It's any given day. Your inbox is full of newsletters telling you about the fresh new ways to improve your forms or that a new UX technique earned loads of money for someone and so on. You're excited right? You read the article and can't wait to find a way of implementing it in your next project/sprint/meeting. But how does that tie in with the overall UX of the site? You run a risk of creating an experience that is just lots of authors’ ideas hashed into one without thinking about the bigger picture.
"What do I stand for as a designer? What do I want people to feel when I design something?"
Why developing a mantra is important
It seems that these days everyone is just copying each other's site. I myself have been guilty of seeing a UI pattern that looks cool and not actually giving any thought as to whether it keeps the experience consistent. We see it all the time with product pages, they’re all starting to look the same. Instead we need to ask ourselves, "What do I stand for as a designer? What do I want people to feel when I design something?" and create a set of rules around the answers. That’s why it’s so important to develop your UX mantra. By establishing a set of principles in your designs, you can ensure consistency for you or your team.
Professionals in the world’s top companies have found their UX mantra and successfully developed principles from them. Aaron Walters founded UX practice at Mailchimp by designing for emotion. Stanley Wood created GLUE (Global Language for a Unified Experience) at Spotify to ensure their entire experience is consistent across all platforms. Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia believes in designing for trust where the experience is about being a host and as helpful as possible. A clear user experience goal plays a huge role in the ongoing success of these companies and it should do for you too. Y Combinator co-founder, Jessica Livingston also said in a recent interview that one of the most common things she sees in successful companies is the fact that they put the spotlight on user experience.
"A clear user experience goal plays a huge role in the ongoing success of a company."
It's your value proposition, not just your brands
Peep Laja, of Conversion XL put "Value proposition is the #1 thing that determines whether people will bother reading more about your product or hit the back button."
In a nutshell, a value proposition is how a brand markets itself to the consumer, but why does it just have to be for the company you work for? Your portfolio is your brand. You are a brand. In order to be great, brands have value propositions and so should you or your team.
"Find the parts of UX that suit the change you want to make in the world."
Find the parts of UX that suit the change you want to make in the world and create a set of rules or principles to abide by. For example, is personality more important than cleanliness? Do you see mobile first or mobile only as more important?
It helps to be consistent
Look at Spotify, they had a huge issue with design consistency back in 2012. Designers were shoehorning the latest design fads, making it inconsistent and overall, a bad experience. How did they solve it? They found their mantra, they created principles around it and they named it GLUE (a Global Language for a Unified Experience). GLUE evolved over time and Spotify developed a quality assurance acronym called called T-U-N-E, where a designer could ask, “Is this in TUNE?”.
TUNE stands for:
- Tone. Are we using the right kind of tone of voice for our brand?
- Usable. Is it accessible to everyone?
- Necessary. Is that functionality really needed?
- Emotive. Does it feel good to use? Feel like somebody cares?
For more information on how Spotify tackles design consistency, Stanley Wood talks about developing principles for Spotify in their great article here.
How would you create your UX mantra?
This article isn’t a how-to - I can’t tell you what to do but hopefully I have sparked something where you can figure out what difference you want to make with your user experience and apply that into everything you design. You don’t have to make incredibly thorough guidelines like Apple did for their iOS, it can be as simple as Spotify’s T-U-N-E or even a checklist like The UX Checklist - the main thing is that it’s a reference point.
So what are you waiting for? Go away and think about what your over-arching UX mantra will be. Write down the most important things for you in UX and go from there. It’s something we are currently working on at firebox.com and I have included my starting point below. I would love to know your mantras!
"Design to enhance lives, not KPIs" - Joe Tosca