The 7 deadly sins of digital user experience

By Thelton McMillian

To successfully compete in today’s digital world, companies must design user experiences that resonate with customers and keep engaged. Effective marketing depends on a seamless user experience. However, in the race to design smart capabilities, many businesses commit one or more “deadly sins” that can compromise the growth and viability of their business. It is critical to first understand common transgressions in order to avoid them.

LUST: It’s easy to lust over design and fall prey to “shiny objects;” however, we cannot lead with a solution or feature without first understanding the problem. Set design principles upfront to ensure judicious decision-making - and always stay true to what’s best for the user.

GLUTONY: Over-indulgence often manifests itself in the design process as the dreaded “feature creep.” Projects that start with a clear focus can quickly find their UX suffering as new content is added. One of the best defenses against gluttony is to embrace the “mobile first” approach. Don’t do something just because you can. Place the user at the center and set aside personal preferences.

GREED: This is also a sin of excess, but in this case its focus is on material wealth. The challenge of quantifying the return on investment of a good user experience results in UX often sitting low on the list of priorities. But companies like Apple, Amazon and Uber are clear indications of the value user experiences bring to a brand. Focus your efforts on building a culture of design and customer-centered thinking in your organization.

SLOTH: Laziness at any step of the software development lifecycle can lead to usability issues or broken interaction. Companies often release products without fully testing assurance and usability. The diversity of device types, screen sizes and technologies means you must never stop testing - continue to validate your UX design to ensure you have a full understanding of how your product or website functions.

WRATH: Don’t ignore the wrath of your users. Listen to them, be emphatic and trust that their behavior should inform your design decisions regardless of your personal intuition or preference. Understanding customer frustrations is the first step in fixing your UX.

ENVY: Influence from others can result in poor user experiences when applied to your own design challenge. It can also stifle your ability to push boundaries. While it’s perfectly acceptable to be influenced by others, find your own groove, differentiate your experience from competitors and use what you’ve seen as inspiration to push boundaries and innovate.

PRIDE: Don’t be too proud that you don’t consider making changes in response to an ever-evolving market. Don’t think you’ve designed something that’s foolproof – you can always optimize. There is no such thing as a finished product.

With a better understanding of common missteps, businesses will be poised to deliver better user experiences that customers want. By partnering with experts in the field, companies can ensure they’re avoiding design sins that could cost them users…and potentially, their business.

Thelton McMillian is the founder & CEO of Oakland, CA-based Comrade, a design and strategy agency that creates digital products and services like mobile and Web apps to help businesses improve their user experience. Thelton can be reached at [email protected].  


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