About 50% of all design firms sold in the last ten years were acquired in the last 24 months. And they weren’t bought by Amazon or Facebook or Google. They were bought by the banks and consulting firms — the BIG financial institutions. These organizations aren’t that well-reputed when it comes to technology adoption (after all, they’re referred to as “laggards”), so when even these companies are adopting design firms it says something drastic.

This is by most of the product managers stating that “Design should always be a priority for product managers”. Design is a specialized skill, and as a Product manager, it can be intimidating — especially if it’s not your natural inclination. But that mentality is a missed opportunity, it’s equally important for PMs to keep design top-of-mind while making decisions.

The laggards are waking up and savvy Product managers are talking about how crucial design has become to the product development process. Now it’s time to integrate some concrete methods for bringing the design more deeply into the product management process.

Most indispensable design principles for product managers

There are few product design principles that essentially all product managers should follow. These are the essential design principles that every product manager must internalize and evangelize — especially if the design is not their forté. Some of these modules are listed below:

1. Tell users what to think

This first principle is an evolutionary design concept from engineer Steve Krug. It states that when designing, we should listen to our users’ needs to the point that we know and tell them what they should be thinking. You should understand your users’ workflow so much so that you can determine what they’re attempting to do.

2. Minimize cognitive load

A basic but easily overlooked concept is that user experience should be simple; your design should make the user think as little as possible. “That’s got too much cognitive load” is probably a phrase you’ve heard from almost every product designer ever. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the term cognitive load has become a keeper in the Product Management and design space. It’s a fancy way to say “cut the clutter.” For example, Google Flights; They’ve taken into account what they already know about their users and told them, “This is what we know you want.”

Google Flights is showing what matters. They’ve reduced the clutter by honing in on the key user needs and hiding/putting aside the other features. The filters are all still there; they’re just greyed out or lightened to improve the user experience. This is a great example of a company knowing their users and empathizing with them thoughtfully.

Like price is the major influencing factor for you and they prioritize just that including other similar amenities like Wifi and Non-stop flights etc. To minimize the ‘clutter’ of information.

3. Reversible design

We all make mistakes, which is why product people designed the Undo button. Users can get pissed when they can’t undo an action. Yet so many of the products in the market still don’t offer reversible options for certain actions.

Reversible design is more than simply clicking an undo button. Here are some examples of reversible designs

If your support center is frequently inundated by questions from users who have lost files or accidentally changed work they didn’t want to change, you’re probably going to want to give them away to backtrack. Where would we be without Control+Z right?

4. Use of verbs with context

If your dialogue boxes are bogged down with words like Yes, No, Cancel and Save, your users might be a little muddled. This vague terminology only increases the cognitive load. Half the time you’re not sure that you’re taking the right action, prolonging a process that should have taken little thought and even less time.

Skilled designers have now narrowed down the options and provided context. Instead of a bevy of vague button choices, you get specific instructions: verbs/phrases like Cancel or Yes, delete these messages, simple. And on top of that, you get context telling you why these verbs are here.

Already you’ve reduced ambiguity and cognitive load. Sometimes it comes down to something as easy as changing the text on the screen to significantly improve a user’s experience.

5. White space is your friend

This dead-simple design principle can elevate your design from clunky to slick. When done well, it eases the emotional experience for users. Designers tout this principle a lot, but there is still often a struggle to integrate the concept of white space.

Take a look at WordPress. Yes, everything you see on this screen is something you’ll need to use at some point in the blogging process. But when you’re writing (i.e. performing the software’s core activity), this UI is very disruptive. In addition, it comes off as heavy and messy. Only 25% of the area is allocated to the white space for writing.

The site has caught on to this criticism by providing a “Distraction-free writing mode” in their latest versions. Temporarily removing all the sidebars, this mode puts the writing space/white space as the central focus of the page.

If we compare this to Medium, which has always been pretty much just white space. It provides a space to write your post, then add social widgets, type some tags and publish. Essentially they’ve made the process much easier for someone who might be jarred by WordPress or similar publishing platforms. And it hasn’t reduced functionality!

Final words: Let design be your secret weapon

The design has become more and more of a priority at product organizations, and it can be your secret weapon for standing out in a sea of competitors and changing the market. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with your prototype or the 1000th iteration of your product, your product’s design should always be on your mind.

Finally, don’t just leave the design in the hands of your design team. Product managers should be living and breathing it, too. Take the time to put design at the forefront of your product strategy and see how your users become emotionally invested.

If you want to create the most indispensable design principles for product managers, we have got you covered. Idea Usher is a web and app development company with years of collective experience. Contact us with your idea and requirement for smooth and quick development.

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