For many people UX design is a buzzword; a design-ism that is banded around the internet on forums and job boards. A word used by many designers to describe their day job – after all it’s easy to describe yourself as a UX designer, it sounds the part, doesn’t give away too much information and is misunderstood by many; allowing you to maintain a smooth design persona in front of friends and family. I’ll hold my hands up – I too am guilty of falling into this trap, without fully understanding the term and its meanings.
1 – Planning & Wireframes
Wireframes are essentially a rough layout of a new proposed website or application. They generally consist of solid shapes and lines to depict the position and importance of certain aspects within the design. Colour is kept to a minimum so that the focus is concentrated on the user journey and usability. Designers will often sit with a client and plan out a wireframe early on in the project to get the basics of the proposal correct.
Wireframes are an essential part of the UX journey, planning your project out fully will save you hours during the design, build and delivery of your website.
2 – Responsive Design and Build
It’s important to remember that not everyone will be using or viewing your new website on the same device. Studies in late 2014 show that smartphones overtook PC/Laptop as the most popular devices used for browsing the internet. With this in mind designing and developing for all devices is now essential and in most cases, mobile first design should be considered as the primary option when starting your planning and user testing.
3 – User Testing
It’s all well and good having a sleek looking design that people like the look of but how will your clients engage with your website? It’s important to test your new site with your users, ask family, friends, entice people in off the street with the promise of a cup of coffee. The main thing is to get feedback and obtain vital information about how someone who has never seen your site before uses it. Is the navigation clear? Are the ‘call to action’ elements prominent? Is the customer able to find your products or service descriptions? Are clients able to contact you easily and efficiently or are they confused by certain aspects of the user journey? Watching someone use your website for the first time will give you a huge insight into how your customers engage with your online business.
4 – Rinse and Repeat
User testing is an essential part of your research and should be an ongoing process as your website grows and your web presence becomes larger. Most of all, be sure to test your site with a multitude of users across all devices to get a solid representation of how people engage with it.
The above stages aren’t a definitive list, there’s a plethora of practices and techniques out there that UX Designers use on a daily basis to ensure the design is powerful and engaging for the end user. However, like me, I hope you now realise the importance of good UX Design and know that design isn’t all about pretty pictures and colours.