10 bites of UX wisdom every designer should know
An interview with Gabriel Kirmaier (@uxbites), author of UX Bites - Small Bites of Useful Information about User Experience Design
Let’s start with a brief introduction. What’s your previous work experience? And what do you do now?
Hi everyone! My name is Gabriel, and I’m a UX designer working remotely with US-based companies. In the last seven years, I’ve worked both with well-funded companies and small startups. Over the years, I thought I would run out of challenges at some point, but I realized that’s never going to happen. I continue to be interested in UX design!
At the moment, I share my UX knowledge on Instagram under the name UX Bites (@uxbites), and I’ve recently published a book about UX design with the same name. The book offers bites of UX information in an easy to digest format.
When we learn from the user, we make better products.
Talk about your journey. How did you get into design and when did you know that’s something you want to do?
I started in advertising while looking for a creative position that would challenge me. While advertising was all of that, it was also very stressful because of the overtime and unreasonable clients. So I started looking for similar challenges in a more relaxed environment. I was always drawn to digital projects, so that was an easy switch for me. I began to learn design and I worked as much as I could, this time feeling good about the extra effort.
When I started, UX design wasn’t as popular as it’s now. For me, it always comes naturally to ask as many questions as possible and base my decisions on all the information I can get. I love design because it implies critical thinking, and they go hand in hand.
Congratulations on the launch of your book! Where did the idea for the book come from?
The idea for the book came from two things. One is the overwhelming support I get from the people in my UX Bites community. This project started as a hobby, and everyone’s support encouraged me to take up new challenges. And the second reason for the book is my desire to have something like this published. The book comes in a colored, hardcover format, and I love having it on my coffee table and browsing it whenever I need inspiration or ideas.
I think that a book about User Experience Design should embody the approach it advocates: It should be user-friendly and functional, and that’s what I tried to achieve.
You wrote that your motto is “Usability testing is the best way to argue with yourself.” Why is that?
I think UX design is one of the few design fields that appreciates and welcomes feedback, and that’s absolutely fantastic. When we learn from the user, we make better products. Even if you have strong opinions about something, you can change your mind by testing your designs with real users.
What are ten bites of UX wisdom you think every designer should know?
1. Ask as many questions as possible. Talk with users to understand them, and don’t be afraid to ask even the most obvious questions. You might be surprised by the unexpected answers you’ll receive.
Ideas are great but are they answering a real problem people have?
2. Don’t build on assumptions. Making assumptions means believing things are a certain way with little to no evidence. You should avoid this mentality if you want to become a good UX designer.
3. Test and validate your ideas. Many of us have had moments when we come up with what we think is a great idea, and we’re ready to jump in and start building. Ideas are great but are they answering a real problem people have? You need to test and validate (or invalidate) ideas before you start working on them.
4. Design with people’s mental models in mind. People spend a lot of their time online using different websites and apps, so they expect yours to work similarly. Don’t reinvent the wheel just for the sake of it!
5. What people say and what they do can be totally different. User interviews are essential to the design process, but it’s also important that you do observational research like field studies to better understand user behavior.
6. Don’t think features, think user needs. This means starting with the specific problems and needs users have and trying to solve those with product solutions—and not the other way around.
7. Be open-minded, listen, empathize. It’s impossible not to have assumptions—that’s how our brain works. The important thing is to listen, be open-minded, and accept when we’re wrong.
8. Understand business requirements as much as users. Learning what the business goals are is as important as understanding your target users. When you have a view of the whole picture, you’ll be less prone to build what you think is required and design solutions that address actual needs.
9. Embrace the technical side to understand how products are built. You don’t have to be a developer to be a great designer, but you should understand how the technology works, and what its possibilities and limitations are. For instance, user experiences should be built with performance in mind, and knowing what performance is and how to optimize it will help you build great products.
10. Be a team player. Your team’s common goal is to build a great product. As a designer, you need to put your ego aside and know that everyone on your team works towards this goal. This requires you to collaborate with fellow designers but also with product managers, developers, and others.
The best UX designers are curious, interested in people’s behavior, and look to understand the reasons behind users’ actions.
What is one of the most important skills a UX designer should have, in your opinion?
One of the most important abilities a UX designer should have is not being led by their own beliefs and assumptions blindly. UX design is an observational profession, where empathy for the customer is your most crucial trait. This user-centric mentality results in products that understand and solve people’s frustrations, instead of simply assuming what users want. The latter usually only creates products nobody uses or cares about. The best UX designers are curious, interested in people’s behavior, and look to understand the reasons behind users’ actions.
What are some of your favorite design books, podcasts, or resources?
I recently had a great conversation on the Design Huddle podcast and the XD podcast. I enjoyed the casual context of those two podcasts. Other great podcasts are Product Breakfast Club, UI Breakfast and Wireframe.
As far as books go, you can't go wrong with Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krugg. Make sure you also don’t skip The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. Hooked by Nir Eyal was an eye-opener because it theorizes why people come back to use a product and how it can eventually become a part of their identity.
Where can people find your book?
The book is out now and available worldwide here.
I’m very proud of the book. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted, touching on each UX design subject. If you get yours, tell me what you think!