UX Design Process

My UX design process or how I work...

My design process generally consists of five steps, though, different teams have somewhat different approaches, this is my personal approach:

1.) Definition
2.) Research
3.) Prototype
4.) Design
5.) Release

I’ll walk through that process here.

When I start a new UX design project the first thing I do is talk to stakeholders or whomever is initiating the work. I like to get a sense of what’s being asked and what problems we are trying to solve? Who are we trying to solve it for (audience/personas)? What conditions or environmental factors need to be considered and integrated into the design? What kinds of technical requirements or technologies must we design for?

This questioning, inevitably, kicks off a definition and discovery period; a lot of questions get asked and brainstorming takes place as I try to get definition of requirements, use-cases, audience, scope, technical requirements, etc. In some instances, team workflow and roles & responsibilities are also defined. This period of definition and discovery begins to lay a foundation and leads, quite organically, to further, in-depth, research.

What’s the design problem
we’re trying to solve?

Research can take many forms ­– It can be reviewing web usage and analytics, it can be surveys, user interviews or other user feedback.  Capturing use-cases and usage perspectives from stakeholders also helps rounds things out. Any and all research builds on the foundation that we’ve already established and helps inform the equation for the design problem we’re trying to solve. 

Once we have this information, a sense of the design problem we’re trying to solve starts to come together: We have a sense of what we’re working on, why we’re working on it, who we’re working on it for and any other considerations that will contribute to the design equation. We can begin to put together high-level prototypes that illustrate our assumptions.

At this point, I really like to put together paper prototypes and walk a handful of users or stakeholders through the design interaction. Paper prototypes are a low-res, low-cost way of confirming assumptions that I was taught by Kara Pernice of the Nielsen-Norman Group. I’ve done this with hand-drawn paper sketches, Photoshop and Illustrator mock-ups, screenshots, wireframes and anything that allows me to get ideas in front of a user or stakeholder and have them test assumptions. In my experience, because this can be done quickly and at a low cost, it’s a real benefit to the conceptual forward-motion of the design at this phase and in my experience eliminates a lot of rework down the line.

Prototyping early
illustrates assumptions,
eliminates surprises
and builds consensus.

Once high-level assumptions have been confirmed, work is really ready to begin on the high-res, high fidelity design and overall user experience. Often, with so much preliminary work done, it’s just a matter of fleshing out the design, user interfaces and delivering them in an agreed upon format so that development teams can work quickly with concepts.

Once high-fidelity designs are complete, and the user experience is assembled, this is a good time to do usability testing and generally test drive the user experience. The benefit of having done the prototypes means that there shouldn’t be any surprises to users or stakeholders, some consensus has already been established. 

Many times, in my experience, stakeholders like to show the design off to internal business units, vendors, C-suite, etc. so that folks have a chance to get familiar with forthcoming user experience changes and avoid any kind of service interruptions. Change is change and there are operational ripple effects; this ‘show and tell’ further builds consensus and really alleviates any adverse effect around forthcoming changes.

 Refinements are the advocates
of a great user experience.

There may be small changes that come out of this last step, but usually they’re things that just tighten this up a bit and make the overall experience better. In many ways, this is just another iteration and another refinement; Refinements are the advocates of a great user experience.

Generally, at this point, it’s time to release the experience and ship the product. Because it’s important to stay on top of changing usage trends, technological developments and subsequent user experience improvements, it’s important to continue measuring and refining the design.