Editor’s note: This post was written by Codrin Arsene, a technology writer and a senior product manager. His areas of expertise include digital marketing strategies, UX/ Design and bottom of funnel conversion and optimizations. He is a Content Writer with Y Media Labs where he writes on mobile app strategy, analytics, marketing strategies and online business development.
At Y Media Labs, we wanted to know what it takes to create an amazing mobile design. We reached out to 12 experts in this field who graciously shared their thoughts on the secrets of great design.
There are many trends that designers can learn and skills they can acquire over their professional career which would make them successful at their job. But there are five traits every great designer out there has shown which made them particularly great at their job. Here’s our MVP list for how designers should think about their work.
Traits of a great designer
1. Great Designers embrace the principles of flat design: focus on designing useful products for the user rather than pretty and flashy digital artifacts
The last twenty years of design evolution has gone through so many different phases: from the “Design doesn’t matter” of the early 1990s, to the ornate and complex nature of Flash design (may it rest in peace) to the current focus on flat design (what took us so long?), we’ve come full circle. We are finally in a position to recognize that what the user needs is an intuitive, fast loading, no-nonsense websites and mobile apps.
Flat design embraces this key evolution in our collective behavior as users of digital products. Christopher Jan Benitez, in an article for SpyreStudios captures why breaking down design to its most basic elements is a major win for the user. “Instead of thinking of how to make
“Instead of thinking of how to make design much more realistic, designers now think of better ways to make design elements useful for users”. (Source)
Present information to a user in a straightforward and intuitive fashion and everyone wins at the end of the day.
2. Great Designers understand the power of simplicity and live by it
In the Y Media Labs Infographic we put together, we specifically called out that simplicity should be the focus of every designer. Steve Jobs was obsessed with simplicity. He called it his mantra and had this to say about it: “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
To move mountains. In today’s world, the mountain in question is the time I waste, as user, to complete a task. My time as a customer is precious. I don’t want to spend time on a mobile app or a website. I want to be in an out of a digital product as quickly as possible after having achieved my goal / task.
Designers play a crucial role in making that happen. The fewer illustrations, animations, icons and images a designer uses, the faster the digital product will be. Less is definitely more. The fewer icons I need to interact with the more likely it is that I will navigate smoothly through your mobile or web product. What’s obvious to you as a designer may not be obvious to me.
Great designers do what Steve Jobs suggested: they take time and effort to not only build a great visual experience but to also REMOVE as many of the unnecessary visual elements as possible.
3. Great Designers understand the power of presenting a user with only one task at the time
There was an obsession in the UX/UI world for most of the last decade with creating as few pages as possible and centralizing tasks on one page. The expectation was that the user will be more likely to complete the task at hand – a form, checkout, an application for a credit card, you name it – if all the information was on one page.
This has since been proven wrong. Short “request a quote forms” perform a lot better than long forms (less work for me as a user). Drop rates from checkout are incredibly low on shipping, billing and order review pages even if this is a multi-step process. Credit card applications remain as long as they were in the 1990s but they are spread out over multiple pages.
As Ben Gremillion wrote for Y Media Labs, “Give Every Screen a Purpose but not more than one!”
We live in an ADHD (digital world). Less is more. I do not want to be overwhelmed with information and options on the screen. As long as there are clear navigational elements which show me where I am at in the process of completing a task, it’s best not to overwhelm me by asking for too much at once.
4. Great Designers incorporate effective marketing techniques in their work
In a recent article for Spyre Studios, Ajeet, a senior web developer at WordPressIntegration, astutely points out that pretty and usable websites are not enough anymore for a website or app to be successful.
Of course, you want your design to stand out – to be trendy, cool, hip and to catch people’s eyes. However, the coolest website in the world will not effectively deliver any financial results if users do not understand your digital offerings.
Designers who wear a marketing hat and pay close attention to how information is presented on the page – iconography, images, audio and videos, titles and descriptions – will be significantly more successful at their jobs than designers who simply focus on the look and feel of a website. So often we forget that communication in a digital space is more important than ever. Designers who bridge the communication gap and clearly speak to the user versus speaking at the user through the visual elements presented on the page are truly remarkable at their jobs.
5. Great Designers are truly open minded to different ways of solving a problem
Let me be blunt: (almost) nobody likes change. People change for a wide variety of reasons – sometimes because they want to, other times because they have to. But psychologically we, as humans, are not prone to embracing change. In the world of design, this applies more than you’d expect. A wide variety of successful digital products become a sensation because they swim around the current and shift the mental paradigm on how design should be.
Today, designers are perfectly situated to think about the future of design as a discipline and artistic language in the digital space. But in order to do that, they need to be able and willing to move away from their own past work and design habits and to adventure into the realm of the unknown.
Charles Patterson, Product Designer at Invision, speaking to Y Media Labs advises designers to “always be open to changing it [your design ideas and solutions] and experimenting with new and different ideas.”
In a previous article from SpyreStudios, one can see this shift in action. The author explores two examples of “near perfect lead generation forms.” In both cases, designers thought completely out the box. Instead of replicating the status quo, they built something completely different which produced great results.
A focus on simplicity and intuitive design is the key to success for every designer out there. In addition, understanding that customers are better served by presenting them with only one task at a time has proven incredibly effective in driving customer behavior when using a digital product. We have also seen that designers who focus on the messaging rather than the look and feel help customers get what they want in a faster and more intuitive manner. And of course, being open to new design options and patterns sets great designers aside from those who accept the status quo.