Yoyo's usability principles: How our UX team keeps usability and accessibility simple


We explain Yoyo's five key usability principles, how they guide our UX processes, and why every UX team needs them.

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots”, is a famous quote by french poet, Victor Hugo. Victor had a lot to say about philosophy, death and literature, which I’m sure was riveting, but as a UX practitioner this particular quote resonates with me. Usability principles are the guiding constant that make it possible to indulge and enjoy the breakneck innovations constantly flowing into UX from psychology, computing, design and the infinite industries it touches.

Change your opinions, keep to your principles.

Principles are essential to consistent and focused work. With new ideas and research pouring out of universities, agencies and tech firms at an ever growing speed, it’s easy to get lost trying to examine every possible usability factor that could blow your users off course. Guiding principles are key to refocusing usability analysis. Respected usability principles are used by everyone from students tackling their first UX projects, to industry experts at Google and Microsoft as they pioneer products to solve problems only our grandchildren will know.

By adhering your analysis process to agreed UX principles, UXer’s, designers, developers, business strategists, SEO gurus and everyone else on your team understands what fundamental usability is, and what everyone needs to be on the lookout for. This leaves space for collaboration and discussion of unique ideas, because everyone can be assured the basics are covered. It’s not useful mulling over which shade of pink will increase your conversion rate if, like 60% of homepages, your images have no alternative text and 285 million people worldwide have no way of knowing what your brand is about.

Change your leaves, keep intact your roots.

User experience has always been about people, and the impact that digital experiences have on their lives. Since its establishment as a non-negotiable part of the design pipeline, UX has expanded to include goose-bump inducing interaction techniques and stunning interface trends, and manipulative dark patterns that encourage addiction.

Similarly, but not so forebodingly, Yoyo has always been driven by people. Over the years our teams have expanded to include more and more creativity, resourcefulness and tenacity to problem solve. Their clients’ needs have expanded to include everything from promoting hair-raising driving experiences to designing pandemic-proof spaces to talk about bereavement. 

What remains a constant is people, and as a B Corp, Yoyo has committed to put people at the forefront of what they do, not below profit. When thinking about our Yoyo usability principles, this made it easy to stick to our roots as user experience practitioners, and Yoyo’s roots as a company, as our lives, and the work we do changes.

We wanted a language that would make our principles and analysis accessible to all, without compromising on depth of analysis.

Our Usability Principles

Our Usability Principles

Our principles encompass Jakob Neilson’s famous 10 usability heuristics for user interface design, but are also influenced by Weinschenk & Barker’s usability guidelines.

This is to make sure we were influenced by traditional (but withstanding) and contemporary usability principles that are proven. Another Yoyo principle is the importance of keeping things simple. We wanted a language that would make our principles and analysis accessible to all, without compromising on depth of analysis. 

Without any further ado, or quotes from poets, here they are:

1. Prevent slips and falls

This is all about having effective, accessible and easy to understand help and documentation. This refers to everything from error messages, to FAQ’s. It also examines the way that any product or service helps users to prevent, recognise or recover from mistakes and slips, recognising the two most common types of “stuck” users can find themselves.

2. Make it fast, flexible, and free

This is broad, but it’s where we consider how a product could better meet the needs of all users, from novices to power-users, by providing the user with flexibility, control and freedom without causing confusion. This is also where we would think about how our product aligns with what users are already familiar with, and what else we could be doing to speed up use and minimise frustration.

3. Keep it simple

This is where cognition comes in. This principle asks whether or not the site could be better utilising existing mental models, progressive disclosure, “chunking” information effectively and recognition rather than recall to only present the user with what they need.

4. Design with purpose

Our production team consists of both creative web designers and UX designers who inform each other's best work. This principle is about ensuring that the design is aesthetically pleasing and minimal to such a degree that it communicates exactly what the user needs to know about the site they’re on and the brand they’re engaging with.

5. Accessibility matters

This is where we refer to standards of accessibility such as those provided by the W3C, as well as our collective expertise as developers, designers and usability experts to ensure we have not left anyone behind. This takes into account the needs of those with physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities or differences and the wide variety of backgrounds users can come from. 

The more brilliant and creative a team is, the more essential it is to have tailored systems for making principles easy to follow and understand. This lays the foundations on which to brainstorm and create truly innovative, nuanced and delightful digital experiences that don’t compromise on, but maximise impact.