Ok, you probably know this one, but let's dig in a little farther.
I recently started to explore using the TORBrowser when surfing on public wi-fi for more security (later finding out that using a VPN, and not TOR, is what will enable safer surfing). However, in the process of downloading and trying the TORBrowser out, it provided me with a golden example of what you should not to do in your product.
The very first screen I saw when I launched TOR was this:
So, what's the big deal here? First, I will share the answer to today's subject line with you:
Remove everything that is not necessary.
Yeah, yeah, you probably have heard that before. Famously, the pope asked Michelangelo how he knew what to carve while creating the statue of David, and his response was along the lines of, "I removed everything that wasn't David." Nice.
Are you removing the cruft and noise from your product?
If we take this thinking further, I would say that today's core takeaway for you is to "remove choices by making good assumptions in your product, wherever possible." You might be wrong sometimes, but you'll be a right a lot of the time.
Jumping back to the TORBrowser UI example above, there is more you can learn from their design choices:
- This UI says, "This [option] will work in most situations." Well then, why isn't this automatically selected as a default choice?
Does this screen now seem necessary to you? Why does the product not just "try" that setting by default, and present the other option as a fallback, if the default fails? Nobody downloaded TORBrowser with a goal to "set it up" with the right networking settings. This entire step is not necessary. It literally says it's not "in most situations."
- Right information...at the wrong time.
I haven't needed to use this pane yet as the default setting worked (surprise!), but it's an example of the developers trying to present helpful information. That's good. The design problem is that it's appearing at the wrong time in my experience. I don't need this right now, and I don't even want to think about how the networking is configured. It's completely irrelevant. Are you presenting choices at the right time in your product?
- Most users don't care how your software works; don't expose the plumbing.
There are sometimes exceptions to this for certain technical products, but even when there are, once most users have "learned" what they need to learn about the plumbing, it quickly becomes irrelevant. The value has to shine, or people stop paying for the service. That includes products built for technical audiences.
- This UI and UX is not fun at all...especially as a first impression.
It's a needless distraction, it's not fun, and it's got me focused on, "how hard will it be to get this app working?"
- The visual design attention (or lack thereof) is undermining the mission of the product.
This is the hardest one to teach, but a combination of graphic design choices (probably unconscious ones) here contribute to this UI not feeling particularly safe, secure, and careful. The goal of TORBrowser is to "protect" the user. If you think of words like protection, precision, stability, and safety, then the visual design should reinforce these ideas. The topic of graphic design is hardly something to be captured in an email, but I can leave you with a few suggestions and considerations. Refer to the diagram for a detailed analysis:
- What could be removed from the TORBrowser UI sample?
- Are the invisible things (like padding/margin whitespace choices) consistent, meaningful, and deliberate?
- While a single graphic design choice sometimes has the power to impact usability or even the financial the bottom line, typically, it is the sum of numerous small design choices that account for the overall perception of your product's quality and aesthetic.
- It's possible to follow "all the rules" and still not have a great product aesthetic or utility. (That's why we have designers.)