As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
We see this characteristic of design very well when we look at Forrester research. According to them, every single dollar invested in User Experience design gives up to $100 in returns, effectively delivering a 9,900% ROI. On the opposite end, up to 88% of users are unlikely to return to a website with a poor experience. So in the end, user experience design is about hard cash.
What is User Experience Design?
On the Interaction Design Foundation website, we can find the definition of UX, or actually User Experience Design. The definition says that UX is:
“the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function“.
During the design process, UX specialists should take care of many things, but to make this clear, we’ve wrapped them all into six User Experience design steps:
Every successful product design project starts with understanding equally both the users and the brand –
- users because they, obviously, will use the product and by doing so decide on the success or failure of the product.
- brand because the product designed should also meet set goals and fulfill the brand’s mission.
So, first of all, every UX designer should try to find answers to the following questions:
- What is the problem the product is trying to solve?
- How do people solve this problem now?
- Does this product or service collaborate with the digital strategy, mission, and values of the brand?
- What is the goal of the product?
Only after asking the proper questions, there is room for launching the user research.
#2. UX Research
To create perfect and user-friendly designs, designers use not only their own knowledge and years of experience, but they primarily talk, listen, and observe real users of the product.
Some techniques designers use in user experience research include:
Surveys are probably the quickest way to collect answers from a large group of people. User experience specialists first establish a target group and write down questions for which they want the answers. It might look easy, but it isn’t – UX designers have to be very careful not to disproportionately impact the results by using the wrong formula of questions, by wrongly choosing the target group, by the length of the survey, or even by picking the wrong place to post the survey.
This method is based on conversations with select product users. It’s not necessary to talk with hundreds of people; UX specialists find about 5 to 10 people and talk with them personally. So it’s all about good questions and the right way of conducting a conversation – UX specialists have to create natural conditions to generate as real data as possible. Of course, it can be a remote interview because, in times of COVID-19, that’s the new normal.
When UX designers want to know how precisely a product is used, they can check it by choosing some testing methods.
- Heatmaps – special programs create heatmaps, which show what place on the web or app users spend most of their time and which areas are invisible to them.
- A/B tests – designers create two or more versions of an interface (e.g., form, landing page, etc.), and put in each of them only one difference. Then they look at which version has the bigger conversion rate.
- User tests – they’re like an interview, but the specialist also asks the participant to use a product or service, and the designer watches in order to draw conclusions.
Above, you can find only a few hints of how UX research can look and what methodologies user experience specialists might use. If you want to know more about how UX research is conducted on a real example, read about our UX Research for Augmented Reality – 5 methods we used to validate PoC.
This is when UX designers, during the first steps of the design process, collect all the information they need in order to analyze it. In the end, they create a condensed summary of researched conclusions that they will come back to while in the design process. Here are two examples of tools that help to put such conclusions together:
A user persona is an archetype of a typical customer profile. UX designers create a couple of profiles dependent on the number of the product’s target groups. In this kind of profile, designers put information like age, job, location, interests, motivations, frustrations, habits, favorite brands, etc. Traditionally, a user persona also needs a name and an image, to perceive it in a more humane way.
User journey maps represent ways of how users might use the product – which path they choose and in which places they get stuck. These maps also help designers see the bigger picture of the whole product and focus on the most painful areas in the process.
So we are halfway through the UX design process and only now have we come to design itself. This shows how important it is for designers to be well prepared and how much energy and work they put into that preparation.
Now, to the step itself. First of all, designers work on building a wireframe – a sketch of a product, a web, or an app. This sketch doesn’t contain colors or images, it just shows the structure – what elements and in which places they should be put to create the best product with an excellent user experience which also achieves the set goals.
A wireframe is the foundation of the product, and after this is done, the designers can work on the next steps, like mockups, animations, icons, and so on. All of these have to be consistent within themselves, and of course, within brand guidelines.
Sending the accepted designs to developers is not the end of the work of UX designers. It is great if these two groups of specialists are close to each other and know how to work together (that’s one of the reasons it’s good to consider working with an extended team from a company that delivers both design and implementation).
It’s important because they can communicate – designers can describe just how something should work, and developers can share their insights if they see different solutions. And, on each stage of delivery, both sites can make sure everything works.
After the product is delivered or in the beta phase, designers often make one more round of testing.
#6. And, Once Again, Analyze
After the product is launched, designers can start to gather data and check if their assumptions were correct. This is also a moment to do a round of user testing one last time.
When UX designers collect this information, they can create an audit report and identify places that may need improvement, and show how to do so. Essential for getting your product off the ground and ensuring your user’s success.
So what makes good UX design?
This article starts with a quote, so let’s end it in the same way:
“Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s useful. And just because something is useful does not make it beautiful.”Joshua Brewer, Co-founder, and CEO of Abstract.
The point of making a good UX design is not only to create a useful product nor only a pretty one. To create the perfect UX design, a designer has to combine both elements, and he or she must do this by carefully listening to both the users and the brand.
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