UX - short for User Experience - is something you may have heard mentioned a lot if you’re looking to create a new app, website or other digital product, or improve the one you have.
It’s a growing field in design but one that can be hard to explain and, more than that, confusing to understand. One thing is certain though - it is seriously important.
User Centered Design
The reason UX is so important is that it focuses on the user; the actual humans that are going to be using your product and ultimately deciding on its success. While UX (sometimes called User Centered Design or UCD) is partly about making your product useful and usable, it’s more importantly about understanding a user’s goals and finding the most frictionless, even enjoyable way to achieve them. UX isn’t only relevant to a single app or website - it’s something worth considering across your whole brand or company. Every touchpoint you have with a user or customer should be considered an experience worth putting some design into.
One way to start establishing what UX is might be to discuss something it isn’t.
UX is not about the way something looks
“UX design is so much more than just designing for a screen”
The appearance of a digital product is typically considered visual design and really concerns the aesthetic styling of a website or digital product. Now that’s not to say visual design isn’t important in making a product enjoyable to use and a memorable part of your brand, it’s just that there’s a lot of leg work to do first in making sure you understand what your users need.
You have to talk to your users through interviews, workshops, surveys or focus groups. You’ll want to conduct plenty of contextual research by looking at your competitors and at the marketplace. You’ll want to talk to your potential users about that too. You should even ask them how these things make them feel.
UX is about the way something feels
Here’s an example:
You’re making an app that lets people trade insurance details after a traffic incident. How does that person feel before using the app? Worried? Angry? Concerned? How do we want them to feel while they use the app? Let’s not forget afterwards too; how do we want them to feel after leaving the app? Reassured? Comforted?
Establishing this information during the UX process allows you to make key decisions in all aspects of the design. Want someone to feel reassured by using your app? Consider friendly language or calming colours. Want them to feel in control during a stressful time? Make sure everything is clear and easy to find - don’t make them have to think.
What comes next?
So you’ve done your research. You’ve collected and analysed all your interviews, surveys and contextual references and you’ve got a good idea about how to meet the needs of your users. Now you need to find a way to move towards the design of your product with a few important steps. So what are they? Well, there are a good few options but here are some suggestions:
Personas are distilled versions of your key audiences. It’s important to go back and check any design decisions you make with your users, but going through each and every interviewee or survey would be impractical. Instead it’s worth taking the time to create a few key personas that highlight the unique details of an audience along with their needs and goals.
Wireframes are an incredibly common and useful piece of design for any project providing they are used well. They are great for establishing hierarchy and patterns of content. They can help us work out the flow of a user through a site and make sure we’re not hitting any dead ends. Be careful though - don’t over design them. They are not a finished product and they don’t dictate the final visual design.
A natural progression after wireframes, and before any visual design occurs might be to produce a prototype. A prototype is a basic functioning version of all or part of your product and is made for testing purposes. A prototype could simply be paper wireframes talked through with a user or even stitched together with something fancy like Marvel. A prototype provides the opportunity to test our ideas without spending time on visuals. It means we can find out if our product does what it’s supposed to quickly.
There are plenty more ways to bring your research closer to a final product but for the sake of keeping this brief, here’s a little bit of extra reading courtesy of uxdesign.cc
After all, this is done, it is finally time to move to visual design. This is the point where you can complement and build upon all your UX work with some beautiful aesthetics. Visual design should be about enriching your ideas and engaging the user but never forget, if it doesn’t work well it won’t get used.
UX is without a doubt a very important step to delivering a project that will enable your users to achieve their goals and your product to flourish. User Experience helps ground us solidly in an understanding of our audience’s requirements and provides us with a great starting block to launch something lasting. With a great UX process, you can move away from purely visual assumptions and guesswork and instead build something that can enhance and engage a user’s experience of your brand, company and product in a way that delivers for them and for you. UX is the important long hard look before the well considered leap.
At Webstars we’re passionate about delivering the best for our clients and being experts in UX is part of that. If you have questions about how it all works or a project in mind, get in touch.