What is the UX process?

Getting from idea to success is no simple route, which is where the UX process comes in.

There are various different steps involved in creating a slick and user-friendly product, many of which overlap and intertwine. When combined, these steps can cover the required ground to help you produce something that will be both useful and usable.

Whilst every UX professional will have their own way of approaching a project, the following steps are the core components that you can expect to see in a typical UX project flow.

1: Strategy

If you haven’t picked the destination, the journey will be harder. Before you begin any work on your project, you need to know what your goals are and how you will measure success.

Do you want to increase conversions? Entice more people to comment on your blog posts? Expand your customer base and appeal to new demographics? Any of these could be achieved with savvy UX, but it’s important to choose your direction.

One thing you will notice throughout this process is constant communication, and the strategy phase is no different. Consult other experts – content writers, developers, anyone with some digital know-how – to get a rounded perspective on what you want to achieve.

2: User Research

Perhaps the most vital phase of any UX project is the User Research. Without taking the time to listen to your target users, how could you expect to build a meaningful solution for them? Evaluate your current successes and shortcomings if you’re building on an existing product, and conduct competitor research to find out how other companies square up.

As the user research phase acts as the foundation of your solution, it saves a significant amount of time and effort in the long run. If you dive straight into a full design and production phase, you’ll have a lot more adjusting to do when you retrospectively find out what your users want.

User research can take many forms. You can bring user groups together to observe them using your current website, noting which elements they gravitate towards, and which they don’t. You can ask questions about what they do/don’t want from a website. You can conduct an online survey. You can develop various personae which are representative of your real customers and assess their likely online behaviour.

3: Interaction Design

With the research and strategy in place, the UX designer can then start to consider the solution. Typically this would start with low fidelity designs such as sketches or wireframes that help to develop the skeletal structure of the solution. The objective of this exercise is to figure out where everything is going to sit in order to satisfy all the user needs without the distraction of aesthetic/visual design.

Making everything look aesthetically pleasing will come later, but the designer’s first priority is figuring out how the both the user’s goals and business objectives can be met. To this end, these wireframe designs are often made interactive, emulating some of the behaviours of the product or service to show how it will function.

These wireframe prototypes allow you to communicate with all stakeholders in the project to ensure that the solution will fulfill the objectives set out in the strategy. For instance, developers can start to get a much clearer understanding of what’s involved in building the solution, figure out what is achievable from a back-end perspective, and compare that with what your users want to find at their fingertips. The benefit of this is that it allows time to highlight any technical issues before the solution has been fully designed.

With the structures in place and all stakeholders on board, the visual design is then applied, and other design elements that will enhance the user’s experience. Ultimately, the resulting design will reinforce your business as a brand that users can trust, as well as one which understands their needs.

4: Testing

An important thing to remember about steps two–five is that they are not linear. At any point, you can and should ask for the opinions of others. However, once the preliminary design work is done, it’s definitely time to step back and see what users think of your shiny new offering.

If you’re redesigning existing work, this is where split testing could be useful. Present a user group with your old and new websites, and ask them to identify which one they prefer, and why. This will help you see where more work needs to be done, as well as where you’re doing a good job already.

Equally important is an internal assessment. Those digital experts we spoke to in step one? Bring them back at this stage to review your progress and ask their opinion, too.

It can be hard to distinguish where ‘many hands make light work’ stops, and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ begins. However, when it comes to seeing how your broad spectrum of users will interact with your web offering, you will benefit from a rich and varied tapestry of perspectives.

5: Analysis

Once your testing is done, it’s important to take your time before launching back into the design and development phase. Analyse what new information your testing has thrown up, and see what you can apply to your work.

When it comes to other people’s opinions, you will come to notice the difference between wheat and the chaff. This is your opportunity to separate the two, and act upon what the wheat tells you.

6: Launch

Time to put your website live! However, reaching this step doesn’t really mean you’ve reached the end of the process. You need to review your progress at various intervals and see which aspects of your new-look website are working.

A website is a living, breathing resource, and if after all your design and testing there are still elements that need improving, then you can always make adjustments. A few weeks or even months after launching, jump onto Google Analytics, bring back the user groups, churn out another survey, and do whatever else you need to do to assess the success of your website.

Agility: The beauty of the UX process

It’s important, so we’ll say it again: UX design and development is not strictly linear.

At any time, you can to look back over your progress so far and consider if you need to revisit anything. Some elements of your initial strategy may seem a bit redundant in the light of extensive research and testing, but try to evaluate how everything relates to your core aims.

With all your new information in mind, look back at your goals. Have you learned anything that can help you get there, even if that means altering the route? If appropriate, revisit elements of your work and continue designing, testing, and analysing until you are happy, and communicate at all times with other experts, testing groups, and your client (if you have one).

You may well circle through steps two–five a few times before you are ready to launch, but that’s okay. The UX process is agile and adaptable, so experiment and evaluate constantly in order to achieve the best possible result.

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