What Are UX Design Principles?

A design principle is a general rule or guideline that can be applied to any situation in order to achieve an optimal result. The term “design” refers to the process of creating something new by modifying existing things. A UX designer uses these rules as they design products. 

A Set of Laws You Can Bend

Apply design principles effectively

In user experience design, it’s vital to minimize users’ cognitive loads and decision-making time. To apply design principles effectively, you need a strong grasp of users’ problems and a good eye for how users will accept your solutions. You should use discretion whenever you apply design principles, to anticipate users’ needs. Similarly, you should adapt the principles to each case and build a solid experience as you address specific users’ needs over time.

The following list includes some examples of design principles that have been used successfully in many different contexts. They do not cover all possible situations; they just provide guidelines for making informed choices about what works best in specific circumstances. In other words, there is no one right way to follow these rules.

There is always room for judgment and creativity and there will always be exceptions to the “rules”. 

This means that before starting work on a new design or redesign, it’s important to:

Design For a User’s Actual Needs

What do my users need

The paramount UX design principle is to focus on users throughout the design process. You should always start by asking yourself: “What do my users need?” This question will help you understand their problems better and guide you to create solutions that solve those problems.

You can also use this same approach when designing your website or an app. Always remember that a design that seems brilliant to you may be a flop if you don’t respect the role of the user in creating a great product.

Respect Established Hierarchies

Following accepted digital hierarchies

You might be tempted to take it for granted, but following accepted digital hierarchies is what allows users to navigate smoothly through your design. Always be mindful of the primary hierarchy when designing websites. Navigation bars are designed to include the main sections of the site and get users where they want to go. Visual hierarchy is also a consideration for delivering high-level UX in your designs. Make sure important information flows by placing it prominently.  

Users expect it.

Consistency is Key

Users crave consistency

There’s a reason why you hear “it’s the Uber of ______________” when a new product is launched. Users crave consistency and prefer for products to share similarities with products they already use, love, and are comfortable navigating. 

Going deeper, consistency helps people understand what’s going on by making sure all elements of an interface are similar or identical across different parts of the app. For example, if you’re designing a shopping cart application, make sure there’s only one way to add items to the cart, rather than having two ways to do so. 

Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel even if you are designing a brave new product. A little comfortable consistency might be just what the user experience demands for acceptance and adoption. 

Be a Champion for Accessibility

The web has become an integral part of our lives and we are now spending most of our time online. It’s no surprise that there have been some major advancements made in terms of making websites easier to access by those who may not necessarily have perfect eyesight or hearing. 

UX designers should lead the way on making the web accessible

UX considerations should lead the way on designing a web for all with interfaces that feature problem-free navigation, proper contrast between text and background, and seamless integration with adaptive technologies. 

Usability is Crucial

Test early and often

UX design is entirely focused on solving the users’ problems, which makes the usability of the design one of the most crucial user experience design principles. The best way to ensure good usability is to test early and often. The more time you spend designing for usability, the better off you’ll be when it comes to creating something your users want to use.

Have subjects interact with the design and note where they seem to encounter problems or friction.  

This means starting with wireframes or prototypes as soon as possible so that you can get feedback from real users about what works and doesn’t work well. You don’t want to wait until after development begins – or worse after you’ve financed the product launch – to find out if there are issues with the usability or functionality.

No matter how pretty your product is, if users are frustrated by clutter or feel a lack of clarity in “what happens next” you’ll soon be back to the drawing board.  

Less is More

The less-is-more design principle was originally proposed by the modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Less is more is an adage that has been used for centuries. It means “less is best”.

Good design reduces a user’s overall cognitive load. When you focus on this principle, the user experience with the product naturally improves. 

Keep your site clean

When applied to web or app design, less is more might be meeting the goal of keeping your site clean and uncluttered by avoiding using confusing or contradictory text, images, colors, fonts, links, and buttons.

Good design gives users room to breathe.  It gives them natural pathways, called user flows, to follow across the site. 

Before you go…

As you consider user experience and begin to apply these fundamental design principles to your products, you may want to employ the services of a professional user experience designer. By inviting a trained designer onto your project from the beginning, you can save time and money while designing an experience that your users will embrace.  

Learn more.

How a UX Consultant Can Improve Your Business

How a UX Consultant Can Improve Your Business

Organizational issues are most likely to occur when the different members of your organization don't fully understand how their part affects the whole business operation.
Read More
How UX Design Can Make Your Product a Delight

How UX Design Can Make Your Product a Delight

Good product design isn't just about having a pleasing graphic design, nowadays your primary concern needs to be on the user experience your product delivers.
Read More