• Project management
  • by Justyna Kot
  • 21/11/2019

A Step by Step Guide to the UX Design Process

What do people mean when they talk about user experience (UX)? UX refers to the direct value your product provides to users when they are using it. User Experience Design, abbreviated UXD or UED, is the process of improving user satisfaction with the product by enhancing its accessibility and usability.…

Concise Software - A Step by Step Guide to the UX Design Process

What do people mean when they talk about user experience (UX)? UX refers to the direct value your product provides to users when they are using it. User Experience Design, abbreviated UXD or UED, is the process of improving user satisfaction with the product by enhancing its accessibility and usability.

UED is a critical area in the process of software development. In this article, we present the step-by-step guide to UX Design process to help you understand its value to your app development project.

Why invest in User Experience Design?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of considering design to be just about how a product looks. But in reality, the design is much more than that. Here is a quote from Steve Jobs that perfectly reflects the value of the design:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

User Experience Design focuses on developing and expanding customer confidence in your brand. A great product that doesn’t offer an appealing user experience will negatively affect the ability of a company to achieve its business goals.

UX is important because its primary goal is fulfilling the needs of customers and providing them with a positive experience that builds loyalty. Moreover, by creating a meaningful experience in your app, you can direct customers through your product in a way that realizes your most important business goals.

What can you achieve with User Experience Design?

But what exactly is an optimal User Experience Design? Unfortunately, answering this question is challenging. Every user will have a slightly different experience with your product.

But the most important thing to remember when designing user interfaces is that you’re not one of your users. Assuming that you know what your users want or need is a serious mistake, especially if your assumptions are only based on your intuition and not hard data.

So how do we define a great experience? What can a company achieve by investing in User Experience Design?

The primary benefit of an excellent user experience is building a closer relationship with users. The idea here is making User Experience Design a part of your product development process. You should talk to your users, watch them use your product, assume their perspective, and ask yourself questions about their decision-making process.

It’s your customers who will teach you how to build your product in a way that helps to fulfill their needs. Ultimately, by taking user experience seriously, you’ll position your product for success, differentiate it from the competition, and achieve critical business objectives.

Who is responsible for User Experience Design?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the new job title used in the tech industry and beyond: User Experience Designer or UX designer.

UX designer is a brand-new role that has been defined not more than five or six years ago. Here’s the difficult part: UX designers often get confused with UI designers (User Interface designers). Note that the two are completely different roles, even if some of their responsibilities overlap.

What is the job of a UX designer? It’s the person responsible for the entire process of integrating product features, including aspects of its design, branding, functionality, and usability. A UX designer concentrates on designing user experiences and making sure that the product evokes positive emotions among users who take advantage of its features.

A successful digital product addresses the needs of end-users, solves a particular problem, and offers an understandable and intuitive way of doing that. All these three goals are impossible to achieve if you fail to keep in touch with your customers. And that’s the responsibility of the UX designer. UX designers support the product development process by doing research, carrying out surveys, creating prototypes and mockups, as well as testing the product among specific user groups.

UX Design Process step by step

Now that you know what UX design is all about and what is the job of UX designer is, it’s time to have a look at the UX design process in detail. Follow this step-by-step guide to understanding all the stages that UX design entails.

1. Pre-planning and preparation

At this stage, the UX designer aims to understand the main problem the product is looking to solve. Usually, UX designers organize a kickoff meeting to learn more about the company, target audiences, and the product itself.

This is also the time for preliminary research. Designers often ask their clients for business documents such as mission statements, strategy documents, organizational structure chart, any previous research conducted on the market (market user research, competitor analysis, etc.), the client’s most recent annual report, and examples of current advertisements used by the client. They need all of this information to understand the business model and see how the product fits into the overall structure of the company.

A UX designer also needs to know what the target market looks like, who the main competitors are, and how the client’s product it is different or better, what the client’s brand values are, and how to define success.

Note: At this point, UX designers aren’t going to consider things like the features, functionality, or content of the product. Instead, they’ll be more interested in learning about the client’s goals, challenges, and culture.

Creating personas

Once the first phase is over, UX designers can start identifying the types of people who may become the potential users of the product. For example, if the designer works with a client who aims to create a new type of mobile fitness app, the company might have a complete idea and specification, but not so much information about the potential users.

This is where the UX designer comes in. Designers analyze the company’s key competitors to see who they target in their communications. They also run web analytics, carry out surveys, conduct interviews, and engage in market research.

With enough research, they should generate large data sets that will allow them to spot trends and patterns. By analyzing these patterns, designers will come to understand what an average potential user of the product looks like and develop user personas.

Personas are archetypal representations of the product users that describe the person in detail and focus on their motivation for using the product. Personas are the essential tools UX designers use to communicate their research findings to clients.

2. Planning and research

Once designers know more about the target audience and the business objectives, they’re ready to start the initial phases of design. At this point, they often use one or more of these tools.

User Scenario Mapping

User Scenario Mapping refers to a narrative that conveys the user’s intention to do something and the steps the user needs to take to accomplish that. The advantage of using such scenarios is because they allow implementing visualizations such as storyboards, narrative scenarios, or scenario maps.

Scenario maps are particularly interesting because they show every step of the way in performing a task. Scenario maps communicate the motivation of the persona to complete the task and help to discover the problems that persona encounters on the way, as well as identify opportunities for improving the process.

User Journey

Another common UX technique is the user journey. The User Journey Map is a linear visualization that reflects what the persona is feeling while using the product. The User Journey Map allows designers to note potential gaps in the process and identify areas for improvement. Designers usually create such maps based on the feedback they receive through user interviews, data from previous phases, and observations.

User Stories

A User Story is a sentence that describes one aspect of how a user can interact with the app. But the description needs to offer actionable content for software developers. For example, the user would like to be able to change the color of the sweater to see what the product looks like in that color. Every User Story includes three parts: 1) an individual, 2) an action, and 3) a consequence of the action.

3. App flow design

The next stage requires UX designers to determine the information architecture of the product. This is where they use tools that help to visualize the actual flow inside the app. At this stage, UX designers usually take advantage of text-based UI flow, flow charts, and sitemaps that come in handy for showing every page in the site or application.

4. Design

Now designers are ready to design the product. Here are a few essential elements used in the design phase:

Design systems

Many UX designers use design systems, i.e., systems of reusable components that can be assembled according to the previously defined standards. Design systems are an excellent tool for larger projects. They also speed up the design process in the long run, even if they require substantial time investment upfront.

Interaction design

In this part of the design process, designers determine how users are going to navigate from one screen to the next. By developing an interaction map, they can understand which parts of the screen will be interactive – for example, boxes, buttons, links, and inputs. Interaction maps are not full-screen mockups, but they help to show what the user interface will look like.

Wireframes

Wireframes are an excellent tool for giving frontend developers a sense of where various elements will be located on the screen. Many UX designers take advantage of whiteboard markers to get their ideas across as quickly as possible and without going into too much detail. Wireframes indicate the shape, size, and position of various elements. They don’t show the colors, content (like images), or text font. Wireframes are an excellent foundation for paper prototypes.

Paper prototypes

Once UX designers develop a set of wireframes, they’re ready to receive user feedback. And this is where paper prototypes come in handy. Designers often use sticky notes, print out their designs, or cut out the pages on which they sketch their designs.

Note: It’s smart to present testers with such basic materials because they’re less likely to criticize the work if it appears that you put a lot of effort into it. Paper prototypes are popular among UX designers because they offer an entry point for gathering user feedback, showing potential end-users what the experience of the app will be like.

User Interface design

Some companies divide the roles of UX and UI designers to the point where the former aren’t even involved in user interface design. UI design is about designing the app screens. The designs will be given to the development team, which implements the designs.

Prototype

UX designers also create functional prototypes that simulate the entire experience of using the product. For example, by tapping on the “Next” button, users will be taken to the next screen – just like in a real application. When the prototype is ready, designers usually start collaborating with developers on the implementation of the designs.

Production

Since the software development process is time-consuming, by that point, the development team is probably deep into the work on the app’s backend systems. The UX designers usually support the team by answering questions about how things should work or look like, providing guidance when necessary, and engaging in user testing to gain more feedback. UX designers are also responsible for planning new features and are involved in discussions about future updates.

Key takeaway

UX design process is a critical part of the software development process. Since creating a digital product involves a significant investment of resources, companies that engage in such projects don’t want to risk building a product that doesn’t fulfill the essential needs of their target audience. 

That’s why UX designers need to be part of the process from the very beginning. They’re the connecting points between the users and the product, gathering feedback and translating it into design elements.

Are you looking for an experienced team of UX designers to help your product grow? We have ample experience in supporting companies in areas such as UX and UI design with our skilled specialists who have experience in working on projects across different industries.

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Justyna Kot

Project Manager & Business Analyst at Concise Software

Geek girl & coffee lover, Google Developers Launchpad Mentor, passionate about growth hacking, community building and Star Wars. Also Lead Organizer at Women Techmakers and GDG Rzeszów

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