What is UX?
User Experience Design (UX) refers to the process of designing the optimal experience for your target user. You want this experience to be useful, useable and desirable. The experience may already exist (i.e: drinking coffee), but the role of the UX designer is to improve that experience (i.e: create a useful, useable and desirable mug).
Why? What? How?
The first step of the UX process is defining the “why”, “what” and “how” of the product you are designing:
- “Why”: Why would a user try your product? What are their motivations?
- “What”: What can the user do with your product? How do they interact with it? What functionality does it offer?
- “How”: How is the product presented to the user? How is the information displayed and designed?
Defining your User
In order for your product to be successful you need to define and understand your target audience: the people you are trying to engage and convince. A product or social issue may be relevant to a large audience, but you will get better results if you target your message to a more specific group. For example: a pro-recycling campaign should look, sound and feel different if it’s targeting adults vs. teenagers vs. young children.
Demographics is the process of studying a group of people based on different attributes. Here is a list of characteristics you should consider when defining your target audience:
- Level of education
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
A persona is a fictional person with the attributes of your target audience. Creating a few personas can make your target audience feel less abstract and can facilitate the process of creating engaging content for them. Think of it like creating a character for a book or a film – your persona should have a name, gender, age, occupation, address etc. (fill as many of the demographics attributes above), a personality, goals, hobbies values etc. Thinking of a real person in your life can be a good point of departure.
User flow & prototype
A user flow is a series of steps a user takes to achieve its goal.
You can start by simply writing out each step (i.e: 1. Tap on the Netflix app icon, 2. On the home page, scroll down to the “Continue Watching” section, 3. tap on the video poster icon, 4. Flip their phone to landscape mode, 5. Start watching the video). It’s likely that you will have to branch your user flow out for different option (i.e: 2. On the home page, tap on the “search” icon at the bottom of the screen, 3. type a title, 4. tap on the video poster icon etc..).
Once you’ve outlined the interaction, use wireframes to illustrate each step. Draw lines to connect different options.
I recommend starting with pencil and paper and translating the user flow into a prototype in Adobe XD once it feels complete (while inDesign is a great for print layout, XD is the preferred Adobe Suite product for developing interactive/digital prototypes because of its vector based and shareable properties). If you haven’t used Adobe XD before, this YouTube playlist from Adobe can help you get started.
This article from UX Collective has some great tips and examples.
Once your prototype is ready, you should test it.
Select testers from your target audience group (the number of testers will depend on the project), but a well-documented, in-depth testing with a group of 3-5 users will be more useful than a large sample size whose experience isn’t assessed properly. It may also be useful to round up a few testers outside of your target audience to assess the usability of your product (how easy is it to interact with it – even for someone who wouldn’t innately be drawn to it).
You can facilitate your testing session in person or in written form. Prepare a list of tasks for the users to execute and questions for them to answer. Be as specific as possible (i.e: NOT “Did you like this app?” BUT “On a scale from 1 – 5, did you enjoy the visual design of the app (colors, fonts, graphics)?”. Since it’s unlikely your early prototype will be as functional as the final version it’s a good idea to have someone available to answer testers’ questions (these questions may also point to flaws in your design).
Food for thought
- “10 Classic UX Design Fails That Teach Us How Not To Do UX” – Article from CareerFoundry for examples of what NOT to do.
- “The State of UX” – Article from UX trends
- List of TED Talks around UX design