UX 101: Basic understandings

UX design is the process of designing products and services to provide meaningful experiences to the end users. The ultimate goal of UX design is to enhance user satisfaction, which involves designing the complete interaction of the user and the product. UX design has a broad coverage, it is applicable during various phases of product/service designing.

“No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.”
— Don Norman, inventor of the term “User Experience”

Since UX design is a very broad concept and continuously evolving, it doesn’t have one specific universal system.

Many designers today are using UX designer label without understanding the true meaning of UX design. In this article, I am trying to outline a very basic foundations of UX design that should be understood by any designers willing to get started in this very specialized skill arena.

Difference between UX and UI.

UX and UI design are terms that come together all the time and many people within and outside design industry seem to be confused about it. Some think that UI and UX are same while some differentiate them as interface design vs. prototype (or wireframe) design. But the truth is, both are parts of a cohesive design system. UI design is a phase within a UX design process.

Let’s understand what is User Interface and User Experience:
User Interface is the space where interaction between humans and a product happens, while User Experience is an emotional outcome before, during and after the interactions with a product.

So, designing UX starts from research to planning, designing, development, customer support and even troubleshooting.It involves business strategies, user behavior analysis, technical feasibility, human psychology, consumer market analysis, technology constraints, resource capacity, content strategy, usability testing, success metrics and more so that the product becomes successful.

Whereas UI design is about selecting the right interface elements, such as text fields, buttons, check boxes and drop-down lists, to create the tangible interfaces that users can readily understand and easily use.

UX design always puts end users in the center.

Designers often assume that people who will use their interfaces are like them. As a result, designers project their behaviors and reactions onto users. But thinking that you are your user is a fallacy.

If you plan to design a product your users will love, you must have an idea of what your audience actually wants and needs. That’s why tools like user research and usability testing are essential parts of the UX design process.

UX designer considers the “why, what and how” of the product. UX design process covers the entire user journey.

 UX Design is a team effort.

Great user experiences are a result of collaboration between designers, developers, stakeholders, and users. UX designing involves various stakeholders so that the complete success of the product/service is achieved. UX design activities includes business strategies, content management, interface design, back end development, user testing and more. So it should be a teamwork to encompass the ideas, insights and thoughts such many aspects.

UX design is an iterative process.

UX Design doesn’t happen at once.
It’s important to understand that UX design isn’t a linear process. The phases of the UX process generally includes ideation, prototyping, testing and usually, there’s a lot of back-and-forth. As you learn more about the problem, the users, and the project details, it may be necessary to revisit some of the research undertaken or try out new design ideas. A perfect design doesn’t come out after just one iteration. Instead, ux design suggests to refine ideas to the point where we can test them with real users, collect valuable feedback, and iterate based on this feedback.

In UX design process, a product is not the deliverable

The most common misconception is that UX design delivers a better and beautiful product as a deliverable. But UX design is an engine, system or a culture which facilitates multi-disciplinary team to create better products.

There is no universal UX process

When starting out with UX design, I desperately searched for one universal UX process that I can apply to any projects. But I have realized now that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all UX design. The individual steps of a UX process can be different based on project requirements. A precise UX process with selected steps should be planned based on the specific project. While the fundamental purpose of UX design is universal; that is to create the best possible User experience for the product, but since each project is unique and has own needs, therefore the steps, team members, timeframe and methodologies can vary in every project.

So, these are some basic understandings that one should grasp before getting into the technical nitty-gritty of a UX design process.

I have researched many UX design courses and syllabuses and created a step by step learning path for beginner UX designers.
Here are some important topics of UX design study which have long list of sub-topics under them. I will try to explain more about the UX design in coming articles.

1. Overview: UCD, UXD, Design Thinking
2. Behavior: User Research & Persona
3. Strategy: Content (Information) strategy
4. Prototyping: Interactive wireframes: Rapid, Paper & Digital
5. Visual: (UI) Design
6. Evaluation: Usability testing


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