What is UX design?
User experience design is a process of designing relevant and delightful experiences for users of any product, which includes researching, user testing, prototyping, and making numerous iterations of the product so that it delivers a meaningful and enjoyable experience for users. It mainly focuses on the interaction between humans and products or services like mobile application, website etc. It includes studying the user and business requirements through various lenses like psychology, profitability, design, technology, market trends etc.
I will explain UX design, with a sample project. Suppose you are given a task to design an eCommerce platform for auto parts.
Design brief: The process starts with understanding the design brief, the ecosystem and the stakeholders involved. As a UX designer, you would need to understand what is the real problem you are actually trying to solve for the consumers of auto parts. How do they procure auto parts now? What are the difficulties they are facing currently while buying auto parts?
Mind mapping: Mind map is a process of laying out your understanding of the system on a large area (preferably) through sticky notes. It also involves putting out those instant solutions which pop out when you try to understand the system, step by step, and get some perspective of the user’s pain point. The important thing is not to fall in love with the first solution which pops into your head. In this instance write down all the pain points the user might face while procuring auto parts and what may be the potential solutions.
Persona: A persona is a fictitious character that represents the image of an average user or stakeholder. In the persona, a UX designer would note down all the general assumptions about the behaviour of the user, his/her lifestyle surrounding the problem. Creating a persona helps to target the solution at a particular user base. In this instance, the persona of a user would be a 28-year-old guy who has bought his first car and is passionate about driving and looking for auto parts online to boost the performance of his car.
User research / User journey mapping: In this process, your job is to document the whole journey of the user from beginning to end while interacting with your system. You would gain these insights usually by collecting data through user interviews, conducting surveys, etc. In this instance, you have to document the journey the user would go through for buying an auto part from beginning to end. You have to document his motivation, state of his emotions, pain points while going through each step.
Pain points identification: You would need to identify the pain points while going through their journey of buying an auto part. You should also identify opportunities where your solution could make the whole system simpler and cheaper to use for the user. For example, an online platform user can get the details of an auto part which he wants to buy and if it’s not available, how much time it will take to procure and ship it to him, rather than contacting auto dealers manually or blindly searching for a dealer on the internet.
Brainstorming: After you get the list of pain points and opportunities, you need to identify which of these pain points you can solve through your platform. What can be the possible solutions to those pain points? You brainstorm different ideas to make the system efficient and easier to use for the user. In this stage collect as many ideas as you can, however crazy it may be like drone delivery of auto parts to the clients.
Competitive analysis: In this section, you would do some research to find out how other parties which are there in the market, are solving the pain points which you have listed. You can also check through the reviews of these competitors, to find out what problems people are facing using these platforms and learn from their mistakes. In this instance, you would need to do some research on companies that are delivering auto parts in the market now.
Defining scope: In this section, you would finalize the ideas or solutions on which you are going to work on based on other variables like business, budget, timeline etc you would define the scope of your project. At this point, you would set the expectation of the final product to the other stakeholders of the business.
Task flows: Now that the scope is set, you would create task flows which the users will go through to perform a task on your platform. Like which exact tasks the user needs to perform to receive the desired auto component from your platform. For eg: Log in to your website, search for the required component, apply filters, Select a brand, select delivery speed, check out, enter delivery details, payment etc.
Information architecture: In this section, you would define actions which the users will perform on the screens to get the task done. Which exact buttons the users will click or the path the user will go through on the application to order an auto part.
Wireframing: With the help of the information architecture you would create a design skeleton of the screens of the application or any other digital platform. Many versions of the wireframe are made in the actual process based on the requirement or fidelity and timeline. You can use various design tools which are available in the market like Adobe XD, Figma, or Balsamiq.
Prototyping: Linking the wireframes screens to create a prototype. Again you can use the above-mentioned software to manually link the screens to make a mock prototype. Through prototypes, the user can experience the product with a click-through of screens.
Usability testing: After creating the prototype you would need to test the product with the user. Users will go through the whole prototype and give you their valuable feedback about the design and functionality of the product.
Usually, users are given tasks to perform on the prototype based on some of their real-life needs, and the designers will track the flow and the time required by the user to complete the task, whether the user is confused at any stage of the process. If the user can perform the intended task on the platform under a given time the test is successful. In this case, you need to find a user and ask him to buy auto parts with the help of the prototype screens which you have created and monitor his progress.
Iterate and make corrections: Based on the usability test results corrections are made in the interface design to make it easier to use and it is again tested with users. This process is iterated until an optimum solution is found.
Visual design: After the wireframes are frozen, work on the visual design starts. This is a separate task that does not specifically come under UX design work. But usually in the market UX designers are also expected to be UI (User Interface) designers. For visual design, at first, a mood board is created to understand the lifestyle of the user and then fonts, primary colours and secondary colours are decided. After that, the wireframes are brought to life using the brand colours, fonts, graphics, Pictures, icons, micro animations etc. Visual design at the end affects the user experience of a final product with a large margin. There is a principle called the aesthetics-usability effect which says that the more aesthetically pleasing a product is, the more usable it is. This basically means, people are usually more patient to understand and use a beautiful product and feel more joyful in using it than a product is designed perfectly using all design principles but not aesthetically pleasing.
Handover to the developers: After the visual design is done and approved by everyone in the business, it is handed over to developers. Developers then create the actual UI and work on the backend and frontend to build the real product. At this stage, the designers need to collaborate a lot with the developers to clear their doubts and set the expectation of the product.
UX Design is a very iterative process and it varies a lot depends upon what kind of projects you are doing, what is the business requirement, how much time do you have to come up with a solution.
What skills are required as a UX designer?
UX design is all about solving problems with common sense and with whatever resources are available to you. Your job is to understand the problem thoroughly and create a solution by putting the user at the centre. You also need to constantly iterate and adapt to the user’s needs and evolve your solution and make it more and more relevant for the user. In this job you would also need to interact with a lot of people like the users, different stakeholders, your teammates, business analysts, developers etc and express your idea clearly, so communication and interpersonal skills are vital.
So, if you ask what skills do you need to practice UX design, I would say common sense, ability to empathise with the user, some software skills would come very handy like Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, illustrator etc.
In the current market, a UX designer is also expected to create the visual designs of the final solutions. So, you also need to have some visual design skills to make it in this field. There are very few jobs with only core UX research roles.
What are the opportunities and future of UX design?
UX design is one of the most popular and trendy career options in the tech world. With the reach of the internet in all corners of the world and the cheaper availability of mobile phones, technology has penetrated all aspects of our lives.
In this start-up world and internet penetration, more and more digital products are built to solve real-life problems like farming, banking, Services, automotive etc.
We are slowly moving from the Graphic User Interface (GUI) to augmented reality and virtual reality. In future, the interface on which the user interacts with the product may change, but the user experience process to solve problems will always be relevant.
It is already proven that companies that invest in UX design have returned many times higher than those that do not. So any big enough organisation which deals with technology will have a UX team. So the scale of opportunities is ever increasing. But the supply of good UX designers is lesser than the demand. Till now UX design is still a new field compared to other tech positions like software development, testing etc.
The average UX design salary in India is about 8.7 lakhs per annum
Famous personalities in UX design
What does a day in the life of a UX designer look like?
A day in the life of a UX designer depends a lot upon what stage the project is at which the designer is working. As I have explained earlier UX design is a stepwise process. As a designer, I will reach the office, open my laptop, get a cup of coffee, answer emails. After that, there is usually a morning meeting to set the expectation of work for the day. If the product is at the discovery stage then most of the work is done with other team members, discussions and coming with the user’s problems. For user research, companies conduct user interviews or through secondary research. For usability tests, remote usability tests are done with the users, sometimes we also moderate the tests with the users. After that test reports are created to get the proper conclusion. Meeting with the team to share the findings of the test. Different solutions to solve the problem are proposed through mock prototypes. Whichever prototype is selected, it is moved forward to create the wireframe. After that more meetings happen to freeze the wireframes. Then it is moved for visual design. If it is a small company all the processes are done by a small team or by a single designer. In a large team, responsibilities are divided based on roles.