I’ve recently had the great opportunity to present to a small group of startups being incubated within our Citrix Startup Accelerator division regarding good design practices, and partnership with designers towards product excellence. As part of that presentation, and in subsequence follow-ups, I’ve created a “primer” collecting useful pointers, references, links, and articles into a single document for startups to use. Nothing secret, and certainly suitable for a broader audience. I’m happy to share that here below. I may evolve this into a more full-scale presentation for various conferences at some point too. Enjoy!

Overall Design Process

Discovery > Conceptual Design > Detailed Design > Implementation > Post Ship
(all the while doing research, user studies, testing, etc.)

More about “design process” in a couple prior posts:




Suggested Design Principles

Provide smooth and direct interactions
Use smart defaults where sensible 
Help the user complete tasks efficiently

Present information clearly

Group and prioritize data logically
Show only what’s important
Enable successful decision-making

Performance matters
Set proper expectations
Respond quickly to user inputs
Acknowledge delays with grace and humility

Be modern
Embrace emerging UI trends
Leverage what’s popular and familiar
Design for the user, not just a feature

Respect your users
Minimize interruptions
Speak their language and be honest
Anticipate their needs and protect them from harm


Question Your Interface…

For every UI item (button, icon, field, etc.) ask: What problem does this solve, how does this support the user’s goal?

Is adding another feature or UI item helping or hurting users from achieving their goals…and supporting your value prop?

Every additional UI element is yet another visual signal that has to be viewed, learned, understood, and tried out, thus increasing complexity.

How much complexity do you truly need in your product? How much of that complexity can be pushed to the back, “behind-the-curtain”?

Keep referring back to your UX value prop statement to help with your UI design decision-making!


Know Thy User!

What is your product’s value prop? What’s the core benefit for the user?

Who is your target user and what are their a) current pain points and b) unmet needs? Can you verbally paint a picture of their “day in the life” and how your product fits in it? What’s the story?

What is your user’s primary 80% tasks, activities, and goals? How does your product enable those goals? Focus on the 80%, not edge cases!

What contexts and scenarios would your product be used in? At home, in a coffee shop, on a plane, at the office, etc.?  Focus on the 80%, not edge cases!

Is it for a mobile device or stationary situation (desktop PC, etc.). Are there multiple screens and devices involved?  Focus on the 80%, not edge cases!

What is the emotional outcome you seek? How do you imagine the user feeling after using your product? Again, connect this back to their tasks, activities, goals, and contexts of usage.  Focus on the 80%, not edge cases!

Complete this sentence: User X needs Product Y to achieve Goal Z for W reason/purpose. That’s your UX value prop in a nutshell. This requires a deep understanding of your user’s context and goals.

Related Resources
Basic Discovery Questions for Scenarios
Basic Discovery Questions for User Profiles
Basic Discovery Questions for Functionality


Useful Design Articles

Designer Founders

Design Primer for Engineers

How Designers and Engineers Can Play Well

IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit

Steve Jobs’ 6 Pillars of Design


Additional Pointers

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design

Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design

AskTog’s First Principles of Interaction Design

Carsonified’s 10 User Interface Fundamentals

Fred Beecher’s Nine Essential Characteristics of Good UX Designers

Keith Lang’s Top 10 UX Myths