What I Believe

5 Mantras That Guide My UX Design Business

At Nonfiction our values inform our design. Meet the set of principles that guide how we build trust and produce results.

1. We’re Not the Hero, We’re the Journey

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of our role as creators, and in this or that cool new UI we’re creating. But if we designers start seeing ourselves as the hero of the journey, we’ve lost focus. Nonfiction’s clients are independently capable of success — and it is their success that matters. Their customers buy software for the long-term value it provides, not for my latest and greatest UI mockup.

This is not a hollow sales pitch. As designers, we’re here to bring other people’s visions to life. Humility is mission critical.

2. Make a Positive Impact

Day in and day out, focus on leaving every situation better than when you arrived. Creating a product involves a lot of collaboration, discussion, and sometimes disagreements. Designers need to lead by example with empathy and altruism. You can challenge people constructively when you put your own ego aside and focus on the goal of making their situation better. As our client at CrowdComfort told us, Nonfiction encourages the “tough conversations” because that’s the path to creating a better, more effective end result.

3. Understand the “Why”

It’s critical to always have a true north for our designs. We are ruthless with critiquing our ideas against the original purpose of the product and the feedback we collect from users. The “why” keeps us from getting caught up in design for design’s sake — bloating an interface with unnecessary distractions or destroying a product roadmap with constant feature creep. Understanding and designing to the “why” is the only path to arrive at a great product.

4. Break it Down

I’m well aware that it’s totally cheesy, but I’m quite fond of the saying that the only way to eat a whale is one forkful at a time.

In a way this reflects the modular, methodical way we implement our big product ideas. An epic challenge, tackled one step at a time. We split our time between the world of the product owner, creating a holistic vision for the product, and the pragmatic world of the engineer deconstructing that picture into its composite parts. Plenty of people can envision something amazing, but we apply the principles of Agile methodology to actually bring it to life.

5. Change Must Be Intuitive and Incremental

If you think you’re going to succeed by revolutionizing people’s behavior, you’re in for an uphill battle and eventual failure. You might dream up the most amazing new features and functionality — but your customers will rarely do a 180 on what they’re used to. Designers need to take the time to truly understand a client’s behavior and then nudge it in a new direction, incrementally, until what was strange becomes intuitive.

The Forever Pace

The ideas I hold close define how I approach the people around me and the tasks at hand. When projects span different industries, organizational structures, and technologies, a shared set of values keeps the team pointed toward true north. The tech landscape evolves so quickly that it always feels like there is a new, better way to redo what we just did. We have to make peace with that on some level or we will burn out constantly chasing the next thing. At the same time, we cannot be complacent.

We must find a balance in everything we do. I let my values guide me in doing so. From this post onward I will continue to share them with you with the goal of helping you bring your team closer together as you create ever better products and experiences.

Do you have mantras that guide your product development process? Tweet yours to me at @NonfictionUXUI. I’d love to hear them.