What is UX design – The why of a product
UX design is the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. It entails research and analysis of all customer-related information, an organization of content, and sorting so a user can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
The goal of UX design is to create a digital product a user feels comfortable with. This embraces the way a product functions and a user operates it: content hierarchy, clear navigation, and functionality of the visual elements. But the most important is that all this helps solving user’s problem. Also, a design must be created in compliance with technical and business specifications.
What is UI design – The how of a product
UI design is the process of making software or computerized device interfaces with a focus on looks and style. UI design makes achieving user goals aesthetically pleasing because of a UX designer’s creativity. So, we can consider UI an integral part of UX. But user interface design is mostly oriented on the how of user experience design.
UX design specifics
The whole process of UX design is oriented towards creating the best user experience by eliminating the information load. It consists of two parts:
1)Define a user’s problem, and
2)Find the ways and means to solve it.
The first part is a UX designer’s responsibility, understanding the user and his/her needs considering how to steer someone to achieve particular goals. A UX designer serves as a guide for a user. A UI designer, on the other hand, is someone who paves this path with visual elements and is largely responsible for the second part.
When designing for web, desktop, or mobile products, a UX-oriented team must always keep in mind why the user needs this or that exact element. The user is the main character of this story, so a good UX design must be user-oriented and emotional: a large part of the first stage of a UX design is devoted to exploring a user.
User research and analysis
Everyone’s goal at this stage is to understand the user and his/her pain points. This is when a UX designer works along with a business analyst to do market research, create a competitive analysis, conduct user and stakeholder interviews, record user observations, and define the user journey.
This process allows a UX designer to analyze the best and worst examples of competing products, as well as common patterns used in similar products. Based on this, a team can implement the best features of a competitor’s app or website in their own, enhance those features, and find out the issues users have with similar products with an eye to eliminating them. The next stage is UX research, which aims at closer user analysis.
UX research aims at gathering information from users applying a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, including interviews, contextual inquiries, diary studies, personas, card sorting, and usability testing. UX research helps the team to understand the user and the way to improve his/her experience.
The user journey or user flow is a powerful UX tool that visually illustrates the whole step-by-step user experience with a product. It’s drawn by a UX designer and depicts the sequence of actions that a new or experienced user performs before starting and during use of a product.
This part of UX design plays a significant role in development because the deliverables are tested by the users and are shown to stakeholders. A designer creates wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. Those artifacts represent a page layout and look similar but perform different functions: They represent a product at different stages of development of UX/UI design.
1. Wireframing is an initial process of design layout creation. It’s an outline that represents the main groups of content and shows the general features of an interface. It contains gray boxes, lines, buttons, and sample text. The purpose of a wireframe is to outline how the interface works without getting into graphic details.
2. Mockup – This represents the design in more detail, an illustration of how the product screens will look. It’s a midpoint between a wireframe and a prototype, having colors, logos, pictures, and usually UX writing instead of the real content.
3. Clickable prototype – This is a final model of the future product. Unlike a mockup, it has all visual and functional elements, content, and may work like the final product, e.g. you can click on buttons, input values into fields, etc.
UI design system
When a final layout is ready, a designer can work on graphics. Wireframes and mockups are the skeleton, while graphics is the flesh of a digital product. At this stage, a UI designer starts developing the graphical interface of a digital product. It entails drawing icons, choosing typography and color palette, as well as setting UI guidelines.
Usability testing is different from QA testing or A/B testing. Its main goal is to get feedback from real users of a product to understand how intuitive the interface is, and whether the user can achieve their goal with the product.
At this stage, the UX designer records and analyzes the results of testing. There are a few different types of usability testing:
Comparative usability testing is used to compare one product to another, for example, a competitor’s, or it can be similar to A/B testing when two versions of a design are compared and the best one is chosen.
Explorative usability testing is usually conducted before the release. It’s focused on finding the blind spots and gaps in a product design that were not seen before, but are observed by the users. This testing facilitates improvement of the product before it reaches the market.
Usability evaluation occurs after the product is launched and all necessary improvements are made. That’s when the product is tested again to make sure that the changes accommodate a positive and intuitive user experience.
Support and further development
So, a product is released, and the users find it suitable. That doesn’t mean that UI and UX designers are no longer needed. They remain working on UX/UI design, constantly updating the product according to set design system and UI style guide.
Further testing and evaluation. New content and functionality usually require changes in an interface to improve key performance indicators. This means that the team may reiterate usability evaluation, suggest additional implementations of certain screens, and run A/B tests to define the best performing version.
Improvements and new features. A UX designer must learn which new features the users need and decide how to place them within an existing design. A UI designer changes the design according to the new requirements, and supervises A/B or multivariate testing.
Redesign. In case a product needs redesigning, the team repeats the whole process from the very beginning: conducting new UX research, creating a new sitemap and wireframe while the UI designer contributes a mockup and invents prototypes, etc.