I recently stumbled upon this statement published by the UK digital services department. It beautifully expresses the principles that any design project should follow.
I followed this advice for years before I knew that it has been sanctioned by the crown!
- ” The design process must start with identifying and thinking about real user needs … and we should remember that what users ask for is not always what they need. “
Taken from the individual site owner’s perspective this means that the content, structure and appearance of the site should be crafted to address the site visitor’s needs and expectations first. Having a sense of the “profile” of the anticipated visitor and tailoring the message to suit that type of user.
- “If someone else is doing it — link to it … we should concentrate on the irreducible core. “
This principle should be taken in at least two ways, first that the core objectives of a project should not be sidetracked by tangential messages especially when well developed alternate resources are already available.
Secondly, PIE (“proudly invented elsewhere”) development is a time honored principle and it is good practice to recognize the value of good systems and put them to work whenever appropriate.
- ” We should understand the desire paths of how we are designing with data and use them in our designs. “
Ultimately the purpose of any form of communication is to make the desired information available in the most efficient and fluid manner possible – this cannot be done effectively with sample or filler data.
- ” Making something look simple is easy; making something simple to use is much harder — especially when the underlying systems are complex — but that’s what we should be doing. “
Website layout should be more like the design of a gallery space than the composition of a painting, since like a gallery the content will be subject to change and the site visitors will be moving through the content in a manner of their own choosing.
- ” The best way to build effective services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release Minimum Viable Products … adding features and refinements based on feedback from real users.
This not only has to do with user interaction but also with the availability of content – many projects stall when there is not a plan to develop the content in stages
- ” Accessible design is good design. We should build a product that’s as inclusive, legible and readable as possible. … we shouldn’t be afraid of the obvious … “
An accessible site is also a site that moves easily from device to device. Ornate embellishments often detract from the user experience
- ” We’re not designing for a screen, we’re designing for people. We need to think hard about the context in which they’re using our services. … “
A page is not a static picture it is a container for information that is best received if it is easy to access. Design should serve the needs of the user over all other things.
- ” Our service doesn’t begin and end at our website … to design for that, even if we can’t control it … “
Visitors arrive at websites via a variety of paths and do not always arrive or seek the “home” page. Rather than try to inhibit that experience we should strive to facilitate the visitors path to the information sought and to clearly express recommended actions that can be taken
- ” Wherever possible we should use the same language and the same design patterns … when this isn’t possible, we should make sure our underlying approach is consistent. “
It is important to recognize that users seek a use paradigm with a website and there is an inverse relationship between how often this paradigm is changed and a site’s ease of use. Clear layout and typological conventions are a good thing.
- “Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures. The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets “
Working in the world of open source systems is inherently superior to proprietary environments since code is under consistent review and improvement