7 Principals for User Experience Design

Posted on November 3, 2013

How to create a great experience is all the time a big deal for designers. There are many buzzwords, tools, and methodologies, but we all know there is not an easy, single answer for the question. Designers should keep themselves open and unbiased in learning from users, but having right mindset and sound judgement is critical to be successful. In this sense, the 7 principals I propose here are basic but useful for designers who need to make hard decisions every day.

1. Focus On Goals

Users visit a site or use a product to accomplish their goals. They try your service to figure out if it solves their problems, saving time or making things done, and constantly compare the benefits with other options simply by degree of easiness and usefulness. Therefore, the first and foremost goal for designers is providing the best way to solve user problems. Don’t waste your time to put not so important factors, but make sure your product serves user goals by having the right set of features and putting the features in the right places.

2. Design Experiences, Not Features.

Creating marvelous features is not important. User experience is more about holistic perceptions from beginning to end of user interactions with the system. An excellent interface design and cool features might grab users attentions, but if the excellence does not continue by program errors or the features are not helpful in accomplishing goals users will abandon your product. Keep the standards throughout the entire service, and don’t make users too much surprised by unexpected events.

3. Keep It Simple

Simplicity is the most common buzzword in user experience design, but the question is how simple should it be? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to cut off all the less important features or hide elements from the screen to keep it simple, but based on thorough understanding of users and their goals the elements and process should be coordinated. Hidden menus can be annoying for busy users, and features can be spread over sequential process. Try to make simple but enough to accomplish user goals, and use systematic approach, prioritize features, keep the consistency, and focus on the most essential ideas.

4. Don’t Ask Too Much

Be careful when you need to get inputs from the users.  Users don’t care what you need and don’t want to be bothered if it’s not critical or benefits are not obvious. They might want to control but not enjoy configuring all the way out of bad experiences. Provide the defaults, make it clear how to do the most common and important tasks, and get them working right away. If you need users input explicitly show the benefits users would get, but key is with least amount of input users should be able to know what your product offers.

5. Design For Problems

You may design the great service in a perfect scenario, but more often than not users encounter problems because system fails, connection is lost, and they make mistakes. Anticipate and design for the problems, user mistakes, and system errors. Don’t imagine that users use your product in the same condition as you do. Imagine the worst case scenarios and design relevant reactions for each case: when the network is slow or unavailable, devices are old or not supporting, users give incorrect inputs, or push back buttons. Test all the cases and see how your product works. Don’t forget using constraints, clear guidelines, and appropriate responses to reduce mistakes from users.

6.  Make It Enjoyable

Anyhow, we are designing for humans not machines. Humans are irrational, emotional, and picky. Regardless of all the logical and scientific approaches and methodologies, emotional factors matter and attractive things do work better, as Donald Norman puts in his  book, Emotional Design. Giving good impression with great look is important and delighting users with emotional touches can make a big difference. More importantly constant improvement by reflecting user feedback and social and technological trends is the only way to keep your users satisfied.

7. Don’t Try To Make Everybody Happy

Creating a design that pleases everyone is literally impossible, and you cannot make everything perfect. Instead, focus on the target users – most profitable and influential – and try to provide the best experience to make them happy. What are the most critical features, what makes them click, and how they love(hate) about other products, and what they want to realize. By narrowing down your focus at the beginning you can reduce the sheer amount of time and energy in pursuing unrealistic goal, but targeting right segment and providing the best service you will be able to create your own marketing troops with these happy customers. They are willing to share their experience and promote your product to their friends, so the key is think strategically and make hard decisions.

UX Best Practice for Value Co-Creation

Posted on November 2, 2013

A great user experience gives competitive advantages to companies and make them successful in the market by differentiating them from rival products. If your product offers the whole new approach to tackle user problems it goes without saying that the easiness to learn and use will remove any frictions that keep users from adopting it. In general, a great user experience is beneficial to companies that provide because it 1) builds trust with users, 2) differentiates them from competitors, and 3) reduce costs for maintenance or user supports.

More importantly, users are not any more passive consumers. Informed and networked users are active in sharing their experiences and advocating good companies. As C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy introduced in the book, The Future of Competition, the value will be increasingly co-created by the firm and the customer, rather than being created entirely inside the firm, so smart companies understand the power shift and try to leverage active users from the early stage of the product development. (see also: Co-creation in Wikipedia)

The definition of user experience

A good user experience design is far from beautiful interface or visual design of the products. Instead, it implies that all the elements working together provide an emotionally and intellectually satisfying experience to the users throughout their journey. As it was clearly defined by Forrester, user experience is users’ perceptions of the usefulness, usability, and desirability of a product based upon the sum of all their direct and indirect interactions with it. (see also:  Best Practices In User Experience (UX) Design – Adobe)


1) Usefulness:

Who are the target users? What are the goals they are trying to accomplish? Do our products solve their problems? The usefulness is determined by the degree to which users achieve their goals. The benefits of using the products should be clear and communicated precisely throughout users interactions with the products.

2) Usability:

How easy is it to use? Are our products accessible to the target users? How long or many steps does it take for users to achieve their goals? The usability of the products is measured by the degree to which users can complete their tasks without pains.

3) Desirability:

Do our products appeal to the users’ emotions? Do they find using our products delightful? Do they want to use the products repeatedly? The desirability is influenced by usefulness and usability, but it is also influenced by the attractiveness of the products, so users can build emotional engagements and positive feelings.

How to create a great user experience?

1. Understand Users

The first step in designing a user experience is to understand your users. Many times designers and developers make a mistake that they know users by simply gathering requirements or interviewing a few. It happens more open when the development team has the limited budget or the project owners have many experiences in the similar products. Sometimes, they simply follow the direction of the decision makers, not considering the user research as a critical part of the product development.

However, you can never tell who is your real target and how they will need your products before you actually meet and talk to them. There are three steps you need to take to thoroughly understand your users, and the user research at the early stage is the only way to identify users real problems. More importantly, early user engagement should be considered as the generation of ideas rather than the simple assessment of current situations.

1) Listen:

Listen what users need and want to set the right direction. Interviewing them directly is the best way to collect useful information, so try to find as many users as possible. Everybody might have somewhat different opinions on the same products or problems, and some of them would be able to provide good ideas that would shine a light on your project. If you have difficulties in finding users to interview still you may leverage forums and social networking services where people with the same interests get together. Find most relevant communities and try to reach out them. Simply posting what you want to know and what you are trying to do, you might be surprised by the answers you get from active users.

2) Observe:

Observation usually provides more interesting findings about users. Seeing them struggling with your or competitors’ products will give you a better understanding on the problems that users cannot articulate. In order to get the best results, you may need to see them in the real environment because the context and their environments are also important resources to gain deep insights about users.

3) Empathize:

Empathy is the great ability for designers and developers to come up with good solutions. Based on what you have learned, you can now build user segmentations based on their goals and create personas with vivid images, give them names, and write down their problems. You also need to become one of users to completely understand their needs and wants. Imagine their daily lives or follow their journey on how they deal with their issues. You can generate insights from exploration and put down design criteria using mind mapping tools.

More readings:

Customer Segmentation – New Framework for Customer Segmentation

Journey Mapping –  Visualizing the customer experience using customer experience journey maps

Persona – Executive Summary: The Inmates are Running the Asylum

2. Set strategy

User research provides good insights about users, so sometimes you may feel like you already have all the answers you need. However, there are several things you need to consider before you start designing. Creating a great user experience needs a strategy, meaning that your solution should be acceptable under the context of  your organizations and realistic to be built within limited budget and time. Moreover, you should consider all the on-going changes until and after your products are released.

1) Know your business:

A great user experience serves business goals in many ways. It can increase revenues, attract new customers, enhance brand image, or reduce maintenance costs. Therefore, you need to know what’s the purpose of the project and what your organization wants to realize through it. More importantly, following the market dynamics and understanding competitive landscape will help you see the bigger picture and provide you an ability to build more compelling ideas on how to create values for your organizations.

2) Know your constraints:

To create realistic solutions your ability in knowing and dealing with constraints such as time, money, and technology is critical. Even though you have great ideas, if they are impossible under the limited budget you should try to think differently. I believe that the limitation you have will become great assets to stimulate your creativity and think outside the box.

Often many designers try to find the perfect solution that makes everybody happy, but I would say that there is no such thing. Instead, focus on the most important features that yield great user satisfactions. (see also: Kano Model at the Mind the Product blog)

3) Design for changes

Creating a new user experience is like inventing the future with your feet in the real world because what users need and want will change as the society, economy, and technology evolve. There is also a time gap between your user research and product release, so you should keep your eyes open and develop products for the future. Prepare future scenarios in the short- and long-term where you describe what are the major changes in the market, what are the most attractive product features, and how your target users would react to the changes. Taking a long term perspective and designing for changes is not easy, so reducing the product release cycles, scheduling frequent, simple upgrades, and designing the technical architecture to be easy to modify will reduce the risks and make it easy to keep your product up-to-date.

3. Create with users

All the researches you have implemented are the valuable resources, but they would not guarantee the success of your products. Moreover, the overwhelming data can make you feel suffocated and lose where to start. In that sense, as mentioned before, developing concept maps and personas helps you identify the key customers, key issues, and the most important features to start with. In the designing process, you also need to engage users to make the most meaningful experience for them, and keep it in mind that creating a great user experience is the on-going process you will never stop as users evolve constantly.

1) Generate Ideas:

Hold a brainstorming session, invite key stakeholders, if possible include some of your target users, provide the clear issue descriptions and goals of the projects, and let them participate in idea generation process. Designers will find values because it allows them to have more interesting ideas that would not be possible if done on their own. However, the main pitfall about brainstorming is that participants try to assess the validity and feasibility of ideas, although not explicitly, and based on their assessment point the winners, which becomes a shackle that blocks designers explorer more options. Therefore, be aware of that your goal at this stage is not jumping to the conclusion but generating as many ideas as possible you will keep developing later through convergent thinking.

2) Design Fast:

Draw your ideas on papers or sticky notes to create low-fidelity prototypes. You can choose any materials that show your ideas clearly in least amount of time but exclude any decorations, such as colors or typography that would distract users’ focus. Test your ideas with users and allow them to change some of the features or elements in your design. Once you gain confidence you can move on to high-fidelity prototypes like wireframe. The wireframe offers more precisions and some interactivity, but still you need to avoid to make it look like the final product. Instead, keep focusing on fast development and easy, repeating modifications.

Usability testing is not an option in product development process, but it should be considered as continuous check-ups of your products over the extended period of time. It is helpful in collecting useful information, validating your ideas, and settling down different opinions inside the development team. More importantly, seeing users struggling with your products will give you a great opportunity that you would get inspirations and feel responsibilities. Therefore, you have to find the way to prepare the effective usability testing within time and budget and implement it quickly with the most results. (see also: Usability Testing Basics by TechSmith )

4) Launch, Evaluation, Reiteration:

Creating a great user experience is the ongoing journey as trends, competitions, and users change all the time, so your job cannot stop even after your product is released. Instead, more chances to evaluate your product in the real world will come since actual customers start using your product. Analyzing key performance metrics and conversion funnels with analytics softwares is the basic step to understand the level of users engagement with the product. Measuring Net Promoter Score  through user survey tools is also one of the useful methods gauging user satisfactions with your service, while A/B and multivariate testing is beneficial in constant improvement of key features and elements of your products that drive big impact on conversions.

Weihai Point

Posted on September 27, 2013

Weihai Point is the luxury golf resort and hotel owned by Kumho Asiana Group, one of the top 10 conglomerates in Korea, and the website was developed as the main part of its online marketing efforts. The website doesn’t have many contents and a complex structure, but the challenge was how to build the strong brand image and good impressions to the target audience, so to make it go viral and attract many prospective customers. Leveraging the natural environment of the resort surrounded by seas and its beautiful pictures, I focused on creating new user experience with fresh interaction design, feeling like flying over the ocean, with the full flash motion graphics.










KOTTI – Online Education Service

Posted on September 27, 2013

KOTTI is the online education platform for English and provides diverse English training programs to customers. I was approached by the consortium of Uway and International Graduate School of Education, and collaborated with the large team of teachers, developers, and content providers for the whole service development and production.


Asiana Airline Booking Service

Posted on September 23, 2013

As dubbed the best company in serving its customers, Asiana Airlines wanted to renew its multilingual online properties to provide better user experience in airline booking. The biggest challenge was how to create the easy and enjoyable booking experience to the wide range of its customers and how to organize the abundant contents. I worked with the larger team to define the scope and breadth of the site and created user flow and screen flow for the major pages and online booking area to get the team on the same page, and oversaw design production.


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Posted on September 21, 2013

GOIPAY is the online mobile payment service targeting Indian market. I collaborated with founders from a start-up based in San Francisco and provided all the design solutions from brand identity, marketing website, and prototypes of mobile app and merchant portal. It was the very beginning of the product development, so I also supported with market research, competitive analysis, and the collection and definition of product requirements. It was extremely demanding because it was the extra work during my school days and the scope was broad, but I really enjoyed working on this project and learned a lot about the payment business.


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