When we think of UX Design it’s easy to focus on the prototype, with it being the most tactile outcome of the design process. It can be interacted with, played and tested. But with so many prototyping tools being marketed and aesthetically pleasing UI mockups on social media, it can be easy to think that UX Design is prototyping. We dig deeper into what UX Design actually is and what to expect at each stage.
Process over prototype
UX Design is primarily a process. The Interaction Design Foundation defines it as “The process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function.”
In other words it is the thinking at each stage from initial conception to launch and beyond. Without following the process you could be prototyping things that are not going to deliver a relevant experience to the user. The process typically follows these steps -
Understand - Designers start by asking questions like ‘Who is the user, and who is the brand?’, ‘What is the problem that needs to be solved?' and ‘How does this project align with the brand’s mission and goals?’
Research - Discussing with users what their problems, frustrations and needs are allows designers to gather a wealth of information. A UX and SEO audit can be conducted on the current product.
Analyse - The findings are analysed and typically user personas and cases are created so we know who we are designing for and what their needs and goals are. Ultimately this stage is about building empathy with the target users.
Design - Now we jump into sitemapping, user flows, wireframing, and finally prototyping! Wireframing can be as simple as lo-fi sketches, or can be worked up into a fully functional working prototype with test or real data. They can be tested and reiterated to see how well they are solving the problem.
Implement - Time to build, test and launch! User testing can be either direct observation of a smaller number of people using the product (qualitative), or a larger number of people (quantitative). This data can iron out any issues before the big day.
Evaluate - After the product is live, UX doesn’t stop, it’s time to analyse again and look at how users are responding to it. Is it meeting their needs? What things can be improved? Have any new business goals arisen?
In conclusion prototyping is like the cherry on the cake. Nice and shiny, but without the cake, filling and layers it doesn’t have a good base. So follow that UX recipe!