7 Things to Avoid in Your Design

Posted by Eric Bastholm on November 7, 2010
Nov 072010

So much of the world is overly complicated. For some reason the human race seems hell-bent on making the non-natural part of their existence; cultural, economic, technological; as difficult to understand as possible. It’s almost like humanity has a collective mental disorder! Application and website design, of course, is no exception, and although there are some brilliant things out there, by and large there seems to be a disproportionate number of no so brilliant ones.

There can be many things that can compromise a design and result in a unfavourable user experience. Here are seven easy design issues to avoid.

Wrong Wayphoto © 2006 Mark Norman Francis | more info(via: Wylio)

1 Avoid unused features

Features in the design that, although cool for the developers, people will never use. When ever someone has to perform some task they must either remember or find the place in your design to achieve their goal. Having less to remember or search through is always better. Ask people what they want (not their managers) and watch them go about their business. Sometimes they want something they don’t really need. Keep it simple.

2 Avoid complicated layouts

Normal people will tire of a cluttered interface. If you are a developer, believe it or not, “normal” probably doesn’t include you. Developers can handle a lot of information without effort and tend to accept more complicated interfaces easily. Remember, developers are not users. Use mock ups, prototypes and sketches in conjunction with real users to design the UI. They will tell you when you are getting too tricky.

3 Avoid non-standard controls and behaviours

People are familiar with whatever is most evident in standard design practices even if the standards are not optimal. Invent something new at your own peril. Developers love inventing new stuff. Don’t do it unless people like it. Usability must be the driver of the design. Sure every developer wants to make the “next” big thing, but let’s face it, it don’t happen very often. Normal people will be far more likely to be impressed with something they already know how to use and works than swoon over that brilliantly coded hover effect that always seems to be in the user’s peripheral vision. Design a new way of doing something, by all means, but pick your moments carefully.

4 Avoid misunderstanding people’s beliefs

Often a outwardly good looking design fails because of some issue with the way people believe the design should work or there is a conflict with the developer view and the person’s view of what should be done. A conflict in their mental models.

5 Avoid management design input

Management is not going to use the design when it is implemented. Only their people or customers will be. Let those people take ownership of the design. Ownership also improves acceptance of the new system. Nothing is easier for a manager than to delegate the design to someone else. They want to do it. They are more qualified to do it. They will love you if you let them do it. If you are a manager let your people decide what they need. They will make you look good.

6 Avoid long development cycles

Make sure that you check back with the user group often to show them your design. Changes that need to be done are best caught early before you build heaps of other stuff on top. It also shows people that you are making progress and are genuinely interested in giving them something they want. Take cake to the meetings.

7 Avoid simplistic implementation

Sometimes you have to think beyond the basic implementation of some aspect of your design which may be fine for the most part, but fall apart under certain conditions: like large file sizes, queries that return overly large results sets, deployment on slow networks, that sort of thing. You may have to consider these things early in your detailed design and implementation otherwise the user experience is compromised. Sometimes fixing these problems later is very hard and makes you look bad.

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