How To Solve UX Design Decision Problems with the Right Tools

Every day, we are faced with endless decisions—what to eat, what to wear, where to attend the next Friday nightlife event, and as a UX designer, where to place the primary button on a page.

When making important UX design decisions, I keep the impact of my design decision in mind. I’m constantly aware that my designs could very well determine how a user interacts with a product with each iteration.

We can lose or gain users as a result of design changes. Terrifyingly, we can even lose money due to poor UX design choices that confuse the user.

Making the right UX decision is crucial. But there are ways to ensure you are making the best possible UX choices.

Four UX Decision-Making Insights

I recently attended a Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) conference in New York where I took a class on design tradeoffs. I was curious to see what knowledge I could glean and add to my UX toolbox. To my amazement, the conference turned out to be so insightful that I felt inspired to blog about my learnings.

Today, I’ll be sharing my main takeaways from the NN/g conference. I believe that one of the best ways to make good use of new tools is to share them with others. These insights can certainly be used by anyone—designers, product and engineering teams—to make feature decisions.

Here are my top four insights on UX design decision-making. Let’s dive in!

Knowing the basics of UX Design will give you a firm grasp on the tools mentioned here. Read Hauwa’s blog post on Understanding UX Design.

1. Assess the Complexity of the Problem

Before making a product/feature decision, it is important to know and understand the problem domain. A problem domain is the area of expertise or application that needs to be examined in order to solve a problem. This means honing in on the root of what the application or feature aims to solve for a particular user. Is it a complex problem? Or is it a very simple problem?

A complex problem could be an entirely new feature that the team hasn’t tackled yet. Whereas a complicated problem could be a known problem domain but difficult to determine priorities. And a simple problem could be trying to decide if a button should be white or black text on a yellow background.

Only after clearly understanding the problem domain, are we ready to decide on a solution that will guide us towards making a solid UX decision.

2. Making the Right Decision on a Complex UX Problem 

When we are presented with a complex problem, first we must:

  1. identify what we don’t know,
  2. collectively prioritize all unknowns, and
  3. research the problem domain to gain enough insight to start making decisions.

While following this flow, it is important to remember that we are gathering just enough information to make the right decision, which makes a complex problem research-heavy for a UX decision.

3. Making the Right Decision on a Complicated UX Problem

Complicated problems are “complicated” for a reason. The moment everything starts becoming a priority, or we are not sure what to prioritize, we are in the complicated problem state.

For complicated problems, as advised by the Nielsen Norman Group, it is best to spend ample time visualizing and identifying valuable features. One of the recommended methods for determining a quick decision is the use of weighting tables, also known as sample balancing. Weighting tables show the numeric reflection of what the collective team feels is important—tally up the scores and, congratulations, your problem is no longer as complicated! Of course, you still have to ideate on a solution, but at least now you have a clear focus.

4. Making the Right Decision on a Simple UX Problem

Now, you are probably wondering, “If a problem is simple, why do we have it on this list? Shouldn’t the solution be obvious?”

Interestingly, that’s not always the case.

Simple problems can become complicated over time and can result in major UX setbacks. For example, we stated above the simple problem of whether a button should be white or black text on a yellow background. A simple problem would benefit greatly from having, what I call, a “design value statement”, also known as a design system, which should guide our UX design decisions.

In a nutshell, as defined by Audrey Hacq, “A design system is the single source of truth which groups all the elements that will allow the teams to design, realize, and develop a product.”

UX Design System Resources

For more information on design systems, check out these articles:

Design Systems: Everything You Need to Know
Guide to Design Systems

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

There you have it! Those are three of my main takeaways from the NN/g conference in New York. Hopefully, this overview helps you in making the right UX design decisions.

Or better yet, register and attend one of the many conferences organized by NN/g. I’ve found these conferences valuable, and access to exclusive hands-on guides to help you in your decision-making process is super beneficial.

Here are some pics of my time at the NN/g Conference:

Another helpful tool to consider when making UX design decisions is a UX Audit Checklist.

Download the UX Checklist

While you’re at it, take a look at the articles below on UX design and feel free to leave a comment with any questions, thoughts, or ideas you may have.

How do you make UX decisions? We’d love to know. Tell us on Twitter!

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