What is the design process? and why every designer should know about it
At the beginning of my career as a UX / UI designer, I didn’t know how to start a project and what were the ways to lead it. Later on, through the practice, I learned about a design process which helped me a lot in my work, that is why I decided to write this article that UI / UX designers can use as a guide in their own projects. I described each stage based on my own experience without diving too much into details, whereas I left useful links for more in-depth study. To demonstrate a design process, I used images that were specifically prepared for one of my projects. I hope you will discover something new that will be helpful in your future projects. So, let’s start!
No matter what a project is about, whether it is application design, package design or chair design, it is important to understand the essence of it. Therefore, the first thing I start any project is design research. During this stage, it is crucial to get as much information as possible about a product and its’ users. In my opinion, this stage is the most important in the design process, as all our further design decisions should be based on the facts and data we received at the research stage. Don’t hesitate to ask clients and stakeholders a lot of questions in order to get specific information regarding a project. Very often the number of correctly asked questions has a direct correlation with the quality of the final decision.
The Design Research stage can be divided into 2 main parts: Define the problem and User Research.
1. Define the problem
Asking questions, we need to get all the necessary information about the project, understand how our product differs from competitors and what value users get from it. Here is the list of questions that will help us to understand a project and its business goals better.
- What is the main business goal?
- What problem does your product resolve?
- What is your business unique value proposition?
- What are the user’s goals?
- What are their pain points?
- What is the main issue?
- What metrics do you have?
- What do you try to archive?
- Why did you decide to create a product? (help to find out client’s motivations)
- What is your competitive advantage?
- Why do your customers choose your product?
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- Is there a competitor that you admire most? If so, why?
2. User Research
Any successful product is created with an end-user in mind, and when it comes to business, I like the phrase: “do not “fall in love” with your product, “fall in love” with your clients, and only then offer what they really need”. We as designers should be aware that design is not only an artistic or creative expression, it is primarily created for people who will use a product, and these people are slightly different from us, so at this stage we need to understand what type of user we create a design for, their motivations, pain points, how they solve a similar problem. We can find out some information about users from client and stakeholders, but I encourage you to conduct interviews with users directly, that will give you a lot of insights.
The list of key questions that will help to reveal your user:
- Why do you use this tool/platform/product?
- How does your typical day look like?
- What are your biggest struggles?
- What other solutions have you tried before?
- How did you find [product]?
- What made you choose [product]?
- How would you rate [product]?
- What are the pros/cons of [product]?
- What are the frustrating parts of [product]? Why?
- If you could, what would you make differently?
Define Direction and Analysis
After receiving all the necessary information regarding the project and its users, we need to analyze it in the context of using the product and define our design strategy. I divided this stage into 4 parts:
1. User Persona Creation
A persona is a representation of a type of customer. Personas answer the question, “Who are we designing for?” and they help to align strategy and goals to specific user groups. (UX Mastery)
Personas help us to sum up an understanding of a user and create a representation of it. Our future design decisions will be based on this persona rather than an «abstract» user.
2. User Scenarios / Storyboarding
User Scenarios and Storyboarding help us to analyze various life situations in which a user can come into contact with a product. The following techniquescan assist us in the creation of a clear picture of a user’s motivations, behavioral patterns, and goals. Thanks to this, we will be able to consider a product from the users’ perspective, to understand them better and eventually to create a user-oriented design decision.
3. Pain Points analysis
Pain Points are certain circumstances or bad design decisions that prevent users from achieving their goals. Pain points analysis can give us a lot of insights, for example: to reveal issues in an existing design, to point out the need to implement certain features or even to define a visual hierarchy in a UI. In fact, a problem that a product solves should be the main Pain Point of users.
4. Creating User Flow / User Stories / Use Cases / User Journey
One of the most important tasks is to understand and to design a user’s interaction with a product. Matching users goals with ways they might be realized through an interface gives us an opportunity to clearly see a product from a user’s perspective. I prefer to split a User Flow into several stages of interaction, it helps to see an overall picture.
3. Sketching and Wireframing
Well, we have finally reached the stage where we can translate our ideas into reality. Before you start creating digital wireframes, I recommend to draw sketches and to think about your decisions with pencil and paper. It will speed up your process and give a lot of interesting ideas. I think that no matter how quickly digital technologies develop, paper and pencil remain important tools for many years in the hands of any designer.
Once we get sketches, we need to convert them into wireframes. In some cases, at this stage, it can be useful to create a prototype to test our UX decisions with potential users. Although it just a wireframe testing, it can give us a lot of insights about a product without spending too much time on creating a UI.
4. UI Design, Prototyping and Animation
It’s finally time to create a UI. When I started my way as a designer, I thought that drawing a UI is the moment when I can express my creativity and design what I personally like. But it’s not the case, almost any of our UI solutions, either it is a choice of colors, fonts or a visual hierarchy, should be based on the data we received at the Design Research stage. Always remember that you create a design for your users, not for yourself.
Having a finished UI, we can create a high-fidelity prototypewhich is completely suitable for testing. Also, do not forget about animations they don’t only emphasize the core values of a product but also improve user experience.
5. Testing and Iteration
We are ready to test our solutions on real users. Even if you already have an existing product and you are working on improving that, for example, adding new features, this stage is also necessary. Based on the data we receive, we will iteratively improve our product. There is a huge number of tools and techniques for testing, but most importantly, as in the Research stage is to communicate with your users and ask them questions which will help you to understand what they are guided to perform tasks in the interface
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