The Laws of User Experience (UX)

Kike Valdenebro

9 May 2024

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Have you ever felt lost on a website, fruitlessly searching for that “buy now” or “more information” button? This frustrating experience is more common than you might think, and it’s not your fault. It’s a matter of user experience design, also known as UX. UX encompasses a user’s perceptions and emotions when interacting with a digital product or service. Good UX design focuses on making these interactions as simple, enjoyable, and effective as possible.

From its beginnings, UX design has evolved significantly. Initially, the focus was on basic functionality and usability. However, over time, designers have begun to recognise the importance of understanding user emotions and needs, leading to more intuitive and enriching experiences.

In this context, here we’ll explore the laws of user experience, and the principles that guide designers in creating products and services that are not only easy to use but also enjoyable and emotionally satisfying.

By focusing on UX laws, you’ll discover how small changes in design can have a big impact on your daily digital experiences.

Nielsen’s Heuristics.

Jakob Nielsen, a historic engineer, designer, and UX guru, gave us ten heuristic rules in 1990 that serve as a compass for any designer. These are tips such as maintaining consistency in your design or ensuring users receive feedback on their actions. Designers apply these rules constantly. For example, when designing an online store, we ensure that the “add to cart” button is impossible to ignore, and that users know exactly when their order has been processed.

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Source: Medium

Nielsen’s ten heuristic rules are as follows:

  1. Visibility of system status: It’s crucial to inform the user about what’s happening in the application or website. A typical example is the loading indicator when uploading files. Or imagine you’re waiting for an important message to land in your inbox: isn’t it helpful when your app tells you it’s “looking for new messages”? That’s what it’s about: knowing what’s going on.
  2. Relationship between system and the real world: Digital applications should speak your language. Using familiar language and symbols enhances understanding. A good example is the magnifying glass icon for search.
  3. User control and freedom: Users should have options to correct errors. Have you ever sent a message by mistake? Nielsen suggests having an easy “undo” option for those “oops!” moments.
  4. Consistency and standards: Consistency in design helps users learn and navigate more efficiently. If all “cancel” buttons are red, don’t make just one of them green.
  5. Error prevention: Designs that anticipate common errors can greatly improve the user experience, such as forms that validate entered information.
  6. Recognition rather than recall: Make it easy for users to recognise actions and elements rather than forcing them to remember information.
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use: Offering shortcuts and customisations for advanced users can significantly improve usability. Shortcuts for experts, visible options for novices. Everyone’s happy.
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design: A clean and tidy interface enhances user concentration and efficiency. Less is more. Don’t overload the user with unnecessary information.
  9. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors: Provide clear and helpful error messages to guide users through troubleshooting.
  10. Help and documentation: Although a design should be intuitive, having accessible documentation and guides is important for a complete user experience. Sometimes users need a manual. Make it easy to find and understand.

The effective application of these heuristics can transform users’ interaction with digital products, making it more intuitive and satisfying.

Principles of UX Design.

If Nielsen’s heuristics are a kind of checklist to ensure our design doesn’t include serious errors, the principles of UX design are broader fundamentals and guidelines that guide the entire design process, from conceptualisation to implementation, ensuring an effective and satisfying user experience. These principles address aspects such as usability, accessibility, consistency, user empathy, and continuous improvement, contributing to the creation of products and services that truly meet users’ needs and expectations.

  • Empathy: Imagine walking in your users’ shoes. What frustrations would you encounter? Understanding these emotions is essential. It’s not just about numbers and data; it’s about feeling what your users feel.
  • Usability: Think about how you feel when something is easy and enjoyable to use. That feeling of fluidity is what we seek in UX design. Each click should feel natural and each transition effortless.
  • Inclusive design: Consider all users, from those with different abilities to people with different cultural backgrounds. Designing for diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it also enriches our work.
  • Continuous iteration: UX design is a journey, not a destination. Like in life, there’s always room to learn and improve. Feedback is a gift that helps us grow.
  • Clear and concise content: In a world full of noise, clarity is gold. A direct and simple message can be the guiding light for users lost in complexity.
  • Consistency in the experience: Consistency brings comfort. Just like in our daily routines, in UX design, familiarity creates a feeling of safety and trust.

By applying these principles, we’re not just designing products; we’re creating experiences that resonate on a deeper level with our users.

UX: Beyond Design.

UX is more than just design; it’s a user-centred philosophy. By applying Nielsen’s heuristics and these principles, we can create digital experiences that not only meet expectations but delight and empower users. Now, the next time you interact with an application or website, you can take a moment to reflect on the work and consideration behind each element that appears on your screen. Behind every button, every text, and every function, there’s a careful process of design and development aimed at improving the user experience. Recognising this effort can help you appreciate the work behind digital interfaces even more and better understand the value of a good user experience.