UI Practicum #1. How to Justify Your Design Decisions

Published April 28, 2016 by Jane Portman
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No one works in isolation. Not only you have to make design decisions, you also need to prove their worth to other people. In this issue of UI Practicum, I’ll show how you can do it relying on logic and design principles.

Here are some real-life scenarios when proving your point is necessary:

Let’s face it, quantitative user research doesn’t work in most cases. In smaller companies, there’s usually no budget (time, resources) for this. In larger enterprise software, the gap between the UX department and the final user is so huge that user research becomes impossible logistically. Those who produce, sell and buy enterprise software are rarely the actual users.

Use design principles and logic to prove your decisions

But what do you do then? The answer is, you use the key design principles to find logic in your own solution. That might sound a bit backwards, but it works.

Here are the principles that will help you explain almost any design decision (alone or combined):

Proximity and spatial distribution of elements: in common software, elements usually have traditional places where things are located (navigation is on top or left side, user menu is on the top right side, search and filters are above the data table, etc.) This is good enough proof by itself. This helps to calm down crazy ideas of messing with common controls.

Task-focused approach: approach any screen/area from a standpoint of a single most important use case, and justify your decisions based on that.

Visual hierarchy: each screen (or screen area) should have one kind of control that represents one important action, without other controls getting into the way. This helps to calm down requests “to make things bigger.”

Monotonous data: if the work happens around the same type of data, then it should definitely be combined into a single huge list supplied by a comfortable set of filters and drop-down menus (which can most often replace tabs or other complex controls).

Validation by mass platforms: unfortunately, there’s no “common UX patterns” bible. But if you can, find similar examples in mass-market software. That’s “social proof” for those who you’re presenting to. Plus, most likely, these companies have better budgets to conduct proper user research and validate their UX solutions.

Practicum

So any time you need to take a design decision and prove it to others, follow these steps:

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