#11: Monique’s Top 3 UX Tips for New Designers

Episode Summary

This is a summary of a podcast episode from the Design Imposter podcast. Hosts Monique Jenkins and Jessica Valis discuss UX design tips.

The three main tips covered are:

  1. Understand who you are designing for by conducting user research and creating user personas;
  2. Keep the design simple and consistent by using common UI elements and having a unified visual language;
  3. Provide feedback mechanisms so users understand what is happening through things like loading indicators and success/error messages.

They emphasize starting mobile-first, using tools like surveys and user testing to understand the target audience, simplifying content for mobile screens, and the importance of speed and responsiveness.

The hosts share examples from their experiences where lack of UX design created frustrations as a user.

Overall, the episode provides helpful advice for UX designers or anyone creating digital products on how to focus on the end-user’s needs and create an intuitive, seamless experience.


Monique Jenkins: Welcome to the Design Imposter podcast. In today’s episode, we’ll talk about my top three UX tips, things that I’ve used throughout my career and while I’ve been working with clients to help me navigate how to design for our ideal users. 

Jessica Valis: This episode is definitely going to be a learning experience, especially for me. I definitely feel like a UX imposter and I don’t know as much as I should about it. And it’s probably that critical step I’m missing in my design process that would give me more confidence with my pricing strategy, just more confidence talking to clients. So this will be an episode for me too. So let’s dive in. Monique, what UX tips do you have for us? 

Monique Jenkins: So tip number one is I think that you should always start your projects by understanding who you’re designing for. I think that this is wildly underestimated and I can’t emphasize enough why you should start with knowing who your ideal user is. So a while back, I think I can’t remember what episode it was, but I’d made a comment that I called my million dollar design mistake. So that’s the story that our audience should be familiar with. And the lesson that I learned in that is that you can’t effectively build sites or any digital product without having a deep understanding of who your users are. 

Jessica Valis: You definitely need to know who your audience is before you start the design. You can’t design for everyone. And actually, that’s a huge red flag for designers when a client says, I’m designing for anybody or my client is everybody. So once clients can express who their target market is, what are some ways we can learn more about their perspective audience? 

Monique Jenkins: Well, it all starts with user research. One of the first things that I do is I conduct interviews. So interviews with people who have already used your site or interviews with people who are new to your site. I run usability tests, I send out surveys. So like NPS score surveys where you’re trying to find out from your customer, you know, the experience that they’ve had with your business, those are all good ways of collecting additional like feedback from someone. So whatever it takes for you to get into the mind of your users is incredibly valuable. And once you’ve gathered all of that valuable insight, you should be creating user personas. You should be creating journey maps. So how are people navigating through your site? Where are the pain points that they’re experiencing? How can you alleviate those things? Where are good friction points? So sometimes, you know, we talk a lot about, you know, ineffective design and, you know, how you can lose a person, but there are also good friction points. Maybe you don’t want a specific type of client or a specific audience member and you want to be able to filter those people out. How do you do that using effective design? Doing all of those things, creating personas, journey maps, those are tools that are super helpful because they allow you to visualize your users’ needs and expectations. And it’s incredibly valuable when you’re talking to clients because they get to see who their client is and it’s great for them to be able to correlate that back to who a user is. So the argument that I would have to, hey, I like blue, let’s use blue, is, hey, your audience is, you know, more holistically men and men have color blindness. So you don’t want to use a color that would be hard for them to engage with because they’re not a part of your core audience segment. So that’s a good, you know, that creates good conversation between you and your client and the executives that you have kind of monitoring projects as you go through. They also, again, help guide design decisions. They make sure you’re not just designing for yourself, but for people who are actually using your product. And let’s get real for a moment. CEOs and executives will always tell you who they think is losing their site. And by and large, they do not have the data to back that up. They are building their site for this hypothetical person, ideal client that you’re dealing with. And you can’t trust that data and you can’t trust those sentiments. You really have to figure out who they’re missing and their target demographic can be completely different than who they think it is. 

Jessica Valis: When you say build user personas, is this kind of like, you know, writing down, oh, John Smith, he’s a 35 year old man, he lives by himself, he has no children, he has a dog. Like, is that what you need by building user personas? 

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, so a user persona is a semi -fictional character created to represent different type of customers that are using a company’s products or services. So you’re exactly right. We are building a site for a 34 year old. It just personalized. So these things can be very generic. Oh, our audience segment is a 60 year old white male, da, da, da, da. That’s helpful context, but it’s not everything. Getting specific into our audience is a 56 year old Caucasian male named Brad, who has three grandchildren and is married to Betty and they’ve been married for 15 years. Betty likes to bake and Brad likes sports cars or whatever the case is. Those specifics will help you to navigate what imagery, what content is the best for that audience segment. Because then you get a lot more detailed in what you’re building out versus this generic mysterious figure that you really don’t have context for. 

Jessica Valis: Yeah, in my design questionnaire that I do, I ask all these really random questions like, what does your ideal client do on the weekend? Do they have, well, kind of describe their house? Like, do they have a fence? Do they garden? Do they do this? And when I go through this exercise with the clients, I’m sure they’re like, why does this matter? But again, it’s building that persona and understanding the values. Like, if your client on the weekends, they go to church and then they volunteer a weekend versus somebody who goes on hikes and or versus somebody who goes, they do all their shopping over the weekend. Like, those are three different types of people. So, yeah, I always build it out. And I also read somewhere or I was doing, maybe I was doing a course and they said, think of your favorite client, building user persona as if that’s them. So I, I always think of that when I anything I do, I’m like, oh, this is my ideal client. And that ideal client, well, actually, that client comes back and quotes the stuff that I put online. Because I’m like, I’m talking directly to him and everybody like him. So that’s pretty cool. Okay, so for those who have never done UX before, what are some of the tools or like platforms you use to conduct your research? Because I wouldn’t even know where to begin. So 

Monique Jenkins: So to get started and UX, there are a couple of different tools that you’re going to use. One is if you want to send out surveys and things like that, you can use something like type form, Google Forms that you can push out to your audience and you’re gathering a bunch of quantitative data. For qualitative data, you can use platforms like Suzy. You could use suzeretesting .com. You can just reach out to people across Facebook, whatever platforms, Reddit, whatever you have, and ask them if you can do a moderated test with them. So a moderated user test is you actually sit down and you interview the person. So you come up with a script, you have questions that you want to ask about a design or some context and you have that conversation with the person. Moderated tests are really good at helping you to pull out information that you probably wouldn’t normally get from someone because someone can make a question in a user testing environment like, I like this design. What do you like about it? Is it the colors? Is it the placement? Is it the size of the text or the font? You need to draw that out of the person that you’re actually talking to. Unmoderated test is very similar. You can use a user testing platform to do this, but it’s you write out the script in a format and a person just takes the test online. There is no person, you can’t draw that additional context and information out of them, but those are helpful too when you don’t have time to actually sit down and physically do user testing. It is cumbersome. Tests typically last 30, 45 minutes an hour. There are tests that last two hours and you offer an incentive to your audience for taking a test. So that could be a $25 gift card. That could be $250 depending on your subject area. And all of these platforms allow you to put in your personas or demographics that your audience that you want to tap. So you can use that for user testing as well. There’s some other platforms. Figma is something that you use for prototyping and designing. You can also share finger links with your audience. You can make clickable prototypes so that they can interact in the same way that they would when they actually are live on your site. But you can also utilize these platforms on existing sites. So you can put a survey tool on an existing site and at the point where someone is going to drop off your site or your funnel, you can say, hey, what’s making you want to leave? At the point of friction, you can ask them, hey, what’s going on here? What’s making you want to leave? Some people will write, I don’t want to do this and that information might not be helpful to you, but there are other people who will be a little bit more detailed with you. And that’s user context that you really need. 

Jessica Valis: Okay, so wow, that is a lot of information. And as somebody who just focuses on the design and the buildable website, I’m realizing now that maybe I could take like a little quick overview course of like UX just to understand the basics of it. But like, I can’t take on another whole realm. Like this has to be somebody designated jobs. So wow. I mean, we’ve only talked about tip number one. Yep. It’s a lot. How much do you typically like put aside budget wise for your user testing and like your incentives? 

Monique Jenkins: So it depends. If you’re gonna get, let’s say your audience segment is doctors who specifically work in like brain tumors. That is a very specific audience. You’re gonna need a higher enticement for those type of people. So you might be offering them $500 for an hour of their time. They’re doctors, they make a lot of money. There needs to be something that kind of draws them in. If your population or if the person that you’re testing with is kind of Gen Pop, you just need moms who have kids under one, that’s a, there’s a grand category of people like that. You might be offering them $25 or $50. So it really depends. I always say you need about five to seven people to test with. So five to seven people at $500. Those are numbers I can do quick math. But you know, I can’t do the math. I’m like, this is on my phone. 

Jessica Valis: I feel funny to look at. 

Monique Jenkins: I was in a counting course. I took it three times. It’s not my thing. But you can do the math and decide what you need. Sometimes I usually say with user testing, by the time you get to the seventh person, you’re hearing the same thing over and over and over again, or you’re getting subjective thoughts. Those are irrelevant. Oh, I like the color blue, or I like the color red. Those are subjective. You’re picking color based on who your audience is. So someone saying they like blue, I don’t care about that. But someone saying, hey, I got stuck here and I didn’t know what to do. And I looked around for five minutes and I didn’t find what I was looking for. So I left. That’s helpful context. What exactly were you looking to do? Is the site not structured in a way that’s easy for you to find the thing that you’re looking for? And that’s what you’re looking for in your user interviews. It’s not the subjective, I like the design. It’s the nuances of what the page is offering. Another tip, I’ll make this a bonus tip, is whenever you test with a high fidelity wireframe, which is a wireframe that’s fully designed and fleshed out and it looks beautiful and pretty, you tend to get comments like, oh, I like the colors. It looks nice. I don’t care about the way that it looks. I need you to tell me if the functionality is there. So when you do user testing with a lower fidelity, sometimes you get some confusion. People are like, what the hell is this? But you get more subjective feedback or not subjective. You get more actionable feedback because people don’t think that you spent a lot of time working on it. Whenever someone thinks, oh, they spent a bunch of time working on this design, so it must be good. They give you very positive feedback. If they think that you put this design together in five minutes, then they’re way better about being like, let me rip this apart because this is stupid. That’s what you need. 

Jessica Valis: Oh, dang. Okay. Again, I’m still feeling like I shouldn’t do UX at all. Okay. So what is tip number two for us? 

Monique Jenkins: Tip number two is to keep it simple and consistent. 

Jessica Valis: Wait, you mean no bells and whistles? 

Monique Jenkins: Have you ever been on a website or an app and you’re just bombarded with too much information? There’s buttons everywhere, there’s different font styles, and you’re just walking in a room where you feel like everyone is shouting at you. That is why we stress to keep your design simple and intuitive. A cluttered interface is like a messy room. It’s hard to focus, let alone find what you’re looking for, and people will leave. You did not have a long time to draw someone in. 

Jessica Valis: Yeah, I always get distracted when people still use animation. Sometimes it works, but I think I appreciate it on a home page when I’m on desktop. And that’s about it. I don’t want to see it anywhere else. So can you give us an example? Sure. 

Monique Jenkins: One way to achieve simplicity is by using common UI elements that users are already familiar with. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. If a hamburger menu or a certain button style is widely recognized, use it. This will help to keep the learning curve well, and it brings us consistency. Imagine driving an average traffic light that you see had a different set of rules. It would be chaos, right? The same applies to your designs. Keeping your UI elements consistent across your application or website makes the experience predictable. And believe me, your users will thank you for it. 

Jessica Valis: Personally, I hate when I go onto a website and the menu is on the left side of the screen. Like, it is vertical instead of horizontal. Or if I’m on like my mobile phone, I say mobile phone like I’m using. If I’m on my phone, my iPhone 14 Max Pro and the hamburger menu is on the left side, I get pissed off. It’s not supposed to be there. What platform was it on my phone recently? They like changed something and it was like an app I used all the time and it was like, damn it. Like, I always knew where this button was and now you’ve moved it to a place like, sure, it looks clean. But I’ve been using this app for years and the button has always been in the same place. Actually, I think it may have been like Amazon a while ago. But I’m expecting it to be in a certain place and it’s not anymore. 

Monique Jenkins: Yeah. For me, the thing that always throws me is the next time I go to Chick -fil -A. Whenever you go to Chick -fil -A and you get on their grounds, they change their stop signs. Their stop signs are not in the font that normal stop signs are in. So every single time I stop and then I’m looking at the stop sign and I’m like, something’s different here. I don’t understand why. What’s wrong with stop signs? They’ve been working for millions of years. Why is this different now? And I always get really, really confused. I point it out every single time Brian is always like, money, get over it. It’s a stop sign. Just stop. I’m like, yeah, but the font being different always throws me for a loop for a second. But it’s not like a stop sign that you’ll see anywhere else, but you always see it on Chick -fil -A’s grounds is that their stop signs are unique to their branding and their messaging, which I get from a design perspective. But as a user who is used to seeing stop signs that look wildly the same every single time, I’m like, what the hell is this? I once worked on a project where the inconsistency was so jarring that users were dropping off like flies after streamlining the design elements and creating a unified visual language, not only did user engagement improve, but so did conversion. So people having to think about the stop sign like I did at Chick -fil -A every single time creates a bit of confusion. In that scenario, am I still going to stop? Yes. But there are other scenarios where people are going to be like, I don’t understand what the heck is happening here. 

Jessica Valis: understand that. And yes, you and I, we are the only people who analyze every one choice that the company has ever made for any application. There’s probably a way. 

Monique Jenkins: somewhere where they’re like, Chick -fil -A, Stop Sun, I’m in a different pot. And I need to go find it, because I’m a part of this. I have a problem with it as well. 

Jessica Valis: Okay, last but not least, what’s tip number three? 

Monique Jenkins: Tip number three is never underestimate the power of feedback and responsiveness. If you’ve ever clicked on a button on a website and nothing happened, it’s like shouting into a void. You are left wondering as a user if you did something wrong or if the system just isn’t listening to you. If you have a connection, like your connection is spotty because your Wi -Fi is not working right. And that’s a UX nightmare. The solution is feedback mechanisms. Every interaction that a user has with your platform should be acknowledged, whether that’s a loading spinner, a success message, an error alert. These small elements can make a world of difference so that people understand what’s happening so that they don’t leave your site. For instance, the simple act of changing a button color when something is covered and clicked on can communicate to the user that their action is being recognized. If you clicked on a button and it didn’t change colors and didn’t do anything, you would be like, is this actually working? And unless I forget about responsiveness, time is of the essence, folks. Your platform needs to be quick to react. It’s not just about user inputs, but also about different devices and different screen sizes. A responsive design isn’t just the cherry on top. It’s based on user expectation at this point. 

Jessica Valis: When I’m building a website, I always build like two versions. There’s always the desktop version. And then there is the mobile version. And sometimes the information that’s on the desktop is it on the mobile because the experience is not going to be the same. Um, even like paragraphs, for example, like you might have a whole story on the desktop. On mobile, based on what people are trying to accomplish, like I just simplify it or me get like a toggle or some things that people can like rouse through it really quickly. It’s all about like scanning and going through as quickly as possible. Um, so George, my son, he’s in kindergarten. And as a mom who has never been to public school before, Catholic school, K through 12. Thank you. Um, things are done very differently. And I knew that the school was redoing their website. And, uh, it was actually done by my first employer after, after college. So I was like, Oh, I know these guys. Um, but the site was launched and George was out sick or he was saying, I’m sick with me because I had COVID and I did not know what the roles in regulation she’s worth for COVID. And I went on the site. If you search COVID, there was no COVID page at all on the website. Like I think all these sites took it down because they’re like, it’s not 2020 anymore. I’m like, yeah, but it still exists. I want to know what your policy is. And then, um, I ended up having to call the school and they’re like, Oh, just follow the CDC guidelines. I was like that, just tell me what you want me to do because every school system is different or they were like, um, you need to click the, you need to go over to the portal and I’m reading this on the screen. It’s like click, you know, go to the portal and there’s no like click here to go to the portal. So the next thing I know, I’m having to search the site to find the portal. But the funny thing was further down the page, it said click here to register for the portal, which took you to a completely different place. And I was like, well, I mean, every parent at this point, they’re going to submit an absentee thing. They’ve already signed up. So we just need a link to the portal. So I emailed the person. You know, like managing it. And I was like, Hey, I think you need to include a link here. And she’s like, Oh, thank you. I’ll do that. And she did. Yeah. Like with it by a minute, she’s like, thank you for the feedback. So that is an example of UX testing, I guess, is way you find something that doesn’t work, just let the people know. 

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I will say another quick tip, and I’ll make this one quick, is I always start with, I’m lying, I don’t always start with this, but you should. I always tell people to start with building mobile first, because people literally have their devices with them at all times, people are constantly using their devices. So the idea that someone is going to utilize your site in a mobile fashion is incredibly high. We continuously have electronics in our pockets. Your site needs to be optimized for mobile. And yes, there are differences between the content that you have on your mobile site versus your desktop, desktop, a paragraph of text, right, not be that much, and mobile form, it might be too much information. So you can skim it down and things like that. But you need to be building for mobile, and I would also say that you need to be building for tablet as well. I do not always do it. I usually do desktop and mobile like a normal person, but desktop, tablet, and mobile will help the engineer and team with those break points, because let’s be honest, tablets always look a little bit funky on websites because you don’t design for them, and they kind of just like exist out in this like ether, or that the break points determine what is, you know, working and not working on the tablet version. But sometimes, sometimes you should design for tablet as well. 

Jessica Valis: I am gonna be honest, I designed for Tabletlast, and it is like a complete afterthought because I have those breakpoints, and most of the time it goes from the desktop to the tablet. And so the only thing I’m really doing is getting rid of like columns, so the text reads across the whole thing. And I would love to see some new stats about the number of people that actually go on websites on their tablets. 100% love. Because my tablet, that’s four games. Yeah, I was gonna say. That’ll play those games. 

Monique Jenkins: It’s definitely low, but I always tell people, just take an eye on consideration. I wouldn’t say I will never tell you to design tablets for all the screens, but for one or two screens, just to like point your engineers in the right direction of how you want things to kind of break. Yes, for your entire website, sir, I’m not doing that. No. Cool. I think we talked about this in an episode before, but people are not going to give you a lot of time to allow your website to load. I remember working on a project where the lack of feedback was actually leading users to click on a crucial call to action button multiple times, thinking it wasn’t working. This caused all sort of backend issues, like duplicate orders. And once we added a simple loading indicator and disabled the button after the first click, the issue mostly resolved itself pretty instantly. 

Jessica Valis: I always love to see if the Adicon, which is the little icon that’s associated with your website, I always have to check to see if that’s like spinning. If it’s not spinning, then I know the link’s broken and it really, this is the off and get frustrated. So, agreed. So even if you don’t do a spinny icon, there’s probably going to be one at the top of the page, but I don’t think it’s intuitive for most people. Yeah. I was just saying. 

Monique Jenkins: I never look at that’s a lie. I do look up there, but only after I realized that something is on I’m like is it 

Jessica Valis: The form takes ages to submit, and like this should not be that complex. 

Monique Jenkins: Yes. Well, that about wraps it up for my UX tips. Thank you all for listening on today’s episode. And until next time, remember that you are not an imposter. 

Jessica Valis: or remember that you’re not an imposter because you’ve got another area of expertise elsewhere. Like me, I am not a UX imposter. I am just not a UX designer. So there’s a difference. So recognize your abilities.  

Monique Jenkins: Exactly Ask for your money at the beginning. 

Jessica Valis: All right, thank you everybody. Bye guys.