by May 15th, 2014on
What’s the #1 quality attributed to designers? Creativity. A creative director literally manages creatives… in the creative department. This isn’t just organizational, it’s procedural. For instance, Lean UX promotes design studio activities in which participants create dozens of rapid-fire sketches. Those outbursts of creativity are great, but what’s rarely discussed is taste level. I feel that good taste is as important as anyone’s ability to brainstorm. Here are some elements of taste for consideration in your designs.
1. Aesthetics. Visual design and branding are more than creative colors and custom layouts. Studies have linked visual design to users’ perceptions of usability and credibility. The better a visual design, the more users will trust it. Good designers track trends (without impersonating them) and avoid anachronisms.
2. Simplicity. Feature sets grow bloated because teams want to add value to products. It’s much harder to explain what you didn’t do. However, creativity isn’t just about new functions and use cases. It’s about ingenuity in combining and reducing those features. For example, which sounds like a more tasteful checkout UX: a 1-click button, or pop-up ads and pre-marked checkboxes for email newsletters? When I’ve worked on the latter, they always tested poorly.
3. Social customs. Users want ethical, safe experiences. No-nos include vulgarity, invasion of privacy, and moral affronts. For instance, Google Glass is a cutting-edge technology that’s sometimes misunderstood as a 24/7 surveillance tool. Rightly or wrongly, social judgments affect purchasing decisions.
4. Metaphors. Designers often map features to a UI metaphor to leverage users’ mental models. Caution is warranted for metaphors that may look contrived or tacky. As a simple example, horizontal tab UI mimicking file folders is easily understood. But occasionally designers position their tabs perpendicular to the page to be unique. Reading sideways labels is a creative UX, but in a not-so-good way.
5. Accessibility. Small web fonts aren’t sexy, they’re hard to read. Green and red buttons for positive and negative actions? About 5% of the population can’t distinguish them. Sometimes designers fall in love with visuals; I’ve been guilty of this many times. However, it’s poor taste to trumpet a beautiful design at the expense of those who can’t use it.
I hope these ideas are useful not only for designers, but any project member who defines, reviews or implements design. Do you have additions to this list? Please feel free to add a comment.