Intro to user experience design
⭐️ Key takeaways
What is UX?
UX stands for User Experience and it’s the process of making a (digital or physical) product or service useful, relevant, and meaningful for people.
UX design focuses on the interaction between physical or digital products and services like websites or apps and real people. It includes all parts of the interaction between a user and company (the app, website, product, service, community, etc.).
There’s a big misconception out there that UI is completely separate from UX. That’s just not true. It’s one of the pillars of UX as a whole.
There are 6 core disciplines of UX:
- User research
- Business analysis
- Information architecture
- Content strategy
- Interaction design
- Visual design
A UX designer generalist wears a lot of hats
As a user researcher, you’re the voice for the user. You’ll conduct user interviews, usability studies, heuristic evaluations, and surveys. You’ll also build empathy maps, affinity maps, personas, and research reports
As a business analyst, you need to understand the business strategy. You’ll help ensure business objectives are being considered throughout the design process.
As an information architect, you build the foundation and framework of the design. You’ll design the navigation, create sitemaps, build the taxonomy, and organize information logically through schemes and structures.
As a content strategist, you’re in charge of creating the content. You’ll help write copy and create, organize, map content.
As an interaction designer, you bring the design to life. You’ll create storyboards, sketches, wireframes, prototypes, and animations that map to users’ mental models.
As a visual designer, you make the designs beautiful. You’ll create style guides, apply color theory, choose typography, create graphics, build icons, and design the final user interface.
Why is UX important?
- UX makes every day things usable, useful, relevant, and meaningful.
- UX helps you build empathy with the people who are using the product. This helps you to see the world through their eyes and build products that truly help them.
- UX helps you differentiate your product from the competition. Using the right UX methods, you learn about what competitors are doing, what gaps are in the market, and how you can do it better.
- UX helps create products that are accessible. Through testing and accessibility guidelines, we can make certain the products we create can be used by most people.
- What does the UX process look like?
- UX designers follow the user centered design process. This process contains methods and techniques from each of the 6 disciplines that take the user into account at every stage of the product life cycle.
At a high level, the UX process boils down to 4 stages:
- Build & Iterate
Basically, we first start by discovering a problem. We do research, list business requirements, and generally try to understand and empathize with users.
Once we understand the problem and what users are going through, we start creating a bunch of basic concepts that solve their problem.
After we have settled on one concept that solves their problem, we test it with actual users to get their feedback. If it doesn’t go well, we repeat the process.
Once it finally goes well, we move on to the last stage where we create the high fidelity solution and hand it off for final production.
For digital products, we prefer to be more specific about what we’ll be doing during each phase, so this is what we personally call each of the 4 stages of the UX process:
- Research & understanding
- Information architecture & wireframing
- Prototyping & usability testing
- Visual design & handoff
What separates UX from other types of design?
Research is the foundation of UX. It informs our choices and helps us build designs that truly solve user problems. The UX process makes design decisions objective because decisions are based on user feedback and not just our own opinions.
By contrast, other types of design can be mostly subjective. Many of the decisions are based on the opinions of the designer or other stakeholders involved in the project.
UX design is focused on user, business, and technology needs and relies on user research. Other design is focused on stakeholder needs and relies on design principles.
Nothing in the workbook to complete.
The internet is packed with information about UX and it can be overwhelming.
This video is dedicated to giving you all the basics you need to know about UX, so you can focus on what matters.
In this lesson, we'll be answering the following questions. What is UX? Why is UX important? What does the UX process look like, and what separates UX from other types of design?
Before we begin, and so you can follow along, we encourage you to download our course materials at kick-ass ux.com under the free UX course page, the link is in the description.
With that out of the way let's get started.
Let's begin with the first question, "what is UX?"
UX stands for user experience and it's the process of making a digital or physical product or service useful, relevant, and meaningful for people.
All of these descriptors are important.
Let's start with useful. If a product or service doesn't help people do something they want to do. No one will actually use it.
This is pretty straightforward.
Next is relevant. Their product or service needs to be suited for what the user is trying to accomplish.
For example, imagine you're craving tacos, kind of like I am right now.
It's rainin' tacos
You decide to look for a Mexican restaurant near you using Google maps. But imagine you only get results for Thai restaurants.
Google must be confused. Noodles don't belong on tortillas.
At least that's not what you're looking for right now.
Those search results wouldn't be relevant. They might be useful at some other point, but they're not related to what you're trying to do right now.
This is oversimplified, but we hope you see our point.
Last, there's meaningful. Think about meaningful as a positive emotion tied to the outcome a product or service provides.
This could be a sense of accomplishment, happiness, or excitement
For example, a few years ago, my friends and I went to Hawaii. We rented a house on Airbnb.
The house ended up being all we'd hoped for and more.
It was perfect for our trip. And as a bonus, we got to hang out with Marcus, the owner of the house. He was an awesome guy. I'll never forget Marcus and the place we stayed.
Airbnb helped create a super positive memory for me, something that has a very special place in my heart.
The original goal was just to rent a house in Hawaii. Not only the Airbnb helped me accomplish my goal. It also had a positive impact on my life beyond the space of the app itself.
We still talk about Marcus to this day.
Oh, yeah, by the way we called him Mahhhcuussss.
It's way more fun to say his name that way.
Another example of meaningful is with Smartsheet. The Marketo university team was able to use Smartsheet to reduce the time it took to compile an executive report from two weeks, wait for it, down to only two days. That's eight more days the team can focus on things that actually matter to them.
Think about how freeing that must've felt. And on top of that, they saved the company some serious time and money making them internal heroes.
That's some meaningful UX right there!
So let's come back around to the question. "What is UX?"
UX design focuses on the interaction between physical or digital products and services like websites or apps and real people.
It includes all parts of the interaction between a user and a company, the app, website, product, service, community, et cetera.
Let's look at a simple example of UX design that we all interact with every day, to some extent, a door.
Imagine you walked up to this door. What would you do? Would you try to push it open or would you try to pull it?
It's incredibly unclear.
Kind of like the movie, Donnie Darko.
Adding the text push helps, but it's still problematic.
The design of the handle, screams to people to pull it open. That's bad UX.
The basic design of the door suggests to people to do the opposite of what they should do to be successful.
Instead a door with good UX would make it clear to people what action they should take before they try to open the door.
Let's now look at a digital example of UX by walking through a hypothetical example about Amazon.
Let's say that you take the bus to work. On the way you enjoy listening to podcasts. Unfortunately, one day your headphones break. You're too busy to go to the store, so you decide to buy a new pair on Amazon.
You open their mobile app search for wireless headphones, then filter the results by products that have more than four stars.
You spend the next 20 minutes reading through product reviews to find the best pair for your needs. Finally, you make the purchase. Two days later, your headphones arrive in an Amazon branded box.
That scenario encompasses the user experience of Amazon.
Your goal was to buy a high quality pair of headphones to use on your commute.
Amazon helped you accomplish your goal by giving you the ability to search for the type of headphones you were looking for, and then letting you compare products based on other's reviews.
he fulfillment of that goal came when your headphones arrived at your door in an Amazon box.
There's a significant distinction to call out on this diagram. It's that the user interface or UI is part of the overall user experience of Amazon.
There's a big misconception out there that UI is completely separate from UX. That's just not true.
It's one of the pillars of UX as a whole. It's a subset.
The entire user experience from this example spans from the start of the user problem all the way until their goal is fulfilled. The user interface of Amazon played a small, but critical part of that experience.
Without the UI, the user wouldn't have been able to accomplish their goal and get their headphones.
With this in mind, let's talk about the six core disciplines of UX.
First is user research.
Second, business analysis.
Third, information architecture.
Fourth, content strategy.
Fifth, interaction design.
And sixth, visual design.
That's a lot of hats to wear. There are many people that specialize in just one of those disciplines.
Ludovic and I, on the other hand, are considered to be UX designer generalists, which means we were all of those hats.
That's also what we teach our students to be, UX generalists.
As a user researcher, you're the voice for the user.
You'll conduct user interviews, usability studies, heuristic evaluations, and surveys.
You'll also build empathy, maps, affinity, maps, personas (depending on whether or not your company believes in them or not), and research reports.
As a business analyst, you need to understand that business strategy.
You'll help ensure business objectives are being considered throughout the design process.
As an information architect, you build the foundation and framework of the design.
You'll design the navigation, create site maps, build the taxonomy and organize information logically through schemes and structures.
As a content strategist, you're in charge of creating the content.
Go figure. You'll help write copy and create, organize, and map content.
As an interaction designer, you bring the design to life.
You'll create storyboards, sketches, wireframes, prototypes, and animations, that map to user's mental models.
And finally, as a visual designer, you make the designs beautiful.
You'll create style guides, apply color theory, choose typography, create graphics, build icons, and designed the final user interface.
As a UX generalist, you have to wear all those hats at some point or another.
One last point before moving on.
As a designer, you're a problem solver.
All types of design out there from graphic design to UI design are about solving problems.
You start with what needs to be accomplished and how people react to what's in front of them and why.
As a UX designer, your number one priority is to understand and solve user problems.
Okay. At this point, we've answered the question, "what is UX?"
Let's now answer, "why is UX important?"
First and foremost, think back to the definition of UX we provided earlier.
UX makes everyday things useful, relevant, and meaningful.
Second, UX helps you build empathy with the people who are using the product.
This helps you to see the world through their eyes and to build products that truly help them.
Third, UX helps you differentiate your product from the competition.
Using the right UX methods, you learned about what your competitors are doing, what gaps are in the market, and how you can do it better.
It then helps you validate your designs to ensure that the product or feature will be successful before you've even launched.
And finally, UX helps you create products that are accessible.
Through testing and accessibility guidelines, we can make certain the products we create can be used by most people.
The next logical question is what does the UX process look like? Or how do I even do this?
UX designers follow a user-centered design process.
This process contains methods and techniques from each of the six disciplines we mentioned earlier that take the user into account at every stage of the product life cycle.
It allows you to turn a user problem from a set of questions and assumptions into a real world solution.
When you look up "UX" or "UX process" on Google, it can be confusing to see what seems to be many different UX processes out there.
It doesn't matter what you call the UX process or what the infographic looks like. At a high level, the UX process boils down to four stages.
And four, build and iterate.
Basically, we first start by discovering a problem.
We do research, lists business requirements, and generally try to understand and empathize with users.
Once we understand the problem and what users are going through, we start creating a bunch of basic concepts that solve their problem.
After we've settled on one concept that solved their problem, we test it with actual users to get their feedback.
If it doesn't go well, we repeat the process. Once it finally does go well, we move on to the last stage where we create the high fidelity solution and hand it off for final production.
For digital products, we prefer to be more specific about what we'll be doing during each phase.
So, this is what we personally call each of the four stages of the UX process that we just talked about.
First is research and understanding.
Second, information architecture and wireframing.
Third, prototyping and usability testing.
And forth, visual design and handoff.
Each of these stages contains a set of tools and methods to solve the user problem.
It's important to note that these stages aren't necessarily linear and it's not a step-by-step process.
It's typical to jump back and forth between different phases.
Think of this process as being dynamic. Depending on the context and the problem you're solving you'll apply the methods that make the most sense.
Let's now look at each stage of the UX process.
First, research and understanding.
Before starting the designs for any successful UX project, we need to fully understand a few things: the business, the user, the product, and the problem we're solving.
That's why research and understanding always comes at the start of any project.
That's also why one of the first things we do on any project is what we call framing the problem.
This is a living document that we use as a north star throughout the UX process to provide clarity and help us focus on what we actually need to solve.
Framing the problem is important because it helps align the company's goals with the project we're working on.
It also identifies the questions that need to get answered through research. After framing the problem, we create a research plan.
We use the questions from framing the problem to guide our choice of research methods, such as user interviews, usability testing, and surveys.
We've talked about this before, but we'll say it many times over. Don't just use a research method because you think you ought to.
Each research method you employ should help you answer the research questions you listed in framing the problem.
If a method doesn't do that, do the opposite of Nike and just don't do it.
After conducting a few of these research methods, you'll have data to analyze.
As a UXer it's your job to read between the lines of what users are doing and get to why they're doing it.
A really great method that designers use to combine their research into actionable and understandable chunks is by creating an affinity diagram.
An affinity diagram groups your research data into categories that help you see patterns across all of your research.
From there, you might take the categories and insights and the affinity diagram and create personas.
A persona is a fictional representation of your target user created by grouping user data, gathered through research.
They help keep the user at the center of your process.
If during the UX process you get stuck, you can always look back and ask what your personas would need in that situation.
Before moving on. It's important to point out that personas are a controversial topic in the UX world. There are many that believe that personas are a fantastic design tool.
Others not so much.
We typically fall into the camp that doesn't believe in personas.
We only bring this up, just so that you understand that personas are not a tool that's universally used.
One last thing before moving on. We just wanted to call out that there are plenty of projects out there that don't have a lot of research backing them.
That could be because there wasn't much time to complete research or maybe they didn't have access to finding people to interview or the timeline or whatever reason.
There are plenty of reasons why people don't end up having research at the beginning of their process. And that's fine.
What matters is that you're using data to backup your decisions.
So if you do not have time to complete, let's say user interviews or do usability testing on an existing product, then what matters is that you're finding data to back up your decisions.
Cool. With that out of the way after you've completed the research analysis, you're ready to start the second phase, information architecture and wireframing. This phase is where you use your research insights to plan your designs and generate as many solutions as possible.
Think of this phase as if you were in charge of building a house.
This is the time when you lay down the foundation. It's what supports the overall structure.
In this phase you might create site maps, scenarios, storyboards, user stories, sketches, user flows, and wireframes.
Wireframes are an essential part at this stage.
A wireframe is a simple black and white skeleton of a website or application.
It structures the initial details and concepts for a project. Wireframes also help clarify design direction and intended functionality.
They're one of the most common and important deliverables in UX.
It's critical to wireframe out many ideas for any given problem.
The best designs only come after considering many different ways to solve a problem.
Once you have a decent grasp on the design direction, it's time for the prototyping and usability testing phase where you'll validate your designs.
In this phase, you'll create a test plan, build a prototype, run usability tests, and create a report based on your findings.
Depending on the feedback you receive, you can either move back to wireframing, repeat this process and incorporate what you learned back into a prototype to retest, or proceed onto the next phase.
It's important to point out that similar to research and understanding, there are definitely projects where we don't have time to run usability testing.
While it's ideal to be able to run usability testing to validate our concepts, there are plenty of times where it's not necessary.
Maybe you're basing your designs on a really well understood design pattern.
Maybe you have data from some other research project that you've already done.
There are plenty of reasons why, but we just wanted to call out that usability testing isn't always necessary.
It's always great to do if you have the time and resources to do it, because it does help validate your designs and provide you with data to back up your decisions.
But we just want to call out that it's not always necessary.
However, long it does take to go through the prototyping and usability testing phase, once you've decided to move on past it, it's now time for the visual design and handoff phase of the UX process.
This is where you take your wireframes add color, fonts, images, and graphics to create the final designs.
This might sound simple, but it can take a while to get it to look and feel just right.
This can get pretty complicated because you have to balance new functionality with existing company design patterns, such as color choice, button styles, and the controls do you use.
During this stage, you may also get feedback from your users on the designs. You can get the feedback using static screens or by testing a nicer looking more detailed prototype.
This is also the time to create animations to show how the design is intended to look and behave.
Finally, when you feel like everything is just right and you have the approval from your project stakeholders, you'll hand off your designs to the engineers.
This is where you work directly with the developers to implement your designs.
Typically the hand-off phase includes deliverables such as UX specifications of color, spacing, behavior and animations, which can all be handled through applications like Figma, and Zeplin, and the cloud storage app of your choice.
As the designs get built into code you'll test them and give the developer feedback. This allows you to make sure that the product looks and behaves as close to your designs as possible.
Once you're done with all of that, it's time to iterate on your work.
Depending on the product and the product goals, once the product is out in the wild you'll see how it performs and follow the process again and improve it even more.
And that's the beauty of the UX process.
It's a low pressure way to figure out what the right solution is.
It takes the burden off of your shoulders to be a design genius.
Instead, you can talk directly to, and get feedback from users to then immediately give them the product that they just told you they needed.
In short, if you continually follow the UX process, at some point you'll end up at the right solution.
And that's it. That's the whole process.
Here's the summary that shows you the types of things you'll be doing at each stage.
Again, it's important to point out that you don't have to use each of these methods to solve a problem.
Instead think of the UX process as being flexible and dynamic, and each phase as having its own unique toolkit.
Different problems require different tools to solve them.
For example, you wouldn't use a hammer to bash a screw into place.
A hammer doesn't help you solve that problem.
It might help you relieve some pent up aggression, but video games are probably be less destructive.
In this case, the tool you would be looking for is a screwdriver.
Similarly, you don't use a UX method just because or to check a box saying that you did.
For example, not every project needs a survey. Depending on your goals, it might make sense to use one, but it's not something you use on every project.
Again, think back to what we said in an earlier video, you are a UX treasure hunter. You take the best next step based on what you know currently and what you still need to learn.
The same principle applies to almost all UX methods and techniques.
Only use what you need to solve the problem effectively and efficiently.
That's a big part of what makes up your expertise as a UX designer, understanding when and why you would use a particular method.
At the end of the day, this makes almost every UX project unique.
Sometimes you conduct user interviews, create affinity diagrams, build site maps, conduct, task analyses, and other times you don't.
So anytime you're going through a project first figure out what you're trying to solve and then determine what methods to use to solve it.
Now that you have a general understanding of the UX process and the method used during each stage, you can see how each of the six core disciplines applies across the process.
For example, information architecture is involved starting at the end of research and understanding all the way into visual design and handoff.
Now let's tackle the last question, "what separates UX from other types of design?"
Research is the foundation of UX. It informs our choices and helps us build designs that truly solve user problems.
The UX process makes design decisions objective because decisions are based on user feedback and not just our own opinions.
By contrast, other types of design can be mostly subjective.
Many of the decisions are based on the opinions of the designer or other stakeholders involved in the project.
To highlight this, let me tell you a very real story that I got to witness firsthand.
When I first started in UX, I was tasked with redesigning a pricing page for a website.
Our goal was to improve or maintain the conversion rate.
If you're unfamiliar with the term conversion rate, that's the percentage of users who take a desired action.
Our other goal was to make the user interface look more modern.
I worked with a graphic designer and a product manager on this project.
During the first meeting, the graphic designer showed the latest mock-ups he had created.
The product manager told him to change everything around just because. I'm not kidding.
She wanted to add more buttons, different colors for the buttons, and generally wanted to move things around. Why? Because she liked it that way. There was no design logic behind it.
And the worst part? There was nothing the designer could say or do to change her mind. I really felt for the graphic designer. It was a terrible situation to be in.
Fortunately, unless you work with the Grinch, you don't have to worry about that as UX designer, because you could support your design decisions with real data from real people who actually use your product.
Yes, there are people in the team where even when you present them data, they still believe their opinions matter more. But still.
While subjectivities still does exist in UX. Having data helps to alleviate a lot of it.
You have more than just design principles to fall back on.
And that's really what separates you from other types of design.
UX design is focused on the user, business, and technology needs and relies on user research.
Other types of design are mostly focused on stakeholder needs and rely far more on principles.
So with all of that said, with everything we've gone through, the UX process creates certainty in a product well before it's even created.
We design products that are easy to use and are what users are looking for.
One last thing before sounding off as a quick reminder, don't forget to go download our course materials at kickassux.com under the free UX course page.
We'll see you in the next video.