process is a bit like driving across the country without a map. You can do it, but the chances of getting to your destination are slim. Use your process as your roadmap. Make a habit of using it and be belligerent when people want to skip over it.

9. The users opinion is more important than yours

“Socrates said ‘Know thyself. I say ‘know they users’ And guess what? They don’t think like you do.” (Joshua Brewer)

A designers opinion is their opinion. Be careful listening to too many views from people that are not the user of the product.

10. Don’t always aim for simplicity

“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.” (Paul Rand)

Simplicity for simplicity’s sake is not always helpful. Make sure that you don’t design something that is very simple, but missing important content.

11. Always remember good design needs to do several things

“Good design keeps the user happy, the manufacturer in the black and the aesthete unoffended” (Raymond Loewy)

Remember that you’re designing for more than just the user. As designers, we advocate for the user, but the stakeholders also have a significant voice. Sometimes we have to do what the stakeholder wants even if the user doesn’t. Highlight any risks to the business and choose your battles wisely.

12. Find out the context of why something is being designed

“For me the context is key, from that comes the understanding of everything” (Kenneth Noland)

If you find yourself working on something that doesn’t seem to be solving a problem, get the business context of why they’ve decided to do it. Once you know why the business wants it, you can reason with it, even if you don’t agree with it.

13. Design because your users want it not because your competitors do it

“If you’re competitors start copying you then you’re doing something right” (Jay Baer)

It’s tempting to copy a feature your competitors have and just go with it. However, you need to validate that your customers want the function you’re copying. If they want it, then great. If not, don’t bother.

14. Slow down

“Restore your attention or bring it to a new level by dramatically slowing down whatever you’re doing” (Sharon Salzberg)

All the others are tough to do without getting this one sorted. Make a habit to step back, slow down and remember what’s important.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” (Jim Ryun)

If you enjoyed this, read my other UX articles:

3 Inspiring Ladies Who Became UX Designers After 40
14 Uncomfortable Habits That Will Make You a Better UX Designer
13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be a Successful UX Designer
I talked to 3 people who got into UX in their 40s

18 Things I Wish I’d Known When Starting Out in UX Design
New to UX Design? Feeling Overwhelmed?
UX Writing: How to do it like Google with this powerful checklist
Writing for the Web: How To Be Well Prepared With This Great Checklist
UX Design For Your Life
24 Ways to Look Like an Awesome UX Designer
51 Research Terms You Need to Know as a UX Designer
53 Tech Terms You Need to Know as a UX Designer
How to become a UX Designer at 40 with no digital or design experience

Or have a read of my 20 designers, 20 questions, 20 weeks series starting with the intro article

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14 Smart Habits That Will Make You a Better UX Designer was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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