UX design has made considerable progress in recent years, but the discipline is still finding its feet in the ever-changing digital environment. For every new UX design trend that vows to change the way we look at design experiences (augmented reality, virtual reality, and so on.), there is still tons of work to be done on understanding the UX design process to serve the target audience better.
The UX design process starts with understanding the customer expectations. By grasping the psychology of a user and applying UX design best practices, it’s possible to furnish them with a positive and essential experience.
This article talks about User Experience Design (UXD) and shares a step-by-step guide on the UXD process to create a great user experience.
What is User Experience Design?
User Experience Design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction of a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.
Building a user experience to the level of customer satisfaction is not an individual’s or a team’s responsibility; instead, it is an organization’s vision.
Great user experience design not just features and promotes your product; it also plays a vital role in developing customer confidence. A good product and convincing content without an engaging user experience may influence the ability of an organization to accomplish its business objectives.
The UX Design Process
When a customer goes to the designer with a problem, the majority of the designers hop directly on to a solution, which isn’t the correct way. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand their problem first.
Solving problems the UX way look like this:
Smart user experience design starts by distinguishing the problem and managing all ideas to tackle the problem. Before beginning to address the problem, try to resolve these queries:
The UX Design Process Step-by-Step
Here are the eight necessary steps of the UX design process that we need to keep in mind;
1. Stakeholder Interviews
Stakeholder interviews are considered a big deal in the UX design process. They assist you with understanding user behavior, distinguish constraints, and identify pain points.
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” — Charles Kettering
It helps you to guide the flow of the entire project, such as business goals, technical constraints, usability problems, and what customers expect out of a final product, including a website, application, and a software product.
Stakeholders are those people whose feedback and approval is required throughout the UX design process. Stakeholders are behind the concept of a software product or a website, so it’s critical to understand the final product that they have envisioned.
Here are some tips on conducting a successful stakeholder interview:
- Identify all key stakeholders whose feedback and approvals are required to carry out UX design activities
- Try to conduct a one-on-one interview with each stakeholder to uncover unexpected viewpoints
- Record stakeholder interview as-is, and don’t rephrase their answers, as it may distort the actual message
- Compile the insights of individual stakeholders into one document and distribute it to all stakeholders for review and comments
Stakeholder interviews offer rich insights and help UX designers to get the focus right. The best thing to do is, keep the designers and developers actively involved in the process. In this way, they get a clear picture of the goal of a product.
2. User Research
Acing the UX design process implies continually thinking from the users’ perspective; knowing what their viewpoint can only come through working with real users while doing in-depth user research.
User research encourages us to precisely discover how our target customers feel while collaborating with the product that is designed to meet their objectives.
User research is often conducted simultaneously with stakeholder interviews, and there’s not much difference between the expected outcome of stakeholder interviews and user research. While stakeholder interviews give us insights into the business goal of a product, user research tells us what features users expect from the product.
To get into end-users’ mindset, you need to understand the two essential facets of user research:
User Personas or User Profiles
Creating user profiles or user personas is the first step in conducting user research. A user persona is usually based on two dimensions – demographic and psychographic. Elements such as age, gender, education level, income group, culture, etc. fall under demographic aspects.
On the other hand, psychographic dimensions cover the behavioral aspects of a user, such as likes and dislikes.
Here is an example of a user persona:
User journeys describe the different paths users follow to complete a specific task within a system, a website, or an application. In the case of an existing app or website, user journeys show the current user workflow and help us find areas of improvement for a better workflow.
User journeys are a great way to understand the application from a user’s point of view. It gives you valuable insights about how you should create the flow of activities from one end to the other so that everything falls in the right place, and users can complete a set of tasks effortlessly.
3. UX Audit
A User Experience Audit (UX Audit) is a way to pinpoint less-than-perfect areas of a digital product, revealing which parts of a website or app are causing headaches for users and stymieing conversions. As with financial audits, a UX audit uses empirical methods to expand an existing situation and offer heuristics-based recommendations for improvements or user-centric enhancements.
Ultimately, a UX audit should let you know how to boost conversions by making it easier for users to achieve their goals on your site or software. Though website audit includes a vast list of elements to verify based on the specific needs of your app, here is a list of some critical areas that shouldn’t be left out.
Key user-specific activities should be easy to locate in the app or a website, e.g., objects, actions, options, and menu items. Also, make sure that the main navigation is easily identifiable, and navigation labels are clear and concise.
- The system should always keep users informed about what’s going on at the backend.
- The app or website should use non-technical and day-to-day terms that are familiar to end-users.
- It should be clear whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.
- Error messages should be expressed in everyday language, and they should also offer a solution.
- Make sure that the help information is easily accessible, well-organized, and relevant.
- Page or application load time should be reasonable.
- Font types and text formatting should be conducive to easy readability.
- The homepage should be easily digestible in 5 seconds. If users take longer to understand what the page is all about, it’s highly probable that they’ll leave the page sooner.
4. Gathering Requirements
Gathering requirements is an essential and vital stage in the UX design process. Getting it wrong from the get-go can devastatingly affect how the final project outcome turns out. It is a standalone process in a software development life cycle (SDLC). It takes lots of research, an intensive understanding of what kind of project you’re setting out on, and a handful of patience.
Here are the six things that you must consider for making user experience design better and faster.
- Brainstorming and ideation session among teams and clients
- Stakeholder interviews
- User Interviews
- Create a low fidelity prototype or sketch
- User scenarios, stories, and personas
Remember that the requirements are based on insights gathered from stakeholder and user interviews, so it’s essential to do the first three steps right to create an accurate requirements definition document.
The entire design and development activities are done as per the requirements mentioned in this document; therefore they should be described meticulously to keep the project on the right track.
5. Information Architecture/ Wireframes
Information architecture (IA) and wireframes are all about organizing the content and flow of a website or an application so that users can complete their tasks and achieve their goals quickly. The focus is on creating usable content structures out of complex sets of information.
A wireframe is the skeleton of a web page or an application. It shows the order of various elements on the screen and how these elements fit into the overall structure of a website.
The following are the steps involved in developing the information architecture of a website:
Organization of content is the first step in the IA process, which deals with formally classifying content based on how the users of a particular domain might access it at various levels. However, before you start organizing content, it’s critical to develop a thorough understanding of that content.
Techniques such as card sorting can be used here, where all navigation labels of the website are written on different cards, and users are asked to place these cards in a way they want the information to be organized.
Creating information relationships is all about making the information usable. For example, in an online book store, people might not always remember a book they want to purchase by its title.
Therefore, it’s essential to connect various metadata elements to a particular book, such as author, publisher, year of publishing, awards, etc. so that users can find a book title by its author name, and so on.
The next step is to provide a navigation structure to the organized content. This is where sitemaps and wireframes come into play. While sitemaps display page relationships and paths, wireframes display page-level content organization.
Wireframes bring together all three elements of information architecture – content organization, information relationships, and navigation system – and present them through a basic structure.
Before you start working on wireframes, choose the appropriate fidelity of wireframes:
a) Low fidelity: Low fidelity wireframes are usually created during the initial stages of a design cycle. Paper sketching is the low-fidelity approach to wireframing and is specifically useful during the brainstorming and conceptualizing phase.
b) Medium fidelity: Medium fidelity wireframes are more refined versions of wireframes that show the behavioral or minimal functional aspects of the application or a website. These wireframes are more relevant in determining how good the user experience is, and whether user needs will be met.
c) High fidelity design: High fidelity designs are closest to the final product, with various visual elements incorporated in the design, like colors, images, design, and typography. High fidelity designs can be used for usability testing, and serve excellent reference for developers to get a good idea of the final product.
6. Visual Designs
Visual design focuses on the aesthetics of a site or application. But more than the ‘look & feel’ factor, the design is driven primarily by the ‘usability and functionality’ factor. By usability and functionality, we mean focusing on creating a delightful and useful user experience.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. – Steve Jobs
Everybody recognizes Apple products as they have a sleek and unique appearance. The models of iPhones and Macs have inspired tech companies from around the world. In any case, it isn’t the aesthetic of Apple products that brought them universal praise. It was the user experience and usability of the products that differentiated Apple from its competitors.
Designing a delightful user experience includes carefully planning a customer journey for the users and helping them find what they are searching for through an intuitive procedure. Especially in the case of user experience design, user-centered visual design is the dominant design approach. That’s why visual design also refers to as user-centered design within the UX design process.
Let’s unravel some fundamental principles that are associated with visual design:
- Visual design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks, and environments.
- User-centered evaluations drive the entire design process. Users are involved continuously throughout the visual design process to get feedback, make changes, and even redesign.
- Visual design cannot be done in isolation since it addresses the whole user experience. Eventually, the design should support all the elements of UX design.
Prototyping is the process of creating interactive simulations or sketches that work or look like the final product, and getting these validated with broader teams of users, including end-users, stakeholders, developers, and designers.
And, doing all this quickly is called rapid prototyping. In recent years, rapid prototyping has been adopted by design and development teams alike to get better results, faster.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a prototype is worth 1,000 meetings. – Tom & David Kelley
Prototyping is a vital part of the UX design process for two key reasons:
Visualization — Prototypes help UX designers show stakeholders how the final product would look and function.
Feedback — Prototypes create input from test groups of users. Potential users can interact with the final product and feature areas that are not so easy to understand. The design team would then be able to repeat the design before rolling out the final product, saving the company’s time and money.
A typical rapid prototyping process involves the following three steps:
a) Creating the Prototype: In the first step, prototypes are created based upon the description of the product given by stakeholders and data gathered from user research.
b) Reviewing the Prototype: Stakeholders and other users review the final prototype, and its evaluation is based on whether it meets the end-users’ requirements or not.
c) Refining the Prototype: Once the feedback is received, the prototype is refined as per the changes suggested by users. There are multiple iterations until the prototype meets the requirements of the final visualized product.
However, before getting into rapid prototyping, it’s essential to scope a prototype, while keeping following things in your mind:
- Decide what needs to be prototyped. Mainly, complex applications are the right ones for creating a prototype.
- Determine what percentage of the final product needs to be prototyped. In this case, focus only on those features that will be used the highest number of times.
- Weave a story around the prototype so that it covers all features developed in the prototype. It’s about creating a user journey that should evaluate all features included.
- Plan your iterations, so that broader areas are prototyped first, such as creating homepage or critical landing pages first. As you move along several iterations, focus on detailed aspects of prototyping, such as users trying to find a brochure or downloading it.
- Determine how closely the prototype will resemble the final product. For example, will it be a sketched prototype or a styled prototype? Will it be static or interactive? Will it include dummy text or real content?
Testing involves evaluating and benchmarking the usability of a final product with real users. Testing is the key to delivering delightful user experiences to end-users. Depending on a particular project, testing may involve the following types of testing approaches:
Usability testing consists of evaluating and benchmarking the usability of a final product with real users. It is the key to delivering delightful user experiences to end-users. All or a combination of the following techniques can be used to conduct usability testing:
- Concurrent Think Aloud (CTA) testing involves real-time feedback and responses from users as they interact with a product.
- Retrospective Think Aloud (RTA) technique asks users to retrace steps they followed to complete a task.
- It helps in determining whether a particular process is repeatable.
- Concurrent Probing (CP) involves asking questions from users, while a testing session is in progress.
- Retrospective Probing (RP) is about asking questions and thoughts of users after they’ve completed their session.
It is particularly relevant in scenarios when you already have a website up and running. Site analytics provide valuable data related to various metrics like click-path, average time spent on the website, bounce rate, etc. that gives useful insights about user behavior.
Based on the analytics data, you can then enhance the IA, navigation, and other UX elements, implement the changes and again revisit the analytics data to see if the changes resulted in any improvement.
A/B testing is a method to test two variations of a web page by subjecting them to experimentation and finding the version that delivered better results.
For example, there are two website designs, and you want to know which works better. To find this out, split the traffic to these two versions of the website and measure their performance based on metrics such as the number of conversions, bounce rate, sales, etc.
The UX design process doesn’t simply offer customers an intuitive and pleasurable experience — it offers an opportunity for designers to emphasize and improve their designs. The initial step to designing an interface that your users will adore is knowing precisely what that process involves. To give an insight into the ideal approach, this blog briefly explains the eight UX design steps.
The UX design process starts with understanding the business goals and knowing how to serve the target audience at best. By comprehending the user psychology and applying the above-mentioned UX design processes to your next project can help create compelling and memorable user experiences.