User Experience Design (UX) applies to anything a user interacts with. This can mean physical products like watches, cars, or microwaves or digital products like websites and applications. Whether it’s physical or digital, the goal of good UX design is to create an enjoyable, efficient user experience by making products easy to use or pleasant to hold in hand.
In the software industry, UX is largely focused on how the user interacts with an application. UX designers are tasked with fully understanding the product and its purpose, the people using the product, the device the product will be used on, and essentially, what will make the product successful. It’s a comprehensive process!
In this post, I’ll explain what UX design is. We’ll cover roles and responsibilities, tools and strategies, and finally, what differentiates UX from UI design. Let’s dive in!
UX Design Roles & Disciplines
Covering all the objectives above requires several disciplines in UX design. In some larger companies, there can be whole teams of people who account for each of these roles. In most cases, however, it’s often a single person. Responsibilities include:
This focuses on the goal of the product and its purpose or the business strategy driving the product. For example, if it’s eCommerce, the strategy is to sell items online that people want to buy.
This is how the user interacts with the product. It considers all interactive elements like forms, buttons, navigation, and so on. Interaction Designers strategize around all of these factors to create an easy-to-use and pleasant user experience.
Knowing the user is probably the most overlooked discipline in UX. Businesses often think they know their user when in fact they are confusing knowing the user with what they want the user to do with their application. User research involves user interviews, user testing, creating personas, multivariate testing (A/B testing), heat maps, and more.
Information has to flow in a cognitive and easy-to-understand manner. Designing how a user enters an application, the steps needed to perform the desired task, and how the user exits the application are all parts of IA.
Tools used in UX Design
There are several tools and methods used in creating a successful and pleasant user experience. These tools are used both before the product is built and after the product launch.
Interviews are usually the first step discovery for new and existing products. This includes interviewing both stakeholders to find out the purpose of the application and users to find out what their goal will be in using a product.
Mapping out the user flow is a big part of the information architecture. Here, the designer is determining how the user moves through an application. It can involve a high-level view where only the primary steps are mapped and evolve into a more granular view of how a user interacts with the elements in each step.
Wireframes are very low-resolution representations of all elements within an application. Usually divided into separate designs for each page in a web or mobile app, the wireframe will have basic outline drawings of each element on a page. The purpose is to plan out how pages and applications should flow before developers start building.
Actually, KeyholeSoftware.Dev, the innovation arm of Keyhole, has designed a tool that helps you build wireframes. It’s called MockOla. Take a look!
Interactive prototypes are graphical representations of the software being created that users can actually interact with and test out. They can be as detailed or as basic as needed. For example, a page may have a button that launches a pop-up (modal) window, and the designer can create this interaction so stakeholders and users can see how this will look in the actual application. The benefits are many, but among the best, we have gaining feedback before any development begins.
Usually performed once an application is launched, multivariate testing (also known as A/B testing) gathers data on how users interact with a product. This can help stakeholders find trouble spots where users may not understand how to complete a task. Then, they can revisit and strategize to fix these trouble spots.
The tools above are only a portion of everything used in UX design. Each one can have several additional tools to complete the overall task.
UX vs. UI
While often used interchangeably, UX and UI are two completely different disciplines. They are very closely related and go hand-in-hand when creating a product, but what they accomplish is very different.
In designing a car, the UX designer will determine where the door handle should be placed and what type of handle should be used. The UI designer will determine the color of the door and handle.
In digital products, a UX designer will determine that a page needs a button below a body of text, so the user will understand what the button’s purpose is. A UI designer will determine that the button should be a specific color, what font should be used, etc.
UX encompasses the functionality of designs. The goal is to make an application as intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable to use as possible. UI design, on the other hand, focuses on design choices like color with the goal of making the application look professional and aesthetically pleasing.
The Value of UX Design
The user experience has a 100% impact on the success or failure of a product. Without knowing who your users are, you don’t know what is important to them when interacting with your product.
Without planning the information architecture, navigation can be a jumbled, difficult-to-follow mess for the user making it frustrating and time-consuming even to complete the simplest of tasks. This can also greatly impact the development approach causing confusion, reworkings, missed deadlines, and ultimately, lost revenue.
With a well-thought-out UX design, the product will be fully flushed out before development begins. For the developers, it leads to a more streamlined development plan. For the user, it means a product that is easy to use. For stakeholders, it results in a more successful final product, which means more money saved and more money made.