How to achieve great UX without time, money or design skills?

by Wendy Soon on November 17, 2013

design hacking bannerHow many of us can say we have sufficient time to do everything we want?

How many of us can say we have sufficient money to buy everything we want?

How many of us can say we have design skills good enough to beat the world’s best designers (e.g. Apple)?


As an entrepreneur, you have a great idea and you want to bring a successful product to market. Great UX is critical to differentiate an unusable product from an awesome product. You need to create products that people want to buy. (re: Apple)


In today’s world—where people are walking around with great user experiences in their pockets—a great UX is no longer a “nice to have” or a feature that can be added later. Customers expect a great UX from the start, and they aren’t waiting around. This is a new challenge for entrepreneurs, who often lack UX skills and always lack spare time and money.


In tonight’s meetup, Everett McKay, Principal of UX Design Edge, presented a new communication-focused approach to rapid UX design, without the need for excess time, money or design talents.


Here are our 10 key takeaways from Everett’s session:

  1. User manuals are a thing of the past. Everyone expects intuitive products now. Intuitive UI is immediately self-explanatory. It is when target users understand its behavior and effect without use of reason, memorization, experimentation, assistance or training. Great UX is no longer a “nice to have”. It is now THE key differentiation between a successful product and a product that no one cares about. However, the problem arises when people still do not wish to spend the time and money on hiring a top notch designer to create a good user experience for the product.

  2. Intuitive UI is consistent. Consistency is crucial to being intuitive. And interaction consistency is much more important than visual consistency at that. By being consistent, the user already knows how to use your product from previous experience, thus that becomes intuitive for them and the learning curve is virtually flat.

  3. Stop designing like a programmer. Stop building the “tetris-way” — dropping the features wherever it fits in physically. Mechanical usability is achieved, but no one would love using that. It may sell anyway, but it really doesn’t work that well anymore. So stop designing like a programmer.

  4. Don’t bother outsourcing. You can save time, but there is no guaranteed success in outsourcing design aspects to a design firm. And in case you don’t remember, they cost money too.

  5. Building  an in-house design team isn’t the best solution either! It will cost a lot of time and money, and still does not guarantee success!

  6. Focus on the user goals. Features and requirements are less important these days. User experience is the priority. Think the same way users do. Understand their needs, and how they want their needs to be answered to.

  7. Best place to start is to start with your users. Interpret what your users are telling you. Don’t take that input too directly, because they might express their true thoughts in a different way. As Steve Jobs says, “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” Spend the time to figure out what your users really need and want. The users are not designers. They just know what they like and what they don’t like. It is your job to connect that with a product that will solve their needs. Companies that value user research consistently deliver top notch products (Re: Microsoft, Apple).

  8. There is already a lot that we know. Everyone hates repetitive tasks, hates making small mistakes, hates having to click many times to get a single task done. These insights about our users are common sense, and we do not need to do user research to know it. So make full use of your user interviews in learning about things that you still do NOT know about the user instead.

  9. User interface is a form of human communication. How you then evaluate UI is how well you can communicate. Design based on how effectively you can communicate, and focus your tough design decisions on effective communication.

  10. The initial UI design won’t be very good. Why? because people will intuitively try to focus on the features instead of the user goals, they will design it for themselves, and other classic process mistakes. But don’t be surprised. Don’t be fazed by that. Just learn from it as a base product, and move on from there. You’ll get better at it after a few more iterations, and with subsequent products.

“If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person” — Alan Cooper

To access a full video and slides from this design hacking meetup, click here. See you at our next session on design hacking with Don Norman)! 🙂

More about our speaker Everett McKay:

Everett McKay is Principal of UX Design Edge, which helps software professionals create better user experiences through design training and consulting.

Everett is the author of UI Is Communication: How to design intuitive, user-centered interfaces by focusing on effective communication, published by Morgan Kaufmann in June 2013. This book explains user interface interaction and visual design using human communication-based principles and techniques, and is targeted at non-designers. Everett also runs Ask a UX Expert, a fast, simple, cost-effective user experience design consulting service that answers your UX design questions for a low fixed cost.

Previously Everett was a program manager at Microsoft for nearly 10 years. He was on the Windows 7 and Windows Vista teams, and was responsible for managing, writing, and driving the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines. This role enabled Everett to develop expertise across a wide range of user experience specialties and act as an in-house consultant to help teams across the company do their best work. Before joining Microsoft, Everett was a software developer who specialized in GUI design and programming for Windows and Macintosh.

Everett holds a Masters Degree in Computer Science from MIT.


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