I don’t actually have a background in design.
I’d always had an interest, but never really considered it as a potential “career” until a couple of years ago. Switching careers in your late twenties has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Business Ops is boring AF, but came with a lot of lateral-thinking generalist skills which have transferred really well into design.
I approach product design in a very technical and systematic way, especially when working on larger projects.
This doesn’t mean I can’t be creative. It means I take the time to meticulously explore options at every design decision, building a design system as I go so I don’t have to make that decision again. It slows you down in the short-term, but long-term it allows you to build and iterate incredibly fast. I’ve worked with lazy, grifter designers who just design the bare minimum without constraints or systems and it always ends up as an absolute mess in development...
Cliché, but that should always come first. It’s amazing how many designers do this for a living but just ignore this stuff.
This starts pretty broad with developing a solid understanding of context (what the user actually wants to do and how to best design to facilitate that experience).
It then goes all the way down to every single micro design decision, including hierarchy/information architecture on the page and in components, contrast/legibility, typography, and copywriting.
Sweat the details and keep things consistent, right down to the pixel. If you don’t pay attention to this in the design phase, how are developers going to get it right? This is pretty easy if you systemise everything and take the time to lay the foundations.
It’s just as easy to get lazy and ignore, but all you’re doing is building a massive design (and usually $$ dev debt) over time. When you’re designing without constraints, decision-making is torture because there’s always going to be more than one right choice.
Consistency and attention to detail across every facet of a product and design all ties into brand, and lifts every part of a business. I think companies are finally starting to wake up to design as a solid differentiator.
Whatever design/UX/product problem you’re tackling, several others have already solved it (probably better than you would have from scratch working in a silo).
Spend some time doing some research, picking out the best UX practices (Checklist Design is a great source for this!). We (users) tend to develop a liking for things that are familiar to us, and changing common user behaviours for arbitrary reasons makes us go through a completely new experience, increasing friction and confusion.
This includes everything at a component level, such as how a form field behaves or how a button sits in a hierarchy with other buttons, right up to complex signup flows that span over 10-steps.
I love habits and routine.
Stuff like getting up at the same time every day, running every second day, automating finances, scheduling time for uninterrupted deep work etc. It just works and allows you to get more stuff done, live healthier and removes a heap of decision fatigue/focus on more important stuff. I sound like James Clear here... but you can see the compounding magic happen quickly.
This happens every day 😅
Usually, it’s a harmless quick fix, like forgetting to design an empty state for a table. But sometimes it’s broader, like looking back on how you’ve designed form error states to work and not being 100% happy with it after they’re in development. Those are often a lot more work to fix up.
A checklist early on would have definitely helped out for both of these.
I'd say Typography!
I've always felt that good typography (+ hierarchy) is the most undervalued and underappreciated element in modern product design, especially for complex UI design. It’s the main way users take, organise, and act on information, so it’s important to get right from the start.