Software Development

What you should know before hiring UX designers

When I talk with some startup founders I wonder how many people in the street understand what they are doing. They all hire UX graduates, and consider that’s all it takes to become understood and loved by users, real or imaginary.

This is  like hiring a hairdresser in a team climbing Kilimanjaro

One of the articles I most like comes from psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Susan Weinschenk .  She is the founder of TeamW, and her firm’s goal is to “give organizations deep behavioral science insights and clear direction. We combine behavioral and brain science with practical experience.”

Here is a condensed summary I extracted for anyone who wants to have an intelligent conversation with the UX designer she is about to hire.

Because a bad company, can make a good designer bad. And a good company can make a young unknown designer a star.


People Don’t Want to Work or Think More Than They Have To

People will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done.
It is better to show people a little bit of information and let them choose if they want more details. Only provide the features that people really need.

Provide defaults. Defaults let people do less work to get the job done.

People Have Limitations

People can only look at so much information or read so much text on a screen without losing interest. Make the information easy to scan.

People can’t multi-task. The research is very clear on this, so don’t expect them to.

People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones Know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren’t best for them.

Both Users and Designers Make Mistakes

Assume people will make mistakes. Make it easy to “undo.” The best error message is no message at all.

Whoever is designing the UX makes errors too, Allow for time and energy for iteration, user feedback, and testing.

Human Memory Is Complicated

You can trust what users say as the truth only a little bit. It is better to observe them in action than to take their word for it.

Memory is fragile. It degrades quickly and is subject to lots of errors.

Don’t make people remember things from one task to another or one page to another.

People can only remember about 3-4 items at a time.

5. People are Social

People will always try to use technology to be social. This has been true for thousands of years.

People look to others for guidance on what they should do, especially if they are uncertain. This is called social validation. This is why, for example, ratings and reviews are so powerful on websites.

If people do something together at the same time (synchronous behavior) it bonds them together

Laughter also bonds people.

Research shows that if you want people to fill out a form, give them something they want and then ask for them to fill out the form, not vice versa.

We are programmed with our biology to imitate. If you want people to do something then show someone else doing it.

You can only have strong ties to 150 people. Strong ties are defined as ties that with people you are in close physical proximity to. But weak ties can be in the thousands and are very influential


People are programmed to pay attention to anything that is different or novel. If you make something different it will stand out.

People are easily distracted. If you don’t want them to be distracted, don’t flash things on the page or start videos playing.

People Crave Information

Dopamine is a chemical that makes people seek… food, sex, information. Learning is dopaminergic—we can’t help but want more information.

People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better.

People need feedback.  The human needs to know what is going on.

Unconscious Processing

Most mental processing occurs unconsciously.

The old brain makes or at least has input into most of our decisions. The old brain cares about survival and propagation: food, sex, and danger. That is why these three messages can grab our attention.

The emotional brain is affected by pictures, especially pictures of people, as well as by stories. The emotional brain has a huge impact on our decisions.

Both the old brain and the emotional brain act without our conscious knowledge.

We will always ascribe a rational, conscious-brain reason to our decision, but it’s never the whole reason why we take an action, and often the rational reason isn’t even part of the reason.

People Create Mental Models

People always have a mental model in place about a certain object or task (paying my bills, reading a book, using a remote control).

The mental model that people have about a particular task may make it easy or hard to use an interface that you have designed.

In order to create a positive UX, you can either match the conceptual model of your product or website to the users’ mental model, or you can figure out how to “teach” the users to have a different mental model. The latter is much harder

Metaphors help users “get” a conceptual model.

The most important reason to do user research is to get information about users’ mental models.

Visual System

If pages are cluttered people can’t find information. Use grouping to help focus where the eye should look. Things that are close together are believed to “go” together.

Color can be used to show whether things go together. Be sure to use another way to show the same info since some people are colorblind.

The visuals and the clicks are the competence of a User Interface designer. These skills complement – but do not replace – the skills of an User Experience professional,

The original article is here

Appendix: UX: a Process or a Task?

This is an excellent reference written by Marli Mesibov  You may want to read it next:

Gene is an interaction designer. During a sales call, he’s asked if he “does UX.” He assures the client that he does, and the client asks why he isn’t a “UX designer?” Gene explains that either term fits his work. The client wants to know if Gene will conduct usability testing, and Gene says no, he works with a researcher who will do that. The client is confused: if Gene “does UX,” doesn’t that include both design and testing?… Continue reading

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