Building your own design strategy as a UX designer

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Having a defined process will help you work in a more organized and fluid way. Here are the key components of a UX workflow.

8 min read

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Every UX designer goes through a job interview process, in which the most common questions are ‘What is your approach as a designer?’ and ‘What methodologies do you use?’. And unfortunately, designers who are not working in big organisations, or those who only do freelance work, often find themselves facing various constraints that make it difficult to follow one specific approach.

When working in a design team, it’s likely that your team works according to a certain methodology in order to conduct an effective design process. But if you are working as the only designer in a small company or doing freelance work, client deadlines and constantly changing user requirements are some of the things that take most of your time and energy.

In such situations, how do you make sure that you have a proper approach and a design methodology to follow when working on any project? Before we get to the answer to this question, there are a few things that are important to understand:

What is a UX design strategy?

Whenever an interviewer asks a designer about an approach or strategy, they usually mean ‘how do you start a project, after you are given certain requirements?’. However, there is no ‘one’ answer to this question, as it depends upon the project, and the amount of work that has already been done on it.

For example, if it’s a project you’re starting from scratch, you will always begin with understanding the requirements, and defining a user base. You need to draw lines to understand who your users are and what their requirements are from this product. But if the product already exists, you can always start by understanding the existing research and studying the documents that have been made by the previous designers.

Here, we will cover UX design strategies for designers who don’t have a specific process yet, when working on new projects.

Why should a designer have a design strategy?

Building a design strategy is important because as a designer, having a singular process with which you approach all of your projects can help you form more fluid processes. There’s less of a chance of getting stuck at a particular stage if you have a defined strategy that covers all the grounds, from research, to competitor analysis and more. Many times, designers don’t conduct user research, and directly jump to conclusions. On the other hand, many designers spend too much time on one thing, and fail to produce a design before the deadline.

Both these approaches are wrong, and can and can negatively impact your design projects. You need to have a balance, and you need to know where to stop. That is where a design strategy comes into the picture. As an independent designer, you should also work as a product manager for yourself, and schedule a proper timeline including all the steps that you are going to take in your UX design process.

A design strategy is like every designer’s individual journal. It’s your personal approach, and you can have as many steps in it as suits you. But you should also know which steps are of utmost importance, and cannot be skipped, and which steps can be ignored in cases where you have limited time.

UX designer sketching wireframe in notebook

To help you better organise your process, here are the most important steps to include in your design strategy:

Step 1: Understanding user requirements

Every product has a user base and those users have a requirement from the product that you are designing. That is what we call ‘Value Proposition’. A value proposition for any product will help you analyse three things about that product:

  • What is the product?

  • Who are the users of the product?

  • How will the product be used?

The answers to these questions will become the basis of your research and act as a starting point for your design approach. Once you establish a value proposition, you should move on to:

Step 2: Performing a competitive analysis

There will surely be many other products in the market that are already solving the problems that your product aims to solve. Even if your product is the first one to target a user base or solve a unique problem, you will still have competitors who are close to doing what your product focuses on. A competitive analysis is not only important to see how you can solve major user problems, but it is also necessary to study the mistakes they are making, so that you can avoid them!

Knowing your competition gets you deep insights about product design, user requirements, solving problems and addressing issues that they fail to address in their existing product. This helps you get an edge in the market and stay ahead of the game.

Step 3: Searching for a suitable user base

Then comes the part where most of the designers get confused, because start-ups usually don’t have the time or the budget for proper user research, and freelancers don’t have the means with which to conduct user research. Mostly, designers only take cues from the already available information. But in reality, you don’t need much infrastructure for user research, if you know how to find your users!

The main challenge in user research is how to find your users, and you can get the answer on your smartphone. If your user base is generation-Z, you can find them using hip applications like TikTok or Instagram. If your user base is millennials, they can be found on both Facebook and Instagram alike. Once you know where to find your users, you can promote a small survey or approach some people for a friendly chat.

Now, for generation-Z people (all those born after 1997), forwarding them a Google Form can be boring, and it’s likely you won’t get many responses. But you can try alternative methods, such as conducting a survey through Instagram stories. You can send them your Instagram handle, and ask them to participate in a poll that you will put up as a story, and also ask their friends to do the same. An Instagram poll is not only an interesting way to get their responses, but it also gives you numbers and insights quickly.

This is just one unconventional example of how you can reach out to your target audience, but there are many more non-traditional ways to reach out to them.