Design Principles to Use in User Experience Design and their Importance

Design Principles User Experience Design

User experience design is a fundamental component of any product or service design. Whether you are designing a digital platform or even a door knob, how users interact with it will essentially mean how successful or otherwise it will be. Therefore, it is important for product designers to have a clear understanding of design principles that have a direct bearing on how their product or service is perceived and utilized by the end user. Let’s begin with mental models.

Principle of Mental Models

Kenneth Craik, suggested in 1943 that the mind constructs “small-scale models” of reality that it uses to anticipate events. Thus, learning or using a new product is made simpler if your users can build upon something familiar. This means your design must take into account language, visual and pattern affordance. In application terms, a small basket or bin icon will automatically be assumed to mean trash, delete or recycle in an application because users will have a mental model of what the icon does from previous experiences. By using a similar icon for similar functionality, UX designers can utilize this affordance. Non adherence to this principle can quickly lead to user abandonment.

Law of Feedback

The law of feedback simply states that a product should give its users some feedback on what is happening, has happened or can happen once an interaction has been initiated. Feedback helps users to orient themselves, understand functional changes and perceive transitions. Imagine using a platform that requires you to upload a document but doesn’t let you know whether the download has started, is ongoing or is complete. Even if the platform works, the lack of feedback essentially means users have to expend additional mental energy trying to figure out what’s going on. The more cognitive load you add on your user will eventually lead to a bad User experience and abandonment.

 Design Principles User Experience Design

Principle of Proximity

The principle of proximity is part of Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization. Elements or objects that are near each other tend to be related, associated or grouped together. These elements might appear to the user to offer complimentary functionality to each other. For instance, an Up and Down key or button will appear close to or next to each other, an Undo and Redo function will serve the User better if they are placed closely to each other. Placing totally different or unrelated user functions might lead to a jarred up and confusing experience.


Tolerance for Error

With any human interaction, mistakes are bound to happen. UX designers should take into mind any error that their platform might encounter due to unintended and accidental user actions, and mitigate the negative consequences of such actions. The User experience is enhanced when mistakes are responded to with warnings and corrections and not punitive actions. For instance, if the user inputs the wrong email, the interface can show a wrong email notification prompting the user to be keen in the input. A system that responds by redirecting the user to another page where they have to start all over again is punitive and will lead to a negative experience.

Ockham’s razor (The Law of Economy)

This principle states that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. Ockham’s Law is the scientific and philosophical foundation for Keep It Simple Stupid. The best solution in the User Experience Journey are often found in the simplest solutions. UX designers should avoid complicating the instruction, information or actions required by users without undue necessity. Users tend not to read manuals anyway. Design your platform in an easy to understand manner and you are good to go.

Hicks Law

Human beings tend to take a longer period to make a choice when they are presented with too many choices. The more choices the longer it takes to decide and the inverse is also true. Have you ever boarded an empty bus only to find you cannot decide which sit suits you? That’s Hicks Law in action. For UX Designers give the User only totally necessary choices to work with, and send them on the rest of the UX journey. Too many choices might inevitably lead to cognitive overload and you lose the User.

Fitts’ Law

Simply put, Fitts’ Law states that the length of time it takes to move to a target element – to perform an action – is related to the size, distance and position of the target element. Hence, if a target element is close to a user and can be easily identified, then the likelihood of the user to perform a desired result is enhanced both in terms of speed and ease. This makes the User Experience merrier. Have you ever tried to find a download button on a page and instead, ended up clicking on large Ads with the word download? That’s Fitt’s doing its thing. In designing your user experience, make the desired action obvious to the user and easy to perform. For example, making a CTA button different in color and prominent in page hierarchy. This principle is close to the Von Restorff effect (Isolation effect).



Low Cognitive Load

Don’t make me think, too much that is. User experience suffers at the altar of steep learning curves. The more mental energy or thought a user needs in order to complete a task or learn a new functionality, the more likely they are to abandon the platform or product; and rate it as a negative experience.  UX designers should strive to ease the cognitive load which will make the user journey memorable.

Design Principles User Experience Design

The Principles of User Experience Design are inexhaustible, but I do hope this gives you a foundational understanding of a few things to consider when mapping your user journey. You can try and read up on Equitable use, Flexibility and Perceptible information and how they interact with the User Experience.

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| June 30, 2017