Manifesto (noun) — A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign or organisation.

I usually shudder when I hear the world ‘manifesto’. This is principally because it’s such a politically loaded word. It’s a word that is all too often uttered by untrustworthy politicians (is there any other kind?) before rattling through a long list of pre-election promises that will be completely ignored once they have hoodwinked people into voting for them.

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Collaboration over siloed working

I’ve written before about how UX design is a team sport, and is best played as one. Collaboration is key to great UX design. Collaboration with other UXers; collaboration with developers; collaboration with domain experts; collaboration with users; collaboration with business stakeholders. The list goes on.

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Sitting at the intersection of user needs, technology constraints and business goals, UX should be highly collaborative

Interactive prototypes over static documentation

I hate writing requirements documentation. I really, really do. It truly is a soul destroying activity, like mowing the lawn, or watching Celebrity Big Brother live. Requirements documentation never gets read, it needs to be constantly updated as designs and requirements change, and it can be really hard to find the right level of detail. Too much and development teams will run away screaming. Too little and they have to ask so many questions that you wonder what the point of the documentation was in the first place. This is why I’m such a fan of interactive prototypes.

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Using a tool like Axure it’s now very quick and easy to create an interactive prototype

Designing for users over designing for stakeholders

‘UX’ is of course short for ‘User Experience’. I’ve always wondered why it’s ‘UX’ and not the more grammatically correct ‘UE’. I guess ‘UX’ just sounds a bit sexier. I want you to remind yourself exactly what ‘UX’ is short for every time a stakeholder tries to dictate a design because it’s users you’re ultimately designing for, not stakeholders. Sure you need to please stakeholders, after all it’s usually them paying the bills, but it’s users who will dictate the success or failure of a design, not stakeholders.

What users need over what users want

I’m a parent of 2 small children. Like every parent I’m painfully aware that all too often what children need, is very different from what children want. If I always gave my children what they wanted, they’d be exclusively eating chocolate, cake and ice cream and spending most of the day watching Dora the Explorer, and Power Rangers!

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But it’s the job of UXers to try to find out what users need…

What users do over what users say

I’ve either facilitated or observed well over a hundred usability testing sessions over the years. Hours upon hours of watching people use technology of one kind or another. One common theme in all of those sessions is that what users say, can be very different from what users do. I wonder, does something like this sound familiar to you?

User insights over assumptions

I’ve written before about why designers should research, and researchers should design. User research and the user insights derived from good user research, are the bedrock of good UX design. Without user insights you are building on assumptions, and like a house built on flaky foundations, a design built on assumptions is destined to come crumbling down.

Pragmatism over user-centred design pureism

A few years ago I gave a presentation with the snappy title of, How I managed to kick the UCD habit & learn to love lean UX at UX Cambridge. In the talk (which incidentally you can watch online) I spoke about my own experience of user-centred design (UCD) and of how I had come to embrace a new dogma — lean UX.

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Be pragmatic, don’t go overkill like this particular audio purist

My UX manifesto

So here we are, my UX manifesto. Let me know what you think, and what guiding principles would make it into your UX manifesto.

  • Interactive prototypes over static documentation
  • Designing for users over designing for stakeholders
  • What users need over what users want
  • What users do over what users say
  • User insights over assumptions
  • Pragmatism over user-centred design pureism

Image credits

Robert Kennedy speaking to a crowd in 1963 by Leffler, Warren K.

Former techy turned UX Jedi. Checkout out my blog (UX for the Masses) for more about me.

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