Impactful UX design work you should be doing in 2021

The role of UX Designer has become really complicated in recent years. There are so many things you could be doing it’s hard to tell what you should be doing. As a UX Designer these are a few things I recommend you focus on in 2021 to help you do your most impactful work.

1. Written concepts

I think of written concepts as product or feature ideas that omit visuals in place of words. An example of a written concept would be:

“We are creating an application that will enable you to store a password and use it to sign in to other applications.”

Writing and sharing what you intend to design will help you measure whether or not you will be providing value to users before you invest time in designing interfaces.

2. Component references

Rather than thinking about mock-ups as user interface specs, think of them as a reference to the components that will be used to build the interface. This is a subtle difference, but it’s an important one. Thinking about your work as a component reference is highly impactful for a few reasons:

  • It will help frame design evaluations around the system that is being used to create the interface rather than specific instances of the UI. This will lead to more cohesive user experiences and less time spent designing across digital touch points
  • If there is a gap in the design system it will be easier to identify it and create a new component to fill that gap
  • If you don’t have a design systems established you will be laying the groundwork for one and promoting systems thinking

3. Front end design reviews

The only way to ensure design will be seen in the way it was intended is to evaluate the same interface your users will interact with. You can do this by reviewing digital experiences on the front end, when designs have been built in code and have some functionality.

Front end design reviews should be conducted just like design reviews you already conduct with static mock-ups, but you will be reviewing the design after it has been built in HTML and CSS.

While conducting a front end design review do the following:

  • Evaluate if the HTML and CSS match the design mock-ups. If it doesn’t, identify why and document what needs to be adjusted
  • Ensure that design, content, and web standards have been carried over from the mock-ups to the the HTML and CSS
  • If you designed the experience with a set of principles in mind use the front end design review as another opportunity to evaluate if the experience you created adheres to those principles

4. Interaction patterns

No matter where you work or what you work on, it’s extremely hard to create cohesive digital experiences. Even when you use a design system there can be a lot of ambiguity about how to combine and use the components, which can lead to disjointed experiences.

To establish interaction patterns you first need to audit the existing UI. Using Edit functionality as an example, go through all instances of editing in the product and ask yourself these questions:

  • What happens when an edit button is selected?
  • Does the page state change from read to edit?
  • Is the edit form displayed in a modal?
  • Is the edit form displayed in-line?
  • Is this consistent across all the product’s digital touch points?

After conducting the audit identify where there are inconsistencies in the interactions and work towards establishing a way to complete the task with less variations. Repeat this process for other common tasks like creating, reading, and deleting.

5. User jobs and stories

For a product to be successful it needs to not only be usable, but also be useful. Design based on ideas and functionality might produce visually appealing and usable interfaces, but it doesn’t guarantee you will be creating something that meets the user’s needs. As a UX designer it’s your responsibility to learn your user’s needs and surface them throughout the design process.

Talk to your users. Try to uncover why they hired you and what they expect your product to do. Convert what you discover into user stories and put the stories right into your design files so you and everyone can see them. This will ensure you are putting the customer’s needs first when creating and evaluating designs.

Conclusion

The role of the UX Designer is continuously evolving to keep up with the industry so tray and stay flexible and continue to evaluate if the work you are doing is impactful.

I lead in defining and implementing strategy for User Experience design teams.