The Basic Principles of UX

This was a post I've written on LinkedIn and reposted here.

Whenever I want to learn a subject, I find a practitioner in that field to model. I model his mental approach, study his experiences and ask him the questions I couldn’t answer by myself. I look for the expert who has hands-on experience of the subject that I want to learn. In other words, I ask the expert to hand over the wheel which I shouldn’t reinvent myself.

Tim Chan works at GoAnimate as a UX designer. He made a career transition from marketing to UX design with no prior experience and relevant background. In 6 months, he gathered the information he required and established a system to land himself a UX job.

I don’t have a goal to become a UX designer, but I do have a goal to build a digital product in collecting book recommendations. So, last week, I took on Tim as my UX instructor. Thanks, Tim. =]

In this post, I'm going to cover:

  • Who should learn UX?
  • The learning material (video + articles)
  • The follow ups
  • The conclusion

Who should learn UX?

People like Tim who are sick of doing the boring stuff and decide to make a career transition into building the digital product people love. People like me who are sick of the crappy digital products and decide to prototype and implement one by oneself. If you are like either one of us who loves digital product and people, you should learn UX.

So, what is UX?

I needed to answer this question as this was part of the assignment Tim had designed for me. I answered it by going through the materials he provided.


I watched the video and read the articles. I learned the basics of UX and did the follow ups.

Follow ups

1.\ What is my biggest insight in this module?

My mental model toward UX has shifted. Before studying the module, I always thought UX design was the upstream part of the product life cycle (assumption made on building a product from scratch). The fact is that UX design should take an agile approach and be considered throughout the process. Iterating by the UCD (user centered design) is the key. In the product life cycle, I like to think of a UX designer as a bridge between the user and the business.

2.\ Research the following keywords:

  • UX research (5mins)
  • Information Architecture (5mins)
  • Interaction Design (5mins)
  • User Interface design (5mins)
  • Usability testing (5mins)

The conclusion

UX stands for user experience: the users perceptions and responses resulting from the use and anticipated use of a product. UX is the bridge between business goals and the needs of users. A UX Designer's job is to align these two goals.

Market validation

In general cases, I'll need to make sure there is a market for the product (market validation) based on the business perspective. But my product is not for profit making. It is just a community service to my friends. As long as the book recommendations from the product are what they're looking for. It is good enough.

In other words, I need to ensure the product will solve my friend’s problems. Seen through a UX designer’s lens, I need to be sure of the utility of my product. Providing them the book recommendations they want.

After passing the market validation, I will move on to the UX design process.

The design is a 4-phase-process: user research, design, testing and implementation.User centered design is the application of a user focused methodology which I will apply to all phases.

I will take the user’s need into account at every stage of the product life cycle: measure, design, build and launch.

Phase 1 - User research

I will research the market using a number of user research methods. The methods include interview , online survey, persona and user testing. Throughout the process, I need to “go wide, prioritize, go deep. Get a lay of the land, use that to figure out what’s important, and start knocking things out in order of priority.”

Phase 2 - Design

UX design is not art. It is a scientific process to create intuitive customer centric products. Science is cold with a lot of analytics, but my users as human beings are warm. I need to conduct the user research with empathy, curiosity and clarity of expression. All of the above traits are the foundations that will enable me to put myself in my user's’ shoes.

Because utility is not enough.

The users will want to use my product in a seamless way: usability. To create a successful digital experience, I need to make the product appealing (aesthetically attractive and uncluttered) and engaging (enjoyment of use while encouraging an appetite for repeat use). Designing this satisfying user experience will involve meticulously planning the users' journey and helping them find what they are looking for through an intuitive process.

I can never forget the WHY in the design process: why I'm designing this product, why people will use it and why I made the decisions. Document the WHYs. Explain it to whomever will listen. Put it in my wireframes and presentations. The WHYs should drive everything, because they’re what give the product meaning, a story and a theme.

A big component in UX design is information architecture. Before wireframing, I need to structure, label and organize the content on a site so that users can find exactly what they need to perform the task they want. Simply put, it is going to be effective page navigation for users. Card sorting is a commonly used method to organize the hierarchy of the content.

A wireframe rarely contains color, images, or styling because its job is to help me understand and establish relationships among a website’s different templates. These templates need to be determined before any aesthetic considerations are taken into account.

Phase 3 - Testing

Once the prototype is done, the testing phase begins. I will take the prototype with my target users. I need to bear in mind testing is not part of a linear process. It happens throughout the entire UX design process. Every single testing result is one iterative datapoint.

There are a number of ways to test. Among all of them, interview, researching the users from the product’s target audience in a real-life setting, is the best. If this is not possible, remote-user testing is an option. These two approaches as qualitative approaches.

At the other end of spectrum, I consider A/B testing as quantitative approach.

No matter which approach I'm going to take, “what do I need to know from this test?” is the question I should answer before designing any kind of test.

Phase 4 - implementation

For the implementation phase, since I will be the product developer, the only reminder to myself is to take care all the nitty gritty in all aspects that will affect the user experience. In a nutshell, I need to fall in love with my users, take all the observations from the previous 3 phases, feel their pain and implement the product they love.

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