Here are the five biggest UX product design pitfalls of all time

You have a great product, but you know it needs a redesign.

It’s probably evolved organically over time but now become a bit of a dog’s dinner; either bloated with features or just looking embarrassingly dated.

Either way, you know your UX and UI needs work but a good team doesn’t come cheap so you want to ensure you do things efficiently and get a good return on your investment.

Over the past decade of product design (doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!) we’ve encountered pretty much every mistake you can make on a redesign and we’ve learned how to avoid them.

Here’s a super quick run-down of the ones you need to watch out for.

Heads up – in writing this we realised that each one deserves its own spotlight. Expect more from us on each of them very soon


#1 The Overly Complex Task

Product design entails both visual design and feature design.

Once your product goes past a certain point of complexity the task of redesigning everything becomes too large.

(We’ve already devoted a whole article to the dangers of complexity. Well worth keeping an eye on)

And with largeness comes unpredictability.

#2 The One-Hit Wonder

Once a redesign project is going to take over 6 months – and whilst a whole half a year can sound like a massive amount of time, you’d be surprised how quickly it can be gobbled up – then unless the product has good usability and is complete in terms of features, things will have moved on by the time it’s ready.

Picture the scene. Design team turns up, delivers beautiful images of the system with a new look… and promptly leaves.

Then what?

It’s like the old anecdote about the boat depreciating in value by £X-thousand the moment it touches the water.

As soon as the design is applied it begins going stale.

Can you really afford to invest that much in design without understanding how to build on what you’ve got?

No, thought not.

#3 The Immovable Brief

Design processes are very rarely linear.

The problems outlined at the beginning that loomed largest when the project was signed off sometimes turn out not to be the biggest once you progress further down the line.

We’ll know more tomorrow than we do today and so any brief worth its salt must allow for decisions to be made from the point of maximum understanding.

Clinging doggedly onto a brief that is overly prescriptive will be constrictive, and could end up ultimately strangling your redesign.

#4 The Unbuildable Dream

How to make yourself unpopular as a designer.

Step One: create amazing design work that wows the stakeholders but doesn’t give any consideration to technical constraints.

Take credit. Bask in glory. 🏆👏

Step Two: Hand the designs to developers, leave it for them to say it won’t work and let them take the blame.

Design that takes place in a segmented vacuum can never be successful, no matter how incredible it looks. Development must be a consideration from day one.

#5 The Franken-Product

Don’t get us wrong, we ❤️ iteration.

However, when taking an iterative approach it can be tempting to pick a single section and overhaul it visually.

While that section may end up looking great, the contrast with the rest of the application will cause issues.

It’s important to remember that a key principle of good UI is consistency, and improved UX shouldn’t look completely different, but rather it should bring everything into line.

So, what should you do instead?

What we’ve found works best, is to take an agile UX approach. You’re most likely building your products using agile processes, so it’s only logical that your UX design compliment this, right?

To enhance components across the product rather than screens and keep the look and feel close to what’s there as you iterate and build a design language.

Once you have built that design language it’s much easier (and cheaper) to iterate slowly towards a new coherent design.

We’ll be diving further into these pitfalls and pulling out more pearls of hard-won UX wisdom over the next couple of months.


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