What is User Experience?
Do you ever wonder how using certain products makes you feel? Do you get frustrated or feel delighted? The feelings and emotions that interacting with products evoke in us can be referred to as the user experience. This term was pioneered by Donald Norman who said that “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”
User experience means different things to different people and there are various UX definitions, some of which are very distinct from the standard one. If you’re curious about how user experience is defined by design professionals, take a look at our article in which 10 business experts explain what UX is to them.
Since you have an understanding of what UX means, it’s time to discuss UX experience and the elements of an effective UX design process.
UX Design Process: What to Include and How to Do it Right
Let’s start off with the question, “what is UX design?” There isn’t a universally accepted definition. It’s a multidimensional concept which incorporates a variety of disciplines like interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, and human-computer interaction.
However, to get a better grasp of what UX design indicates, let’s take a look at how the Oxford Journal on Interacting With Computers explains it:
The primary purpose of UX design is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.” To put it simply, it’s about building products that not only provide value to customers but are also easy and pleasant to use.
Source: New Breed Marketing
Now, what does it take to create great user experiences? The key lies in the UX design process, i.e. a set of rules and processes that designers follow at various stages of developing a product. This process is instrumental in creating solutions that truly resonate with its users.
First, UX specialists learn about who their target user is and what needs and expectations they have of the product. Next, the specialists proceed to validate their hypotheses by creating visuals and conducting usability testing.
Let us take a closer look at the elements of the UX design process as well as the benefits that following it entails.
Elements of the User Experience Process
This is the starting point of any user-centered design. It’s also a continuous process that helps designers enhance the usability of an existing product.
In order to create a user-centered experience, designers require a deep understanding of their target audience’s goals, fears, and challenges. This can be achieved, for example, through conducting user interviews, session recordings, or surveys.
With these insights at hand, UX specialists can proceed with building user personas and user journey mapping (see below), as well as creating wireframes and prototypes
We will discuss user research in more detail further down in this post.
Information Architecture (IA)
IA is another crucial element of the user experience. Its role is to organize information in a way that makes it helpful and intuitive for users to navigate. One of the ways that IA can be verified is by testing the intended design with users, which brings us to...
A term used to describe the look and feel of a product. Visual design includes elements such as an app’s or site’s layout, colors, or the symbols that help users interact with the interface. Visual design concepts are tested by UX designers through wireframes and prototypes, which we discuss in detail below.
The term ‘usability’ describes the degree to which a product can be used by its target audience so that they can achieve their goals. There are five constituents to usability – a product’s learnability, efficiency, memorability, its errors, and the levels of user satisfaction.
Lastly, this is the rate at which a product can be easily used, understood, and reached by a disabled individual. This might mean, for instance, designing a voice interface for the visually impaired or enabling a bigger font or element size for the elderly.
The Benefits of a UX Design Process
So, what benefits does following the user experience design process provide? Below, we mention some of the most prominent ones:
- User retention improvement - when a product offers a rewarding experience, users will be more likely to return to it.
- Higher conversion rate - if you ensure that your site visitors can easily find the information they are looking for, you increase your chances of improving conversion.
- A stronger brand - great user experiences are also memorable ones. This means that, by ensuring a flawless UX, you can strengthen your brand image and boost the likelihood of getting a positive review online.
You can read more about the UX design process and what it includes in a dedicated chapter of this guide.
How to Conduct Effective UX Research?
Research is essential for creating an effective UX design, which is why it’s important to shed more light on the subject.
User experience research provides information required at all steps of the design process. It allows designers to validate their product plans and hypotheses, as well as compare the intended service against others that are present on the market.
There are two main types of user research – quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative vs Qualitative Research
Quantitative research, as the name indicates, is the collection of data that can be numerically measured and analyzed. This can be, for instance, the number of website visitors who bounced from your site or results from a user survey (measured on a 1-10 scale).
While quantitative data will tell you ‘what’, qualitative data lets you in on the ‘why’ – i.e. the motivation for user actions. Examples of such insights include descriptive answers to open-ended survey questions or findings from 1:1 user interviews.
How to know which method to employ, and at which stage in the research process?
How to Choose the Right User Research Method?
As explained by the Nielsen Norman Group, there are four stages in the UX research process – Discover, Explore, Learn, and Listen. Below, we mention the methods that can be used at each step.
Stage 1 – Discover
During the initial stages, you will benefit from the following:
- field studies
- competitive analysis
- stakeholder interviews
- user interviews
These methods will help you understand what other products on the market you’re competing with, how you can meet your users’ expectations and resolve their problems, as well as ways to help them achieve their goals.
Stage 2 – Explore
In the ‘Explore’ phase, we recommend turning to:
- card sorting (i.e. asking users to organize topics or elements into categories)
- task assignments (i.e. asking testers to complete an objective during the study)
- user persona development (i.e. creating a fictional, yet realistic customer profile)
These methods will help you uncover potential user journey paths, new features and enhancements, plus others.
Stage 3 – Learn
In the ‘Learn’ stage, you gain a deeper understanding of your users’ interactions with your product. Therefore, you will benefit from:
- usability testing (among others, checking whether your designs have a gentle learning curve that is efficient and memorable for users)
- accessibility tests (checking if all user groups, including the disabled, can use your product fully)
- benchmark testing (learning where your product stands against others on the market)
Stage 4 – Listen
Last, but not least, researchers listen to their audience to learn how they can improve the UX design. The recommended methods include:
- determining Frequently Asked Questions
- running customer surveys
- analyzing customer data from analytics tools (for example, the queries they search Google for)
We describe each of the aforementioned methods in detail in a dedicated chapter of this guide.
Let’s now see how you can use the gathered customer insights to fuel your user journey and to create your user journey map.
How to Develop a User Journey Map in 6 Simple Steps
Before we proceed to the tactics, let’s first look at the definition.
What is a User Journey and a User Journey Map?
In the simplest possible terms, a user journey is the entire experience a user has while interacting with an interface or product. It shows you all the steps they’ve taken in order to achieve a goal – for instance, finalizing a purchase.
That being said, user journey mapping is the process of documenting this entire interaction. It helps designers visualize the entire UX experience and lets them spot any improvement areas, unnecessary steps, or other important elements of a given user task.
6 Steps to Creating a User Journey Map
There are six steps to mapping out user experiences. They are as follows:
Step 1 – Creating User Personas
User personas are fictional, representative reflections of your actual customers. They are a way of giving your user research data a personality so they are more relatable when you work on your designs.
Step 2 – Determining Your Users’ Goals
With personas, you can understand what your target audience’s goals, fears, and challenges are. Create a list of reasons why customers turn to your product or service and what they aim to achieve by using it.
Step 3 – Map Out the Touchpoints
Determine all the points of contact or scenarios your user engages in when they interact with your product. Create a list of all potential ways they can come across your brand – both online and offline. An example of this is, for instance, a virtual check-in for a flight (which takes place well ahead of the passenger entering the plane and using the actual service).
Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Step 4 – Find Out What Customers’ Frustrations and Pains Are
Ask yourself the following:
- Is it possible for my customers to achieve their goals by using my product?
- Were there any roadblocks that caused frustration?
- Is there any step during which users stopped the customer journey?
These and other questions will provide you with a list of user journey improvements.
Step 5 – Eliminate the Obstacles
With a list of roadblocks, it’s time to categorize. Decide which problems call for a ‘nice-to-have’ improvement and which entirely block the user from continuing their journeys, then prioritize the latter.
Step 6 – Enhance Your Product
Apply the improvements derived from your user journey map to enhance UX.
As user goals and priorities change over time, we advise you to update or verify the validity of your user journey maps every 6 months. User journey maps give you a ton of insights that can be used for creating the intended product’s first visuals – i.e. wireframes and higher-fidelity prototypes.
All You Need to Know About Effective UX Prototyping
The best way to check if your design is market-ready is through UX prototyping, which is creating a basic version of your design with the potential of turning it into a fully functional product. It enables initial product testing and feedback collection.
Why Should You Consider Creating a UX Prototype?
You might be wondering – why should I bother building a prototype? It has lots of benefits, we’ll get to them right now:
- Checking product-market fit – it’s difficult to assess whether or not a product is ready for market launch without having a physical product at hand. Having even the most simple prototype allows you to share it with your target audience and get their feedback. Use that to improve your product or push it into development right away.
- Boosting user experience – you can easily spot issues that require further work as they block your users from meeting their goals. Fixing them prior to launch will improve the overall UX.
- Faster development time and lower costs – use a prototype to discover which features are missing and which are unnecessary. This will not only save you a lot of money, but it will also cut your time to development.
There is more than one prototyping technique that you can use, so let’s take a quick look at the various options now.
Prototyping Methodologies You Can Use
Paper prototyping – its low cost and flexibility make it a popular option among designers. It can be tested with any type of interface including a website, mobile app, or software. It’s frequently confused with sketching, but it goes beyond paper drawing. Paper prototypes can be made of cardboard or cut out of paper, which makes interacting with them easier.
Source: Martha Eierdanz
- Digital prototyping – they are most often used in app prototyping due to their robustness. With digital prototyping, you can easily assess the functionality and usability of a product as users get a real feel for it.
- HTML prototyping – although slowly becoming obsolete, some UX designers still go for this option. A prototype is built in HTML, so it requires some coding skills. The design is plain, not including any images or fancy colors, but it can be useful when it comes to web prototyping.
Since you know what prototyping methodologies you can select from, it’s time for some practical skills on how to approach it.
Steps to Effective UX Prototyping
There are five steps that you should follow to develop a UX prototype. They are:
Step 1: Develop your Idea
You can’t build a product without knowing the reason why you want to do it in the first place. Figure out what problem your product is going to solve, then focus on building a design that would enable users to meet their goals in the simplest way.
Step 2: Create a List of Product Requirements
What features does your product require to deliver on its objectives? Start with shortlisting the must-have or core features and focus on prioritizing those instead of listing an endless number of features that will only increase your development costs and decrease usability.
Step 3: Start Sketching
While at this stage most designers will already have product layouts and structures in mind, the purpose of this step is to explore what’s possible and what isn’t. So try to approach it with a fresh mind – start by drawing the core screens of your app.
Use Your Sketches to Build Wireframes
Now that you have your sketches ready, you can start building wireframes. These lay out the content and functionality, taking into consideration users’ needs. Its main purpose is to show to stakeholders which entities, pages, and components are going to be included in the app, and how they will interact with one another.
Step 5: Build a Prototype
The final step is to build the prototype. You have two options: 1) you can use your wireframes to build a basic prototype, or 2) you can use specialized tools to transform your ideas into a more interactive prototype filled with fake content.
User Experience Design – How to Improve & Best Practices
With all of the above, it’s now time to review the best practices that will help you ensure you’re creating a good UX design.
The Main User Experience Best Practices
Here are some UX experience best practices worth following while creating your design process:
Know Your Target Audience
You design products for specific users, which means you’ll have to get to know them inside out. Find out what their problems and pain points are, what their needs are, and what goals they are trying to achieve. Only once you have this information can you start thinking about product design.
Remember About Simplicity and Familiarity
As humans, we often cling to what we’re familiar with. This also applies to products. Familiarity allows users to learn how to use new products faster, which also has a positive impact on engagement.
Check How Users Interact with Your Design
We frequently assume that users will interact with our product in a certain way, but these are just assumptions. And reality can surprise us, which is why it’s worth verifying your assumptions by observing how users interact with your product in real-life.
Not only will you be able to spot any potential roadblocks that prevent your users from meeting their goals, but you might also discover some design elements that bring joy to customers. If you want to observe how your users interact with your website or service, you can do so by signing up to LiveSession for free.
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Make Your User Flow Consistent
User flow visually displays all the steps that a user must take to achieve their goal. While designing your user flow keep three questions in mind:
- Will your users be able to meet their goals in the end?
- Are there any elements that might make the experience less pleasant?
- Are there any steps that could be either simplified or disposed of completely?
Put Readability and Accessibility First
Readability and accessibility play an important role in creating great user experiences. The text in your app being error-free doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to read. Low readability will create navigation problems, and your users might feel lost. Instructions should be straightforward and easy to follow, which can only be achieved by using simple and familiar language that all users, irrespective of their age groups, can understand.
If you’re seeking inspiration, a few user experience examples that you can look at include Google Search Engine, Facebook, Paypal, and Starbucks.
Offering great user experiences is no longer an option, it’s an expectation that most customers have and are willing to pay extra for. However, creating great UX requires an in-depth knowledge of your target audience, which calls for extensive UX research to form the basis of an effective UX design process. Having one in place will improve your chances of not only creating products that meet customers’ goals, but which are also easy and enjoyable to use.
When creating your user experience design process, remember to keep accessibility, readability, and simplicity in mind, as well as making sure that your user flow is consistent.
This was just a brief introduction to UX, and there’s much more to uncover. Click below to proceed to Chapter One – What is UX? 10 Experts Share Their Definition.