During the years, I developed an interior compass that guides me when designing products as well as when choosing which ones to support and use on a daily basis.

If you are familiar with them, you will notice the influence of Dieter Ram’s Ten Principles of Good Design. When presenting my list of principles, I always share this debt: the man made a perfect list. We can only get inspired by it and tailor it to suit us better.

In my case, I made this list focusing on what it takes, in my opinion, to create a great digital product.

Good design is:

1. Honest

In the digital world this is most important than ever. From pricing, to how a product is presented, and how it manages users data. Stay away from hidden costs and UX dark patterns.

2. Holistic

A good tool integrates well with the user’s workflow and it takes into consideration all the interactions they have with it. Users don’t work just within your product: they move from one tool to another. Keep in mind the bigger picture.

3. Simple

A product should be obvious to use, as well as limited 1 in what it offers. While the second point doesn’t always sit on the shoulders of the designer, you have to always aim for the first one. Don’t overcomplicate things.

4. Beautiful

Only after all the work has been done you can focus on the aesthetic details. Yes, looks do matter. Be proud of what you create.

5. Future-proof

If all of the above are applied correctly, your software will survive the pass of time (digitally speaking, anyway). Even if this is a consequence of all the other points, it’s good to keep it in mind when designing. Do not fall prey to the latest design trends that don’t offer anything valuable to your product. 2

Of course it’s much easier to list these guidelines than to follow them. Nevertheless, I think it’s fundamental to reason not only about how you work but also on what is important to you and why you do things in a certain way.

Scrolling through this list from time to time, and sharing it with other people when needed, helps me maintain focus and clarity and it reminds me what I think is really important to deliver a great digital product.

  1. See the concept of Maximum Viable Product  ↩︎

  2. As I often do, also here I have to use Things by Cultured Code as an example. Their app is more than six years old (an eternity in the digital world) but it’s still unrivaled when it comes to user experience and looks. Even their website reflect that ideal of good, simple design that doesn’t really suffer from the passing of time. ↩︎