My fellow product designers! Navigating the world of digital product design can sometimes feel like deciphering a secret code.
In this post, I will be covering 101 must-know terms that will elevate your product design skills.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, being able to “speak the language” and understand key concepts and principles can really boost your credibility in the workplace.
So, pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and let’s delve into the 101 essential terms that every product designer should have in their toolkit.
101 Essential Terms Used in Digital Product Design
User Experience (UX)
Refers to the overall experience and satisfaction a user has while interacting with a product, including the usability, accessibility, and emotional response.
User Interface (UI)
The visual elements and interactive components of a product that users interact with, including buttons, forms, menus, and icons.
Information Architecture (IA)
The organisation and structure of content within a product, aiming to facilitate easy navigation and findability for users.
A basic visual representation of a product’s layout and structure, typically created in the early stages of design to define content placement and hierarchy.
A functional or interactive model of a product used for testing and evaluation purposes, helping to validate design concepts and gather user feedback.
The extent to which a product can be used effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily by its intended users, often measured through user testing and research.
The process of gathering insights and understanding user needs, behaviours, and motivations to inform the design process.
A fictional character created to represent a specific user type, based on user research data, used to guide design decisions and empathise with users.
The sequence of steps or interactions a user goes through while using a product, from the initial discovery to the final goal or task completion.
A visual representation of the paths users take within a product or website, illustrating the different screens and interactions they encounter.
Designing a product or website to adapt and provide an optimal user experience across various devices and screen sizes, such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.
The arrangement and prioritisation of visual elements in a design, guiding users’ attention and emphasising important information.
A prominent element, such as a button or link, that prompts users to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
Small, subtle design elements that provide feedback or response to user actions, enhancing the overall user experience and adding delight.
Designing products and interfaces to be usable by individuals with disabilities, ensuring equal access to information and functionality.
The aesthetic aspect of design, focusing on the visual elements, typography, colors, and overall style that contribute to the product’s look and feel.
Designing and defining the behaviour and responsiveness of interactive elements in a product, such as button hover effects or swipe gestures.
A method used in information architecture to categorise and organise content by having users group related items together.
The perceived functionality or purpose of an object or element based on its visual or physical characteristics, indicating how it can be interacted with.
The percentage of users who complete a desired action or goal, such as making a purchase or signing up for a service, out of the total number of users who interacted with the product.
A visual representation of user interaction with a product or webpage, displaying areas of high and low engagement or attention.
A design approach that mimics real-world objects and their textures or characteristics in digital interfaces, often creating a sense of familiarity or intuitiveness.
A minimalist design style characterised by the absence of three-dimensional effects, such as gradients or shadows, resulting in a clean and modern look.
Small snippets of text within a product, such as button labels or error messages, that provide guidance, instructions, or feedback to users.
Presenting information or features gradually to users, revealing more advanced or complex options as needed, to avoid overwhelming or confusing them.
A common icon consisting of three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other, representing a collapsible menu often used in mobile or responsive designs to conserve screen space.
Evaluating a product’s usability by observing real users as they interact with the product, aiming to identify issues, collect feedback, and improve the design.
A design pattern that organizes information or content into individual cards, typically displayed in a grid layout, making it easy for users to scan and interact with each card.
The integration of game design elements, mechanics, or dynamics into non-game contexts, intended to increase engagement, motivation, and user participation.
A set of principles that describe how humans perceive and organize visual information, such as proximity, similarity, closure, and continuity, which can be applied to improve visual design.
Adapting typography based on the screen size and device, ensuring legibility and readability across different resolutions and viewing conditions.
The empty or negative space between and around design elements, allowing for visual separation, clarity, and focus, and reducing clutter in the overall design.
An interaction technique where scrolling behaviour is altered or overridden, often resulting in a disruptive or frustrating user experience, and generally discouraged.
The process of guiding and familiarising new users with a product or app, often through interactive tutorials, tooltips, or walkthroughs, to ensure a smooth user transition.
Designing strategies and interfaces to effectively communicate and assist users when errors or mistakes occur, helping them understand and recover from errors easily.
Persona Empathy Map
A tool used to understand users’ emotions, behaviours, and perspectives, helping designers gain empathy and design with user needs and motivations in mind.
Adhering to accessibility standards and guidelines, ensuring that digital products can be used by individuals with disabilities and conform to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Presenting complex data or information in a visually engaging and easy-to-understand manner, using charts, graphs, or infographics to communicate patterns or insights effectively.
A method used to organise and categorise data or user insights gathered during research or brainstorming sessions, helping to identify patterns and relationships.
A popular cloud-based design tool that allows collaboration among designers, enabling them to create, prototype, and share designs in a single platform.
A design tool primarily used for creating user interfaces and digital prototypes, known for its vector-based editing capabilities and extensive plugin ecosystem.
A collection of reusable components, patterns, guidelines, and assets that ensure visual and functional consistency across a product or brand, streamlining the design and development process.
Concise and purposeful copywriting used in user interfaces, such as button labels, form field instructions, or error messages, to guide users and enhance the overall user experience.
A systematic evaluation of a product’s accessibility, examining adherence to accessibility guidelines and identifying areas for improvement to ensure inclusivity.
The mental effort required for users to process information and perform tasks within a product, with the goal of minimising cognitive load to enhance usability.
Click-through Rate (CTR)
The percentage of users who click on a specific element, such as a button or link, compared to the total number of users who viewed the element, often used to measure engagement.
The use of animated elements, transitions, and effects in a product’s interface to enhance usability, provide visual feedback, and create engaging user experiences.
An approach that prioritises understanding the needs and behaviours of users, involving them in the design process to create solutions that address their specific challenges.
A visual representation of the user journey from the initial interaction with a product to the desired conversion or goal, highlighting key stages and potential drop-off points.
Design elements or techniques deliberately used to manipulate or deceive users into taking actions they might not otherwise choose, often to benefit the business rather than the user.
Designing products or experiences that seamlessly span multiple channels or platforms, such as web, mobile, and physical touchpoints, ensuring consistency and continuity.
A technique where foreground and background elements move at different speeds while scrolling, creating a 3D-like effect and adding depth to the user experience.
Creating a series of visual sketches or illustrations to depict the flow, interactions, and key moments of a user’s experience with a product, often used in the early stages of design ideation.
A method where experts evaluate a product’s usability against a set of established usability principles or heuristics, identifying potential issues and areas for improvement.
The gradual expansion or addition of unnecessary features to a product, often resulting in complexity and reduced usability, typically caused by poor prioritisation or scope management.
The ability of a product or design system to accommodate growth, handle increased user demands, and maintain performance without significant changes or compromises.
Incorporating game elements or mechanics into the onboarding process to engage and motivate users as they learn and familiarise themselves with a product or service.
A method of evaluating a product’s usability by observing users as they perform specific tasks, providing insights into their behaviours, pain points, and satisfaction levels.
A problem-solving approach that emphasises understanding user needs, ideation, prototyping, and testing to arrive at innovative solutions.
A collage of visual elements, such as images, colors, typography, and textures, used to capture and convey the desired aesthetic or mood for a design project.
A visual representation of user interactions on a webpage, highlighting areas where users click the most, providing insights into user behaviour and preferences.
A notification or feedback displayed to users when an error or issue occurs, helping them understand what went wrong and guiding them towards resolution.
The process of guiding new users through the initial steps of using a product, ensuring a smooth and seamless introduction to its features and functionalities.
A time-constrained, collaborative process for rapidly exploring, prototyping, and validating ideas, usually conducted within a few days or weeks.
A simplified representation of a design’s structure, typically using simple shapes or lines, to outline the layout and hierarchy of elements.
The process of breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps to understand user workflows and design efficient user interfaces.
A mathematical model used in interaction design that predicts the time required to move to and select a target based on its size and distance from the starting point.
A set of broad usability principles or guidelines that help evaluate and identify potential usability issues in a design, such as Nielsen’s 10 heuristics.
Visual cues or indicators, such as hover effects, animations, or progress bars, that provide immediate response and feedback to user actions.
A technique used to gather insights about how users categorise and organise information by asking them to group and label items into meaningful categories.
A structured process of providing constructive feedback and evaluation of a design, often involving a group of designers or stakeholders.
The design of small, focused, and often delightful interactions within a product, such as button animations or notification sounds.
A mathematical ratio (approximately 1.618) often used in design to achieve visually pleasing proportions and balance between elements.
Designing products and experiences that are accessible and usable by a wide range of users, including those with disabilities or diverse needs.
Progressive Web App (PWA)
A type of web application that offers a more app-like experience, including offline functionality, push notifications, and the ability to be installed on devices.
A fictional representation of the target audience or user group, providing a shared understanding and focus for design decisions.
The tactile or touch-based feedback provided by devices, such as vibrations or physical responses, to enhance the user experience.
The overall structure and flow of user interactions within a product, defining how users navigate and accomplish tasks.
A user’s understanding and conceptualisation of how a product or system works, which influences their expectations and interactions.
The art and technique of arranging and styling text, including font selection, size, spacing, and hierarchy, to enhance readability and visual appeal.
KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
Quantifiable metrics or measurements used to assess the performance and success of a product or design, such as conversion rate or engagement rate.
Visual Design System
A set of guidelines, principles, and assets that define the visual style and aesthetics of a brand
Design strategies and mechanisms implemented to minimise the occurrence of errors and help users avoid mistakes or unintended actions.
A method used to evaluate the effectiveness of an information architecture or navigation structure by having users complete specific tasks based solely on the hierarchy of categories.
Visual Design Language
A consistent and cohesive set of visual elements, such as colors, typography, icons, and imagery, used to create a distinct visual identity for a product or brand.
Wizard of Oz Testing
A technique in which users believe they are interacting with a fully functional product, but some or all of the interactions are manually simulated by a person behind the scenes.
The practice of crafting clear, concise, and user-centric text and copy within a user interface to guide users, communicate information, and support their tasks.
A design approach that focuses on building a solid foundation of core functionality and then progressively adding more advanced or complex features for users with modern or capable devices.
A measurement of how far users scroll down a webpage or screen, providing insights into content engagement and user behavior.
Maintaining a uniform visual style, design elements, and patterns across a product or interface to create a cohesive and harmonious user experience.
Empathy in Design
The ability to understand and share the feelings, needs, and perspectives of users, which guides the design process and helps create user-centered solutions.
Input and insights provided by users through surveys, interviews, usability testing, or feedback mechanisms, used to improve the design and address user needs.
The process of determining the order and importance of features or functionalities to be developed and implemented based on user needs, business goals, and constraints.
The process of evaluating design solutions or prototypes through testing, user feedback, or data analysis to ensure they meet user needs and align with project goals.
Quantitative measurements used to assess the usability and effectiveness of a product, such as task completion time, error rate, or user satisfaction ratings.
Using visual elements, such as images, illustrations, or graphics, to convey a narrative or message, engaging users and enhancing their understanding and emotional connection.
A visual representation of the user’s journey, emotions, and touchpoints with a product or service, helping to identify pain points, opportunities, and areas for improvement.
Reusable solutions or approaches to common design problems or challenges, providing guidance and best practices for designing specific interactions or interfaces.
That’s a wrap!
Congratulations on reaching the end of this post. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably learned a thing or two about product design that you didn’t know before – like what the heck Wizard of Oz testing is! If you’re just starting out, don’t forget to check out my FREE Figma course. And if you’d like to delve deeper into UX & UI design, be sure to explore my awesome new course.