When I design, I often recite ideas about how an interface should work. Some of these have stuck with me, so I decided to write them out.
Give people the right amount of information, and no more
For any design, there is a yin and a yang, a balance of light and dark. Adding content dilutes other content. Adding options decreases the probability of users reaching other options.
Designers dance with their end users. Ideally, a designer gives a user the exact amount of information they need to make a decision. Then, they provide the means to make that decision. Any more or less, and the interaction risks failure. The designer’s task is to find this balance.
Strip your projects to their simplest truths. Reason upwards from there. The simplest truth will usually be, “A person will use this to accomplish X”. Then, you can think about how the person can accomplish something in the least amount of steps.
Decide things for your users
Your users can only choose between the options you give them. You must find a balance between features and usability that fits their profile.
If you need a simple interface to handle a lot of information, leverage technology to handle as much of their work as possible. I haven’t found any situation where simplicity wasn’t the ideal choice.
Control your ego
A great designer understands that their projects are not made to showcase their design prowess. How often have you wasted hours trying to make something look pretty without making it functional first?
Understand the flow
Great designers understand that end users should either 1 explore or 2 be directed. Sites like Facebook, Smart Passive Income, and Tumblr are made for exploration. In contrast, directive interfaces like an email subscription box, menu editing interface, or Tweet composer are made to direct users to take a specific action as seamlessly as possible.
Put yourself inside peoples’ shoes
Understand the conversation inside of your user’s head. Present them with appropriate options at the right time. How and when do they want to see information?
A simple example: if you visit a blog for the first time and a “Subscribe!” popup immediately appears, you’ll close the popup (or the site) in seconds. If the “Subscribe!” popup appears after you enjoy some of the content, you’ll be more inclined to take action.
Always pay attention to feedback
Your work may never be perfect, but feedback will increase your chances of making something good. Be harsh, rational, and truthful with yourself when it comes to the way your designs work. Give yourself feedback and accept it from others. It can only make you better.
Remember the human
You’re not designing for users, you’re designing for people.
Make interfaces as if they’d be used by your neighbor. Think: would they want a particular option to be highlighted? If they looked at your product, what parts would confuse them? What types of language (casual, professional) would make sense to them? Are you building a “vanity option” that they’ll never need?
And think about their state while using the product. Uber needs to pay special attention to how people use their app when impaired. Driving applications need to be simple enough for people to navigate while behind the wheel.