Designers (and many others) have been writing and speaking about what makes a good UX design for decades. Even Albert Einstein has valuable advice when it comes to solving design problems.
Of course, quotes alone don’t always explain how to apply these lessons to our actual work. So without further ado, below are 13 timeless quotes about user experience design, along with some useful context to help you fully take in these words of wisdom.
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1. “UI is the saddle, the stirrups, & the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.”
— Dain Miller
This quote perfectly illustrates the difference between UI and UX. UI is the interface itself: the parts that create the design. UX is the way users interact with all of those parts and how they use the design itself.
2. “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”
— Martin LeBlanc
User interfaces should be intuitive to the user. If a designer has to explain how the interface works, then the interface isn’t designed as well as it should be, much like if why a joke is funny needs to be explained.
3. “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”
— Steve Jobs
A poorly designed product doesn’t work well. It can be easy to focus on the way a product looks, to think that that’s what the design is all about, but the design needs to support the functionality of the product. Steve Jobs applied this in every product designed at Apple, making sure that the design of each product furthered its functionality.
4. “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”
— Charles Kettering
UX design solves problems. But to solve a problem, you have to have a solid grasp of what the problem actually is. UX designers do this through user research and interviews, creating personas, and doing ample prep work before they ever start creating an actual visual design.
5. “Want your users to fall in love with your designs? Fall in love with your users.”
— Dana Chisnell
User research is a bit like dating. You need to find out what your users want, what they like, what they need, and most importantly, what they don’t. Take the time to dive deep into what your users need and understand where they’re coming from and how to best serve them with your designs.
6. “Ease of use may be invisible, but its absence sure isn’t.
When a design is intuitive and makes it easy for users to complete the tasks they want to complete, the “design” virtually disappears. However, when a design isn’t intuitive and confuses users, the design’s shortcomings stand out to users.
7. “When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?”
— Billy Gregory
Accessibility and universal design are vital elements of UX design. If your designs aren’t usable for all of your users, then your UX has failed. It’s worth taking the time to learn accessible design principles so that you can serve all of your users.
8. “Rule of thumb for UX: More options, more problems.”
— Scott Belsky
Choice paralysis is a real problem for a lot of people. It happens when they’re given too many options and can’t make a decision. Good UX minimizes the choices users need to make, thereby largely eliminating choice paralysis. Plus, the more options you have in a product, the more failure points you potentially introduce. Simplifying as much as possible while still meeting user needs creates a better overall user experience.
9. “If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likable person: respectful, generous, and helpful.”
— Alan Cooper
The best designs should put users first. It should respect a user’s time and intelligence. It should go above and beyond what a user expects from the product. And most of all, the design should help users along their path to their end goal. Do those three things, and you’ll create a delightful user experience.
10. “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
— Albert Einstein
Much like the quote from Charles Kettering, a thorough understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve is key to create an amazing user experience. Once you fully understand the specific problem—through user research, analyzing existing designs, and talking with actual users—you may find that the solution practically designs itself.
11. “Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.”
— Douglas Martin
Every product, whether digital or physical, is “designed.” A lack of intention about the design, though, leads to poor design. Even the simplest product can suffer from bad design if the person creating it doesn’t focus on the user’s experience in actually using their product.
12. “Design isn’t crafting a beautiful, textured button with breathtaking animation. It’s figuring out if there’s a way to get rid of the button altogether.”
— Edward Tufte
Designers should always ask the question, “Is there a better way to do this?” If they can make a choice that makes an interface easier for people to use, even if the “design” of that choice isn’t as prominent, then that creates a better user experience and a better UX design.
13. “A user interface is well-designed when the program behaves exactly how the user thought it would.”
— Joel Spolsky
Great UX design is intuitive. People can look at it and instantly understand how it works and how to interact with it. Users shouldn’t be left guessing what will happen if they click a button or fill out a form or perform any other action within your site or app.
MORE UX DESIGN RESOURCES:
- Explaining UX Design to a 5‑year‑old
- The 3 biggest mistakes I made as a new UX designer (& what I learned)
- 8 mobile UX best practices every designer should consider
- A UX designer’s guide to interpreting human behavior
About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.