The UX Design Process—a Step by Step Guide
Technology adoption is happening at a faster rate than ever before in history. In fact, statistics predict that the number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to surpass the 6.1 billion mark in 2020—that’s about 70% of the global population. With the amount of people using tech products and interacting with software-based platforms on a daily basis, the emphasis on user experience has become not just important, but imperative.
While User Experience (UX) design is still a relatively new term, UX designers are in fierce demand and the market is rapidly growing. Before the internet, UX designers might have served in the marketing department’s role of brand strategist or web designer. Today, a UX designer differs from these more traditional roles by blending the worlds of strategy, design and psychology together to focus solely on delivering the best possible experience to the end user.
UX design is a fundamental approach to producing a project—whether it be software, a website, or a mobile application. And, good UX designers are typically observant, inquisitive, and understand human behavior and basic psychology. They’re also bleeding edge users who are always looking for new designs to try and test.
In its simplest state, successful UX design means creating a product that can be used by anybody. But, how? What’s the process?
The Six Steps of Effective UX Design
Step 1: Learn To Understand
UX designers are strategic thinkers who design for two things: human interaction and problem-solving. At Tivix, we begin this process by asking two crucially important questions: why and what. What are we creating? Why are we designing it? What is the problem we are trying to solve? And, why would anyone want to use this solution?
This initial exploration is key to defining the scope and objectives of your project and lays a fundamental foundation for everything that comes after.
UX designers should analyze jobs requirements, conduct contextual and individual interviews, and hold brainstorming sessions with the clients in order to take their needs and company goals into account. They’ll also immerse themselves in the nomenclature, language and visual dos and don’ts of the brand to ensure company culture and voice is represented.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Research is a key step to designing user experience. A design team must investigate, explore, and understand the product domain, marketplace, and competition.
First off—don’t just rely on Google! We begin by gathering information from our clients in order to learn about the users and their environments, as well as what they need and what they want. For established companies, we can source information from customer service departments and direct feedback from users themselves through user surveys and field activities. For startups, we can pull from subject matter experts or analysis of competitor apps, for example.
We use this research to build user personas and create a clear picture of our user—their general bio data, what they do, their behaviors, and their goals. This step in the process should provide ideas and materials from which you can begin to sketch and design your ideas.
Step 3: Sketch, Analyze, Repeat
Once we’re equipped with our user research and personas, we can move into an ideation phase which requires flexibility, open-mindedness, and the ability to work in a group of designers, developers, and other stakeholders.
The best part about this step? Anything goes! Brainstorming generates a lot of crazy ideas and solutions. Make sure you don’t throw these ideas away prematurely—put them in backlogs so you can revisit them later on. As a team, you’ll also prepare spec docs, create scenario maps, develop user flows, hold group whiteboarding sessions, draw paper sketches, build sitemaps, and create wireframes.
Ultimately, your goal is to define the user experience, test and evaluate design concepts, and analyze how your designs will inform behavior and effect the experience of the user. Remember: UX designers should always go back to business by taking the ideas and flows they generate and compare them against initial user stories, company goals, and resources for the project—such as budgets and timelines. Then, designers can accurately identify the pros and cons of an idea and prioritize accordingly.
During this phase you’ll also share your findings and present your ideas with client constituents such as product managers and VPs upfront to obtain their feedback. This prevents future confusion and ensures everyone is clear about decisions regarding what you’re building and why.
Step 4: Design + Test
Design at Tivix is a collaborative, iterative process of refinement when the product begins to take shape via low- or high-fidelity wire-framing and prototyping. Your goal in this phase is to explore the legitimacy of different design ideas, approaches, and solutions.
Wireframes allow everyone to explore options and agree on direction. As for tools, sometimes pencils and paper is enough—or, you can use a digital tools like Proto.io, Sketch or Adobe XD for prototyping.
Prototyping is a key part of this phase because it allows you to determine design patterns, elements of template pages, different framework options, and work with developers to test design functionality.
You can then bring the prototype to the real users, product and business managers, as well as technical experts for testing to gather feedback and, in turn, refine your designs. But, be warned: this phase can invite a lot of opinions and new ideas so and it’s easy to get lost from the original objectives. Remember who you’re building for and why!
Step 5: Develop + Implement
Once you’ve finalized your wireframes and prototypes we can begin to pay attention to the visual details. At Tivix, our UX designers are also our User Interface (UI) designers—this allows us to seamlessly marry the experiential and visual side of the product. UI is about beauty, UX is about experience, and a successful product connects both cohesively. As the UI is created, we need to think about placement and usability of the visual elements (i.e. label placement, button and font size, etc…).
Ideally, back-end functionality will seamlessly connect with UI design. Development and design teams work together during implementation to address potential changes needed and present a complete, functional experience ready for the marketplace.
Step 6: Evaluate
Evaluation is the last, but crucial step, in the UX design process and it’s important that your final product be assessed for quality, compatibility, and user acceptance.
Products are evaluated on a series of questions: is the system useable? Is the experience simple? Is the product flexible and easy to change? Does the experience provide a solution to the end user’s problem? And, most importantly, do people want to use it? If not, what’s wrong?
Designers and product managers should also use the product to feel the experience themselves and compare the implementation to the original designs. It’s important during this phase to compile user feedback, perform UX/UI audit reports, as well as pin-point where improvement is needed and required. This process can continue until the desired experience and customer satisfaction is achieved.
So, we’re done, right?
How do you know when you’re done and, more importantly, when you’ve been successful? Honestly, in UX design, you’re never really done. With each new release, there are ways to optimize the UX for better performance.
The best way to gauge the success of a product is from the users themselves—are they using and engaging with the product? What are they saying about it in reviews and on social media? Is the product gaining traction in the marketplace? These are all key questions to consider and tracking your product is an important, ongoing part of this process. Your answers will determine the right steps to take as your product continues to grow—whether it be more research, analysis, or a change to design.
Just remember the original strategy: the why, and the what should always help shape these decisions and help determine how success is measured.