Top 10 design principles for a software platform

Jose F. Lillo, 12 Apr 2019

Plant sprouts

Photo by Michael Afonso

Designing a SaaS digital platform, using UX to help bring users on the journey.

When I arrived at Pi long time ago, the team didn’t really have any design principles, and right you might think, you don’t really need them when there’s enough experience around the business to create successful marketing and software platforms.

But when your business is growing, when your team is growing, your product is growing and so do your users. It is therefore critical that in that world of growth, consistency is key, your users come on that journey with you.

Simple design principles can reflect the company mission

To be able to do that, obviously you need to apply clear signposting through the right hierarchy, the colours, make sure that typography is obvious and readable, your labels and actions are short and concise, take care about the voice and tone… In other words, you need a consistent language that can be easily understood, and provide support mechanisms that help perform your tasks.

Your mission, your vision and your company values can be conveyed through the right design principles. By simply writing down a short list of these principles, you are doing much more than you think, you are creating the characters of this language, the alphabet that allows you to keep consistency across time, a path that will bring design unity to your company, and the most important one, when you write this list down, you and your team are committing to them, and by this commitment, you’re finding your design purpose as a company.

I wanted to share with you what we think is important to us. These are our principles, feel free to make them yours:

Top 10 design principles for a software platform

  1. We build systems, not pages

    We embrace Atomic Design to design Orion, our flexible, consistent and scalable design system. It is as fun as being in a chemistry lab. We start with atoms, the basic building blocks of all matter, the smallest functional units that comprise all our user interfaces.

    Then we start grouping atoms together to create molecules. They are simple groups of UI elements functioning together as a unit.

    We can now create relatively complex UI components by assembling groups of molecules, forming what we call an organism. And as in real life, these organisms could be as simple as a single-cell to something as sophisticated as animals.

  2. We focus on personas and user stories

    We design with the customer in mind, so only by understanding clearly your needs and setting up honest goals, we can deliver real value and benefit to your business.

  3. We are consistent, not uniform

    Using the same language and the same design patterns helps you to get familiar with our message, our tone, our services, so you can have a reasonable chance of guessing what you’re supposed to do

  4. We design with data

    We are a bit geeks about data-driven decision-making here. Prototyping, testing, heatmaps, analytics are essentials to how our services are used

  5. We make our product understandable

    Something went wrong? No problem, Orion UI helps you enough to understand what just happened and either guide you to find a good exit, or by just letting you take the next action, so nothing badly impacts on your experience

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  6. We understand context

    We don’t design for a screen, we care about people. That’s why we think hard about the context, why are you here, what are you doing and most importantly what do you want to accomplish

  7. We bring omnichannel customer experiences

    Different channels different experiences, right? We focus on what it matters so you can focus on the important. Whatever you were doing or wherever the channel you came from we allow you to continue your experience on the following

  8. We start small and iterate wildly

    I’m sure you are familiar to minimum viable products, and so are we, that’s why we like to release early, test, refine, release, test, refine and so on… We are not building pyramids, things can be undone

  9. We make it simple

    When working with complex systems, the hardest thing is not to make the product look simple, but to make it simple to use. The time you spend with us is valued so we’re not wasting your time

  10. We strive to make you the most informed and business capable community in digital

    This is our mission statement and it’s a bold one, we know. But it’s only by making you the most informed and capable that our purpose is fulfilled. Explore, be curious, raise the bar and share.

“Those are my principles and if you don’t like them… Well, I have others”

Grouxo Marx Groucho Marx

References:

  • Frost, Brad. “Atomic Design.” Atomic Design by Brad Frost, 2016
  • Government Design Principles, UK, 2012

Head of UX and Design, ScrumMaster at Pi Datametrics

Posted in User experience