This article will attempt to define a UX design process. It will also tell you about the step-by-step order of specific UX phases. This article will also explore the different methods that can be used by UX designers in each phase of the process.
What Does A UX Process Look Like?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. The truth is that the UX process is heavily dependent on the type of the UX project. Hence, the process that designers will adopt will vary according to the project at hand. This variance is due to the fact that different projects need to have different approaches and methods for achieving results.
There are a few basic principles that UX designers need to follow for every project (i.e. conducting product research before tackling the prototyping). However, the UX process will need to be customized and designed specifically for each project.
Overview of the UX Process
The core of every UX process must essentially consist of the following five phases:
This is one of the most significant phases of the UX design process and is done at the start, before the design process even begins. Before you can create a product, you must understand why it should exist and what purpose it will serve. This is the product definition phase and can define the success of a product. This stage involves brainstorming activities between UX designers and product stakeholders to understand the concept of the product and its context.
This stage usually includes:
- Stakeholders interviews: The stakeholders involved in the project are interviewed to gain insights about their goals. Defining the goals and values of a product that you want to build is an important driver for success in the UX design process.
- Create value proposition: A value proposition defines the key aspects of the product. It tells the teams involved in its creation what it is, the product’s target audience as well as its various use cases.
- Concept sketching: This involves drafting an early sketch or blueprint of what the team is aiming to build.
- Project kickoff meeting: The kickoff meeting brings all the key members in the project together to establish the expectations for the team and stakeholders. At this meeting, a high-level outline of the product’s purpose is showcased, and important team members are identified. They will understand how they will work together. The teams will also be appraised of the stakeholders’ expectations and told how the success of the product will be measured.
When the product idea is defined in the product definition stage, product research, which will include user and market research, will form the second half of the design foundation. Remember, good research enhances your product as the design and development teams know exactly what the product will be at completion.
The product research stage is by far the most variable because it differs with every project. The research depends on the complexity of the product, available resources and other factors. The research phase can include:
- Individual in-depth interviews: An amazing product experience begins with an in-depth understanding of the target users. UX Designers not only need to know their users but they also need to understand their psychology, gain a deeper understanding of their needs and motivations.
- Competitive research: Without competitive research being a part of your research process, you cannot hope to gain insights into what is already available in the market. A competitive research approach will allow you to learn about products that are already available and the features that these products offer. It also helps you assess your own offering and compare your product’s features with those available in the market. Make an analysis and find out what is unique about your product. The research stage will allow UX designers to understand the present industry standards. They will be able to identify opportunities for the product in a specific market segment.
What do you do with all the information and data you gathered in your research stage? This is where the Analysis stage is important. At this stage, you can gather insights from the data collected about your product’s competitors and audiences.
This stage could include:
- Creating hypothetical audiences: A hypothetical persona is a fictional character that you can create to represent the different types of users that may use your product in a similar manner. This is done to create realistic representations of audience segments for reference. By doing this, you can analyze how your product will be used and engaged with.
After data about several user expectations from the product is analyzed, UX designers begin working on the design of the product. Remember, a successful design phase needs to be highly collaborative i.e. it requires input from all members of the product development team and iterative i.e. that continuously validates ideas and assumptions.
The design phase generally includes:
- Sketching: This includes visualizing ideas of the product and how it will look when complete or at different development stages. Sketching allows the designer to visualize a wide range of design solutions before deciding which one to adopt.
- Create wireframes: A wireframe is a guide that shows the page structure and important elements of a product such as a website or mobile app. A wireframe can be understood to be the backbone of the product. The designers can use wireframes as the skeletons for mockups.
- Create prototypes: While wireframes are predominantly about a product’s structure and visual aspects (the look), prototypes focus on enhancing the user interaction. The prototype gives you both the look and feel of the product. A prototype usually uses clickable wireframes.
- Create a design specification: A design specification generally consists of user flow and task flow diagrams. This outlines the functionality and style guidelines of the product. A design specification details the processes and graphical assets that are required to make a functioning product.
5.Validation and Testing
Validating means to see whether a product is in workable condition. A product is validated with stakeholders and end-users through various user testing sessions.
Like the product research stage, the validation stage also varies depending on different projects. The validation stage can include:
- Low-cost testing: When the design team has created and tested the product to the point where it is usable, they send it for testing within the product team. This way they can validate the product without worrying about any excessive expenditure on testing.
- User testing sessions: User testing sessions serve as a validation of design, based on tests with real users. There are different types of user testing sessions. These include usability testing, beta testing, focus groups, surveys and A/B testing.
- Create user diaries: This is a good way to capture information from real-world users. UX designers can create a simple questionnaire template with general product-related questions such as:
- Where were you when you used the product?
- What tasks did you want to achieve?
- Did you notice something that irritated you?
- Metrics analysis: These are numbers reported by an analytics tool about user interaction with your product. Metrics can include navigation time, clicks, search queries among others. An analysis of several metrics can help to uncover unexpected non-explicit behaviors in user tests.
- Working with feedback from users: Any feedback information i.e. bugs report, and other analytics will help you enhance the workability of the product.
How to Improve the UX Design Process
Now that we have explored each stage of the UX design process and understood how they are interconnected, let us look at a few helpful tips on how to improve the UX design process.
Consider Overlap Between Phases and Iterations
It is very important to realize that the UX design process is not a linear process. There can be a lot of overlapping between the various stages of the UX process.
The Importance of Communication
Good communication is an important skill to master in a UX design career. While creating great design is only half the war won, a UX designer should be capable of translating the idea and message of a product in the design. In the design of your product, you must be careful while communicating what the stakeholders and product managers want to convey.
UX Design Processes Must Be Customized For Different Projects
UX designers should be open to working flexibly on each project. They should ensure that the ux design process they adopt for a project is customized to address specific project requirements, both business needs and functional needs.
The Last Word
Through this article, we have attempted to reiterate that a UX process does not follow a one-fits-all, universal solution. A successful UX design process should essentially be unique to the project being handled. However, one factor remains constant – the user is the center of the equation and the success of the product is dependent on the user’s engagement and experience.