Design principles for work

I got inspiration on developing and applying design principles from an episode of the Boagworld podcast. It’s aimed at people who design, develop and manage websites on a daily basis. So I recommend checking it out if that’s what you’re into.

While designing anything, how do you make decisions on what’s best? I’m going to share with you some design principles I follow for website design, At least to the extent that it’s possible based on the client requirements.

As Jack Sparrow famously said something to the effect of, they’re more of a guide and less of a rule. Companies ranging from Airbnb, to IBM are adopting UI design principles, so maybe they’re on to something?

In addition to improving usability, some benefits can include influencing people to take action, improving perception, making nicer looking designs and best of all, it’s helping produce more effective design choices.

Especially when you have different departments involved to make something work, there’s something to be said about having design principles so people are less likely to lose their way during a project.

Whatever your principles should be might vary depending on the nature of the industry, but I think the broad categories I use can apply to anything, ranging from pottery to service industries.

My design principles come from foundational principles. This means you have broad areas of focus to apply your own set of principles to so they’re more actionable. It’s the foundational principles which guide your actions. These foundational principles are:

  • Focused: focus on the job to be done.
  • Inclusive: cover the needs of as much of your audience as possible.
  • Aware: stay aware of who you are serving and how the needs among them can vary.
  • Flexible: be willing to adjust things to help accommodate your audience.
  • Kind: base every choice on being nice to people.

If you set similar foundational design principles then I think you will find you get better quality design.

Lets look at ramps or “curb cuts” as an example. They’re intended to be used by people in wheelchairs, although they also help benefit able bodied people too if they need to move something like a pram up some steps. Taps are another example, since a lot of them have been redesigned to make them easier to use if you lack hand or wrist mobility due to something like arthritis. So accessibility isn’t just good for people with limitations. Taking such things into account can benefit everyone.

So here are the design principles I have on my wall for me to ensure I follow them.


  • Reduce copy
  • Keep the information architecture shallow
  • Create limited call to actions
  • Don’t overcomplicate things in technology
  • Focus on the top tasks, not features that people don’t want
  • Make the design focused on what the site’s about


  • Include accessibility guidelines
  • Include different users and different devices – performance is part of being inclusive, making sure that people with older devices don’t get hammered
  • Ensure the design degrades gracefully for less sophisticated browsers
  • Include people on slow connections or using older machines.


  • Be aware of the brand of the client, data analytics, the client needs all together, making sure we collaborate with them
  • The top tasks of their audience, we’ve got to be aware of those
  • Aware of the users’ challenges, and aware of things like design trends in their industry and what are their competitors doing
  • Always make sure that we’re aware of all this stuff


  • Don’t be precious in our designs. We have to kill our darlings when we need to
  • Don’t hold things to heart. We need to be flexible to get rid of things
  • Be flexible by building things in a component based kind of way, so things are literally flexible and they can be used in different positions
  • Be flexible with clients, so when they have new needs, we’re flexible with what they want to achieve


  • Don’t trick people with dark patterns
  • Don’t confuse people weird design choices or patterns
  • Don’t make life hard for people, for mobile users
  • Don’t make people wait around for stuff to appear

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