UX Design Process: What It Is And The 5 Essential Steps Every Designer Should Take

UX Design Process: What It Is And The 5 Essential Steps Every Designer Should Take
Article by DesignRush DesignRush
Last Updated: January 17, 2022

The importance of UX design cannot be overstated.

Take, for example, the stat which says that a good UX design can yield conversion rates of up to 400%. Or that 88% of online users wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience.

While UX design extends into multiple industries and disciplines, it is most commonly associated with digital design for websites and apps.

This article looks into the essential steps of every UX design process that results in a digital product that captures the user’s attention.

We will begin by establishing what the UX design process is and why it matters.

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What Is The UX Design Process?

UX (user experience) design is the process of enhancing the user’s satisfaction with a product through a design that aligns with their journey, which provides value and improves usability and accessibility.

User experience design encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product and how they feel when using it. The goal of UX-designed systems is to make the user experience simple and satisfying.

The term “UX design” is often used together with “UI (user interface) design”. UX design deals with the entire product experience, while UI design is mainly focused on its visual aspects like buttons, typography, hierarchy, images and others.

UX design typically refers to digital design, like web design or app design, but it is also involved in a lot of different products and services like industrial design.

Why Is UX Design Important?

Although UX design focuses on the end-user by creating value and providing the solution to their needs, it also delivers numerous advantages to your business, too.

Better ROI

Each $1 you invest in UX can earn up to $100, which is an ROI of 9,900%! Also, companies that have the best UX design boost their revenues and shareholder returns at almost twice the rate of their niche competitors.

ROI is one of the core metrics all businesses prioritize, as it determines the future of the brand: if it can thrive in a competitive landscape or not.

Cost Reduction & Better Efficiency

UX helps avoid the wasted product development time by 50%.

McAfee, for example, cut down their support calls by 90% as a result of their UX design overhaul.

Prioritizing user experience and keeping it central to your product design efforts helps you get in front of potential issues even before they happen, which reduces the friction later on, including the company costs.

Building relevant product features take less time, customer support handles fewer calls and engineers have lesser errors to fix.

Greater User Retention & Boost In Conversions

Investing your time and resources into UX design improves relations with customers, builds their trust and, ultimately, boosts brand loyalty and customer retention.

As previously stated, a great user experience design can increase conversion rates by 400%.

A good UX design differentiates quality products – including websites and apps – from the average to the bad ones.

Apple’s design-first mentality and UX focus helped them attract a huge chunk of users, even though its products are not among the most affordable ones on the market.

You can also check out DesignRush’s interview with one of Los Angeles’ leading UX design agencies to find out more about their B2B web design process for high conversions.

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5 Essential Steps In The UX Design Process

It is time to define the 5 essential phases of every UX design process resulting in products that engage users and solve their pain points.

1. Product Planning

The first step of every UX design process is creating a plan to ensure all stakeholders and interested parties are on the same page.

Your plan of action should consist of:

  • Brainstorming the product’s concept and purpose: Coming up with a value proposition that identifies the benefits it will provide to the user, how it will solve the user’s pain points and the product’s unique selling points and competitive advantages.
  • Evaluating the project’s needs: Defining the tools for success in terms of programs, budget and even manpower.
  • Agreeing on KPIs and deliverables: Setting goals that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely – will help you focus on outcomes that maximize efficiency, while balancing your business goals with that of the user.
  • Anticipating issues: Trying to predict roadblocks down the line and the most realistic causes of these bottlenecks (small budget, reduced manpower, a demanding client or task, etc.)
  • Setting expectations and timeline: Deciding on realistic deadlines and timeframes for a UX design project to ensure that you only commit to what you can deliver. Assess every aspect of the UX design carefully and try to come up with time estimates for the completion of each, while taking the issues from the previous steps into account.

2. User Research

Getting feedback from potential users at every stage of the UX design process is instrumental, as this will help your UX design team build the end-product your target audience wants.

Before getting into the actual UX design, you should conduct thorough research of your target audience, including their pain points, desires, habits and expectations, to better understand their goals and how your UX design can help them reach those goals.

To research on your end-users, there are several methods you can use:

  • User interviews: If we take website UX design as an example, some of the typical questions when interviewing your potential users may include “What issues do you normally encounter while using the competitor’s websites?”, “What would you like to see improved?”, “What should an ideal website contain?”, “How would you rate our current menu navigation on a scale from 1 to 10?” and etc.
  • Surveys: Questionnaires sent to different sections of your target audience can
    • Collect valuable information to help you understand your end-users
    • Gather quantitative data and find patterns in different user groups
    • Eliminate the risk of designing a product that doesn’t help the users
    • Evaluate usability by comparing your scores with similar products
    • Provide stakeholders trust in your evidence-backed UX design
  • Focus groups: Hand-pick a group of target users for an in-depth discussion on their pain points, expectations and feelings towards a design prototype or a finished product.
  • Buyer personas: Create a realistic representation of your ideal customers and users – a buyer persona – and include the key characteristics of their collective challenges, habits, demographic info, motivations and other aspects. A buyer persona for your UX design will help you understand what constitutes a good user experience for different user segments.

If you don’t carry out in-depth research on your target users, you risk creating your UX design on assumptions which results in a poor market fit for not addressing the users’ problems.

3. Design

The actual UX design phase consists of these steps:

Sketching

UX designers create sketches to propose designs concepts as well as refine them for future stages. Sketching enables them to execute their ideas as they come and make collaborative decisions on which path to pursue.

Wireframing

Wireframing is creating a “skeleton” for the final product or a simplified representation of the end product.

For example, in website UX design, a wireframe contains the proposed look and layout of every website page, with placeholders for all suggested elements, modules and content on certain positions on a page.

Wireframes help communicate the design ideas and suggestions to stakeholders in order to collect feedback on the design before moving on to prototyping.

Setting Up Information Architecture

In digital UX design, an Information Architecture (IA) classifies, organizes and structures the content flow of a website, app or any other digital product.

The purpose of IA is to support the design’s usability and navigation to provide the users with the exact information they need at the right time.

A good IA is defined by card sorting and tree testing. These two principles reveal how the users see the product’s information and content and at which stages of their journey they expected them to be located.

Mapping Out The User Journey

This particular step of UX design lets you visualize the user’s different journeys and interactions to help you understand where you should direct the user at each stage of their journey.

For example, one user journey may require directing them from the home page to the product purchase or sign-up page.

Creating A Prototype

A prototype is the mockup of your product with the final design implemented.

Much like wireframes, prototypes are used to present ideas and design concepts to target users and stakeholders, albeit in a much more advanced stage of product creation.

There are three types of prototypes, according to their complexity and stage of development.

  • Low-fidelity prototypes: The most basic prototype that is used early in the UX design process. Contains fundamental design elements and shapes as well as elementary visual hierarchy and doesn’t map out user flow and interactions.
  • Mid-fidelity prototypes: Used while the design is still under development. It helps your teams move from the conceptual to the implementation stage. Useful for the testing phase.
  • High-fidelity prototypes: The type of prototype that is closest to the final product design. It is used to conduct usability testing and for getting approval for the final design. It should therefore contain all the design and content elements.

4. Testing & Launch

During the final stages of the UX design, performing usability quality assurance testing will help you identify issues, track vital metrics and evaluate the usability of the product.

Testing is a vital part of the UX design process, especially during the final stages. It will help you assess your current performance compared to its previous versions or your competitors’ products. This summative testing should entail a focus group of 10-50 users in order to collect reliable and conclusive results.

To make sure your final product meets the requirements, the testing & launch phase usually consist of:

  • User testing: This involves observing your target audience that uses the actual program.
  • Internal testing: Your own team that uses the end-product based on the development goals.
  • Beta launch: A limited release of the final product to a select number of people in order to identify bugs and issues and fix them before the final launch.
  • Final launch: The tested and fixed product is released to a wider audience.

5. Post-Launch Analysis

Once the product is launched, another round of analysis is required to evaluate the final product’s UX design.

At this stage, the questions you should ask include:

  • Where did our UX design process go right and where did it go wrong and why?
  • How is our target audience responding to the product?
  • Did our product’s UX design solve their pain points?
  • Can we improve our product’s UX design?
  • What are the main takeaways from this UX design process?

This post-launch analysis of your UX process and the final product will shed light on the product’s real value and user experience, which provide knowledge and insights for future developments.

What Are The Essential Qualities Of A Good UX Designer?

To be successful at UX design, there are some core qualities that a UX designer should have to set them apart from the rest.

Soft skills (non-technical skills like personality traits, situational and emotional awareness)

  • Empathy (being able to look at the product from the perspective of a user and understand their pain points and needs)
  • Collaborative nature and communication skills
  • Continuous learning
  • Critical thinking

Industry skills (specialized skills, knowledge and abilities unique and important for the UX design career)

  • UX writing
  • Wireframing & prototyping
  • Visual communication and user interface design
  • User testing

Crossover skills (skills that a UX designer can bring from previous or related occupations)

  • Research skills and analytics
  • Coding and development
  • Customer understanding

UX Design Process Takeaways

User experience is a crucial consideration in the development of digital assets like websites and mobile apps.

Providing good usability and an overall enjoyable user experience result in better user retention, boost in conversions and greater ROI. The five vital steps of the UX design process are:

  • Product planning
  • User research
  • Design
  • Testing and launch
  • Post-launch analysis

It takes more than just skills to become a successful UX designer. Therefore, it is a task best left to experienced specialists who also have the tools and qualities to develop user-centric digital platforms.

DesignRush has hand-picked and ranked the leading user experience design agencies on the market to help you find the right fit for your business needs.

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