A 4-step checklist for UI redesign projects that helps you target areas of visual noise and confusion quickly — along with practical steps to improve hierarchy + understanding.

Everything a user sees onscreen does one of two things. 

Each element either (1) illuminates the path to their desired outcome and helps them get there easily, or (2) serves as an obstacle standing between them and what they hope to find and accomplish.

The difference between these two outcomes is heavily dependent on the amount of visual clutter the person has to contend with at each step.

What UXers, designers and developers often lose sight of is the fact that to users, the UI is just a means to an end — and that end is infinitely more important to them than the methods by which they arrive there.

In most cases, the destination really does matter a great deal more than the journey.

So if the destination matters most, then it’s up to us to make sure the journey is clearly lit and well-marked. It’s our job to make the path to follow — and the necessary actions to be taken — made obvious and understandable.

The 4 steps outlined in these pages aren’t grand gestures. There’s no overhauling the look and feel of the UI, no radical changes to styling or layout.

Instead, what I offer you here is a series of small adjustments that — when combined — make a monstrous improvement in the usability and overall user experience of any kind of app, site or system.

A sign I keep in my office bears the words, “there’s no such thing as small change.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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