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User Experience (UX) Design is an essential component of today’s business world and is changing the way organizations create their products and services. Put simply, UX design is the process of building products with the user in mind. This means UX Designers must identify user needs and develop a product or service that meets them, while taking into consideration accessibility, usability, and the overall experience.
The term “user-centered design” was first coined by Don Norman in his 1988 book, The Design of Everyday Things. Norman was the first person to have the term in their job title in his role as Apple’s User Experience Architect, and he defines UX as encompassing “all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
UX design is all about creating a seamless experience throughout the entire user journey, which includes all the interaction points a customer may have when using a product, from initial intent to purchase through to product maintenance. Essentially, a UX Designer has to consider the Why, What, and How:
- Why does someone need this product?
- What can they do with it?
- How simple is it to use?
The ‘Why’ has to do with a user’s motivations and needs for a particular product. The ‘What’ takes into consideration what a user can do with the product, it’s features and functionality. And the How primarily considers the experience – how customers will use the product, and how a UX Designer can ensure that the overall experience is as intuitive as possible.
The answers to these questions can touch on a number of different aspects, including branding, web and product design, usability, and more. In fact, UX design is closely related to other design fields, including:
- User Interface (UI) design, which concerns the stylization of the interface screens and touchpoints that a user encounters. UI design involves specific visual design choices around typography, visual elements, and micro-interactions, such as whether to provide a toggle or a button.
- Interaction design (IxD), which overlaps with both UI and UX design and which some consider a bridge of sorts between the two. Its scope is broader than UI, involving the functionality and process flow of interface elements, so interaction designers typically have front-end web development skills.
UX design often involves UI design and IxD, but generally, it is broader than both in that it takes the user experience into consideration before and after users are interacting with the product.
For this reason, UX Designers are often directly involved early on in the ideation phase of the product development process, and they may be consulted right up to product launch.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
In a 2014 survey conducted by usability expert Jakob Nielson, approximately 1,000 UX professionals reported 210 different job titles, with wide-ranging roles and responsibilities. “The strongest finding from this research,” stated Nielson, “is that there is no single defining characteristic of user experience careers.” This is because UX looks different at every organization, and varies greatly depending on the nature of the product, for example, a digital product versus a physical one.
With that said, we can still identify the key aspects of the UX design process, and the core activities and responsibilities of most UX roles. These include user research, persona development, information architecture (IA), wireframing, prototyping, and testing.
Many people aren’t aware of how much research UX design entails. Market, product, and user research are major components of UX, as research is crucial to understanding the user and their unique needs. User research often focuses on the behavior, motivations, and needs of a customer to help the designer identify what opportunities exist in a particular market for product solutions.
Data collection, surveys, user interviews, and focus groups are just some of the research methods UX Designers commonly use to gather information and insights about target users.
The development of user personas is another crucial phase of the user experience design process. At this point, UX Designers consolidate and interpret their findings to construct representative personas based on patterns and commonalities in their research. The persona communicates demographic information, motivations, needs, and any other relevant information.
Personas are helpful as they represent particular groups of users that the product will target, and help the organization to gain a clear picture of who they are building the product for.
Information Architecture (IA)
Information Architecture is the way in which information is mapped out and organized to communicate a clear purpose. Adobe defines IA as “the creation of a structure for a website, app, or other products, that allows users to understand where they are – and where the information they want is – in relation to their current position.”
UX Designers are responsible for building a blueprint of how information will be organized so that users encounter, navigate, and interact with the product in an optimal way. IA is a structure for the design of the product, which can be used to build wireframes and prototypes.
UX Designers create wireframes, which are low fidelity design sketches that represent different screens or stages of the product throughout the user journey. Wireframes include simple representations of UI design elements to be used as a guide for development and product design.
Prototypes are a higher-fidelity design of the product that can be leveraged for user testing. UX Designers create prototypes that have a very similar look, feel, and capability to what is desired in the final product. Clickable prototypes are often created so that users can interact with the product and UX Designers can test the experience to identify areas for improvement.
There are a number of ways that UX Designers can test products. One of the most common is user testing, which often involves allowing users to interact with your prototype and analyzing the accessibility, usability, and intuitiveness of the design. Other methods include focus groups, moderated user tests, and unmoderated user tests. Ultimately, product testing is necessary to identify what changes need to be made as you proceed with development.
What are the Roles of a UX Designer?
Job titles in UX tend to be quite varied, as UX Designers working across many different industries. Here, however, are some of the most common UX-related job titles you may encounter during a job search:
- User Researcher
- Usability Tester
- Data Analyst
- Information Architect
- Experience Designer
- Interaction Designer
- Information Architect
- UX Strategist
- UX Architect
- UX Product Manager
- UX Analyst
User Experience Design is a complex field that blends design, research, and strategy to solve problems and create seamless product experiences for users. If you’re interested in learning more about User Experience Design, BrainStation offers both Diploma programs and Certificate courses.