When you get into your first few projects, you may wish that someone would just tell you how it works. So let’s answer the question:
“What are the rules of UX?”
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UX is a system, because psychology is a system. If you change Thing A over here, you might also be changing Thing B over there, without realizing it. In the beginning — and many times after that — it can be hard to get your head around all of those relationships and effects.
The stupid answer:
There are no rules! UX is a divine creative power that only UX designers can understand.
The real answer:
It depends. In different situations you will need different strategies to get the results you want. The trick is to know what results you want.
The first thing you should do in UX is abandon the idea that there is a “right way” that will work for you every time.
If you are the type of person that feels uncomfortable with uncertainty, you might find UX difficult.
Why this isn’t a stupid question:
UX is NOT made from recipes.
The security icon that made one website more trustworthy might make your website worse because of where you put it in the layout.
You might design an exact copy of Pinterest’s layout for your company, and it might fail completely, because your content is different.
And the link color that Google proved was best might not win the A/B test for you.
Does that mean UX is completely unpredictable?! Is UX totally random?!
But UX isn’t about “rules”.
It’s about the relationships between the elements of your design.
Everything is relative.
When you add that security icon to your site, you probably still made the page look more trustworthy, but you might have “moved” the natural Axis of Interaction away from the button you wanted people to click.
So they didn’t click it.
Pinterest is designed to work with random content — each image is unrelated to the image beside it — but if you use the same “staggered” layout for your products, you might find that people buy less — because they can’t find what they are looking for.
An ordered layout is better for ordered content.
Google once tested 40 shades of blue to determine the “perfect” link color. So you might be surprised to learn that the same color might not work for you. At the time, Google’s links had always been blue, and the “other” shades leaned toward green or darker blue, which started to make color-blindness a factor, reduced the contrast against the white background, or became less obvious compared to the black text around the links.
On the other hand, red links have a reputation for winning A/B tests. Until they don’t. If the background is red, or pink, or green, then red is the worst link color.
Also, protip: a green background with red links may cause epileptic seizures and/or death threats from users.
Learn some color theory.
Learn about cognitive biases.
Spend some time with eye-tracking patterns.
Start thinking about your designs as a system, not individual elements.
And soon you’ll start being able to predict how people will look at, and use, your designs, and how changes might affect those results.
Tomorrow we will answer: “What if my design is confusing?”