8 Design Mistakes That Spell Disaster

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Just like anything else, product design can be done well, and it can be done poorly. When a product is designed well, users don’t notice it. But when a product is designed poorly, users not only notice, but also complain.

In this article, I want to share five the most common things that lead to bad product design.

1. Adding Too Many Features to a Product

All too often designers think about features as a synonymous with value. They believe that the more features they add to the product, the more valuable it adds for the user. As a result, a lot of products are designed with too many unnecessary features which detract from the product’s primary purpose. This effect is known as feature creep—a continuous addition of new product features beyond the original scope.

Here are two tips that will help you avoid this common pitfall:

  • When designing a product, it’s important to focus on its core value. Identify what’s most important and prioritize it. Cut any feature or content that doesn’t drive towards this value.
  • Ask ‘why’ instead of ‘how.’ When starting working on a new product, the biggest question should be not how we design a particular feature but why need to design it.

2. Skipping the Prototyping Phase

‘Why we need to create a prototype when we can create a real product and test it on the market?’ By thinking in this way, designers put the maximum effort on creating a high fidelity design that they ship on the market. Unfortunately, after the market release product team often realize that some parts of the design need to be changed. And the cost of the change often will be significant because the team will need to modify the real product, not a paper or digital prototype.

Prototyping helps product teams to test product design prior to market release. Testing can be done with real users. According to the NNGroup, testing with five users identifies 85% of usability problems. That’s why the results of the testing will make it clear whether the design works for users or not.

3. Becoming too Attached to a Design

It’s not that rare when designers fall in love with a design they create. When designers become too attached to design elements, it’s difficult to redesign or get rid of them. It becomes extremely hard to comprehend the critiques—designers start to take it personally. As a result, design decisions become too biased. The effect is known as confirmation bias—when designers search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms their preexisting beliefs.

It is possible to minimize the effect of confirmation bias by inviting designers into user testing sessions. Nothing can be compared with a feeling when you see a real person interact with a product you’ve designed. It helps designers realize that they design for their users, not for themselves. As a result, it becomes much easier to adjust design according to the user needs.

4. Making Assumptions instead of Conducting Proper Research

Almost everybody who designs digital products had a moment when they say “I am a user too, so I know what is good or bad for users.” After that designers come up with assumptions—assumptions about what can make the user live better.

It’s great when designers have personal feelings, but it’s wrong when designers allow personal feelings take over the process. Every design decision, no matter how it was arrived at, still needs to be verified. It’s excellent when design decisions are a result of user research. It’s much better when you clearly understand what your users need and then design based on that.

5. Not Involving Users in the Design Process

No matter whether a team is refining an existing product or designing a brand new product, it’s always essential to harness users in the process of knowledge exploration. Bad design is often a result of not thinking adequately about end users’ needs.

UX practitioners should not only gather knowledge about users, but they also share this information with stakeholders. It will help to create a shared understanding of real user needs.

6. Thinking about Design as a Linear Process

Some product teams believe that product design is a linear process which starts with ideation and ends with a product release. Following this process, they establish a goal at the beginning and strive to ship a product that is designed according to the goal.

In reality, product design is a highly iterative process—to release a product with excellent user experience, designers have to try a lot of different approaches before selecting the one that will be the best for their users. They might even adjust the goal, when they see that it’s required.

7. Not Building a Collaborative Environment

In a team that has a problem with collaboration, designers and developers don’t have a shared understanding of what they want to achieve. As a result, designers and developers stay in their silos.

Focus on creating a close collaboration between design and technical team members. Instead of design and development being sequential, these two activities should go in parallel.

8. Trying to Reinvent the Wheel

‘It’s boring to do something that everyone else is doing.’ With such idea, many designers have a temptation to try and reinvent the wheel — to design something new, something that nobody tried before. But what designers forget is that there are many solutions on the market, and each demands our time. With each product that has different interactions, users need to learn it. In our fast-paced world, users often don’t have to learn how to use a new product.

Before reinventing the wheel, designers have to evaluate the effort required from the users’ side. In most cases, the effort will be significant. As a result, it’s much safer to design familiar—creating a design that will be familiar for the majority of users.

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