5 Things We’ve Learned about UX Design

By Zack Drew on June 10, 2016

The next word of advice we would pass along is that you can never expect to make everyone happy. It is an unachievable goal that you must always strive, but no matter how vast of a resource pool you devote to your products and customer satisfaction, you will never please all your customers. Handling these seemingly illogical consumers will be what defines your company’s reputation, its character and integrity. — Brass Monkeigh


This post began to brew in our minds after reading posts by Catalina Rusu titled, “Debunking the UX myth. Over again” and by Ryan Hoover, “There’s No Right Way to Start Up”. Both highlight many truths about the unusual start-up process and the importance of UX in building meaningful products. Ryan’s post isn’t specifically geared towards UX but it got us thinking about our experiences thus far and the things we’ve gone through to shape and the User Experience for our clients’ apps. Here are 5 overarching themes we’ve learned along the way about UX.

1. Field Research is super important — get outside!

It’s easy to come up with a “great idea”, put your head down, and start building it. You build it and they will come right? Wrong. we cannot stress the importance of doing the much needed market, competitor, and user research before hand. Is there a need? Is the market big enough to make any money? we wonder if anyone else is doing it? All questions you should ask yourself before starting to build anything.

We think the most important aspect is interacting with REAL USERS. Research and case studies can only tell you so much about your assumptions. Do not base you entire product roadmap and business model off a couple Nielsen studies or a well-known group or University’s case study. The best answers we’ve gotten about ideas/products came from when we just hand it over (whether it’s a sketch, wireframe or MVP) to somebody and let them play with it. These are real, live answers. Case studies are a study, they’re an experiment. They’re less real. YOU (yourself) can’t physically see first hand someone’s reaction when they’re using your product. One more tip! We know, when testing, the easiest source of testers are your friends. That’s fine for starters. But if you want the most relevant and realistic results, we highly recommend going out and asking random strangers. If you’re not good at sparking up a convo at your favorite coffee shop, jump on Craigslist and throw a few bones to a couple people. There’s also cool software that helps you with this like Validately. We had the pleasure to meet their founders. We guarantee the results you’ll find will help your product’s UX; shed light on something you didn’t initially expect; or answer questions you had in mind about the user experience, design and functionality.

2. The user is not always right

At first glance you might think this one contradicts the first, but it doesn’t. Pay close attention…

Say it with us — “The user is not always right”. Listen closely to the feedback you receive from everyone you test or pitch, but never jump to make or tweak something from each individual piece of feedback. Instead you have to look for patterns or trends. A good UX designer can decipher the relevant feedback from the bad/unfocused kind. Take the needed time to break it all down and make sense of it all. You have to do this or else your product will suffer from lack of focus. A UX designer needs to carefully navigate the team to the product promise land without wasting hours developing unneeded features or tweaks.

Read the “Some Things Just Have to Exist First” section of Ryan’s post for another great perspective on this. He really gets it right using Twitter as an example. Sometimes you just have to build it into existence!

3. Don’t settle

Maybe you’re stuck or unhappy with a particular flow or design. It’s ok, it does what it’s suppose to do, but is it the best you can do for your end user? Are you genuinely happy with it? Have you fully vetted and tested it? We’ve learned that you should never let time limit your creative process. Do not put the user experience or design in the back seat–keep it at the forefront. In order to build a valuable and needed product, good design and user experience must go hand in hand with technology. Make sure to give yourself enough time to test and play around with different ideas, flows, and wireframes. Exhaust all angles. Don’t be scared to try and try again until you’re fully happy with it and you’ve proven its value either through tests or in a real production environment.

4. Stay focused

Similar to #2 in not listening to every user and instead look at the bigger/macro patterns:  STAY FOCUSED when you begin building. It’s quite easy to get burnt out or lose focus on the product while weeks go by of juggling hats and performing other necessary start-up roles. Let’s not forget that there is nothing to market nor anything to sell without an awesome and valuable product. A product that provides value to it users.

So we beg of you to keep the words VALUE and TIME-SAVING written on your forward when you’re building or adding a new feature. Does this provide value to the end user? Does it save them more time? You want the most value and least friction.

5. It’s not easy. Keep your sanity.

There is no specific set of roles for any given UX job. They’re different for each company. They’re especially different amongst startups. Some only handle wireframes, copy writing and user stores. While others also have to do test cases, create personas, mockup in HTML/CSS, field research, user interviews, or brainstorm strategy. Stay focused, organized, and prioritize your daily tasks.

Make sure to take breaks — step away from technology, go for a walk, work out, pick up a book, sketch your surroundings, ride a bike — whatever it is that calms you and lets you focus on something else for a period of time. Let your designs or current work evolve in your head. Stepping away from work, doing other things and coming back really helps you to stay inspired and produce your best work. The real world is a lot more inspiring and spontaneous than the virtual, keep that in mind.

By Cory Bishop, Program Manager and Designer at Blue Label Labs.

Check-out all of Cory’s posts on his Medium blog found here.