The importance of good UX design in a project

Lucia Gore 19th January 2021

In 2020, after several months of research, I completed an examination in UX Design and gained a diploma in the subject. I have since worked as a UX Designer for ECS on a client project and am incredibly pleased with my decision to transfer into this aspect of digital transformation; I find the work stimulating and I fully understand the importance of good UX design in a project.

Design teams are often side-lined as an added cost, and one that is not always necessary to complete a project. This blog serves as an introduction to UX Design to those unfamiliar and will try to pinpoint the relevance of UX Design, why products benefit exponentially from time invested in good design, and why it is a popular business buzzword right now.

What is UX Design?

User Experience design is the art of manipulating how a person feels when interacting with a system or product. This includes websites, mobile applications, desktop software – or any form of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

Why is UX Design so important?

UX Design aims to fulfil the needs and requirements of the user. It tries to deliver positive experiences that keep users’ loyalty to the brand in question. One bad user experience can deter a user for good, and so it is important to make sure each user interaction is worthwhile and beneficial.

Additionally, a meaningful user experience allows the designer to define customer journeys for the product that are most conductive to business success.

How do you define a great experience?

Listen, observe and question – these are the three main aspects of the research done ahead of designing a good experience. It is vital to get close to the users (not the stakeholders, although they too play an important part). Understanding the users is key: talk to them, watch them using the product or service, get inside their heads and try to develop means for understanding their decision making.

Great experiences come from well-designed products, that are created with the user in mind. When a client comes to a UX Designer, it is easy to jump straight to solutions. Instead, it’s important to trust the process, and define the problems, all the way back to the root problem – before starting to work on solutions.

User experience is different for each product, and it is hard to define, but one of the most important things to keep in mind is product integrity, customer happiness, and making sure that although you have designed the product, you have designed it for the users, and not for yourselves (you are likely not the target audience) or for the stakeholders – it must be orientated specifically for those who will actually go on to use the product/service.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who has the problem?
  • What is the problem?
  • How do they currently resolve the problem?
  • What will the solution achieve?

UX Design Process:

  1. Personas:
    Getting to know the audience is vital. It allows the designers to develop experiences that relate to the voice and emotions of the users – and create solutions that are empathetic to the user’s needs. A persona is a representation of a particular group of users, or audience segment, for a product/service. You can repeatedly refer back to this persona to ensure that the solution you are creating, caters for the specific wants and objectives required by this persona.
  2. User Interviews:
    Designers should spend time speaking with existing and potential users of the product/service to gain an insight into what is going wrong, how they currently use or would like to use the product/service and therefore what would be the most effective design. The user’s experience is subjective and so the best way to directly obtain information of this kind is to study and interact with users.

It is also important for the UX Designer to find the root problem, to better determine a relevant solution. Whilst the UX Designer/Interviewer needs to leave questions open ended and not ask ‘yes/no’ questions – they should still dig down from high level answers by continuing to ask why. For example, ‘I don’t like this product’ is not a helpful answer, the Interviewer must keep asking why until there are specific examples of the issues at hand.

  1. Usability Testing:
    Usability testing is a way of testing how easy it is to use a product by testing it with real users in order to identify any roadblocks or friction they might face when interacting with it. The user must complete several tasks laid out by the interviewer/designer, and whilst doing this, the designer can see exactly how the product is received by the user, what features are easy to use and which are difficult or unnecessary. It also makes it plain to see what is missing or what the user could benefit from. The user’s mood and enjoyment of using the product/service is also important to note.
  2. Affinity mapping:
    This is a way of collaboratively sorting UX findings from research. It’s a useful method of communicating with stakeholders in design critique meetings, or ideation sessions and helping them to understand the user.

UX workshops and presentations to stakeholders are designed to create empathy between the product owners and the users, make stakeholders feel involved and responsible for ideas and research findings, create awareness of usability issues and design challenges, build common ground across all parties involved, and bring together many types of backgrounds and expertise.
Affinity mapping quickly and effectively groups ideas and observations as well as prioritising the ideas to determine the next steps in the design process.

  1. Wireframing:
    Visuals are just as important as the site structure, and so wireframes must be carefully thought out to show the skeletal framework of a product. They will also give a good example to clients and stakeholders of how the product will eventually look and feel. With a wireframe in place, you can eliminate usability issues before development starts. This is hugely cost effective and saves time and energy down the line, it also adheres to the agile methodology.
  2. Prototyping:
    A prototype is a “mock-up” version of the final product, which is then used for user testing before a product launch. The goal of the prototype is to reduce the level of wasted time and money that can often occur when proper testing has not been carried out on a product prior to launch – similar to TDD in software development.

Altogether it is critical to implement UX design principles when carrying out a project. The most successful companies in the world can attribute a large part of their profit to their good customer experience, and when designing products and services, putting the needs and emotions of the user at the forefront can contribute hugely to success.

About the author:

Lucia Gore has worked in the Digital Practice at ECS for 2.5 years on a number of client site projects, including The Times, HSBC and Vodafone. After 2 years working as a developer, she trained as a UX/UI Designer and has since been working to improve her skills in this field and deliver outstanding user experience for ECS’s clients.

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Related resources:

Tech³ Podcast: UX Driven Productivity with Gene Kim Special Part 1

Plato and the rise of the Omni-Customer blog

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