Web Services

10 design principles to help us build a better website

As part of the process of rebooting and building a new and improved www.dundee.ac.uk, the Web Services design team are making major preparations to ensure they are ready. Ready for what exactly? Ready to start over and rethink everything we’ve ever designed. Every button, every text style, every page layout. We leave with open minds, ready to listen to what our users need to help them achieve their goals, to get the information they need, to enjoy their experience visiting our website.

We receive millions of website visitors every month. Lots of very different people, from all over the world, with very different needs and perspectives, using a huge range of browsers and devices (24+ different countries, 5500+ different devices for example).

To successfully deliver designs that are unique and memorable yet consistent, accessible, and on-brand, we need a framework that supports our work. That structure is a design system. And the first step in building the design system is to define our design principles. These design principles are practical values ​​that we can work on every day to help us make good design decisions consistently. They help us place full emphasis on user goals when we design.

Our design principles

1. Troubleshoot

Do I know which user problem(s) I’m solving? Will the features and items I added help solve the problem?

2. Be curious, ask questions

Do I have all the information I need to resolve the problem(s)? Am I assuming something about the brief, content or audience? Is the brief or content good enough?

3. Combine data with instinct

Do I have enough user data to avoid making assumptions? Am I using my instincts and creative experience in conjunction with data?

4. Improve the content

Am I improving the presentation of the content or getting distracted by it? Am I making the user work to find the information he needs to achieve his goal?

5. Avoid complexity

Do I need every feature or item I’ve added? Will they all improve the user experience? Can I delete my project to make it fully focused only on providing the information the user needs?

6. Communicate the right way

Do I need advance feedback before going in a certain design direction? Will a face-to-face conversation help me improve my design? Am I getting feedback and guidance from the right people (i.e. users)?

7. Consider all types of users

Does my project consider people with physical or cognitive impairments? Will mobile and desktop users achieve their goals, and are these goals different? Have I considered all target groups?

8. Bring creativity and energy

Am I bringing creativity and energy to my work? Am I bound by the brand guidelines or am I inspired by them? Am I using movement to bring my project to life and deliver a memorable experience?

9. Obsession with performance

How will my design affect performance? Is there a technology or technique I can use to deliver information faster, or to improve perceived performance, for a better user experience?

10. Design with context

What is the context of the user experience? What journey are they taking and where are they on that journey? What specific goal are they trying to achieve at this point in the journey?

About our design system

Our design system will enable us to define and manage how we build, design, measure and improve the digital user experience at the University of Dundee.

It will define how we design and use links, colors, fonts, buttons, headers and all the components we use to create the layouts for our content.

“A design system is a set of interconnected models and shared practices that are coherently organized to serve the purpose of a digital product. Patterns are the repeating elements that we combine to create an interface: things like user flows, interactions, buttons, text fields, icons, colors, typography, microcopy. Practices are how we choose to create, capture, share and use these models, particularly when we work as a team.

Extract from: Alla Kholmatova. « Design Systems ».

We will use these principles when building our design system and when creating new features on the site. If a user requires new features to access the website, we will use these principles to guide us as we solve their problem and try to develop a solution that makes sense for all users.

We will be advancing our design system throughout the alpha and beta phases of the new website, keeping the wider community up to date via email, posters and on our blog.

The web is a fast-moving and ever-changing environment and so we expect to constantly evolve our design guidelines and system to better serve our staff, students and the wider community. As always, any feedback is welcome!

Update: You can now read all the details about our digital design system