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Open Question – How can you minimize subjectivity in UX/UI Design?

By Saeed Khan

Here’s a question that’s troubling me a fair bit.

As much as we can talk about what is or isn’t good from a UX/UI perspective, the fact is that in the end there is a lot of subjectivity involved in defining “good” or “bad” UX/UI.

It’s really easy to spot a bad interface. Lots of unnecessary clicks or field or whatever. And when you see a great interface, it’s just obvious.

But there is a LOT of space in between, which is where most of us live. And in that space there is usually a lot of debate about what constitutes a good interface (dialog boxes, wizards, navigation trees, layouts etc.). Everyone involved will have an opinion of how good (or bad) something is, how a dialog or fields should be laid out, whether popups, tabs, wizards etc. should be used.

And some of those same people may actually have valid reasons to support their opinions. 🙂

The question is:

When designing a new user interface (or redesigning an existing one) what steps or process do you (or your designers) follow to minimize the amount of subjectivity in deciding on the merits of a particular UI design?

I know there is no absolute right answer here, but any techniques, processes or other aids you can provide would be incredibly helpful.



P.S. I posted this question here on Quora. I’ve copied some of the responses below in the comments.

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  1. Saeed

    From Quora –

    Daniel McKenzie, Digital product design
    Without going into too much depth…

    (1) Personas. This helps take the focus away from individual stakeholder preferences and instead, concentrate on the needs, behaviors and attitudes of your users. In order to make your personas valid, they should always be based on user research (not just what your assumptions about your users are).

    (2) Wireframes. These help separate discussion around the look and feel of the UI from the actual structure and functionality of the product. Stakeholders will often get hung up on simple design elements such as color shading. In the early phases of product design, keep it out of the discussion by using wireframes (simple black and white shapes that outline a screen’s structure void of brand ID elements).

    (3) Usability testing. Testing, when done right, may help determine which concepts work and which don’t. Think your idea is a good one? Prove it!

  2. Saeed

    From Quora

    Clément Faydi, Senior Designer at Behance
    1 vote by Justin Maxwell
    Building a prototype helps figuring out a ton of issues and also reveals what actually works best (instead of what will probably work best). You can debate as much as you want looking at Photoshop or printouts but you’ll never come to the best conclusion without actually using your UI.

    Have you built a prototype? If not, I suggest to do so and after a few UX/UI tweaks, everything will become obvious and most of your team will be on the same page 😉

  3. Saeed

    From Quora

    Danilo Campos, UI Designer & iOS Developer at Hipmunk
    6 votes by Ellen Beldner, Justin Maxwell, Zach Ary, (more)
    This is a weird way to look at it, for me.

    The first design is never the best. So you do another. Sometimes completely re-working, sometimes minor modifications. You build it in a prototype, you implement parts of it in code.

    And as you go, you test it. You test your assumptions, test how it feels to use. Your responses will be subjective.

    That’s okay – because your users will respond subjectively, as well. There’s no objective measure for a product’s quality, for the “goodness” of its UI. There’s only how it works for certain people, for certain uses. You can make a UI that’s objectively faster, or objectively more obvious, or objectively more consistent with existing patterns.

    But that’s not really the point. We design UI to make people feel a certain way. UI can inspire confidence through clarity, or comfort through familiarity. UI can surprise and delight, it can focus and direct. Each is valuable at varying spots in your product. And the consequences are measurable too, through conversions, through users adopting or not adopting certain features important to your business, through your overall growth (or lack thereof).

    So you need to build it. See how it feels. Make adjustments. Make one person the standard bearer – the person who understands the problem best, the person who is closest to the users, whatever makes most sense for your business. This person needs to listen to all the ideas, and ideally needs to experience the more promising ones through an interactive prototype. But give someone, or no more than three people, final say. Someone with good taste, with experience for the good and bad, and most crucially, the ability to provide constructive suggestions for alternatives when things aren’t working.

    All of this is going to be subjective. All you can do is be certain you’re shipping a product you, yourself, want to use. Something that will make you and your business proud. Make that the test and don’t get caught up on ideas until they’re in a position to be proved in that crucible

  4. John Peltier

    As others have mentioned, putting prototypes in front of users and getting objective feedback is a technique I find helps meet this challenge. This requires the investment in a skilled UX professional to build prototypes (or risk lower quality ones thrown together by a product manager) and the investment of time to setup and conduct interviews, ideally with a second person present to take notes.

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