Better UX design

What UX design is about? Why UX design is so important and how it is different from web-design? What UX designers do? Answers to this and other UX design questions in this article.

The nature of UX design

First of all, let’s see what the UX design is about and what makes it stand out among all other types of creative activities. This is what Wikipedia says: “UX design is the process of supporting users behavior through usability, usefulness, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product”.

Ridiculously complicated definition. What it actually means: when a user gets her hands on your product (a fork, an app, a bed mattress) she should perform the actions you intend her to perform. These actions (what, how and when she’s got to do) are regulated by a framework. And the framework is called UX design. In other words, if your user gets on your website and doesn’t buy anything – the poor UX design is to blame. Presuming, you have more or less competitive prices. If the user starts feeling that the your fork is not good enough and puts it in a far drawer – the same reason is at play. Poor UX design can ruin an impression, drop down sales and actually push you out of business.

What does UX designer do

I want my app to feel better”
My business needs more customers
I need my company’s to be perceived more as a mature business
My product reviews in App store are not great
Go to UX designer when you have one of above mentioned or similar requirements.

No wonder, UX design is so important these days. Consequently, a top UX designer hourly rate might take your breath away. That’s just reasonable, – this person keeps your whole business’ destiny in her hands. However, with the growing popularity of the concept the quality of average UX designer’s work is visibly going down. If you contact a random UX designer you might end up with a person who makes a couple of new app mockups for you, charging all the same ridiculous 2 figures number.

Here is a quick check list of activities a “true UX designer” should undertake before getting down to the mockups. Notably, most of these activities presume customer’s contribution of different scope. Therefore, if you don’t see a trace of them in your contract, or (if you hire an Upwork freelancer) if a person doesn’t start discussing them with you from the get go, better say “It was a pleasure to meet you” and run away as far as you can. Ah, yes. We’ll be dealing with software UX designers. That is to say, the checklist is slightly different for physical product designers.

UX Design Check List

Project platforms (web, iOS, Android, TV, car app….)
Information architecture (how information is organized within your app, how it is grouped, etc.)
Application flowcharts (the scenarios that will be played out within your app)
Interactions list (scroll, swipe, drag, tap, hover – list all types of interaction user is going to have with your product)

User research – it is perhaps, the most important part. UX designer should run research on your users (real or perspective ones) to evaluate their interaction with you product if it exists. But wait, what if you’re on pre-MVP stage? Does it mean no user research should be done? Certainly, not! There’s a number of methods you can use to carry your user research even though your product doesn’t yet exist.

Idea mapping. After the research is done UX designer should come up with a list of preliminary ideas, how to solve your problem using design methods. It’s mostly up to you, though, to assign importance rate to each and every one. On this stage UX designer should contact you and ask to rate her ideas in terns of feasibility and how important they are. No matter what timeline of your of your project is, obviously, the most important and feasible ones should be implemented first. While less important and feasible are sent to the backlog (welcome to agile design practices!)

Where are those mock ups?!

Meanwhile, have you noticed, that this is only a preliminary stage? Meaning, your mockups are not done yet, and it’s been a week or even more. Yes, this is how UX design works. In other words, structure and research things go before jumping on implementation. On the bright side: now you know, what exactly to improve, what your customers are expecting from you and what forms of interaction with your product you’re going to offer.

Subsequently, on this stage some of really good UX designers will offer you to develop a list of Buying Personas: a portrait of several types of users your new or improved product will be targeting on. After Buying Personas are created, user journeys are mapped (how and why this type of user lands upon your page, what her intentions are and what is she going to do). If no initiative from your UX designer is coming, make sure you send her a description of your targeted audience yourself in as many details as you can think of. Accumiulated data will be crucial for creating project Style Guide (color pallet, layouts, fonts). 

This is how UX design works. Structure and research things go before jumping on implementation

That’s exactly where first mockups are supposed to be developed and delivered. All the research and structuring done before will be used to create new navigation principles, new colors, new margins. Most importantly, UX designer must create a set of rules that web designers and developers, content managers and other roles interacting with your app will follow. For example, “each feature must have a clear goal explained though naming + icon + metaphor”.

End of the story?

On this stage you’d expect a UX designer to hand out several mockups with improved or totally new layouts (preferably, in Figma or Invision), a Style Guide and a set of rules for developers and web designers to follow. However, this is not what UX designer should do.

As soon as first mockups are created, new users tests must be run. Actually, UX design is almost like launching a startup. That is to say, before jumping on coding, test and validate your idea. Top UX designers usually make 2 types of clickable mockups (in white and black) and use them to run the same user researches (behavioral as well as attitudal) as we’ve mentioned before. Users quantative and qualitative data is collected and analyzed in order to validate the hypothesis the designer had made or iterate, if something has proved to go wrong.

UX design is almost like launching a startup. Before jumping on coding, test and validate your idea

UX writing

To tell you the truth, the jury is still out there deciding, whether the copywriting is a part of UX design. And if it is, how far should UX designer’s copywriting responsibilities go? In other words, should you expect from your UX designer only titles? And subtitles, too? Or all page’s copies? Basically, it depends on your agreement with particular designer. But some copies of UX design must be definitely covered by a professional (like, what wording do you put on your button “Sign in” or “Log In”? – this is certainly a question a UX designer must give you an answer).

Does it worth is?

UX design is not cheap, that’s for sure. But it also requires your time and energy. Does it really worth spending valuable bucks and hours on developing guidelines for a project that may not even be launched (for instance, if you’re on the prototyping stage). Well, it is a questions that you would have to find an answer to. There are no “must haves”. If you’re really tight on your budget, and you can’t hire a professional UX designer, try to go through the check list we give in this article and see, what can you do on your own. Can you run user interviews? How about benchmark analysis? Would you be able to create a flowchart for your app? As a founder you are probably the best person to do it. Then, having all the heavy lifting done and knowing exactly, what design principles you want you app to follow, you’ll be more successful briefing a web designer or a developer.

However, you must understand that this stage of analyzing your customer journey, your design principles and the ways users will be interaction with your product is inevitable. You’ll have to get there sooner or later, no matter what. It definitely makes sense to get there before the actual development is done. Otherwise, you end up spending even more on a product that no one actually needs and knows how to use.

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