What is user experience design (UX)?
UX design is a branch of study dedicated to assisting users in navigating a digital process or product with the least amount of effort and maximum benefit. We might keep going back to this description and updating it because the UX design industry is ever-evolving and relatively new—users, their problems, and how visual developers handle them will change that quickly.
Since the advent of the wheel, people have been participating in informal UX design—basically, anywhere a designer improves a user's experience. However, UX design as a distinct field only developed during the dot-com boom, as seen by headcount, which increased from an estimated 1,000 UX workers in 1983 to one million by 2017. In 1993, Don Norman, an early Apple Computer employee, coined the word "user experience" to describe the mission of his team.
Today, UX design is a profession that encompasses a variety of sectors that produce digital products, such as software and digital services. Because UX design is primarily concerned with how a user interacts with a digital environment, such as an app, it also encompasses the web design and video game production industries. Any business that employs software must consider the user experience that their customers and workers have with it.
Misconceptions concerning user experience design
Some typical misunderstandings about UX design demonstrate how wide the discipline is and how much more there is to learn.
UX design is frequently confused with graphic design, and while UX designers frequently employ graphic design in their work, graphic design is a separate area with its own set of standards that is less concerned with the user experience. Similarly, because both areas generate web programs, it's simple to mix up UX design and web development. Because previous methods for hand-coding user experiences can't keep up with the speed of ever-evolving user demands, the line between user experience design and web design and development is blurring.
In the last decade, the combining of web development and UX design has resulted in a Cambrian boom of no-code solutions, dispelling the final myth of UX design: that only people with technical expertise can be UX designers. No-code development allows anyone (not just programmers) to create software without writing code using a graphical user interface. Our notion of UX design will continue to deepen and grow as more technical and nontechnical producers adopt no-code creation.
UX design examples
Resetting your password and being locked out is an example of poor UX design, but good UX design can be found anywhere, even right under your nose. The blog elements that make this post easy to read were built by Webflow UX designers, much as the team behind your favorite browser considered UX throughout design to help the page load quickly and scroll smoothly. Other evidence of UX design can be found in certain popular software:
Users of the Domino's Pizza Tracker app may not only see where their pizza delivery order is in their unique tracking system up to the minute, but also write comments and encouragement for the personnel creating and delivering their pizza. This turns an unpleasant situation (waiting for food when hungry) into something enjoyable and less aggravating. Domino's understands that delivery orders account for 65 percent of company revenue and has invested much in making that customer experience the best in the industry.
The Apple setup process for a new computer guides the user through a logical sequence of steps to get MacOS set up. Apple's UX designers recognize that first impressions are important, and that each step must be simple and straightforward in order to eliminate friction (when a user becomes stuck because a task is too difficult, complicated, or time-consuming for them) and get the user logged in to their new laptop. They must also consider how to use written content in the setup process without bogging down the reader, as well as take into account nuances in each language that a user may employ.
Twitter released Tweet reply settings in August 2020, giving for a new degree of privacy customization on one of the world's noisiest apps by allowing users to tailor their own experience. The open forum on Twitter may be a location for new ideas to be discussed, as well as a venue for abuse and doxxing. The new tool allows users to choose how many people can reply to each Tweet, enhancing their experience while also making the site safer.
Because user experiences are important, there are many UX design examples available. Companies that create digital products recognize that investing in effective UX benefits their bottom line while also making people's lives easier.
What is the significance of UX design?
Accessibility is one of the most significant benefits UX design has had on humankind as a whole. UX is all about making the user experience more accessible for everyone, which includes everything from ensuring a page loads quickly to making the experience accessible to persons with dyslexia or seizures.
We wouldn't have the Dyslexie font widely available on software platforms if we didn't have UX design-minded people at the table. Persons with vision impairments, for example, may struggle to see small, sans-serif writing on a dark backdrop, and people who have seizures may find it difficult to navigate a website with flashing, bright animations. A user experience designer considers all of these factors while creating user experiences that are beneficial for all users, making the web a better place for everyone.
Bad UX at scale may be incredibly costly, but great UX is also excellent business, especially for companies like 1Password, which has grown to be worth $200 million by solving a simple problem that other interfaces complicate: remembering your password. UX designers identify solutions to simplify complex challenges in the built environment, saving users time and money in the process.
Good UX design can lower the number of dissatisfied customers that leave a software platform (known as "churn") or cancel their subscriptions or contracts, resulting in more revenue and less stress on customer service to keep those dissatisfied customers happy.
The guiding principles of great user experience
The fundamental tenets of the UX trade are simple: Reduce clutter and disorder so that the user can complete their task without difficulty. Great user experience doesn't always imply a massive website redesign: A UX designer may reinvent a user experience on certain days, while on others, they may simply make changes that benefit the user. Great UX design is guided by these essential guidelines:
Avoid re-inventing the wheel. We're all creatures of habit who aren't easily swayed. Don't make drastic changes to a user's experience only for the sake of appearances, or move navigation components around, as this will be confusing and frustrating. Instead, preserve what's working and modify it so that users may have better experiences without having to switch gears cognitively.
Recognize the requirements of your target audience. Early and often, collect feedback through surveys. Don't make any assumptions about your product's market niche, and don't let bias get in the way. Instead, create a viable UX design concept based on real-world user requirements.
Maintain a consistent user flow throughout the app. The user should be able to flow naturally through your experience, with no effort or interruption. They shouldn't be taken to a page that looks nothing like the rest of your program or become "caught" in a dead end that they can't get out of. A user flow is most effective when it is built around a specific objective, such as purchasing a product or joining a mailing list.
These UX design guiding principles should inform any project, regardless of the size of the challenge being handled.
The distinction between user experience (UX) and user interface (UI)
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are often confused, which is understandable: they're sister disciplines that both focus on product design but have some fundamental differences. UX is more concerned with the overall "feel" of a product experience, whereas UI is more concerned with the "appearance" of a product and the actual parts of layout. A UI designer, for example, might be entrusted with tweaking Facebook's login button after a UX designer worked on improving how people feel when they click it.
Although UX and UI are complementary, it's usually advisable to hire specific specialists on your team. In this way, the science of user experience and the art of user interface design can coexist without one overriding the other.
What a UX designer does
UX designers research how a process, product, or interface is used, then create or redesign it to make it easier to use next time. Although UX designers' job titles may include terms like "visual design" or "product development," their primary responsibilities are usually the same: creating or updating product features, validating and testing new ideas with a target audience, and exploring alternative ways to solve user flow problems.
The User Experience Design Process
UX is an iterative and never-ending process. As you discover more about your users, you'll realize that you'll need to meet them where they are—which will always change! UX designers may use a simple design methodology to produce outstanding experiences on a regular basis and at scale. Every UX design process must follow these seven steps.
The user should be in the center.
A user's user experience is successful when they are able to complete what they set out to do. To be effective in assisting people in achieving their goals, all UX design must be user-centered. The goal of UX design is to improve a user's experience, and you won't be achieving it until you consider the user at every step of the design process.
Clarify your company's objectives. In the UX design process, the user is the most important aspect, but redesigns must also fulfill the company's overall commercial objectives. Do you want to increase sign-ups and purchases, or do you want to keep customers engaged with content? Before you begin your investigation, make a list of the business problems you'll be addressing.
Perform user research. User research is an important part of UX design. Allow the user to describe their own demands rather than assuming what they require. Qualitative interviewing, surveys, and data analysis can not only help designers avoid making dangerous assumptions about users, but they can also reveal UX flaws that would be costly and time-consuming to remedy later.
Create user flows.
A user flow is similar to a map for a UX design project, and it is exactly what it sounds like: a list of the actions a user must follow in order to flow through an experience and reach their goal. This user flow should adhere to information architecture best practices, which means it should proceed in a logical manner: Instead of being directed to a "Log Out" page after logging in, a user should be directed to a home or landing page.
Prototype your concept.
Designers employ wireframes, mock-ups, and prototypes to bring a UX design concept to life. Wireframes, which can be as simple as boxes sketched on a napkin, are a visual tool for basic layout aspects in a web design project before you start building. A mock-up is a developed wireframe for a more fleshed-out idea of the website's aesthetic, which is usually "flat" or non-interactive. Finally, a prototype is that concept brought to life, complete with clickable navigation and features that can be tested before a design “goes live”—that is, when it is made public.
Usability should be tested.
Usability testing is especially important in the early stages of design to ensure that designers don't waste time on features that are useless or unnecessary for the user. Having a group of people evaluate the site to detect its flaws and highlight areas where the navigation is confusing helps to streamline the design process and save time and money.
Test and iterate on a regular basis. After a web design project has gone through testing and has been launched, UX designers keep an eye on it as it evolves, gathering feedback for the next round of redesigns.
UX and UI design software
Because UX is so conceptual, you'll need tools to visualize these complicated flows so you can solve problems more effectively and communicate answers to your team.
You can use a variety of tools to bring a concept to life, including wire-framing and testing. For example, you can use Sketch or Proto.io to create mock-ups, then prototype in InVision or Figma for user testing and real-time collaboration with your team.
Author: Jared Flenter, Writer