The Biggest UX Secret

Being a UX designer isn’t easy. It involves knowing a lot about all aspects of product and software development.

The UX Athlete

From designing plays to designing experiences... Lis Hubert shares with us her insights on how to become better in what we do.

See all posts

Related posts:

Having to know and stay up to date on this much information is the reason that many of us don’t get much sleep at night. But, there is a secret that many of us don’t know that could save us all a ton of angst.

That secret: the fundamentals of UX Design don’t change. As long as you know them, you can solve any problem, at any time, no matter how up to date you are with the latest trends and methods.

For example, like UX, in sports the fundamentals don’t change. In basketball, one needs to know how to dribble, shoot, rebound, and more. Once an athlete knows these skills, they can basically play the sport of basketball no matter where they are, who their opponent is, and how many people are on the court (thus solving any basketball problem at anytime). Of course, from this state they can also learn how to run plays, play more intricate defense and more, but knowing the fundamentals of the sport is what propels them forward.

UX is no different. Once we know the basics, and know them well, we are able to approach any problem and outline a solution. It is during this outlining time that we are using our fundamentals to highlight gaps in information that we need to fill in order to come up with a full solution. We can then go back and research which knowledge and methods we need to fill the gaps in information that we found.

That is the secret to ensuring you are always up to date, knowing the fundamentals of the UX game. This allows us to frame the solution of any problem, and saves us from having to know every in-depth methodology out there. So, take time to learn the basics inside and out, and trust me… you will get a lot more sleep at night.

Elisabeth Hubert

Lis is a UX & Strategy Consultant making her way around NYC and beyond. She also is the Chief Experience Officer at 8coupons. You can follow her on Twitter via @lishubert.

9 comments on this article

  1. Matt Nish-Lapidus on

    I agree that foundation is a core piece of practicing design, but what’s missing is any agreement about what that foundation is. What are the fundamentals for this type of design? I, and a lot of others, have ideas that we’ve tested through education and practice, but I haven’t seen a consensus as a community on this yet. So, while it’s great to say that the fundamentals are important and allow us to be good designers it’s even more important to articulate what those fundamentals actually are.

    My working list of fundamental skills includes:

    - sketching
    - creative expression
    - visual thinking
    - creative stamina (being able to produce high volume)
    - critique and shared design language
    - observation and analysis

    and more… this is a long list and it keeps changing in my mind. I have a hard time just agreeing with myself on what these are, and others have spent more time mulling over these details. Dave Malouf and Jon Kolko have both written great ideas on interaction design foundations that are worth reading.

  2. Lis on

    Thanks Matt! I completely agree. But ultimately there are fundamentals that are even more basic that some of what you mention (although I agree with what you have mentioned). For instance empathy for the user, for the business and for others in general is a huge one. Great thoughts!

  3. Harry Parkes on

    Sorry, but I don’t get the point of this article, is it a quiz?

    If you know these mysterious fundamentals then you needn’t bother reading it and if you don’t you learn nothing as, Lis, you don’t share your views on what they are nor point to sources that might supply them. It’s like some cryptic UX journey the ‘novice’ must go on.

    Smacks of the Emperor’s new clothes somewhat.

  4. Lisa Tweedie on


    Thanks for putting some of my frustrations into words! As a freelance consultant I am constantly being asked whether I have experience in this or that technique or this or that modality. The truth is much of my experience generalises across it all.

    Actually the only way these clients can work out whether I can work with them is to try ,e out… which I have resorted to saying once or twice… without too much success! Although I agree with Matt that we do need to need to work out what the fundamentals are…

    Patterns are a useful way to start… and also building up communities of knowledge like UX stack exchange (, Concept Feedback (

    As for process it should be a continually evolving thing as techniques are learnt…

    I am currently attempting to:
    Research – Competitive, User Interviews, Relevent Patterns
    Sketch – 1-2 minutes an idea
    Ideation – using Balsamiq – 5 minutes an idea
    Move straight to CSS/HTML – Prototyping solutions
    Remote Testing/Guerilla Testing
    Iterate and jump back and forward.

    At the moment it is working for me… but I’m keeping it exploratory.

    Important concepts that people need to :
    - Design is choice of one from many, explore the design space
    - You can never guess how your design with work in practice – test often and keep an open mind.
    - Learn from the patterns that are out there.

  5. Lis on

    Harry… thanks for reading and posting! You’re right this article was NOT meant to tell you the fundamentals… there are many resources that you can reach out to (including other places on Johnny) to learn what those are. In this short post, my goal was simply to point out that once you understand the fundamentals of UX, Design, Whatever… they don’t change. Hopefully this helps you to understand better the point of this post.

    Lisa… thanks for sharing! I think these are great points that everyone can learn from.

  6. Min on

    Thanks for the article.
    Can you post up where I can find the fundamental of UX design?

  7. Brett Lutchman on

    Lisa you are dead on. Excellent article.
    I gave a similar talk regarding this exact subject 7 years ago at Blast Radius. My example however was the role of police officers.

    Having been in the military and having trained with swat/police units, the biggest take away I received from all of these groups was their knowledge about their own ‘game’.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran, when a criminal with a gun is coming your way, crime cares not for experience. (Although the act of crime and dealing with it over time brings experience) What matters is if you know your game and how transferable your skills are from situation to situation.

    The streets (sports court) are still the same, but each avenue can bring an different problem in itself. One avenue can be packed with drug dealers- yet another with prostitution, and yet another with car theft.

    The fact is every situation brings on a new experience, but it is still up to us to be properly trained and more importantly to adapt and hone these skills continuously as we are introduced to new emergency situations, basketball courts and device platforms.

    I know my example may be a little extreme, but I am thoroughly convinced that the UX community produces more fluff then real substances of value.
    Once you are a trained officer and dawn the uniform before the public, the streets begin to throw anything and everything at you…regardless of your experience.

    Once you are a trained special forces member, it’s your job to bring hostages back home safely regardless of the odds. If you don’t, you would not have done your job.

  8. Lis on

    Great points… and not extreme at all! The more that we compare our profession to others that deal with real world experiences, the more we can come out of our shell and do great work…. well said!

  9. Lis on

    Lisa… also great points! So glad the article was relative and your points are very helpful.

    Min… you are more than welcome. Johnny is a great place to look for many of these fundamentals. I would look through past pieces and note patterns about them! Also you may want to check out sites like, 52 days of ux, pleasure and pain, and to start. Great literary resources are Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and Don’t Make Me Think. If you’d like more detail please don’t be afraid to go to my site and contact me!