I recently picked up "The Elements of User Experience" by Jesse James Garrett, an essential read for all UX designers. In his book, Garret breaks down user experience into the five fundamental planes - Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface - and discusses the importance of each in the design process and how the planes interact to form a user-centered design. When building user experiences for digital products, this is a book I know I'll reference to guide my process.
Here are my top three takeaways:
Start with a plan
"The user experience development process is all about ensuring that no aspect of the user's experience with your site happens without your conscious, explicit intent."
When developing good user experience, you need a plan. Designing UX is an iterative process that takes experimentation and development over time. It can be easy to get lost in the process and deviate from your initial design principles. Using Garret's five-plan framework provides an important reference to make sure that each decision you make is a conscious one and fit's within the scope of your project. For me, it will be important to create a simple outline to reference the five-planes of user-centered design as I develop an experience.
Talk to your users
“The most productive source for requirements will always be your users themselves. The best way to find out what people want is to simply ask them."
Instead of sitting in the office thinking of what users want, go out and talk to them! This is what UX design is all about: understanding people and their goals. To be able to truly design a good user experience, you need understand the human component. Interact with the people you are designing for: get to know them and understand their context. Talking to users will save you time and energy as you continue the design process.
Have a reason for every design choice
“Creating successful user experiences requires having explicitly defined reasons for every choice you make.”
As a UX designer, you must be able account for each of your design decisions. Every decision you make (or don't make) has a consequence. You need to be able to justify every step of the design process and be able to articulate your design decisions. Any design decision that you make will have an influence on the product as a whole and needs to fit into the user-centered design that you mapped out.