User experience design
|Software development process|
|Paradigms and models|
|Methodologies and frameworks|
|Standards and BOKs|
User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.
The field of user experience design is a conceptual design discipline and has its roots in human factors and ergonomics, a field that, since the late 1940s, has focused on the interaction between human users, machines, and the contextual environments to design systems that address the user's experience. With the proliferation of workplace computers in the early 1990s, user experience became an important concern for designers. It was Donald Norman, a user experience architect, who coined the term "user experience," and brought it to a wider audience.
I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person's experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose its meaning.
User experience design includes elements of interaction design, information architecture, user research, and other disciplines, and is concerned with all facets of the overall experience delivered to users. Following is a short analysis of its constituent parts.
Visual design, also commonly known as graphic design, user interface design, communication design, and visual communication, represents the aesthetics or look-and-feel of the front end of any user interface. Graphic treatment of interface elements is often perceived as the visual design. The purpose of visual design is to use visual elements like colors, images, and symbols to convey a message to its audience. Fundamentals of Gestalt psychology and visual perception give a cognitive perspective on how to create effective visual communication.
In the context of information architecture, information is separate from both knowledge and data, and lies nebulously between them. It is information about objects. The objects can range from websites, to software applications, to images et al. It is also concerned with metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, process, and organizations.
Structuring, organization, and labeling
Structuring is reducing information to its basic building units and then relating them to each other. Organization involves grouping these units in a distinctive and meaningful manner. Labeling means using appropriate wording to support easy navigation and findability.
Finding and managing
Findability is the most critical success factor for information architecture. If users are not able to find required information without browsing, searching or asking, then the findability of the information architecture fails. Navigation needs to be clearly conveyed to ease finding of the contents.
There are many key factors to understanding interaction design and how it can enable a pleasurable end user experience. It is well recognized that building great user experience requires interaction design to play a pivotal role in helping define what works best for the users. High demand for improved user experiences and strong focus on the end-users have made interaction designers critical in conceptualizing design that matches user expectations and standards of the latest UI patterns and components. While working, interaction designers take several things in consideration. A few of them are:
- Defining interaction patterns best suited in the context
- Incorporating user needs collected during user research into the designs
- Features and information that are important to the user
- Interface behavior like drag-drop, selections, and mouse-over actions
- Effectively communicating strengths of the system
- Making the interface intuitive by building affordances
- Maintaining consistency throughout the system.
In the last few years, the role of interaction designer has shifted from being just focused on specifying UI components and communicating them to the engineers to a situation now where designers have more freedom to design contextual interfaces which are based on helping meet the user needs. Therefore, User Experience Design evolved into a multidisciplinary design branch that involves multiple technical aspects from motion graphics design and animation to programming.
Usability is attached with all tools used by humans and is extended to both digital and non-digital devices. Thus, it is a subset of user experience but not wholly contained. The section of usability that intersects with user experience design is related to humans' ability to use a system or application. Good usability is essential to a positive user experience but does not alone guarantee it.
Human–computer interaction is the main contributor to user experience design because of its emphasis on human performance rather than mere usability. It provides key research findings which inform the improvement of systems for the people. Human-computer interaction extends its study towards more integrated interactions, such as tangible interactions, which is generally not covered in the practice of user experience. User experience cannot be manufactured or designed; it has to be incorporated in the design. Understanding the user's emotional quotient plays a key role while designing a user experience. The first step while designing the user experience is determining the reason a visitor will be visiting the website or use the application in question. Then the user experience can be designed accordingly.
User experience design incorporates most or all of the above disciplines to positively impact the overall experience a person has with a particular interactive system and its provider. User experience design most frequently defines a sequence of interactions between a user (individual person) and a system, virtual or physical, designed to meet or support user needs and goals, primarily, while also satisfying systems requirements and organizational objectives.
Typical outputs include:
- Persona (an archetypal user for whom the product or service is being designed)
- Wireframes (screen blueprints or storyboards)
- Prototypes (for interactive or in-the-mind simulation)
- Written specifications (describing the behavior or design)
- Site audit (usability study of existing assets)
- Flows and navigation maps
- User stories or scenarios
- Sitemaps and content inventory
- High-fidelity visual mockups (precise visual layout and design of the expected product or interface)
General design process
While designing a product or service for a client, it is of utmost importance that the designers are on the same page as the client. All the information collected, plans made, design executed will reflect on the final product. Rigorous analysis must be done before proceeding to the design stage and then numerous testings done to optimize the site as per best standards so that the competitive edge is maintained. Leading Digital marketing companies combine three elements to provide the best responsive product to the customer. These are:
- Researching about the target audience
- Understanding the company's business goals
- And most importantly apply out of the box thinking.
Brainstorming and testing ultimately leads them to finalize the design for their customers. Let's have a detailed look at the step by step process of product design:
- Collecting information about the problem
The UX designer needs to find out as much as they can about people, processes, and products before the design phase. Designers can do this by meeting with the clients or business stakeholders frequently to know what their requirements are, or by conducting interviews with users in their home or work spaces. This kind of qualitative research helps designers create products and services that better serve user needs.
- Getting ready to design
After research, the designer must make sense of the data they've collected. Typically this is done through modeling of the users and their environments. User modeling or personas are composite archetypes based on behavior patterns uncovered during research. Personas provide designers a precise way of thinking and communicating about how groups of users behave, how they think, what they want to accomplish and why. Once created, personas help the designer to understand the users' goals in specific contexts, which is particularly useful during ideation and for validating design concepts. Other types of models include work flow models, artifact models, and physical models.
When the designer has a firm grasp on the user's needs and goals, they begin to sketch out the interaction framework (also known as wireframes). This stage defines the high-level structure of screen layouts, as well as the product's flow, behavior, and organization. There are many kinds of materials that can be involved in during this iterative phase, from whiteboards to paper prototypes. As the interaction framework establishes an overall structure for product behavior, a parallel process focused on the visual and industrial designs. The visual design framework defines the experience attributes, visual language, and the visual style.
Once a solid and stable framework is established, wireframes are translated from sketched storyboards to full-resolution screens that depict the user interface at the pixel level. At this point, it's critical for the programming team to collaborate closely with the designer. Their input is necessary to creating a finished design that can and will be built while remaining true to the concept.
- Test and iterate
Usability testing is carried out through prototypes (paper or digital). The target users are given various tasks to perform on the prototypes. Any issues or problems faced by the users are collected as field notes and these notes are used to make changes in the design and reiterate the testing phase. Usability testing is, at its core, a means to "evaluate, not create".
UX designers' main goal is to solve the end-users' problems, and thus the ability to communicate the design to stakeholders and developers is critical to the ultimate success of the design. Regarding UX specification documents, these requirements depend on the client or the organization involved in designing a product. The four major deliverables are: a title page, an introduction to the feature, wireframes and a version history. Depending on the type of project, the specification documents can also include flow models, cultural models, personas, user stories, scenarios and any prior user research. Documenting design decisions, in the form of annotated wireframes, gives the developer the necessary information they may need to successfully code the project.
Depending on the company, a user experience designer may need to be a jack of all trades. It is not uncommon to see a user experience designer jump in at the beginning of the project lifecycle, where the problem set and project definition is vague, or after the project requirements document has been finalized and wireframes and functional annotations need to be created.
The following details the responsibilities a user experience designer may have at each phase of a project:
At the beginning, when the project is more conceptual:
- Ethnographic research
- Customer feedback and testing
- Focus group administration
- Non-directed interview
- Contextual Interview
- Mental modeling
- Mood boards
- Card sorting
- Competitive analysis
- Contextual Inquiry
While the project is underway:
- Heuristic analysis
- Expert evaluation
- Pluralistic walkthrough
- System mapping
- Experience mapping
- User testing/usability testing
After the project has launched:
- User testing/usability testing
- A/B testing
- Additional wireframing as a result of test results and fine-tuning
As with the fields mentioned above, user experience design is a highly multi-disciplinary field, incorporating aspects of psychology, anthropology, architecture, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design, cognitive science, and business. Depending on the purpose of the product, UX may also involve content design disciplines such as communication design, instructional design, and game design. The subject matter of the content may also warrant collaboration with a subject-matter expert on planning the UX from various backgrounds in business, government, or private groups. More recently, content strategy has come to represent a sub-field of UX.
Graphic designers focus on the aesthetic appeal of the design. Information is communicated to the users through text and images. Much importance is given to how the text and images look and attract the users. Graphic designers have to make stylistic choices about things like font color, font type, and image locations. Graphic designers focus on grabbing the user's attention with the way the design looks. Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.
The visual designer (VisD) ensures that the visual representation of the design effectively communicates the data and hints at the expected behavior of the product. At the same time, the visual designer is responsible for conveying the brand ideals in the product and for creating a positive first impression; this responsibility is shared with the industrial designer if the product involves hardware. In essence, a visual designer must aim for maximum usability combined with maximum desirability.
Interaction designers (IxD) are responsible for understanding and specifying how the product should behave. This work overlaps with the work of both visual and industrial designers in a couple of important ways. When designing physical products, interaction designers must work with industrial designers early on to specify the requirements for physical inputs and to understand the behavioral impacts of the mechanisms behind them. Interaction designers cross paths with visual designers throughout the project. Visual designers guide the discussions of the brand and emotive aspects of the experience, Interaction designers communicate the priority of information, flow, and functionality in the interface.
Testing the design
Usability testing is the most common method used by designers to test their designs. The basic idea behind conducting a usability test is to check whether the design of a product or brand works well with the target users. While carrying out usability testing, two things are being tested for: Whether the design of the product is successful and if it is not successful, how can it be improved. While designers are testing, they are testing the design and not the user. Also, every design is evolving. The designers carry out usability testing at every stage of the design process.
User experience design is integrated into software development and other forms of application development to inform feature requirements and interaction plans based upon the users' goals. Every new software introduced must keep pace with the rapid technological advancements. The benefits associated with integration of these design principles include:
- Avoiding unnecessary product features
- Simplifying design documentation and customer-centric technical publications
- Improving the usability of the system and therefore its acceptance by customers
- Expediting design and development through detailed and properly conceived guidelines
- Incorporating business and marketing goals while protecting the user's freedom of choice
- Action research
- Activity-centered design
- Chief experience officer (CXO)
- Component-based usability testing
- Contextual inquiry
- Customer experience
- Design thinking
- Empathic design
- Needs analysis
- Paper prototyping
- Participatory design
- Process-centered design
- Transgenerational design
- Ubiquitous computing
- Usability engineering
- User experience evaluation
- User interface design
- World Usability Day
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