Your team spent months mapping out a new, more interactive e-comm platform. But once you release the platform on the market, you realize that it's not supported on all mobile devices, and you have to go back to the drawing board. How to avoid those ‘How did we miss this?' moments? You need to design the UX process that matches your needs, catches gaps and helps create products with an excellent experience.
Here, we cover what the UX design process is, nine stages of UX and five rules for designing an efficient UX process.
What is the UX process, and why is it important?
The UX design process is a workflow that product creators follow when they design a designing a website, app or new product. Most design processes are typically rooted in two foundational methodologies.
The first is design thinking, the methodology that helps a team frame the problem they want to solve and create tangible design that should be validated with users.
The second is called Lean, a methodology of constantly measuring the value that a design solution brings to people.
Design thinking - defines the steps that a team goes through to create a product. Those steps are Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. The team should always mix remote design thinking with design collaboration for a superior design outcome.
Lean - on the other hand, helps the team experiment and try different approaches. When a team embraces the Lean mindset, it treats every product design idea as something that might bring value to users and validates this. As a result, the team practices iterative design and constantly tries to find the best possible solution for the problem they want to solve.
The key benefit of practicing design thinking with Lean is that it makes problem-solving more systematic, because individual steps in the process are well-defined, and the team embraces the thinking of constantly experimenting.
What are the stages of UX?
Most UX workflows have steps that look something like this:
Research and information-gathering about the problem you want to solve
Brainstorming and ideation in the attempt to explore the problem-space
Developing user personas (an archetype of an ideal user for your future product);
Designing information architecture and planning user flows of your product (how the information in your product will be grouped, and how users will navigate in your app);
Low-fidelity prototyping (sketching or creating low-fidelity designs for your future product);
Creating a design system (a collection of reusable components and style that will be used in your product);
High-fidelity prototyping (creating a realistic representation of your product);
Conducting usability testing with people who represent your target audience and introduce changes in your design based on their feedback;
Releasing a product to market
It might seem like these steps should come in a specific order, but that’s not true for every product team. The UX process might look different for different teams—which is okay as long as it helps the team meet goals and deadlines.
Another vital thing to remember about UX workflow is that it requires solid collaboration. Team members should work together from the very beginning to the end of the project because it creates a sense of ownership for the product the team is working on. Editor X helps team members to practice collaboration by allowing them to create together in real time on the same page. Team members can exchange comments and introduce changes that become instantly visible to everyone who participates in the collaboration.
Five rules for designing an efficient UX design process
What does efficiency look like for you? For most product teams, an efficient workflow can easily be reused for multiple projects. If a team follows the same steps and process every time, the process only gets easier, right? That's why the best workflows have patterns and routines built into them. These elements will increase a team's efficiency and speed of design creation.
Here are five essential rules that will help you establish patterns in your design process:
1. Create a clear foundation for your design
A design artifact is a textual or visual asset that a team creates while working on a project. It might be a text specification for a design or wireframe, mockup, or prototype. When you establish your UX design process, you might want to start with rules on creating and managing design artifacts:
Introduce a design system. A design system will help you create a consistent design. You can reuse patterns and components (basic design elements) from project to project. It's critical to have versioning (the version of the system, such as 1.0, 1.1, etc., that team members can rely on) for a design system right from day one because it helps team members avoid using outdated design assets.
Use a common folder structure for design files and documentation. Consistent labeling for files and folder structure will help your team members find the appropriate artifact much faster.
Use design tools that work for your team. There is no such thing as a universally good set of tools. Different projects and teams might need different toolsets. That's why you need to learn what tools your team needs and ensure that all team members use the same tools while creating digital artifacts.
2. Establish work buckets
When it comes to the actual UX design and development process, most activities can be grouped into four buckets of work:
Project prep and launch: Researching and information-gathering, foundational planning, brainstorming, and ideation.
Design phase: Creating information architecture, developing user personas, and low-fidelity prototyping or wireframing.
Design details and polishing: Organizing UX flows and experiences, building a design system, high-fidelity prototyping and user interface design, adding or removing design extras.
Finish: Conducting usability testing, deployment.
Depending on your organization's needs, you might break buckets into even smaller steps to streamline your thought process. Within these buckets, you may skip and later repeat some activities, if it benefits your design process and its final product.
3. Embrace trial & error
When designing a UX process, there is a high chance that your first iteration will require improvement. The trick is to accept trial and error as part of the workflow. Treat your UX workflow design just like when you design a new product—try different things and keep the parts that work, but ditch the rest.
Don't be afraid if something that works for other teams doesn't work for you. All teams are different. That's why there is no such thing as a universally accepted design process.
4. Define clear timeframes for each bucket
Most projects are time-sensitive. A team must deliver a product to a market on a particular date. Without a clear timeline for your project, you will likely miss a deadline.
To make a workflow more efficient, each step or process should have a specific due date for completion. You should always track time. Clearly defined milestones will be the metric that determines success or failure in terms of workflow efficiency.
5. Communicate the design process to team members
The success or failure of the UX process largely depends on whether the team members are ready to embrace it. It's up to team managers to communicate the UX design process properly to team members. Here are a few things that you can do to make it happen:
Have a conversation about software and tools that the team will use. Ensure everyone knows the tools they want and agrees with the selection.
Communicate deadlines so everyone can be fully aware of when the work should be completed.
Define roles and responsibilities. Every team member should know what they are responsible for. There shouldn't be situations when roles are mixed, so it's unclear who is responsible for a particular task.
Collect feedback from team members. Ask team members what they think about the process that the team follows to identify areas where it can be improved. It's vital to collect feedback from engineering team members because they might have a different perspective on design. (Check our guide on how to work with a developer as a designer if you're interested in learning more about that.)
Invest in creating design documentation. Documentation should share insights about the design process for new team members.
Make your UX process solid—it’s your design’s foundation
There is no such thing as a universally good UX process. What works for one team might not work for another team. Of course, there are some methodologies that all teams can practice, but most of the time, teams should create a customized design process that works best for them. Creating an excellent workflow in which team members can collaborate effectively can take time, but once you understand what strategies and tools work for you, you will be rewarded with better team productivity.