Entries in UI (1)

Wednesday
Mar022011

Establishing Design Principles

There has been a lot of talk lately about design principles: why teams need them, how to establish them, how to know if the ones you've come up with are useful or just a self-indulgent exercise. In a recent episode of the Big Web Show, Aarron Walter, principal user experience designer at MailChimp, discussed the principles he established for the his team that serve as a guiding light during the design process. Aarron mentioned one of TiVo's design principles titled "It's a TV stupid!" which was a comical reminder to their design team that people are sitting on their couches in their living rooms or their bedrooms.

"It's a TV, stupid!" ~ TiVo Design Principle

Jared Spool also recently posted a piece about what makes a successful set of design principles, using those established by the Windows 7 desktop and mobile UI design team as an ideal example. Based on his experience working with teams to create principles, he recommends that design principles be based on actual research. He continues to list six points with which to evaluate a set of design principles.

So while the topic is fresh on everyone's mind, I'll take this opportunity to share the design principles we have established here at House Party, Inc. to guide our team through a massive redesign. The core team is small, but since we also work with a few remote contractors it becomes critical to ensure everyone is on the same page as they press their noses to their screens designing interactions. Every company will have a different set of high level goals a design will aim to address, and design principles should map directly to them.

Design principles for the HouseParty.com redesign:

  • It's about parties! These people are having parties...make it fun, but not goofy or childish
  • Face it, House Party is not Facebook. People come here for specific things and then go back to their lives. Make sure they are successful at what they need to do while here
  • Make it social! Create opportunities for sharing! How can people let their friends and family know about what they just did? bake in social when it makes sense and feels natural. Don't be afraid to push the envelope a little bit without being too pushy.
  • The desktop is not the only show in town. Always think about how it would work on a device with a smaller screen. Are you sure you've boiled the task into it's simplest steps?
  • Don't complexify it. Would your mother or aunt Millie know how to use it? is it intuitive? make it so!
  • Create reusable components: Think about how it would work in a column half the width? Twice the width? Embedded on someone's blog?

These principles (or values) are fairly new, and they have been working well for our design team so far, and score fairly well after running them through the six tests Jared Spool offered in his article.

I'd love to get your feedback on our design principles. Post a comment below.