User Experience For Web Design

in Strategy & Trends | by Janel Gancena

Before I start a new project I always do one thing – I repeat to myself this phrase, “Less, but better.” It’s a design mantra I’ve carried with me since my college years, and is inspired by design legend Dieter Rams. By looking at Dieter Rams’ ten principles for good design, we can integrate his approach into our work—even in the more digital world we live in today.

So, who is Dieter Rams? He is a German industrial designer who was responsible for the design of Braun’s products for many years. In the late 1970s, he came to a point in his career where he asked himself an important question: Is my design good design? He broke down his answer into his ten principles. By incorporating his principles into our own work, we can push the standard for great and well-thought out user experiences.

Let’s Break It Down

Before we evaluate what principles and ideas we can utilize in our modern, digital society, let’s take a deep dive into each of Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design:

1 – Good design is innovative. The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2 – Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3 – Good design is aesthetic. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4 – Good design makes a product understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5 – Good design is unobtrusive. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

6 – Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7 – Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

8 – Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

9 – Good design is environmentally-friendly. Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10 – Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Applying These Principles In A Digital World

Although these principles were created with consumer products in mind, we are still able to bring Rams’ ideas to life and apply them when designing for the web. Here are a few things to consider when using his principles for web design:

  • Communication is Key. Think carefully before flooding a design with unnecessary elements. The goal is to avoid any chance of clutter. Clear communication is integral when a user lands on a webpage.
  • Make it Functional. Make the experience easy to interact with. There should be no confusion when it comes to functionality.
  • Call to Action. The design should guide the user towards the desired interactions (i.e. clicking a button, driving them down to a specific section, having them fill out a form).
  • Less is More. Keep it neutral with the design. (For example, choose a web-friendly typeface that will always be readable vs. an overly decorate display font which could quickly become outdated.) Oh, and white space is always welcome.
  • Keep it Customizable. Build an experience that could easily be added to. Updates are common (and likely necessary) when designing for the web. The easier it is to maintain a design, the longer it can survive on a number of platforms.

The Takeaway

Simplicity is key in web and app design, despite all the trendy designs you see in the digital world. Because while that trendy approach may attract a ton of users to a page at first glance, it may not be the most clear and direct way to get the right results. We have to remember that less is more. And the more thought that’s put into a design to pare it down to its essentials, the better the experience will be.

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