Part 1: What is the role of a UX designer today?
Design on the web typically refers to the visual element of anything a user will see online. But within UX, design refers to much more. The core role of a UX designer is to understand the environment that the targeted user surrounds themselves in and having an understanding of how best to represent their key needs to complete key goals.
Typically, within the UX design phase, we create structures, interfaces and interactions for customers/end users to improve usability, functionality and make it pleasurable... with the ultimate aim to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, adoptability and retention. A project will go through several iterative phases (embedded within our Agile framework) to ensure that the final design has been tested (against defined benchmarks) & updated so we're delivering the best possible experience for users when the solution goes live.
Phase 1: Engage and understand customers through Formative Research...
UX should always start with the customer/end user. An initial research phase should provide a reliable understanding of who we're looking to target and their behaviours, along with their needs, goals & concerns. It’s these findings that help shape our design direction. This research phase gives the business an opportunity to validate their own assumptions about their customers/end users. Conducting a reliable research phase also ensures we’re limiting failure within the validation phase. We not only look to fail fast but to also, importantly, fail smart.
Typically, the key outcomes of this phase include: Personas, Empathy maps, Customer journeys, User flows, User journeys.
Phase 2: Ideate and conceptulise through Design...
The UX design phase is to ideate and conceptualise proposed outcomes through wireframes/prototypes that represent structures, hierarchies, interactions and behaviours, based on user needs & goals.
Typically, the key outcomes of this phase include:
- Architecture (IA): Card sorts and Sitemaps
- Design: Sketches, Paper prototypes, Wireframes (responsive) and Prototypes
Designing wireframes is never about being pixel perfect but it should always represent a true indication – based on a responsive grid – of what the end solution should look like. This is to specifically ensure feedback is reliable during validation and removes unwanted subjective opinions where possible, improves project efficiencies because the dev team can cut code immediately without waiting on final visuals, helps reduce ambiguity during the build stage and speeds up the visual design process.
Wireframes should not simply represent a rough idea of what the solution should look like. Sketches should be used for this purpose, especially within internal meetings ('a picture can tell clarify a thousand words').
Phase 3: Validate concepts through Evaluative Research...
The proposed designs can then be put in front of users (through quantitative and/or qualitative methods) to gather reliable feedback and make any improvements (and re-validate if necessary) before code is cut within the next development sprint. The validation process also allows us to measure feedback and build greater confidence in knowing if the proposed solution would be successful, instead of simply relying on subjective feedback.
Phase 4: Visual Design... but this is typically for your hybrid designers!
The visual design phase, typically completed by creative designers or hybrid UX designers, involves the more traditional elements of creative graphic design elements to create the pixel perfect/true-to-life solution.
We will still look for feedback from the customer throughout this process to ensure the brand is being positively represented and relevant key actions are easily identifiable. Gathering feedback on the visual elements too soon can interfere with insightful feedback due to people becoming increasingly focused on providing subjective opinions.
Other related UX blogs...
Here is the 2nd installment of lifting the lid on UX Practices Part 2: Understanding the needs of the customer
And here is the 3rd installment Part 3: Measuring success through quantitative insights.