Even though UX design has been with us for decades, the function and form of UX is still unclear to many. While most tech companies will have their own UX team, and will proudly state that their products and services follow a UX design strategy, there are still questions that pop-up from time to time. This is especially true in the IT service industry, where end clients don't always understand the process of following a UX strategy, but still demand the benefits of one.
What is UX design?
To understand the UX process, we need to first understand the focus of UX. UI and UX design are sometimes used interchangeably or together even in the IT industry. This adds to the confusion about what exactly a UX designer does, or where their focus lies. Part of the problem lies in the connotations of the word 'design', which we associate with colours, graphics, and imagery. But the focus of UX design is not just in the look of an application, but rather the functionality and usability of the application, and the entire process of making products that work for and with people. UX designers identify the target market and take you through a journey that ends with a product that can truly delight end-users by making their interactions with the product as rewarding as possible.
What are the steps of the UX design process?
Much like a software development process, a UX design process has to go through several steps in its lifecycle to reach an end goal.
The proper starting point of any UX journey. Once you identify the target market, research can teach you more about the end users, their behaviour, motivations and emotions, goals, and needs. Proper research can help identify pain points of using the current method, and help you to empathise with users to build a better product.
this can be through interviews, surveys, observation, persona creation, etc.
As discussed, design here doesn't mean colours and imagery, but is rather concerned with the functionality and usability of a product. Colours and imagery may be a part of this equation, but are by no means the only thing on the table.
Information architecture, wireframing, and prototyping are steps of this part of the process. The end goal of this process is a testable prototype to demonstrate to end-users.
Multiple rounds of prototyping and testing help UX designers to create a design that gives the best possible experience to end-users. User testing can take many forms, including remote user testing, usability testing, and A/B testing. The results of testing are used to find where the product will break when being used in the real world, or where the product will not live up to expectations.
The final step of the journey, once the UX design has been finalised, you can now sit with the development team and help out with implementation.
How does UX design add value?
A good UX strategy is a life saver for product development. Depending on who asks you the question, you can cater your answer.
For a technical audience - UX will save rework and failed development tasks.
For a business audience - UX helps us to truly understand users and their way of thinking, to identify what they want and need.
For project finance - UX saves money wasted on rework.
For project management - UX can reduce the time spent on development and rework.
For clients - UX helps to increase the satisfaction with using the product driving adoption and increasing retention.
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A good UX strategy can help your company build products that resonate with users, and increase user satisfaction. However, UX designers still find themselves explaining their job and their worth to the industry. This can be especially true when communicating with clients over the time and cost of a UX process. As a UX designer, you must always be able to not just explain what you do, but also what you bring to the table in terms of adding value to the overall process. Have this knowledge in your pocket at all times.