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Ivan Novak
Ivan Novak

Posted on • Originally published at

Why Every Developer Should Understand Basic UX Principles

The developer aesthetic. 

We've all used interfaces or products designed by developers where the focus is solely on functionality and efficiency.

The interfaces are precise, rigorous, and sparse...perhaps too sparse. Each additional UI element or sleek animation is seen as unnecessary.

While well-intentioned, this relentless efficiency often compromises the human-centered design considerations that make an interface truly intuitive and engaging.

As developers, understanding foundational UX principles enhances our skills and makes us more well-rounded contributors. Let's explore some key areas where applying UX thinking can elevate our work.

Principle 1: Know Your Users

UX starts with understanding who will use your product and what their motivations are. Resist designing for yourself or making assumptions about users. Talk to real users early and often to gain insights.

What problems do they face? How might your product fit into their unique contexts? Observing and listening to users in their own environments reveals non-obvious needs.

These insights should inform each design decision, keeping the focus squarely on meeting user goals versus what may be easier to code. Develop user personas and use cases to consider throughout the build process. Testing with real users often uncovers better solutions.

Principle 2: Guide the User Journey

UX designers map out complete user journeys to understand each touchpoint with the product. Not only that, there's a focus on moments of delight. These are specific touchpoints that reinforce the user's decision to interact and transact with the business.

Consider how first impressions impact subsequent interactions. How easily can users navigate each screen and feature? Are messages and prompts helpful or confusing? Smooth journeys remove obstacles and let users focus on their tasks, not figuring out the interface. They also prevent abandonment.

Guide users with clear and consistent layouts, messaging, and interactive patterns. Lead them to value quickly.

Principle 3: Design for Scannability

People don't read online - they scan. Limit long passages of text. Use clear headings and spacing to indicate relationships. Present information visually with charts or icons. Designing for easy scanning ensures key information gets absorbed.

This applies to development tasks as well like structuring code for readability and adding explanatory comments. Well-formatted, scannable code enables future developers to grasp logic more easily. 

Principle 4: Anticipate Errors

Mistakes inevitably happen. The key is designing interfaces that help users avoid or recover from errors. Provide suggestions as they type to prevent typos. Validate forms to catch bad inputs upfront. Use clear language in error messages. Make corrections easy without losing progress.

Good UX feels bulletproof and instills confidence rather than frustration. Think preventatively when architecting code as well - how can you design to proactively handle bad input?

Principle 5: Value Every Interaction

Make every interaction move users closer toward their goals. Don't add features or information that don't tie directly to user tasks or scenarios. Complicated interfaces overwhelm and slow users down.

Strive for simplicity but not at the expense of value. Remove extra steps unless they aid comprehension. Every click should feel productive.

Leverage user insights, guide journeys intuitively, design for comprehension, handle errors gracefully, and value simplicity.

Think like a user throughout the development process to build more human-centric products.

You'll level up as both a coder and a collaborator.

This boils down to: "less, but better."

Top comments (8)

jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy 🎖️ • Edited

Might want to say 'Web Developer' or maybe 'Application Developer'.

Depending on what is being built, their may not even be a UI with which you have to worry about UX. For user facing development though - I fully agree.

syeo66 profile image
Red Ochsenbein (he/him)

Nice one. I feel all this should even be expanded further: I think especially Backend-Developers (working for Applications used by Users of course) should care more about the UX and Frontend than they often do. Because UX needs the Frontend to work a certain way, which in turn should be enabled in the best possible way by the API. Too often the Frontend has to work around the API design by doing way too much work in the client, which in the end also hurts the UX and with that the user...

inovak profile image
Ivan Novak • Edited

Oh man - absolutely! There's SO MUCH beneath the water. It's just the tip of the iceberg.

svemaraju profile image
robsongrangeiro profile image
Robson Grangeiro • Edited

Nice post. This post makes me think that UX is much more than aesthetics and code. Knowledge about aesthetics and code helps, but success doesn't just come with it.

" more human-centric products..." This is the point.

Thanks for sharing!!

typo3freelancer profile image
Simon Köhler

Good post, thanks. It all sounds familiar to me. I started with typography and graphic design, and later got into coding when I got stuck with Macromedia Dreamweaver. From my point of view, an important point in UX is spacing and margin between elements. Many UX designers who have never studied typography and readability professionally use too little spacing, which makes websites look squeezed and inconsistent. And performance is important anyway. I think you should make sure that all values in Google Pagespeed are above 90% and all green. If you achieve that, it's already half the work...

efpage profile image

What do you think about "habits" and "conventions"? Some user interfaces remind me on the early days of computer programming. Often, the Ideas behind a "usage concept" did not match the expectation of users, some interfaces where simply wired.

I think, Apple was the first do publish "UI style guides", other companies followed. A relevant task was to limit the possibilities of UI designers to ensure, that a button always behaves like a button, and that symbols meet the user expectation. Maybe, some kind of "limitation" would also be good in some cases.

sikukudancan profile image

Well documented article