Recently an aspiring designer asked me, what all does it take to have the right design decisions, how to decide if it’s the right design and what process to follow for any new design project.
I believe that design is misunderstood many a times. While the best works of design may seem simple and obvious, there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes when design decisions are made. More than you might imagine.
I’d like to share some of my thoughts and insights on how design decisions should be made. These thoughts are simply a gist of what I have observed and learned over the course of time of my design experience.
- Understanding Design
The common misconception about design is that it is just a process to make things look beautiful. In reality, Design is much more than that.
Design is not a process of beautifying things, just making things look nice or better than before. This assumption of design can be termed as ‘Craft’ and certainly that is a part of the designer’s job, but that is not the real job in its entirety.
- Problem Solving
The success of design lies in its ability to solve the problem. But it has been a common observation that many designers tend to misjudge the problem. The general notion that the objective of the assigned project is the real problem is wrong.
There are 2 common mistakes that designers make when solving a problem in design: a. Obvious features get hidden, b. Insufficient scalability.
Everybody loves a product with lots of exciting features. But it is important to judge and prioritize the importance and usability patterns of the required features. Due to a lack of appropriate judgment it often results into a very complex product or a scenario where obvious features are hidden from direct access. The key to avoid this problem is to cut the complexity. The UI of the application must be as simple and intuitive as possible. Priority discoverability and learnability is very important to cut the complexity. The users must be able to discover the important features in the desired sequence. If the incorporated design employs a change as compared to the usual design processes, the user must be able to learn and remember the usability without making special efforts.
We often feel that many of the latest design updates by large tech companies are obvious and boring. Often their old designs looked more beautiful with complex structures and special effects.
For example, if we consider Facebook; being a designer I often feel that the design of Facebook is very plain and ugly. Same has been reciprocated among the design community and many good designers did also come up with beautiful redesigned layouts, got a huge applaud from the design community, but none of those designs have been turned into reality.
Not addressing the problems effectively. Facebook is a platform for the users across the whole world, not just for the English speaking users. In Facebook it is a need to translate each word, button and label into the native languages of the user. This constraint requires the consideration of a very high level of scalability. This cannot be solved just by a beautiful UI.
Beautiful design is certainly pleasant to the eyes but that will only come in use when the real problems and constraints are identified and solved.
The best design process is the one that involves real users into the process. Involving real users into the process seems scary as we have a constant fear that the user may not understand our design flow. But that is exactly why we should have this process. Involving users will convey the project’s stakeholders about what their customers are doing, thinking, feeling and saying about their app.
- Identify the beginning and the end
When working on a problem, it is very essential to identify the most prominent action a user would be performing when using the app, and leading the user along towards a desirable end goal. This will not only accomplish the purpose of the app but would also address the user’s needs and make them visit again.
I recently had a bad experience with one Grocery Ordering App. After the completion of the payment for my order I found it very difficult to figure out the tracking of my order. Had it been identified earlier that users may prefer tracking their recent orders, this experience could have been made better.
A good end leads us to a better beginning. As its said, “All’s well that ends well”.
When proceeding on a design task, you should ask questions like:
1 – What is the real problem your design will solve?
2 – Who is the real audience? Is your perceived solution really addressing their needs?
3 – Is my design considering the problems or scenarios that the users will encounter?
4 – What are the constraints or limitations that may affect my design decisions?
5 – Is your design approachable? Is it simple and intuitive enough that the user comes back again on your platform?
As a designer, I believe that:
It’s important to do what’s asked to you, but it’s also important to do what’s right.