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10 Most Expensive Design Mistakes (Ever)
A dig into small costly mistakes that designers, product builders still make.
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Readers, we’re back with a hit newsletter this week.
As you’d know, the saying that “good design is obvious” is a tale as old as time. As Steve Krug once said, “Your goal should be for each page or screen to be self-evident, so that just by looking at it the average user can say “I get it.”” - Steve Krug.
Today, we’re going to dive deep into the principles of “Don’t make me think” and these are timeless principles that can be applied to any type of product we interact (whether it is a microwave, tv, smartphone or car). We will talk about things including:
Creating effective visual hierarchies
Don’t reinvent the wheel
We allow personal feelings take over the process
You ask the wrong questions
Much more points
The 10 Most Expensive Design Mistakes (Ever)
1. We don’t read, we scan
The reason for that is — we are on a mission, and we only look for the thing that interests us. For example, I don’t ever go to second page of Google. Why? Because most of the web users are trying to get something done, and done quickly. We do not have time to read more than necessary. And we still put a lot of text because we think people need to know that.
🔮 Key Takeaways
Use plenty of headings — they tell you what each section is about or if they are relevant to the person. Either way, they help you decide to scan further or leave the website.
Keep paragraphs short — long paragraphs makes it harder for readers to keep their place, and they are harder to scan than a series of short paragraphs.
Use bullet points — almost anything can be a bullet list. Do you have a sentence that separates many things with comma? Then it can be a bullet list.
Highlight key terms — Formatting the most important one in bold, makes them easier to find. Don’t highlight too many things because it will lose effectiveness.
2. Create effective visual hierarchies
Another important aspect that will help scanning a page is offering a proper visual hierarchy. We have to make it clear that the appearance on a page portrays the relationship between elements. So there are a couple of principles for that…
🔮 Key Takeaways
The more important something is, the more prominent it is. The most important stuff are either larger or bolder in distinctive colour set.
Things that are related logically, are related visually. For example, things are similar by grouping them under the same visual style, or under the same heading.
3. Don’t reinvent the *dang* wheel
We believe that people want something new and more. But we forget that there are so many products that each demands our time. Each of them has different interactions, and we need to learn each one of them.
Before reinventing the wheel, you have to understand the value (time, effort, knowledge) that went into what you are trying to disrupt and innovate.
4. Product instructions must die
Our job is to make stuff clear and obvious. If obvious is not an option, then at least self-explanatory. The main thing you need to know about instructions is that nobody is going to read them. We should aim for removing the instructions to make everything self-explanatory.
As I always say, be clear, not clever.
Take IKEA as an example. If you gave an average person to assemble a wardrobe from IKEA, they will assemble it right most of the times. Why? It is, most of the cases, apparent on how it should be assembled if we have a clear picture in front of us.
5. We do not care how your product works
For most of the people, it is not essential to know or understand how your product works. Not because they are not intelligent, but merely because they do not care. So once they nail down the use of your product, they will rarely switch to something else.
Let’s take as an example the Apple AirPods. We can all admit that they are poor sounding earbuds for the price you pay. But when I look at how people interact with it, I understand the real reason why they buy it.
They do not make you think about why it is not working. You even don’t notice they have new technology.
6. People don’t look for “subtle cues” — we are in a hurry
My favourite one. We, designers, love giving the users subtle effects and add beautiful delights. Right? Well, what if I told you that your users don’t care about it? No matter how much they tell you they do, they don’t. First time? Yes. Second? Ok. Third? Really, how much do I have to see this until it’s enough?
Why is this happening? Life is a much more stressful and demanding environment than an app’s delights and subtle effects.
7. Focus groups are not usability tests
For the life of designers, let’s get this clear.
Focus group is a small group of people that sit around at the table and discuss things. Focus groups are great for determining what your audience wants.
A usability test is about watching one person at a time trying to use something (your product in this case).
So focus groups is about listening and usability tests are about watching.
8. We allow personal feelings take over the process
Seriously, we know this best at ADPList. 👽 All of us who design products have the moment when they say — “I am a user too, so I know what is good or bad.” And because of that, we tend to have strong feelings about what we like and don’t.
We enjoy using products with ______, or we think that _____ is a big pain.And when we work on a team it tends to be hard to check those feelings at the door. The result is a room full of people with strong personal feelings on what it takes to design a great product. We tend to think that most of the users are like us.
9. You ask the wrong questions
It is not productive and will not add any value if you ask questions such as: “Do people like drop-down menus?”. The right question to ask is: “Does this drop-down menu, with these words, in this context, on this page create a good experience for people who are likely to use the site?”
Ask, “Why” not “What.”
We should leave aside “do people like it?” and get deeper into the strategic context of design.
The reason for that is if we focus on what people like, we will lose focus. Usability testing will erase any “likes” and show you what needs to be done.
10. When a person uses your product, you forget that she shouldn’t spend time thinking about…
Where am I?
Where should I begin?
Where the f* did they put _____ ?
What are the most important things on this page?
Why did they call it that way?
Is that an ad or part of the site?
The point is that every question that pops into our head, when using your product, only adds up to the cognitive workload. It distracts our attention from “why I am here” and “what I need to do.”
Credits to Eugen Eşanu for this article.
That’s all for this week, fellow subscribers! Share this forward :) Till next week, have a productive week! 🙏 Here’s to building, and designing the best products.
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