Both 2020 and 2021 have been difficult for the majority of businesses and the truth is going digital is no longer enough to keep your business successful and relevant. Staying ahead of the competition requires an advantage that a flawless UX design process brings.
Customers today have much higher expectations of the products and services they use, and it is the job of web designers to fulfill those expectations and deliver a competitive product to an otherwise saturated market. In this article, we are going to go more in-depth about the importance of UX design, how it can make or break your business, and walk you through the successful UX design process, that we at Accedia have implemented.
what is ux design?
The UX abbreviation itself stands for User Experience, which is a human-first way to design a product. The goal behind a successful UX design is for the customers to interact with it easily and seamlessly. Or in other words, the UX design includes all aspects of user interaction with products or services. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be digital – from the simplest lamp to a step measurement application, each product contains UX to a certain extent. When we talk about online products and services, the UX design includes everything from the general structure of the product to the flow a user takes to find what they are looking for, how easy it is to navigate or use the shopping cart, and much more.
Contrary to some beliefs, User Interface Design is something very different from UX. Essentially, it is a good old graphic design used entirely for digital products or services. While UX focuses on the user’s interaction with the product, UI focuses on its visual interpretation. Or, if UX asks “If I press the SEND button, what will happen?”, UI’s question would be “What should the shape and color of the SENT button be?” To a large extent, UI design is related to how the different components in the design look like – typography, colors, styles, buttons, drop-down menus, navigation, branding, etc. UI also depends on the brand identity of the company as well as the design conditions and requirements of the specific platform.
ux design process
Implementing a UX design process is not something all software companies put into practice. However, it is often the component that ensures the success of a UX project. Decisions regarding the UX design process have as much weight on your business as anything else. Whether a button is blue or dark blue may not be of such importance, but whether you as a product or service provider offer customers an easy and flawless experience is crucial. When you earn customers’ trust, they will not only return to your product but will also refer you to their friends. A Statistic shows that frictionless UX design has the potential to raise conversion rates to 400%.
All of this is achieved through solutions based on actual data, testing, and research. That way you ensure you are well-informed to build a reliable solution that solves just the right problems and achieves customer satisfaction. Naturally, details may vary depending on each use case and client’s expectations, so staying agile is very important. Each project has its own specifics so it should be approached with the needed flexibility. However, there are several core UX design steps, that we at Accedia follow and mold according to our client’s needs:
ux design process: step 1 – business strategy
The first and most important step in the UX design process is identifying the business strategy. Without a plan, all other phases are at risk of being compromised and not reflecting the right business needs.
We begin by conducting clients’ interviews. Those are the very first meetings we have with our new clients, where we get to know each other, get familiar with their project and the business needs behind it. This step is important as it provides general information about the brand, what it sells and what are the challenges it faces.
Afterward, we define the main target groups that we should focus on first. By this point, we need to know who the users are and what their basic characteristics and needs are. Then, we dig into our client’s competitors – what do we know about them, what are they doing differently, how can we be better than them, and so on. The idea here is to find out if the problem our client is facing is a common phenomenon. If it is, we study good practices for creating the respective solution. And if it’s not, we start by sketching some basic ideas.
UX DESIGN PROCESS: STEP 2 – goals and scope
In the Goals and Scope phase, we create a roadmap of what the client expects from the UX designers. This roadmap is usually a structured representation of the information we have obtained from the previous phase. We create a character based on the research and the information provided by the customer for the type of users we are targeting. Or in other words, we need to know who we are making this product for. Usually, the persona is based on similarities in the behavior of a group of people. This puts them under a common denominator, and we get an idea of what they would do in specific situations.
After we have identified our persona, it’s time to define the scope. This step of the UX design process where we document the entire scope of the project is also known as “specification”. We describe each module and functionality so that it is clear to the team working on it. Afterward, the scope is subsequently broken down into both larger and smaller tasks, depending on the project management methodology.
Here we set the basic goals for both the project and the product. The difference between both is that the project goals are usually tied to the pure time distribution – what, when, and how to be provided to the client for the selected connection. Meanwhile, the product goals are centered around the user problems we aim to solve as an outcome.
UX DESIGN PROCESS: STEP 3 – exploration
The Exploration phase is the heart of the UX design process. This is where we at Accedia start to slowly build the structure of the product.
In order to define what the tree-like structure of our product looks like, we create user flows, which help us to break the project into separate tasks and visualize all the pages and subpages that belong to them.
Next comes designing the wireframes. These are simple digital sketches that visually describe where each element stands – navigation, content, functionality. The Exploration phase is essentially the process of planning the product. We recommend investing as much time as you can in this phase as it can save a significant amount of resources later on.
Once the wireframes are finalized, we can begin implementing the design by creating a low-fidelity prototype. This is a prototype based on the wireframe, which we have connected in a basic clickable prototype. Here we don’t have complicated transitions or impressive animations, just simple connections between the individual screens of the wireframe. The goal during this step is to test whether our low-fidelity prototype is suitable for the project.
UX DESIGN PROCESS: STEP 4 – visual design
The 4th phase of the UX design process is probably the most interesting and exciting one, as it brings the project to a visual environment. Here we start to build the individual graphic elements of the product and the way they will look when being used. It’s important to keep in mind the brand identity of the product as it is very often a highly recognizable element.
The Visual design phase includes creating mood boards. They allow the client to get an idea of the graphic styles and also help the designers understand what their preferences are. This step is in many cases unnecessary if the client already has an established design style.
By this point, we are ready to start the visual UI Design. We create all of the visual components such as buttons, navigation, icons, typography, colors, etc. This step quite often leaves the client rather impressed as it is the first time they can easily visualize what the product will look like.
Last but not least, we need to create a high-fidelity prototype which is the final prototype of the product. Here we weave design, animations, and transitions into a complete clickable prototype that aims to test in full force what we have been working on so far. The purpose of the high-fidelity prototype is to provide a real feel of the product, just before it is transferred to the development phase. This, on the other hand, helps the development team anticipate all the animations and transitions in the project.
UX DESIGN PROCESS: STEP 5 – testing
The final phase of the UX design process is testing. UX testing is important as it provides a good opportunity to improve our product. We can look at the feedback from users and see what changes need to be made to drive growth. For example, if the objective of an application is to get people to purchase a product, we would want the design and feel to lead people to do exactly that.
At Accedia we follow the Agile methodology and try to test the project while it is in the previous intermediate phases, both at the level of Exploration and Visual Design. There are a few testing methods you can use with user testing being most popular. This is the method where we set specific tasks to a group of users and see how they perform. Some other approaches may include Surveys or Polls for collecting feedback and A/B testing for decision-making based on collected application performance data.
some final thoughts
As the abundance of products and services grows exponentially, so do the customers’ expectations. The truth is that today simply launching a “functioning product” will not be able to compete with the competition. The market is overwhelmed with too many products and services, so the only way to stand out and be a leader in what you offer is to provide an outstanding user experience.
If you are also looking to deliver an appealing and functional customer-application interaction, read more about Accedia’s UX services and how your project can benefit from them!