Design, UI, UX, Insights

UX Design Process in a Nutshell

A Short Guide to Everything You Need to Know About UX Design Process

Having a design process gives you structure, focus, and direction on how to go from an ambiguous problem to a complete design solution. Professional UI/UX designers prefer to have a more flexible design process, allowing them to adapt to each project. Most design processes incorporate the principles of design thinking to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown. In today’s blog post, we’ll talk about the UX design process, including how to start a UX project, and what specific UX steps you should take in order to deliver a successful design solution.

 

UX design process is a 5-stage methodology that incorporates the principles of design thinking. During this process, you go through different stages repeatedly while evaluating your designs on each stage:

  • Definition phase: Understanding the context of the product’s existence, defining the scope and deliverables.
  • Research phase: Exploring the pain points of the users and observing user behavior.
  • Analysis phase: Analyzing the data, creating user profiles, and defining project requirements.
  • Design phase: Building information architecture, sketching, and prototyping.
  • Launch phase: User and usability testing, evaluation, and improving the final product.

Now let’s get to the process itself in more detail.

1. Define

Also referred to as the planning phase, the first stage of the UX design process serves to set the stage for the project by understanding the problem. Before beginning the design work, you need to understand the context of the product’s existence, by communicating it with the stakeholders.

During this phase, you will define the project concept by brainstorming the purpose of the product as well as clarifying its value proposition, how it solves users’ problems and what are competitive advantages.

In most cases, you will meet with the stakeholders to communicate the project needs and gather insight into the client’s business goals, as well as put metrics on what will make the product successful.

The definition phase usually ends up with a project kick-off meeting by the end of which all stakeholders should be on the same page on what the key deliverables are. This will set concrete expectations for the final product and will help set a realistic timeline for completion.

The Define Phase includes:
  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Defining the product concept (product definition)
  • Understanding the business goals
  • Mapping the value proposition of the product
  • Defining the project scope
  • Understanding the problem

 

2. Research

A huge part of the UX designer’s work is conducting research and getting input from potential users. This saves the designer the risk of working based on assumptions, and therefore, the risk of solving the problem the wrong way.

The research phase starts with understanding the pain points of the potential users and how can the final product address these pain points through new solutions. 

There are a couple of ways for the UX designer to gather such valuable data:

User interviews: Once you know the target audience, you can start interviewing users with a fitting profile and uncover what problems they usually encounter with similar products, what can be improved, and ultimately, what would the ideal product look like.

Focus groups: Similar to user interviews, you can conduct this research by asking a group of target users to discuss their pain points and issues with a particular product or design.

Surveys: The best option includes sending a questionnaire with specific questions for each target group. The result from the survey will grant you valuable quantitative data and patterns to work with, as well as solid evidence that will back your designs in front of the stakeholders.

The Research Phase includes:
  • Exploring the problem
  • Talking to users: Conducting interviews, focus groups, and surveys.
  • Observing user behavior
  • Gathering insight and data
  • Competitive research
  • Sketching out the user journey map

 

3. Analyze

The purpose of the analysis phase is to draw insights from all the data collected during the research phase. By the end of your analysis, you should be able to create realistic user personas with key characteristics: demographics, personality, pain points, motivations, and ideal experience with the product. Additionally, you will have concrete project requirements and a full list of features for the final product.

The Analysis Phase includes:
  • Analyzing the data
  • Creating user profiles
  • Narrowing down and prioritizing features
  • Defining the project requirements

 

4. Design

With all the research and analysis out of the way, starts the real fun. Now you have all the data needed to start designing the solution. We can divide the design stage into the following processes:

✅ Sketching: The UX designer starts with quick sketches and low-fidelity designs to visualize their propositions for the final concept. This is mostly a brainstorming session where they develop as many concepts as possible, get creative and record ideas they can later present to the stakeholders.

✅ Wireframing: This step includes designing very simplified versions of the interface that focus on the layout and the basic elements. The wireframes are usually minimalistic, greyscale, and feature placeholders for the most important content.  These wireframes serve to communicate more refined ideas to the stakeholders and collect valuable feedback.

✅ Building the IA: With enough feedback and refining the design concept, the next step for the UX designer includes creating the very structure of the content in the final product.

✅ Developing user flows: The mapping process visualizes how the user will navigate through the product. This includes developing the different user journeys and user interactions.

✅ High-fidelity prototyping: These prototypes are as close to the final design as possible and serve to perform usability testing. They include the complete content structure, all design elements, flows, and interactions, and ultimately, propose the final design to the stakeholders for approval.

Please note that in a design project, high-fidelity prototypes are usually prepared by the UI designers who design all the visual elements of the interface. This includes page layouts, typography, spacing, colors, graphics, icons, buttons, animations, hover effects, transitions, and other interactions.

The Design Phase includes:
  • Developing as many ideas and concepts as possible
  • Building information architecture and hierarchy
  • Developing user flows.
  • Sketching and low-fidelity prototyping
  • Testing the design solutions
  • Gathering feedback and design reviews

 

5. Launch

During the latest stage of the UX design process, usability testing helps you see how your design compares against previous versions, identify major issues and group them based on severity. Analyzing the results and identifying the possible improvements involves collaborating with the stakeholders and presenting them with your findings.

Testing is a fundamental part of the UX designer’s job and a core part of the overall UX design process, as it allows you to improve your original design and eliminate all previously unforeseen issues and user difficulties.

  • Usability testing
  • User testing
  • QA and UX Audit
  • Delivering the solution
  • Validating the solution
  • Analyzing and identifying improvements

 

FAQ about UX Design Process

👉 What is UX research?

Research is a vital part of UX design to determine the product’s target audience, and to identify user goals, and business requirements that the product must meet in order to be successful. The process includes two types of research:

  • Qualitative research: The “How?” s of the project. This means gathering descriptive data that gives you insights into the user’s realistic experience. Methods for gathering such data include target audience interviews.
  • Quantitative research: The “What?”s of the project. This refers to gathering numerical data that you can easily turn into statistics. Methods include surveys, product analysis, etc.

👉 What’s the difference between UI and UX design?

In short, UI design refers to the look and visual elements users experience when interacting with a product. This includes colors, shapes, typography, graphics, icons, buttons, and micro-interactions.

UX, on the other hand, focuses on the experience users have with a specific product. It aims to make these products functional, accessible, intuitive, and efficient to use. This includes the information architecture, navigation, and user flows.

UX design refers to the term “user experience design”, while UI stands for “user interface design”. Although both roles are essential to product design and work for hand in hand, they focus on different aspects of the product development process.

👉 What does a UX designer do?

The main responsibility of the UX designer is to create a user-friendly journey for the target audience. Unlike UI designers, who create the visual design to make the product attractive, intuitive, usable, and responsive, the role of the UX designer consists of the following tasks:

  • Planning: Researching and identifying goals and behaviors related to the product interaction.
  • Research:  Researching, identifying, and fixing any pain points involved with the interaction.
  • Information Architecture (IA): Organizing the information within the product to form the content structures and navigation systems to make it easy for users to find the information they need.
  • User journey maps: Mapping how the users interact with the product, from the user perspective.
  • Wireframing and prototyping: Preparing a low-fidelity prototype that shows how the design functions.
  • Testing and evaluation: Testing design usability with real users, validating design decisions, identifying design flaws, and adjusting requirements.

 

UX Design Process is All About User-Centered Thinking

The process is related to the user-centered design approach which focuses on gaining a deep understanding of who will be using the product and aims to actively involve users at every stage of the design process. The user-centered mindset helps deliver products that users want to use.

Standardizing a UX design process for your agency will help you develop project quality standards for your brand, by making the following practices part of your process:

  • Defining concrete requirements and measures of success, in order to reduce the risk of misunderstandings and rework.
  • Designing based on concrete data rather than assumptions.
  • Developing concepts and testing them to find the best solution.
  • Learning to collaborate with the parties involved to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Allowing stakeholders to track the progress of the project.
  • Identifying unforeseen risks and opportunities by testing, observing user behavior, and gathering feedback.

Having a standardized UX design process gives you a lot of room for flexibility and variations, however, keep in mind that only practice will make the process perfect. Just trust the process.

In the meantime, why not get more insights and inspiration by visiting the related UI/UX design articles:

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