UX Process: What It Is, What It Looks Like and Why It’s Important

by Nick Babich

posted on 08-04-2017

As a UX designer, I am sure you have been asked many times “What is your UX design process? What and how many steps does it have?” There is a simple reason why this question so popular among designers: UX process is a cornerstone of UX design, it’s a make-it-or-break-it aspect of UX design. Without a solid UX design process, a designer could be completely moving in the dark. A clear and concise UX process, on the other hand, makes it possible to craft amazing experiences for users.

In this article, we’ll define a general UX design process, as well as the order in which specific UX phases should be taken. We will also see what methods can be used by UX designers during each phase.

What Does a UX Process Look Like?

The answer to this question is: it depends. A UX design process is something that everyone has in the UX industry, but something that everyone does differently. This happens because UX process depends heavily on the project. Different projects require different approaches: the approach to a corporate website differs from the way we design a dating app. And while there are some practices UX designers should follow for each project (such as conduct product research before moving on to prototyping), there are principles in every part of the process that have to be custom designed for the specific project.

UX Process Overview

At its core, every UX process should consist of the following 5 key phases:

1. Product Definition

One of the most important phases in UX design is actually done before the UX design process even starts. Before you can build a product, you need to understand its context for existence. Product definition phase sets the stage for the success of a product. During this phase, UX designers brainstorm the product at the highest level (basically, the concept of the product) with stakeholders.

This phase usually includes:

2. Product Research

Once the product idea is defined, product research (which naturally includes user and market research) provides the other half of the foundation for great design. Good research informs your product and the fact that it comes early in design process save a lot of resources (time and money) further down the road (as fewer adjustments will need to be made).

The product research phase is probably the most variable between projects – the phase varies based on the complexity of the product, timing, available resources and many other factors. This phase can include:

3. Analysis

The aim of the Analysis phase is to draw insights from data collected during the Product Research phase. Capturing, organizing and making inferences from the “what” users want/think/need can help UX designers begin to understand the “why” they want/think/need that. During this phase, designers confirm that the most important assumptions being made are valid.

This phase usually includes:

4. Design

When user expectations from the product are established (it’s clear what their goals are and how they like to operate with it), UX designers move to the design phase. An effective design phase is both highly collaborative (it requires input from all team players involved in product development) and iterative (meaning that it cycles back upon itself to validate ideas and assumptions).

The design phase usually includes:

5. Validation (Testing)

Usually, the validation phase starts when the high-fidelity design is fleshed out. A product is validated with stakeholders and end-users through the series of user testing sessions.

Similar to the product research phase, this phase is also variable between projects. Validation phase can include:

How To Improve UX Design Process

Now you’ve seen how each phase is connected to each other, let’s consider some helpful tips for improving the UX design process:

Consider Overlap Between Phases and Iterations

It’s important to understand that UX design isn’t a linear process. The phases of the UX process often have considerable overlap and usually there’s a lot of back-and-forth. As the UX designer learns more about the problem being solved, the users and details about the project (especially, constraints), it may be necessary to revisit some of the research undertaken or try out new design ideas.

The Importance of Communication

Communication is a key UX design skill. While doing great design is one thing, communicating great design is equally as important, as even the best concepts will fail if they don’t accept by the team and stakeholders. That’s why the best UX designers are great communicators.

Processes Morph To Fit Projects

UX designers should be flexible with every project – the process employed should be tailored to fit specific project needs, both business and functional. A process tailored to the capabilities of the business and the clients proved to be generally effective.

Conclusion

When it comes to UX design process, there’s no one fits all solution. But whether your UX process lightweight or it’s full of a lot of activities, the goal of each UX design process is the same – create great a product for your users. Thus, use what works the best for your project, get rid of the rest, and evolve your UX process as your product evolves.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design

Products: Creative Cloud