What can design thinking teach us about user experience?

One of the most interesting concepts in the design lexicon has got to be ‘user experience’ (UX). Here we deal with the ‘invisible’ aspects of design. How the user feels as they experience your build.

User experience is a relatively young discipline, so lots of the rules and conventions are still open to interpretation. The industry is still figuring out what works and what doesn’t and that’s where design thinking comes in really handy.

Brand purpose for dinner, design for dessert.

There’s more to great UX than just simplifying the elements of your website or app. It starts with understanding the purpose and ethos of the company and its brand. Who are they, and what do they stand for?

Ask your clients about their core values and mission, where they see themselves in the market, and where they want to be. Step into a consultant role, brainstorming ways to help the client streamline their vision and take ambitious yet realistic steps toward it. These are things a good designer should get into the habit of doing, before even thinking about UX.

Treat the user like a friend.

A good user experience is the bridge between product and audience. So build one that draws the user in, and then leads them out, in a natural way. You wouldn’t drop a friend into an unexpected situation, or kick them out before they’re ready to leave, would you? Present each step of the journey in a measured, rewarding, and incremental way. Engage the user in an experience that feels effortless, and watch the magic happen.

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

No surprises here UX serves a purpose beyond looking amazing. It’s there to help people understand concepts, achieve a goal, and find whatever it is they’re looking for. So let’s start by asking who these people are, and how we can build an experience that they’ll instinctively know how to use.

Next, consider layout, and consider it carefully. People expect a button to work like this, a link to look like that, a page to scroll a certain way. While we always want to be pushing the boundaries of design, we don’t want frustrated users tearing their hair out.

The shortest journey from A to B.

Good UX design should be built on common sense.

That means recognising when an element is more distracting than helpful, and bidding it a fond farewell. It means finding the balance between building as few screens as possible, and keeping each one as clean as possible. Can you ask for a full name, birthdate, email, postal address, billing address and more in one screen? Could you be more generous and split them up? Or is there a smarter fix, like letting users simply snapshot their documents instead of typing a single word?

Effects, schmeffects.

We all like adding a flourish to our work. But as good designers know, form should follow function. Hover effects, animations and page transitions can help create a smooth, modern experience – but they can also slow the whole thing down. And a website or app isn’t much use if it doesn’t load. Great UX is about finding the balance between creative design and build quality.