What Exactly Is UX Design?
UX design, in the most basic sense, is the process that helps determine the usability, as well as subsequent desirability, of a product; by taking into account all aspects of the user’s psychological journey with/through it. UX design entirely revolves around creating a detailed framework for the product by prioritizing on user needs.
UX design is a vital component in building the image of a given product--mobile app, website, etc vis-a-vis the response of the user; that is drawn from the functional utility, aesthetic appeal, and overall efficiency of that product. The UX process can be broken down majorly into six components.
6 elements of the UX process
Research is the foremost step in any successful UX endeavour, and it provides the path that designers must follow in order to create a great product. It is broken down into 5 distinct steps, that cohesively form the template for the entire UX design that follows:
The process for creating great UX, begins by gaining a proper understanding of the users themselves. This allows designers to better align the product with the needs of users, based on their behavioural trends and perceptions.
In order to make a product that sells, it is essential to first have an in-depth idea of the marketplace. Thus, by gaining a holistic perspective on the ecosystem within which the product will operate, designers can create a more wholesome product that can nimbly navigate all major obstacles.
A large part of creating great product UX for a client, comes from understanding their vision. And it is in order to achieve this, that designers must first gain substantial insights into the client’s business, vis a vis, all its key stakeholders.
To know one’s enemy, is to gain their strength. Before setting about to create the ideal UX design for a given product, designers must be fully aware of its competitors--what they are doing wrong, and more importantly what they are doing right.
Knowing all about the platform/s and its adaptations among target users, helps designers to gain an insight into the technological (media) context within which the product is being deployed.
The demographic, as well as psychographic data collected through user research, form broad groups into which those users can be classified.
Persona mapping provides a way to develop a more holistic profile of said user group/s, by taking on the aspects of their conscious and subconscious behaviour, which involves behavioural trends such as likes/dislikes, motivations, among others. In this way, designers are able to understand user behaviour on a relatively intimate level, thus allowing them to develop a product UX that is suited to address different user needs in the most ideal manner possible.
Site/information architecture is a visual representation of all aspects of a given user’s journey through the platform. When it comes to product functionality, the entire user journey must remain as efficient, and seamless as possible. This is achieved through a bend of research insights, and mental model mapping.
And thus, designers can gain insights into the subconscious behaviours displayed by users. Through constant trial and error, designers are able to construct a treemap representing a site that will offer high usability, coupled with intuitive user navigation
Sketching provides a visual reference to ideas regarding the look and feel of the product; a ground zero of sorts. In the initial stages of UX design for a given product, there are plenty of ideas floating around. In such a situation, it is not quite feasible--both in terms of time or money-- to go about crafting one detailed, high-fidelity system wireframe per idea. It is much easier to draw out, iterate, and reiterate different ideas on paper, so that one cohesive wireframe can be ascertained using them.
Wireframing involves the development of a skeletal user interface structure, devoid of any visual or graphical elements. The whole point of creating wireframes is to be able to provide clients with visual insight into the thoughts/ideas of the designer.
It is a widely accepted fact that images/video are far more powerful than words. This is because each viewer will have their own perceptions/thoughts regarding the product; and a visual aid will give them room to explore the literal appearance of the product, against the perceived backdrop within their minds. There are times when designers go one step further and provide clients with prototype versions of ideas using the wireframes. This elucidates the comprehensive ability of the client and also augments their ability to validate the designers’ ideas in real-time.
This is a process that focuses on the creation of engaging web interfaces through the proper use of technology, and effective communication. The insights needed for creating effective interaction, are gathered primarily based on data obtained from user, and technology research. It is only through these insights that designers can create on-screen interaction elements that are best suited to engage and inform users by being intuitive towards their thoughts, as well as actions.
principles of UX Design
It is a common misconception that UX is simply a component in building the success of a brand. UX design is not so much a step in the process of creating a great product, as it is the process itself. The direction of any UX design endeavour dictates not only the users’ experience with the given product but also their long-term relationship with the entire brand. There are certain guiding principles that designers must adhere to, in order to create effective UX design:
Users come first
UX design, as the name suggests, is largely aligned with the users; insofar as their preferences, expectations, as well as responses. This is a foundation point for the entire product UX, as it involves studying the conscious, and subconscious behavioural trends of users to ascertain their likes/dislikes, motivations, wants, etc. By having a clear handle on these aspects, designers will be able to better align the needs of users, with the client’s business needs.
The design is an element of UX that constantly oscillates between technology and the emotions that determine how users react to it. There is a long-standing question regarding the validity of empathy over intuition. The answer to this is ‘Yes’. While creating UX for a product, designers must put themselves in the shoes of their intended users. It is only by empathizing with their audience, that designers will gain an effective stance of intuition, which will allow them to deliver effective product UX.
End in sight
Having a clear end-goal in mind is very important when it comes to UX design, as it is a highly purposeful endeavour. Some amount of objectivity is required, to act as a point of anchorage for the designers, and to prevent the project from digressing too much along subjective lines. Designers must never forget the end-business solution that a given product caters to. They must, therefore, employ a healthy balance of calculation, and creativity, which will ensure that the overlying practical purpose of the project (revenue) remains intact. Additionally, determining a valid objective beforehand will make the entire process clearer, and simpler.
Time is everything
Time management and scheduling is another essential component of the process. As mentioned above, even though UX design is largely a creative endeavour, complete subjectivity is not the best way to proceed. A fixed project timeline proves helpful in such a situation, as it provides an intangible framework to guide workflow effectively.
As mentioned earlier, the initial stages of UX design for a given product involve plenty of rough ideas floating around. In such a situation, it is much easier to sketch ideas on paper to obtain a cohesive wireframe, than it is to create multiple high-fidelity wireframes. Sketching as an approach helps save both time and money of the designers, and by extension, the client.
To learn is to find
In UX terms, discoverability refers to the ease with which users can find their way through the site; and learnability refers to the average speed with which they will get the hang of using the app. UX design demands that both the above aspects be kept in mind during the process, so as to deliver an experience that is intuitive enough to make the platform both easy to use and engaging at the same time.
To be of use
Usability refers to the user-friendliness of the product. This is reflected in both, the functional features of the product, as well as the visual design elements. Designers must create a product that cohesively incorporates a perfect blend of utility, and aesthetic; in a manner that maximizes the usability of the product.
Benefits of UX
The benefits of UX can broadly be divided into two categories, that encompass the two most crucial halves of the equation from the design point of view: business stakeholders, and users.
For business stakeholders
- Enhanced profits
- Above the competition
- Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Loyal consumers
- Setting higher benchmarks for future improvement
- An effective solution to address needs/expectations
- Makes life easier
- Engaging, as well as enjoyable
- Time efficient
All of the above-listed benefits take the concept of UX to a whole new level, one that operates on a societal level. The bigger picture for good UX in various apps/websites etc is a boost in improvement, as well as enablement in the overall quality of life in society.
The implication of UX has, over the past few years gone from merely creating products, to crafting ideal consumer journeys. For designers, the focus is now shifting to a more holistic perspective; wherein empathizing with consumer emotions plays a pivotal role in creating an experience that intuitively satisfies all touchpoints of the consumers’ interaction with the product, and by extension, the brand itself. And thus, the concept of CX (consumer experience) takes the spotlight. Designing the usability, and functionality of a product from the consumer’s perspective gives designers the key to influence the entire ecosystem within which that product operates. This has far-reaching effects, not just in terms of brand-consumer interaction, but the overall quality and way of life of the consumers.