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What is UX Design?

  What is UX Design
Vector Illustration by Vecteezy

For over 2 decades, my life has been dedicated to growing a dynamic web design agency, but in the humble beginnings, my career title was either a web design or graphic designer. My creative streak was inherited from my father, who was also a graphic designer, professional studio photographer and marketeer. For the first half of his career desk top computers didn’t exist and graphic designers used market pens and traditional typesetting. My point is, that as technology advances, us humble graphic designers find ourselves evolving to meet modern practises. UX design is the next evolutionary step. Design has had to evolve to flow visitors seamlessly through websites and mobile apps, design must enhance the flow and not be a distraction, save that for your marketing activities!

User Experience Design, or UX, UED, XD or UXD, combines UI (user interface) design with a strong understanding of human behaviour. Understanding thought processes and how people engage with a web site is key to its success. As the digital space becomes more competitive and more web pages & mobile applications are fighting for your attention, the design is crucial to keeping visitors flowing through the website and not ‘bouncing off’.

Rewind ten years ago and there were only a handful of trusted online retailers in the wholesale electrical industry. The space was wide open for those online retailers to provide ‘OK’ online experience for visitors, as there wasn’t much competition, they just need to be top in the search engines to secure guaranteed sales. Today, you still need to be top of the search engines, but visitors are much more savvy when searching for products and competitive pricing, best delivery options, are of their decision making process. Carrying out a full UX design process can see a dramatic uplift in sale conversions, so if your eCommerce website has lots of traffic, but the conversion rate is low, then your website has a problem with design (or pricing!).

“UX Design really helps to bridge that gap between the designer and the client, as both parties are working towards the same goal - client engagement & conversion.”

All projects must start with user research. This is the first stage of UX design. Why? Because user research provides the insights on how to approach the design and structure of a website or mobile application. It is incredibly hard to proceed without that information as it is the fundamental part of any UX design project. The research provides a greater level of understanding about your customers. What their goals are, their motivations, their behaviour and also their needs. There are many ways to obtain the research but it provides the knowledge of how the audience thinks from their perspective. The research also has an added bonus as well, as the results or ‘evidence’ as I like to call it, cuts out ‘hearsay’. If is very easy to have your own opinion on how websites should look and function. Your points maybe valid, but isn’t it great to have them backed up by evidence or to realise that you are actually wrong saving you extra redevelopment costs in the near future and a bruised ego?

What you have a clear understanding of who yoru visitors are, where they are from, where we can find them, the next stage (my personal favourite), is a process stolen from traditional marketing but is incredibly relevant - Personas. The process really helps to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and appreciate their goals, interests and needs. Each persona tells the story of one of your target audience that has been identified. It then allows us to explore what is important to that user in relation to the product or service we are promoting and cut out the noise, such as content the client may feel is important to them, but isn’t to their users.

User experience really has a positive effect that goes beyond user experience. A well performing website will lower the cost of ongoing support, increase customer retention and increase your market share. Furthermore it lowers the cost of customer acquisition. All great news for profit margins!

The research also reduces the level of waste during development as the usability requirements are decided before any of our coders even touch a keyboard. The development stage can be the most expensive part of any digital project, especially with complicated builds. So is this really a good time to trial and error elements? The evidence gathered at the research stage highlights where to prioritise development tasks and for those larger project, where budgets are limited, UX can helps identify the priorities for launch and those that can be phased in over time.

During the development process it’s important for the designer to be available throughout the build to ensure that developers are coding to the prototypes. The prototypes are like their blueprints and if done well, provide clear instructions and cuts down on lengthy briefing sessions.

After the initial excitement and celebrations of launching the new digital project have, and people have recovered for sore heads. The UX process doesn’t stop. No matter how much research and planning is done, the proof is always in the pudding. The first few months of the launch are the most critical as the best critics you will ever have are now using the digital project. I like to make sure that at least the basic metric analysis is in place. But it is always worth investing a little more time and money utilising many online tools that are available online and that are really easy to set up. After a few months of data collection, it’s time to sit down consume the data and see how well the project is performing against the metrics set. At this point, depending on the results, adjustments might need to be made. There is literally nothing wrong with reviewing the data and being honest as a UX designer. If the design isn’t working as well as hoped, the data will help to identify why. I have had a project where 50% of users were dropping off at the point of the basket page. We ran a short hotjar campaign to help identify why. It did, at the checkout stage, the large BUY button, wasn’t being noticed, even though it was above page fold and clearly visible. The issue was the colour, it matched the overall design. A quick change of the colour and adding more space around the button, it corrected the issue.

That example is a reason why I really love UX Design. There are so many really cool online tools that provide you the real time data you need to understand your users and how to improve the customer journey, no matter how small the issue might be - I design for the user, to increase conversion rates, not for my own ego.
I always advise clients that spending more on UX Design will save you money in the long run.

Quick look at my UX process.
  1. Discover
  2. Define
  3. Ideate, Test & Prototype
  4. Build
  5. Deploy
  6. Measure
The UX design process might come across as really daunting, especially if this is the first time you have read up about what it actually is. If there is one thing you should take away from this article is to have a basic understand of the principle and be aware that successful websites really do go through these processes. Chat with your web design agency about how much of you budget should be assigned to the process, or if they have a process they can guide you through.