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We live in a world that is surrounded by products and services of all shapes and forms. Digitally speaking, there is an application for most human functions that we perform in daily life and the larger part of these applications have only come into existence in the last decade.

In order to build products that capture hearts and precious screen space, you must give the utmost importance to user experience design. The primary determinant of any software product is the metric for repeat use or ‘stickiness’. A ‘sticky’ product is generally one with exceptional user experience design that works so seamlessly that most users won’t even notice it. This article enlists some fundamental user experience principles that are crucial for beginners creating their first product.

Predict User Behavior

According to the first design principles, you as a product designer must understand user behavior in such depth that you can predict their behavior. An in-depth understanding of the user’s workflow will assist in the ideation and execution of a seamless UX/UI design that the user will not even know exists!

The functionality should flow logically without any kinks such that each step of the user experience gratifies the user with what they are looking for. While designing the user experience, we must aim to reduce the clutter and strategize the site navigation such that the user is able to get to what they want in the most efficient manner possible. There are various UX Research approaches that can be used based on the scope and goals of the projects, you can read about them here.

Visual Grammar

To design effectively, it’s critical to develop an understanding of the principles of visual grammar that underpin the world of visual communication. These principles, which have their roots in the history of graphic design, are still applicable today and form the building blocks of design, lying at the heart of the experiences we create.

But what exactly do I mean by visual grammar? Put simply, everything we create visually – whether it’s user interface (UI) elements or more complex arrangements of elements on screen – is comprised of a series of core elements: points, lines, and planes. By combining these elements, we can create icons, components, illustrations, diagrams, patterns… in short, everything.

As designers, we work – at the simplest level – with an essential ‘grammar’ of elements: points, lines, and planes. These elements, which were defined at the influential Bauhaus school at the beginning of the twentieth century, remain at the heart of what we do today, and yet, often aren’t taught rigorously.

UX might be a relatively young discipline, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a rich heritage, drawn from the world of graphic design, from which we can learn. As I’ll explore shortly, if you break apart any design you’ll see at heart that it’s created from points lines and planes.

It takes time and patience, but if you want to improve as a designer, set aside some time and undertake a series of exercises using just points, lines and planes. Doing so will equip you with a deeper understanding of visual grammar. Rochester Institute of Technology has an excellent Mini-Course in Design Principles that acts as a perfect starting point.

With an understanding of what can be achieved using each of these elements alone, we introduce our students to the idea of combining them. It’s at this point that we see the richness of opportunity and the importance of designing within restraints.

Learning how to distill interfaces down to their core components – focusing on simplicity, and restraint– results in reduced cognitive burden and happier users. A win-win. With these core components defined we can combine them to establish a visual vocabulary for each and every project.

Ø Hierarchy

Hierarchy is one of designers’ best tools to help users move through a product easily. There are two important hierarchies I’ll discuss here.

The first hierarchy relates to information architecture, which is how content is organized across the app or site. The top level of the hierarchy is usually a primary navigation menu that includes the main sections. This is usually the menu you notice when you first open an app or arrive on a site. As you click on or hover over each item in the menu, you might see secondary menus that let you get more specific, moving you down the information hierarchy. Individual pieces of content, like an image or a card, will be near the bottom of the hierarchy. As users, we often take this hierarchy for granted because it feels so natural, but it’s essential for a smooth navigation experience.

A visual hierarchy is a way that designers help users navigate more easily within a section or page. To create a visual hierarchy, more important content should stand out. For instance, headings are typically larger than body text and frequently use a different font and weight (like bold). Similarly, interactive elements like links and buttons use different colors to draw attention to their interactiveness.

Ø Meet the users’ needs

The foremost of all UX design principles is to focus on users throughout the design process. The term user experience itself makes it clear that your work needs to center on improving your users’ experience with your product or service.

Thus, you need to learn what users are looking for in a design (through user testing and other methods). It is possible that a design may seem brilliant to you, but remember that you are not the user.

Ø Know where you are in the design process

For new UX designers who are only just testing the internship waters or are in junior positions, the design process can be overwhelming. A lot of work goes into designing, so knowing your place in the process is significant in several ways.

Firstly, you’ll need to use different tools for each phase, as demonstrated in the graph below. Secondly, knowing your design phase also helps you ask the right questions for user research. For instance, there’s is no point testing the color of a button if you are still figuring out where it should be placed in the design.

Ø Keep it consistent

Users expect products to share some similarities with other products they regularly use. This makes it easy for them to become familiar with the new product without any additional learning costs. It may sound a little counter intuitive, but the more familiar your design is to others, the faster users can learn to use it, which enhances their experience.

Such consistency also makes the design process easier for the designers, as they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they take on a new project.

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