Wait, what is UX design?
UX design or User eXperience design is the umbrella term for a process in which designers create products or services which offer the best experiences to users. Every step of the process is focussed around giving the users the optimum impression and response to any given interaction.
“DESIGN IS NOT JUST WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE AND FEELS LIKE. DESIGN IS HOW IT WORKS.” -STEVE JOBS
In short UX designers look to fully understand the user; their wants/needs, tastes, capabilities and create a positive experience when using the website, inspiring loyalty and increasing engagement.
What are the benefits of UX design?
When done right it can not only save time and money in the development process but also increase brand loyalty, increase in sales, increase SEO, reduce maintenance costs and increase customer satisfaction. It also helps prioritise content creation based on the user’s wants.
What makes a good UX design?
Whilst there are general UX good practice standards and many online sites such as the Nielsen Norman Group https://www.nngroup.com/ who provide articles highlighting examples of ‘good UX’, by its very nature user-experience design serves the needs of specific users rather than the needs of the masses. So there is no definitive answer to this, if a user comes away with a positive experience then the UX design process has been successful.
What is the UX process?
There are many ways in which to define and create a great user experience for users, however, there are some basic steps which can kick-start the process.
Understanding User Personas - The first step is thoroughly getting to know your users. This allows you to create a persona or multiple personas who are a good representative of the target users. You use this to understand users motivations, values and views and tailor the site to best meet their needs. This can be achieved through research, surveys, site analysis and face to face meetings.
User flow - The creation of a user flow diagram. This is a diagram looking at how users enter and move through a system to the desired endpoint. For example, the users’ journey from a landing page through to confirmation of an order placed with every touchpoint/decision highlighted along the way. Then looking to optimise the journey to deliver the simplest possible experience.
Site Maps - Once you understand the flow and the touchpoints, you can then look to create a site map, which is essentially an organised hierarchy of the website’s pages and sub-pages and how they are linked. A sitemap allows designers to optimise how users will navigate around the site. It also gives an overview of the site structure and highlights where content will be required.
Wire frame - The next stage is to create wire-frames which are simple visual representations of each page, essentially laying out the skeleton of the pages without the any of the detail. This quickly and effectively highlights any usability issues at an early stage. Wire-framing can be simple line sketches on paper or whiteboards and they are used to define what elements are required on the screen and their hierarchy, also communicates any functionality to stakeholders.
Prototypes and testing - A prototype is a working ‘mockup’ of the final product, using specialised software (at Dreamscape we like Adobe XD) the UX designer creates an interactive visual guide of the final product which is then thoroughly tested before moving into the visual design (UI) stage. Results from the tests are then fed back into the process and the website is tweaked until it’s ready to be handed over to the UI designer.
UI - UI or User Interface design is technically a part of the user experience umbrella, but is concerned with the look and feel of the final product. It is the creation of the product’s ‘skin’, the visuals and animations which the user will interact with, this can include branding, visual identities and style guides.
So why is UX the most important part of your website?
Imagine you’ve invested in an expensive but amazing looking website, at significant cost to design and develop, but the UX has been neglected. But you find when its launched, users cannot navigate to where they want to go or use the site properly, they will quickly leave, often with a negative view of the company. Simply put, without the underpinning of an excellent UX, any website or digital product is likely to fail.
Alternatively, proper implementation of solid UX design process, will save project costs in both the short and long term, increase conversions and ultimately lead to happier users who are more likely to share their positive experiences with others returning time and time again.