What’s in the bag? A look at whats involved in the UX design process.

While this may not be an exhaustive list or even the exact order of what you or your team may encounter. The following is a fairly comprehensive listing of what is involved in the UX design process and what each of the steps are responsible for.

The discovery phase is essential to figuring out what the project is about, what you will be doing as a designer, what the business goals are, and who may be involved. During the discovery process you may encounter things like:

  • Stakeholder Interviews: During the early phases of a project stakeholder interviews allow you to understand the business goals, the expectations associated with the product, as well as important aspects of the that need to be considered when designing.
  • SWOT Analysis: SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis will help you uncover different aspects that may affect the overall UX of a product.
  • Requirements Gathering: This is also similar to a project briefing, ideally at this stage you are working with the decision makers and others involved in the project to figure out what’s going into the product and how to get the ball rolling.

The goal of UX is to develop products that make sense and are a pleasure to use. In order to get there as a designer or you need to have a vision. During the strategy phase you may encounter things like:

  • Design Principles: The backbone that outlines the characteristics of the product design and the users experience.
  • Visual Artifacts: These assist in showing others the overall vision and direction of the product. As well as how that product fits into the lives of users. Visual artifacts may include charts, diagrams, drawings, storyboards, etc..
  • Project Roadmaps: Lay the foundation for how the project will take place. These are often called project outlines, or project plans.
An example of a project roadmap. Source: Deb Biggar http://cargocollective.com/debbiggar/UX-Playbook

User Research
The very core of UX design is users. Therefore user research is an essential part of the design process. It’s this stage that allows you as a designer to get a better understanding of users and what their motivations are in order to create winning design solutions. During the user research phase you may encounter things like:

  • Primary Research: Just about anything under the sun that will give you a better understanding of your users. Such as conducting field research, reading support forums, creating surveys, and so on.
  • Secondary Research: Sometimes there are great publications and reports by other companies or even your own that focus on your user groups. Secondary research is another means of collecting valuable data. Marketing segmentation, white papers, and research reports are some examples but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other sources.
  • User Personas and User Stories: Publishing your research and sharing it with the stakeholders is important. User personas and user stories are ways to help others involved get an understanding of the information you’ve just learned. They also serve as tools to help remind you of who you are designing for when conjuring up a solution.
An example of a user persona. Source: Ambrose Yau http://www.ambroseyau.com/calemazoo.php

UX design wouldn’t be design without a design phase. It’s at this time you take everything you’ve learned in the previous steps and start to create a solution that meets the business needs and solves the users problems. During the design phase you may encounter things like:

  • Information Architecture: IA for short, is the organizing and grouping of information. IA helps to show what the major categories or sections are, how that information is placed, how things are labeled, how data is searched, and so on.
  • Task Diagrams: These are step-by-step visual models that show how users will interact with your product. And how the product will adapt as it responds to user input.
  • Wireframes: The blueprints of your design. Wireframes are visual representations of every page and state.
  • Design Comps: Once wireframes have been completed design comps are used as a way to show in detail exactly what every page and state will look. The design comps will represent the colors, typography, images, and graphics associated with the product.
  • Design Specs: These serve as detailed documentation on how your product should function, how it responds to users, how it adapts, what happens in various user states, etc..
  • Style Guides and Pattern Libraries: In order to create a consistent experience the visual design and behavior needs to be the same. Style guides and patter libraries outline how the product should look and act in every aspect. They include color, typography, icons, graphics, global elements, and more.
  • Prototypes: They come in various levels — low, medium, or high fidelity. Prototypes serve as a tool to test the functionality of the product before they go into full on development.
Information architecture diagram example. Source Sean Aery http://blogs.library.duke.edu/blog/2013/03/20/information-architecture-plans-for-the-library-website/

The last part is one of the most critical aspects of the UX design process. It’s during this phase that a designer must make sure that everything is going accordingly and gather valuable data for making improvements. During the implementation phase you may encounter things like:

  • Usability testing: Finding out wether or not users can accomplish the tasks at hand and if your design solution is solving their problems falls under usability testing. There are a variety of methods available but this is a good time to get insight and make notes towards improvements.
  • Oversight: Allows you the designer to continue to make sure the product is creating the best possible user experience. Sometimes things come up in during development that the engineers point out. It is the communication between team members to ensure the product moves forward and is in conjunction with the design solution.
  • Analytics: After a product has been released it needs to be tracked and measured. By gathering analytical data you can continue to refine the design solution and find areas that can be improved.
Google analytics example. Source Glacial Media http://www.glacialmultimedia.com/web-analytics.html

While this list is not the end all be all it is a great starting point for solo UXers or dedicated UX teams to get an idea of the scope of the UX design process, what is involved, and what to expect. Sometimes you may not be able to partake in some of these activities due to different constraints or variables. At the very least always try to make user research a staple in your design process.

Remember, UX design is about people.

I’m a designer working for a #fintech startup called Spreedly. In my spare time I enjoy reading and consequentially I also enjoy reflecting on what I have read by writing.

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