What is UX Design and How Does It Give Your Product an Edge
In today’s saturated market, user experience (UX) is the key to the success of any product or service. Simply put, consumers have a lot of choices and they will not settle for anything that does not fulfill their need.
As a result, a successful product needs to do more than just work. It also needs to look and feel right. In other words, consumers demand a complete package. And this is where user experience design comes in.
If you need to make a product easy-to-use, that is the domain of the UX design team. If it needs to be fun, you turn to the same people. As a result, UX design is a broad area which encompasses many aspects and is integral to the entire process of product development.
What is UX design?
In simple terms, user experience design is the process of making a product usable, appealing, and meaningful. It begins as soon as you start formulating an idea of what a product might be and continues until said product is in the hands of end users, and stays even after that, always improving and fine-tuning the product.
On the surface, this process might appeal similar to graphic design. However, it includes much more. Graphic design is thus a very important part of UX, but it is only a piece of the puzzle. UX designers look at the broader picture and go far beyond mere visuals.
The Different Roles in UX design
Because it is such a comprehensive process, a UX design team needs people who can fulfill a variety of roles. And it is only when they all come together that it becomes possible to create a truly user-focused product design.
First up, the UX researcher starts the design process by conducting a systemic examination of user needs. Consumers are only interested in products which solve their particular problems and user research is how the design team gains the information that is needed to achieve this.
Secondly, the interaction designer is there to lay the groundwork for the way the user can interact with the product. In order to be successful, interaction design needs to allow all users to fulfill their goals in an optimal manner.
Next up, the information architect has the task of creating the structure of the product. They need to arrange all parts and information as well as produce an understandable unit which the user can easily navigate.
Furthermore, the visual designer shapes the aesthetic appeal of a product, while also aiding its usability. By employing various visual effects and design principles, they play a key role in engaging users and making the final product recognizable.
Finally, usability testing is a way to determine how easy a product is to use or access. The usability tester relies on real users to gather this data and will make recommendations if any problems appear regularly.
All that said in real life practice these roles are mashed together in the role of UX Researcher and UX Designer who are responsible for designing, measuring and improving the whole product user experience.
In addition to this, it is worth briefly mentioning the relation between UX design and user interface design. UI design is a narrower concept which primarily focuses on the visual aspects of the user’s interaction with a machine or a piece of software, such as the look of various menus. Although, recent years have seen the rise of voice-controlled interfaces which also fall under this category. The two terms are closely connected and some consider UI design to be a subset of its UX counterpart.
The Skills You Need to Be a UX Designer
Since the UX designer job encompasses so many different aspects, it also calls for a diverse skill set. These requirements will vary depending on the specific role but certain skills and proficiencies are always a necessity.
If you want to be a UX designer, you need outstanding problem-solving skills and a keen eye for details. A high degree of computer literacy is a must, as is the ability to adopt specialized programs. Communication skills are likewise essential as well as empathy as you must also be able to understand the needs of end users and adapt your designs to suit them.
As you would expect, UX designers are sought after in a wide range of professional areas. This can mean anything from a private company to non-profit organizations. That being the case, software development, retail, digital marketing, and telecommunications are just some of the industries where UX design is an everyday necessity.
A Look at the Design Process
Due to the complexity of this work, the UX design process always has several distinct stages. And probably the best way to explain it is to demonstrate it step-by-step through a specific example.
Because people tend to associate UX design most closely with websites and apps, one of those will serve as the illustration. Specifically, the goal of this imaginary UX team is to design a taxi service phone app. By looking at the different phases of this task, you should be able to get a better idea of what a UX designer actually does and everything its work entails.
As is often the case, everything starts with research.
1. Product Research
This is the first step for any UX designer and it is the basis for all subsequent work. UX designers need thorough information about users and the market in order to create a product which suits them both.
By using tools such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups, the UX designer will learn about the crucial features that the app needs to have and the pain points it needs to address. In this specific example, it might be that the users want to know precisely when their taxi is going to arrive. Through this research, the UX designer might conclude that integrating GPS into the app and allowing the users to track their taxi that way could be the answer.
The research also looks at the market and what the competition is offering. Once they collect sufficient data, UX designers can base their further decisions on it and avoid making potentially-costly assumptions.
The next job is to create personas. A persona is a fictional individual reflecting the most common traits and user habits of a target group. UX designers generate personas using data gathered during research which allows them to mirror real-life patterns of their prospective users.
It is very important for these personas to be as life-like as possible, including negative characteristics. By working with an impatient persona, for example, the UX design team will know they need to place punctuality at the forefront of the taxi app.
3. Scenarios and Storyboards
Scenarios are the next step and they are narratives chronicling a day of a persona. UX designers use them to better understand consumer habits and build the product around them. In this case, the aforementioned impatient persona may not want to have to wait for a taxi after calling it. The design team can acknowledge this and implement a feature that allows the user to schedule a taxi ahead of time and have it waiting.
Storyboards serve the same purpose and are a series of illustrations that form a story. They are another tool of UX designers and rely on visualization.
4. User stories
Once the research is done, UX designers need to define the structure of their product. This includes organizing all the information and setting up ways for users to navigate to it. As you can assume, it is imperative that the organization be intuitive. Otherwise, the user experience will suffer. Here, the designers conceive various menus of the taxi app which allow the users to quickly access all the different options.
With the user stories in place, UX designers then create wireframes. A wireframe is a simplified visual representation of the product’s design. As such, it needs to show all the possible ways a user can interact with the product. In this case, it will depict all the different screens of the taxi app. A wireframe is a rough sketch of the design, but it provides visual context, which is invaluable.
A prototype is a simulation of a user’s interaction with the product. Wireframes show you what a product looks like, while prototypes depict how they are supposed to work. For that reason, interactive prototypes are the best and most modern tools to enable designers plenty of options in this regard. Related to the taxi app, a prototype will show the user navigating menus, ordering vehicles, and going through other options. A prototype does not need to be identical to the final design, but it should be very similar.
7. Product Testing
The final step in the design process is having users test the product. A UX researcher will frequently carry out live user testing and immediately record any observations. Of course, there are many other methods available. As you can guess, the UX team usually needs to repeat this process several times. This means that the taxi app will likely go through numerous rounds of testing before the design is truly finalized. It is also important to note that user tests can and should be done during the whole design process: you can show wireframes or even storyboards to users to test the current product and eliminate as many assumptions as you can.
Why Does Your Company Need a UX Designer?
Now that you’ve seen how wide a UX design process is, it is clear that it has a place in just about any company which has a product or service it wants to launch. UX designers specialize in making products functional, accessible, and pleasing to use – all universally desirable traits on the market.
For that reason, it is preferable to include UX specialists into your design process as early as possible, and saving yourself from wasting money and time while creating a product. Websites, apps, and digital platforms benefit greatly from UX design and it does not end there. In essence, whenever your company wants to make the user the center of attention, UX is the way to get there.
It is not uncommon to hear people ask, “What is UX design?” And you might think that the look of an app is the only thing that interests a UX designer. Actually, the term user experience design covers a lot more. It uses various tools, ranging from visual aids to cognitive science, to look at all aspects of how a user perceives a product.
But the most important job of a UX designer is to help create something the user wants to come back to repeatedly. This probably encapsulates all the duties of a UX design team and shows why they can make a real difference once the product hits the market.