Principles of UX Design: 9 Core Principles for Success

If you’re looking to make a user-friendly experience, you’ll want to remember these principles of UX design.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used these principles as a UX designer for my own jobs.

Whether it was in a large company or small startup, I’ve stuck to these core principles to create an amazing user experience with the products I make.

Here are our 7 top principles of UX design to make your product a success.

1. Make It Accessible

A key mistake that many non-designers and beginner UX designers make is not focusing on creating an accessible product.

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Accessibility defines [the] users’ ability to use products/services…”

“Accessibility defines [the] users’ ability to use products/services...”

In terms of UX, you want to think about making a product accessible to all types of users.

This includes users that have visual impairments, audible impairments, motors impairments, and/or cognitive impairments.

Visual Impairments

Visual impairments can range anywhere from difficulty seeing near-sided objects to not being able to see anything at all.

One improvement you can make to your website is to only have font sizes that are 11px or above.

Audible impairment

Audible impairment doesn’t just mean the complete inability to hear anything–it includes partial deafness.

For example, I have tinnitus in one ear, so I hear a constant ringing noise from that side.

It also means I have trouble hearing from my right side.

One way that you can make your product more accessible for users like me is to have captions for your videos.

Believe me, it makes a world of a difference.

Motor impairment

Motor impairment has quite a range of disabilities too.

From individuals without hands to teenagers temporarily needing a cast on their dominant arms, find ways to help these users use a keyboard as opposed to a mouse.

Cognitive impairments

Cognitive impairments can also be temporary or permanent disabilities.

For example, some of your users might suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Other users might suffer from a temporary brain injury.

Consider reducing the clutter on your pages as to not confuse or overwhelm these users.

There are many more ways you can help users with disabilities and impairments, but I hope that the few I’ve mentioned help you start thinking about other ways you can improve their experiences.

Accessibility is one of my top principles of UX design, so I hope you really try to incorporate it into your product’s design.

2. Make It Consistent

If your product talks to users like they’re beginners in one section and then experts in another while only targeting one or the other, then you have a consistency problem.

When your product isn’t consistent, users have a difficult time walking through your product.

This will likely end with many users feeling frustrated and giving up on your product.

Some other consistency problems you might have include:

 

  • Using design patterns that users aren’t used to from products in their past (therefore not consistent with their expectations)
  • Using the same color to mean different things (e.g. a red button to delete but also a red button to submit a form)
  • Using styles that are not in your company’s style guide.

Whenever you make these mistakes, it throws your users off and reduces the rate of completion for tasks.

Do it enough and you’ll lose users, so make your product consistent in style, content, and behavior.

3. Make It Clutter-Free

Another very important principles of UX design is to make your product pages free of clutter.

When you inject too much information on a product’s page, you risk losing your users that are trying to find information quickly.

You might also stress out cognitively impaired users that have trouble processing all the information.

What you need to do is have a clear goal for the page and a clear call to action (or CTA).

If you’re trying to improve an existing website or app, figure out what the goal is for the page.

Next, try to remove anything on the page that doesn’t have to do with that goal.

Be sure to also include a specific CTA so that the user knows what they’re supposed to do on that page.

Another part of being clutter-free is reducing the amount of color on the page.

Simplicity is a common style of modern websites and apps, and that includes using only a few colors on the page and making sure that those colors have a specific purpose.

For example, if you limit using colors to your CTA, then your user will easily be able to find it on the page.

This is helpful for many different actions from helping users fill out a form to helping users find the checkout button.

4. Make It Easy to Navigate

If your users cannot understand how to get around your product, then you’ve lost them.

If you were hiking and saw a path that went in circles, up-hill, down-hill, and all around the forest, would you take that versus a path that was straight and smoothly built?

Your product is going to be a maze to users, and it’s up to you to make their journey as smooth and easy to navigate as possible.

Make sure your global navigation is easy to find no matter where the user is with your product.

To tie in with Consistency, this often means having it either at the very top of your product, in a hamburger menu, or to the left of the page.

Remember, your users have expectations when they go to your website, so you need to meet them where they expect you to meet them.

You also need to make sure the hierarchy of your menu items makes sense to users.

For example, if you have a clothing website, you might think that “socks” should go under “clothes.”

However, users might feel that “socks” should be under “undergarments,” and that “undergarments” should go under “clothes.”

It’s the small details like this that help you stand out from competitors.

One concrete way to know how users want to see your menu hierarchy and menu items is through a card sorting exercise with users.

You can read this article if you’d like to learn more about how you can conduct a card sorting exercise and improve on this principle of UX design.

5. Make It Hard to Make Mistakes

Users almost never use your product the exact way you expect them to.

This means that they have a good chance of making mistakes.

It’s important for a UX designer to predict when these errors are going to occur and prevent them from ever happening.

One of the best ways to see where users will make mistakes is to conduct a usability test with your users.

Usability tests give you concrete proof of where users are making mistakes with your product.

If you test with six to seven users, you’re likely to see a pattern on their behavior.

Once you find the pattern of mistakes, make corrections on your product so that the rest of your users don’t make the same mistakes.

If you want to learn more about conducting usability tests, you can read our article here on conquering usability testing.

If you have enough data, you can also use metrics to see where your users are making the most mistakes.

You can coordinate with your developers or product manager to “tag” specific parts of your product.

For example, if you have a “Help” button in your global navigation, you can see from which page users are clicking on it the most.

This will give you some indication of what page the users are needing the most help.

If you have a multi-page form, try to find how many pages users are able to fill out before giving up.

In other words, look at the completion rate of each page of the form.

6. Make It Easy to find Help (Last Resort)

Continuing from the previous principle of UX design, it’s impossible to prevent all mistakes and errors.

Therefore, you need a way for users to have the help they need for when the mistakes do end up happening.

That being said, you want to prevent as many errors first.

But for the times it cannot be avoided, you need to provide some sort of help.

This can be achieved in multiple ways, including:

  • An FAQ page
  • A contact form
  • A customer support phone number
  • A customer support chatting feature
  • A search feature in your global navigation

If you do include one or a few of these, make its location very obvious on the page.

Also, make its location on the page consistent no matter what page the user looking at in your product.

7. Make It the User’s Language

A synergetic user/product relationship can be efficiently and programmatically obtained through systematic UX, UI, IA, and IxD research and development.

Was that sentence clear?

Probably not.

Don’t use jargon that your users won’t understand.

You might think that it will make your product sounds more professional, but it will only serve to confuse your users and, ultimately, lose them.

That’s why it’s important to do your user research before you start designing or programming.

Putting the product in front of users and asking them to read out loud as they go through your product is a very useful way to know where users trip up.

This principle of UX design has been very important for me, especially since I currently work with a bank.

Most people are already frustrated when trying to pay off a loan, and using confusing bank jargon only serves to frustrate them more.

That’s why it’s so important that we conduct user tests to make sure our users understand how to easily pay off their loan on our website.

And so, as I keep mentioning in the post, be sure to talk to your users!

8. Make It Familiar

Principle of UX Design: Make It Familiar

You know the phrase, “Don’t reinvent the wheel?”

It applies as a principle of UX design too.

Let’s take your website’s logo as an example. Most websites put their logo at the top-left corner of the website. When you click on it, it takes you to the homepage.

You may find it in the top-center of the website, but you’ll rarely find the logo placed anywhere else.

Users are used to seeing the logo in one place, so if they want to go to the homepage, they’ll automatically look for the logo in the place they’re used to and click on it.

Can you imagine their surprise if they couldn’t find it because you decided it would be “edgy” to place it on the bottom right corner of your website? Or if the user clicked on the logo, and it took them to checkout?

This would be a frustrating experience.

If you still decide you need to change the behavior or placement of something users are used to, make sure you have a very good reason why. And if you decide to go through with the change, conduct a usability test with users to make sure it works as you intended. Otherwise, you may want to rethink it.

9. Make It Testable

Principle of UX Design: Make It Testable

Relating to #8, you need to test your product with your users.

A huge aspect that sets UX design apart from UI design is that UX involves testing. You shouldn’t be satisfied with only surveys or speaking with users.

Prepare a list of testing objectives, give the user a few minutes to get acquainted with the product, give the user specific tasks to complete, and have a list of questions to ask post-test. 

If you don’t know what usability testing is, you can follow our guide on usability testing for beginners. You can also use our free usability testing template.

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