Think of the Beginners
Many times, we, as designers, make the mistake of getting too close to our own products. When we work on something long enough, we inevitably become experts in our own domains, with deep understandings of our products’ intricacies and complexities. We then bring that knowledge to our design process: creating interfaces and flows that take advantage of our expertise. Interfaces and flows that, purely by accident, assume our customers have the same level of product knowledge as we do. That they’re all experts.
It’s imperative that we step back now and then and look at our work through the lens of the beginner. If a person finished signing up and saw your UI for the first time, would it make sense? Would they need someone to explain it to them? Is their reaction “Of course this is how it works” or is it “Sigh, this is how it works?”
There are some sure-signs that you’re in need of a step-back: from adding lots of tooltips and help fields, to finding yourself spending the majority of your critique explaining what’s going on in your design. I try to bake time into every design process to look at what I’ve built and ask beginner questions. How do people encounter this feature for the first time? In what context? If they’ve never done this before, will this enable them to? If a field is potentially confusing, but required, how can we explain it quickly and simply? What happens after they complete my flow? Where do they end up? Does that make sense? The devil, as always, is in the details.
It is our duty as designers to be constantly reflecting on the user experience choices we make. It’s our responsibility to be less clever, to make choices that service a wide spectrum of people, to think of ourselves as gracious hosts who never assume our guests know our home as well as we do.