Why is it important to have design principles?

Design principles can unite a team and guide the evolution of a product. Having a set of cardinal rules for a team can be inspiring and tell you, your team, and stakeholders which direction they should be going when tough choices arise.

I challenged myself to create a list of principles that guide my personal design processes. These ideas help me decide what to work on and how much time to invest in it.

Make a product people love

This has always been one of my highest priorities. I’ve worked with teams who are so interested in the metrics that they forget to deliver a product that people love, but it’s crucial to do both in unison. A product cannot be successful without an audience and so we have to address their needs, behaviors, likes, and dislikes while achieving goals for the product itself. Analyzing data about the audience can help to create an exceptional user experience and a product they will really need and enjoy using.

Small delightful details are memorable and can really enhance a user experience. Just be mindful that it doesn’t get in the way of having a simple product and be aware of how much time goes into it.

Money matters

It’s often my responsibility to invest my time where it can make a difference. I have to ask myself what is the goal? Will this design or feature improve the goal metric while maintaining a positive experience? How can I measure the success of what I’m doing? If the task at hand will not contribute to the financial success of a product then it’s up to me to get things moving in a more profitable direction.

Follow the data

Take the guesswork out of decision making, test everything and let the results guide you. Make sure you have good tracking mechanisms in place that can be trusted for their accuracy. Start by testing with a small sampling of traffic and slowly increase as you see success.

Keep it simple

This is one of the most important principles in design and product development. I can’t stress it enough – make something that is easy to use.

Some teams try to come up with a solution for every little thing their audience might want but this can lead to cluttered interfaces, poor conversion rates, and poor user experiences. Get to the core of what you are building and become really good at that one thing. Start small. Give the audience a clear path to success and it will reflect well on the product performance.

A beautifully skinned product that is difficult to use will not deliver a rewarding experience. I have seen sites where the designer obviously put a lot of effort into positioning every pixel but it wasn’t clear how to use the product or what to do first. Figure out what the audience needs and design around that action, this will bring a greater focus to the product itself.

Keep going

Experiment, experiment, and experiment some more. Remember, ideas can be executed multiple ways, and a great idea can fail because it was executed poorly. If you strongly believe in an idea that failed, it’s okay to try again.

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