UX Design – What is it?

User Experience Design is often referred to in the digital industry to as UX for short, why not UE? I don’t know maybe the X just sounded cooler. At the moment there seems to be a lot of confusion as to the difference between UX and UI. Surprisingly many companies who hire designers don’t even know the difference. This is why I wanted to tackle this often confusing subject first.

User Experience (UX) in my opinion is best to be thought of as the beginning of the design cycle. It’s where your mission is to understand in detail what problem you are trying to solve for your users. Every business at its core solves a problem and your customers or users come to you because you offer the best solution. 

To understand this problem there are various techniques a UX designer can use. This is all part of the research phase in the User-centered design process. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard about this yet as I will explain in detail this method during this course in its own section. All you need to know for now is that it’s a 4 stage cycle that centers around solving actual problems for users and putting their needs first.

Once this initial research phase is complete the UX designer now has a deeper understanding of the problem that his users are trying to solve. No design work has happened so far, just research techniques such as surveys, customer personas, and many others. I’m just going to quickly mention here that increasingly there are more and more UX researcher roles coming onto the market, so if you really enjoy this part of the process you can dig a little deeper. We will talk more about getting into the industry in a later section so you might want to check that out. 

This all then leads into a conception phase where the UX designer will use this new knowledge to propose solutions to the problem. This could be illustrated as a sketch, a storyboard like they use in the movies or some simple screen designs. The fidelity (which is an industry term for the level of detail) doesn’t really matter at this phase, it’s all about generating and validating lots of ideas.

A great trait to have as a UX designer is the ability to take in new information and listen to the opinions of colleagues. You really are the facilitator as well as the designer and your role is to help others from the wider team be involved in the design process. It’s all about collaboration and you will have a much stronger result at the end. The next phase is to take the chosen design and turn it into a really basic layout. At this stage, the wireframe (which is a really simple page mockup) can be made interactive. It should all be about the content and the simple design removes any discussions about any specific color, images or font.

This design will then be tested with users (using various strategies) and refined over and over again until the design meets the user’s expectations. Once the UX designer is happy then the wireframe can be passed over to the UI designer. We will be talking all about this stage in the next section. Of course, there are many other tasks for a UX designer and every company is different. I hope to give you a brief understanding of what UX is and an example of what a UX designer might do.  

So in summary User Experience design at its core is all about solving problems for your users. It is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. You want to put your audience at the center of your world and design a solution that meets their expectations. As a designer, you will be working with others to propose solutions to these problems and testing them with actual people to see if they work. 

I’m going to leave you with a great saying which I think sums up UX perfectly. It’s a Japanese concept called Kaizen which means “constant improvement for the better”. It’s what’s made the Japanese car industry so amazing and I think should be our approach in everything we design. I truly think that it’s better to get something out there in front of customers and look to constantly improve upon feedback rather than wait for something you think is perfect before releasing.

When you look to improve every element of your design all the small changes you make, no matter how insignificant they may seem compound over time creating dramatic results. This will delight your users and in turn, shed a positive light on your business. It’s a win/win situation.

Now that UX has given us some solid foundations it’s time to apply the finesse, a touch of quality. Our flat design will come to life before our very eyes.

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I’m here digesting the content and understand wireframing/ prototyping them but do users really understand this part? I can see them being unmotivated to test a low fidelity prototype, they’ll probably keep referring back to “there’s no colour, it looks ugly/dead”.
Maybe if they’re carefully chosen and brought into the studio but in their natural environment I can see them giving up on testing…. thoughts?

Kristian Macchia
Kristian Macchia

@London2cali I think anyone given the chance to test a prototype has the understanding that it’s not the final product. It’s the same in the video game industry where they release games in Alpha and Beta stages to a closed or open group of users. A big trend now is Early Access for games. Think of it like that. Users are given the product and specifically told it’s not the final product and regardless of the the critiques they return. It will still be valuable feedback.

Diego Berlin

“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” — Winston Churchill