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4 UX mistakes almost every designer makes

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Oct 16

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As a designer you’re expected to make the impossible happen. Time and time again, you’re expected to take an incredibly complex process and make it easy, simple and beautiful. When it’s handled well, you feel like a rock star.

Our lack of understanding creates a knowledge gap. This gap affects our designs, leading us to make some incredibly common but unexpected UX mistakes.

UX mistake 1: Assuming users understand more than they do

Designers are reasonable people. They spend a lot of time dealing with user interfaces so they have an intuitive knowledge of how things work on the web.

“That’s common sense!” they tell themselves. Only it’s not common sense. It’s common knowledge to you, the designer. You spend a significant amount of time in this environment, so you just get it.

You’re a professional. Users? Not so much. This is why these assumptions are so devastating. We assume the users:

  • Know which questions to ask
  • Understand the controls
  • Know what our icons, symbols and logos mean
  • Give us their undivided attention
  • Will read or follow the instructions we give them
  • Know how to find what they want

See the problem? These assumptions are reasonable. Most designers have made these assumptions. And therein lies the problem. These assumptions aren’t based in reality.

  • Some users are clueless
  • Some are seeing and using our controls for the first time
  • Others find our visuals confusing
  • A few are distracted multi-taskers who are short on time or resources.
  • Others refuse to follow your instructions
  • While most aren’t sure they know what they’re looking at

Your job as a designer is to direct and thin the herd. Sort out those who are right for you, move them through your process, and get them to the finish line. Everyone else should be shown the door.

 

UX Mistake 2: Designing for the user

Design for the user. Design for the user! Over the years this piece of advice has been beaten into our heads. We’re told to focus on the needs of the user, to design things for and around them.

Are those the only “users” they have? No, actually. As it turns out, they have several kinds of them.

  • Advertisers: Google knows advertisers will accept whatever they give them. They tell publishers and advertisers how they expect the web to be.
  • Bots: Google aggressively blocks unusual traffic (bots) from their site. Which means millions of false positives, searchers being blocked?
  • Fraudsters: Google blocks deceptive websites; you know the ones with those fake download buttons that install ransom ware on your computer?
  • Searchers: Regular people searching for something, anything online. These people make Google their money. They click on their ads, they use their apps, and they download their software. They’re Google’s target audience, their meal ticket.

UX Mistake 3: Not enough friction

When it comes to design, “friction” is a resistance to any element in the process you’ve laid out.

Designers are conditioned to believe user friction is bad. Users won’t do what we want them to do if we don’t design things properly. That tends to scare us a bit.

All websites need friction.

Here’s how other websites have used friction.

  • Craigslist: hates it when you re-post the same ad 50 times. They create friction with Ghosting. Create spam, re-post your ad too many times and your ad is quietly hidden from everyone else.
  • Google: wants you to treat them with respect. Abuse the site, attempt to scrape content from search results and you’re flagged for unusual behavior. Ignore the warnings and you’re blocked.
  • Quora: is a Q&A site. They have a simple policy. Be nice, be respectful. Those who ignore that policy are given a warning, blocked or banned. Their system is designed in such a way that it maximizes the user experience, ensuring Quora remains a safe place for others.

Friction is a problem for designers. They either don’t know how to adjust the dial to attract the users they want or they don’t know the dial exists. This means they’re either prone to overreacting or they’re chronically abused.

UX Mistake 4: Giving your boss what they want

Avoiding this UX mistake requires lots of courage. But it also requires something more important: a clear understanding of the goal.

That piece you’re designing, what is it supposed to accomplish? The website you’re developing, what’s the goal?

A clear, definitive answer to this question is mandatory

And the reason it’s mandatory? Your boss, the committee, a client, someone in charge is going to demand that you go against that goal. What’s worse is that you know what’s going to happen.

Your experience tells you this won’t end well. If you give them what they want things won’t go as well as it should. It may fail miserably. It’s easy to go along with the boss. “They’re the ones signing the checks; I just do as I’m told.”

It’s incredibly important that you speak up

It’s important that you fight for your boss, even when they refuse to fight for themselves. If they’re asking you for something that will hurt them, speak up. Deliver the bad news. Get them to understand the mistake they’re making.

What if there’s nothing you can do about these mistakes?

What if you’re part of a team where the planning and design decisions have already been made? Talk it over with others on your team. Make your case with solid evidence (e.g. research, reports, data, etc.). Then, make your case with decision makers. It feels impossible, but it’s definitely doable. Just start small and take it slow.

 

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