The Best Design Is No Design

October 5, 2020

One characteristic of good UX design is that it’s unnoticeable to users because it reflects the way they work. As many companies scale up—especially growing startups—they struggle to add value without adding complexity. This is one reason we’re seeing a trend toward adding secondary navigation at the left of many applications. Often, one horizontal navigation bar across the top of an application is just not scalable.

Your focus should be on simplicity. The main question you need to ask yourself when considering your user-interface design is how you can help your application scale. How can a company grow their offering while keeping the spirit of an intuitive product alive?

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There are three key factors at the heart of good UX design, as follows:

  1. Understanding where the company is now, where it’s heading, and what it’s building
  2. Focusing on how your product can help your company achieve its goals
  3. Considering your users’ preferences and workflows

Conduct user research to determine your product’s user personas and learn how people typically use your product on a daily basis. Doing so also helps you identify the biggest challenges you’re facing.

Your product team must align behind all of these factors to achieve success. Your overarching vision should balance what the product team can provide and what users really need. If your users become your stakeholders, you can envision a product that scales as your target market grows.

Put Process Before Perfection

You’ll achieve the greatest success when you involve cross-functional teams in the design and development process from the beginning of a project—from the top down. Try splitting into different teams who can take the time to work on different ideas, then pitch multiple concepts. Then reconvene as a larger group and see what ideas the majority believe in. In my experience, there is usually one idea that the majority gravitate toward. That’s why it’s so important to start with a larger group than just the product team.

During design, it’s imperative to keep your current and prospective customers close and your existing and potential users even closer. Involve your customers and users from the early stages of the design process—well before the development phase. No matter what the stage of a product’s design or development, your product team should always speak to both customers and users. This ensures that the final product outcome ultimately adds value to users’ workflow rather than hindering it.

Seek Inspiration

Learn from your favorite products and designs. See what resonates with your team—and just as important, what does not. Look at how your competitors have solved similar problems to those you’re working on. Always consider how your customers and users work, and design your product to mimic their workflow.

See the Bigger Picture

Across all industry domains, everyone should be aligned on one goal: helping users achieve their goals and complete their work using your product, with the least effort possible. Every context switch users have to make along the way—whether that is navigating to another page in your product or going outside it—presents another possibility that they’ll lose track of their original task.

For example, years ago, links in social apps opened pages in the user’s Web browser. Today, that would be unimaginable. Developers have evolved these platforms to display all content within their app so they can keep the user’s attention. Slack is following suit, offering a whole ecosystem of tools to compete with others in the productivity space.

Make Your Designs Unnoticeable

The best designs are unnoticeable. When users are happy with a product, they don’t try to understand why that’s the case; they just keep using the product. An easy-to-use, well-designed product remains in the background. It brings its features and functionality to the forefront only as the user needs them, and they work exactly in the way the user needs them to work at any given moment. In contrast, if users do notice an application’s navigation, for example, it’s probably because something is frustrating to them or off in some way.

Keep Experimenting and Evaluating

Many technology companies pride themselves on their agility. They readily try new things and come up with new ideas rather than fearing failure. Being nimble lets you iteratively experiment, innovate, and validate your ideas, ultimately allowing you to create a better product for your users. This mindset also lets you design solutions for tomorrow’s problems instead of just focusing on today’s needs.

Overcome Your Challenges

On any project, there are a lot of unknowns, and collaboration is necessary to expand your understanding of the problems you’re solving. Of course, taking everyone’s feedback into consideration is a big challenge. The needs of the executive team must align with the needs of the product team, and the product must satisfy the business’s overall vision. One doesn’t work without the other.

One of the biggest challenges you might encounter is learning and understanding the strategy for every different vertical in your business and the various stakeholders for your product. You can’t design in a vacuum with only one audience in mind. Designing within a complex product ecosystem requires constant communication across the company and with every product team.

Embrace Change

Change is never easy, but changing your users’ workflow doesn’t always have to come at a high cost. Proper communication throughout a redesign project is key. Notify your customers and users that you’re making changes to your product, why you’re making them, and what value they’ll bring to their lives. Releasing a new product experience to users all at once could be challenging for your users. Instead, consider rolling out your changes gradually and make their adoption optional. Give your users enough time and support to experience and test the changes, before making them permanent. Make sure that whatever you build will be well received by your users.

Every incremental change to your product is another prototype that you can test and learn from. Design is never finished. Each change sets the tone for others to come and forms the foundation on which you’ll build other parts of your product experience—an ever growing, scalable, and easy-to-use product. 

UX Product Manager at Pipedrive

Tallinn, Estonia

Almonzer EskandarAs UX Product Manager at Pipedrive, the leading CRM platform for sales teams, Almonzer leads the company’s effort to build and maintain a scalable, consistent user experience across the entire product. He was a key player in developing Pipedrive’s redesigned user experience for a major update the company released in conjunction with their tenth anniversary. Almonzer is collaborating with a hospital in Estonia to codesign and build a communication app that helps intensive-care patients using artificial ventilators. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Engineering and holds a Master of Science in Interaction Design.  Read More

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