Everything you ever needed to know about design is available online. The only excuses you can have these days (which is my excuse for poor design) is time: (1) not having time to do the research and (2) not having or taking the time to do things right.
But here are 7 time-saving shortcuts to improving your design without hiring a designer:
Learn from the Best. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Unless you’re a UI expert whose goal in life is to invent the next best way to design a site, you should be looking at who’s done it well and following in their footsteps. I am not suggesting you steal someone’s design, but use it as inspiration.
Companies with big budgets and resources have tested every possible combination already, and they know what works and what doesn’t. Pick 5 of your favorite products, look at their UI and follow suit.
Also, read the “Ten Principles for Good Design” by Aaron Weyenberg, the UX Lead at TED, on Medium.
Non-User Testing. I’m sure you’ve had a few people test out your product, but have you really taken the time to see how a user interacts with it? What about someone who’s not familiar with your product or industry? Have they tried it and tested it out?
Having someone who knows nothing about your industry or product test it out will reveal questions that people who are familiar with it wouldn’t ask. Those questions may lead to a complete redesign of your UI and UX. Yes, user feedback is important. But having a fresh set of eyes can be just as valuable.
Take a Short Course Online. If you’re really strapped for cash but want a basic understanding of UI, take a short and free course online on Coursera. You don’t even have to do all the assignments, but simply listening to the basic design requirements will get you thinking about redesigning your products and doing it right.
Visit Usability.Gov. I will simply paste their “About Us” information because they sum it up so well:
Usability.gov is the leading resource for user experience (UX) best practices and guidelines, serving practitioners and students in the government and private sectors. The site provides overviews of the user-centered design process and various UX disciplines. It also covers the related information on methodology and tools for making digital content more usable and useful.
Keep it Simple. You can have 50 buttons on your page that all have a purpose, but only 20% (if you’re lucky) of them will be used, if at all. Actually, if you have 50 buttons, none of them will be used. You should really rethink your design.
The point is that you should keep things simple. What is the fastest way your user can get from point A to point B? How can you reduce the number of clicks from point A to point B? These are the questions you should ask yourself.
To achieve simplicity, you should always outline your user’s flow, i.e. how they interact with your product. Their experience will drive the design of your product and show you all the ways you can simplify it.
Stop Using Blue. Blue is great! Blue is so great that everyone uses it (think Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter). There was even a post on it on Lawyerist about how many legal tech companies are using blue. There’s a good reason to use blue, but if you want to stand out, there are thousands of other colors and shades to choose from.*
Build a Prototype. Before you start building anything, or even if you’ve built a product, go back to the drawing board. You can even use myBalsamiq or another prototype builder.
Build your prototypes and see how they look and function (yes you can add functionality to your prototypes too), and see if you can streamline the design further.
Also, have a few of your friends or better yet, potential users, give you feedback on your prototype and redesign it till you get it right. Then build it. If you’ve already built your product and you get feedback to redesign it, make sure your mock up your redesign and then rebuild it.
I know prototyping and getting feedback takes time, but it’s time well spent. It’s better to get the feedback before you spend months building something no one will use because the design is off. Get some feedback as early as possible, and build something you know will look and function well from the beginning.
Bonus tip: Have fun!! Designing is fun, so make sure you have fun with it!
*Yes I am biased because my employer, MerusCase, uses an awesome orange!