UX Lessons I Wished I Learned Early

Many new U.S. practitioners often put tremendous pressure on themselves to be perfect, to make the perfect decisions, make the perfect designs, but there’s no such thing as a perfect interface. I wish I had learned early in my career that there are things that you can do to alleviate some of this pressure from yourself. First, don’t aim for perfection. If features or ideas don’t get implemented during the current release, it’s not the end of the world. In software development, you are never done.

Software continuously changes and it should change as user needs change.

So don’t fret if you don’t get all your ideas implemented now aim for incremental change. So if the usability needle moves in the right direction, even if it slowly count each tick as an opportunity and count it as a win, so look for opportunities and other ways in the future to make change. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do everything at the same time or at the same moment. Secondly, consider the business needs to set aside extreme usability idealism. If you focus on creating optimal experiences for the end users while neglecting business goals, you will face many challenges. Many novice UX specialists make the mistake of proposing recommendations that are unrealistic or don’t support user goals. So, for example, in a usability study, if customers say I don’t like ads that, does that mean we should remove them altogether? Businesses need to be profitable in order to exist.

So in this instance, it’s better to recommend ways for ads to coexist with the interface, but without interfering the users tasks, especially if this is how your company makes money. Your recommendations should consider the tradeoffs between user needs and business needs and keep them balanced. Lastly, being effective is more important than being right. Keep sight of the end game.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert and know all the answers to every design question. What’s more important is whether or not you get by it and you can get things done. Establishing credibility is important, especially if you’re new. Sometimes you must take extra steps, even if it feels laborious to collaborate with other team members to ask for feedback. Team members who face challenges and victories together tend to have stronger bond.

Using Content Frames in the Design Process

Content frames are a tool that can help us make sure we’re not waiting until the end of the design process to incorporate the real content into our experience. There are five steps to follow when creating a content frame. Start by stating the purpose of the page or user flow on a whiteboard. Draw a single column to represent each page that’s as wide as a typical mobile device.

Then write the name and the goal of the page at the very top. Be clear about what the page is intended to do and what the desired outcomes are. This will help you evaluate the most important content that should be included on the page. The second step is to think through what your users will need in the content itself. What will they want to know and what questions will they have that the content should answer? Use any research findings you have, as well as artifacts such as personas and journey maps to help you answer these questions. The third step is to collaborate with your team to come up with the real subject matter for the page. Use the insights you uncovered during Steps one and two to compile a list of topics that the page should include. Each topic should address a specific user need and answer a question they will have. The fourth step is to use the list of topics that the team came up with to create the actual content frame.

Start with Post-it notes and decide which topics are the most important place those at the top of the column and rank all of the other topics from most important to least important. After that, discuss the significance of each topic to make sure that it’s relevant and that it belongs on the page. Once all of your topics are ranked, create the real editorial, the high level design direction and functional specifications for each area. Here’s what your final content frame should look like. The fifth and final step is to test it using input from real users and stakeholders. Ask people if they have enough information to complete a task from reviewing the content that’s in your content frame. Use this feedback to validate that you’ve got the right content in the right order and make any modifications as needed.

Repeat this step until you find the best hierarchy and level of detail. Refer back to your final content frame throughout the rest of the design and the development process, and your content won’t seem like the cumbersome afterthought that it once was.

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