Photo by William Iven from Unsplash.

The Beginner’s Guide To UX Process

How do we deliver the best solution to our customers while satisfying business needs?

It’s not only about designing and prototyping. It’s about embedding experience design thinking to every step of the product lifecycle.

The process divides into stages that are overlapping, one educating another.

1. Vision

We want to build a new product. Perfect!

Well before doing any heavy work, we should make sure everyone shares the same values and vision. Are we on the same page? Are we all heading the same direction?

Vision is the most important piece. It’s something that shouldn’t change easily. It defines your brand. Weak vision means giving up too soon. Products take a few tries before you get them right.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon said:

“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.”
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”

2. Strategy

Our mission is clear. We want to build a great product that is going to improve people’s lives in a certain way.

To achieve the vision, we need a strategy. We need a plan according to which we are going to act. We define measurable objectives that represent both business and customers. If you can measure it, you can manage it. If you can’t, it tends to end up in a mess.

The strategy consists of a high-level plan, measurable goals and plan sequencing.

3. Research

Before we jump into product development process, we should confirm our assumptions. It’s also very important to build empathy for our customers. We should use interviews, surveys and shadowing to understand how much we really know.

If we discover something we didn’t know, we haven’t gone far enough to build an irrelevant feature or product. Skipping research can cost you product relevance. Invest in the beginning to increase your chance of success.

Research outputs will also help throughout the development lifecycle. It’s easier to relate to customers based on empirical evidence. You shouldn’t create opinions based on likes, thoughts and guesses.

Research also makes it easier for you to make your point. Others listen to you more if you can back your thoughts with evidence.

4. Design

Now we have a design direction defined by business goals and customer research.

This means we can start capturing requirements. Requirements tend to have two stakeholders — customer and business. Good requirement satisfies both.

If we don’t get it right, we either build a feature that’s irrelevant for the user or has no business value.

Once we nail the requirement, we use the user story to design a flow. A meaningful design is much more about the process than the interface itself. You must have heard that the best interface is no interface.

The statement simply calls for automation. If there are tasks we can automate for our customer, let’s do so. Let us do the job rather than asking customers something we don’t have to.

Some tasks can be completely automated. Sometimes we can choose clever defaults. Sometimes we can just optimise the flow. The more automation we do, the more benefit we deliver to our business and customers.

Have we perfected the process? Great! Any interface needed? Let’s design it, set measurable goals and…

5. Validate

Every piece of your product should be validated before going to development. It’s an investment that always pays off. There is an evidence for each design decision made. It also removes opinion based arguments among the team members.

Designers should perform usability tests while business representatives can observe the feedback. Showing features to customers is nice but doesn’t count as validation.

In order to validate, you need to create tasks as close as the ones from the real world. You simulate the environment and context in which you present tasks to the end users. As they are completing each task, make sure they express what they think and feel.

It’s a good idea to record these sessions and review them afterwards. You should also take notes writing what you see and think. Make sure you haven’t missed anything important so you can analyse it later.

You should make usability tests transparent to everyone. Whether it’s Dropbox, Google Drive or your design wall, make sure everybody can have a look at the test results. It’s as important for the designers as it is for business.

6. Development

Our designs and processes have been user tested and validated. The development team should receive clear design specifications.

Good designers work with developers and look after the implementation.

In the end of the day, it’s the developed solution customers use, not the mockups or prototypes.

It’s also a good idea to invite tester so everyone is on the same page. Testers can write their scripts while the feature is being implemented. This way, you save yourself time during the next phase.

7. Test

Testing is where we make sure all the functionality is implemented correctly. Only a few things are as annoying to your customers as a feature that doesn’t work.

Once the functional and nonfunctional testing is completed, we should do another round of user testing.

As we have implemented and tested the feature, we have to make sure it’s performing as expected. At this stage, you can either shadow or screen record your customers in their environment.

Also, remember we’ve set measurable design goals early? We should watch conversion, drop-off rates and other appropriate indicators. We use the information to learn, analyse and optimise our solution.

8. Release

You are ready to put your feature and product out there.

As we mentioned in the beginning, all stages overlap. One educates the other. It’s in the nature of design to learn, improve and iterate. Keep pushing your strategies, approaches, ideas and the product itself.

Design is never “done” but you should keep releasing and iterating.

Happy designing.