If you’ve been following our blog like a hound, then you knew an in-depth analysis of UX design was bound to happen.
In part one of our UX/UI design series, Is UI as Important as UX? Let’s Talk Design!, we made these terms go against each other in an effort to see which one was more important. To no surprise, and thanks to this wonderful metaphor:
Consider this, you visit a bakery and place an order for a birthday cake. When it is time to pick up the cake, you’re presented with only half of what you ordered. It’s flavorful, but because of its impartial state, it cannot serve the purpose you intended. The taste of the cake provided a satisfactory experience (UX), but it’s missing pieces diminished its functionality (UI).
– we emphasized that both elements are crucial to the success of a visual product. Now, it’s time to get to know UX a bit better. Why? Because although both elements are equally important in designing attractive visual materials, UX is arguably a lengthier task, affecting the design process from conception to completion. So, let’s get into it.
What is UX design?
UX design stands for user experience design. In a nutshell, user experience is the person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system, or service. Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know and Author of UX for Lean Startups and Build Better Products, describes it best as “the process used to determine what the experience will be like when a user interacts with your product.”
Whether intentional or not, how a user interacts with the product is dictated from the beginning when it is designed. You even partake in UX design when you create a simple 3-page website. It is inescapable! Therefore, it is best to understand it fully before jumping into the creative process of delineating a user’s path towards optimal use.
Where should UX design be used?
UX design is mainly used for products that require human interaction. Naturally, many digital products such as websites, apps, software, and even your iPhone’s homepage utilize UX design to help users do what the product was intended to do. The catch is making users think the path was natural, instinctual, and mostly under their own control. Spooky right? It might come as a surprise that digital products are not the only elements in our lives guiding us throughout their usage.
Almost everything around us (dish-washers, car dashboards, etc.) requires us to adhere to a learning curve, therefore, it retains a sense of UX design. The only difference is that the path created by the designers of said items transcend the virtual dimension and instead, dabble in the physical one. This is to say, UX design is everywhere! Once you begin searching for it, you’ll find that UX design affects you everywhere you go.
Who does UX design?
Let’s start this section with a great quote by Director of UX at The Nerdery, Fred Beecher, who says: “How do I explain what I do at a party? The short version is that I say I humanize technology.” A UX designer is there to make a product and/or technology usable. They tend to work as part of a larger design team in which they bridge the gap between the user and the development team.
UX designers take care of user research, personas, information architecture, user flows, wireframes, prototyping, and user testing. Think of UX designers as the researchers, while UI designers are graphic designers.
When do you use UX design?
UX design begins at the start of a project, unlike UI design. Here is how the average UX design process looks like:
Define reasonable goals for the project. Elements such as time and budget should be defined. Make sure to outline the mission and vision as well!
Start thinking about your users. Who are they, where are they from? Where can you find them? There are many online tools that help conduct surveys or to collect ideas from users.
Build User Personas
Now that you have some data about your users, it is time to summarize those users into user personas. Make sure to create 2-3 user personas that will dictate how your team approaches the design process of your project.
Create User Stories
Bring in the team and discuss the user. You can talk about their background and assign them a fictional story. Why? To prevent confusion and ensure everyone is clear about what you are building and why.
Build the Sitemap
If you are designing a website, then the next step is to build a sitemap. It’s a list of pages of a website in a hierarchical order for human-visible listings. If you are working on an app, a collection of screens connected together will also work.
Create Wireframes & Interaction Prototypes
Now it’s time to give a visual impression of your product. Explore the design possibilities, let everyone give their ideas (yes, also the developers), and agree on one path to further design without any interruptions or changes.
Hand it off to the UI designer and watch their magic in action. Then, think about the usability of each UI element such as button placement, and size to further optimize the product.
Deliver to Developers
Deliver everything to the developers for them to bring the concept into the physical world. Make sure to discuss the design elements that may seem a bit far-fetched or too risky to use to void any roadblocks.
Once developers finish the first version, roll it out to users. Analyze how users interact with the product and reasses accordingly.
Why is UX design important?
To put it simply, UX is important because it attempts to fulfill the user’s needs. It provides users with coherence, continuity, and joy when using your product. Moreover, for most users, if a product is frustration-free they will most likely choose that one over the competition. Therefore, it is vital to work on your user experiences for easy, enjoyable use.