I believe that in it's simplest form, UX design is oversight of the discovery, creation, and validation of services that are beneficial for both consumer and provider.
It all starts with the organization's brand, mission, values, and goals in mind. The strategy shapes a project's goals, defines how success will be measured, and establishes its priority.
"Who is our competition? What is our competition doing? Who are our users? What are our user's needs?" Research is the biggest part of the discovery phase of the process. This is where user interviews, surveys, and other observation tools are used. Don't make assumptions, make solid decisions based on fact. Skip this step and you'll be doing the former, and not the latter.
Analysis puts it all together to know the consumer better. Personas, characters, scenarios, affinity diagrams . . . Bring your research to into a life of it's own through a quality and accurate analysis. It isn't enough to know only the demographics, it is crucial to know the psychographics that influence decisions. What are the anxieties, motivations, etc.? Now you know your value proposition of what it is, who it's for, and where it will be used. The team knows what it isn't, and what it will become.
There are four layers to design: outcome, structure, interaction, and visual. How will this make it easier or better for our customer? What components are needed and how are they related? What are the sequences of behavior and events? Now it's time to make it beautiful with a grid foundation, color, typography, heirarchy, and more. This step is where multiple iterations of workflow, wireframes, sketches, mockups and prototypes come to life and die, come to life, and so on.
It's looking real good at this point. We're no longer validating ideas, we're working with the developers to turn ideas into products—assets are being created, code is being developed. This is the part of the process we get giddy about. The project is coming to life!
How does it work on multiple platforms, on different devices? Does it meet accessibilty requirements? Does it perform as it should? Is it intuitive? Is anything broken? What needs to be fixed in the design, the coding, and so on? Let's do some user testing with real people using real devices. Is the flow clear to the user?
1, 2, 3…and all done? Not so fast!
This process is not linear—waterfall design as it is known. It is imperative that this process is as agile as possible—regularly reviewed with all stakeholders to make adjustments, returning to previous steps as necessary to gain insights and clarification, make improvements, etc. The last thing you want is a "design" that is cost prohibitive to produce—or worse yet, a product that's not effective.
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