Bianca always wanted to be a writer - to craft fantastic stories or to be a professor at an Ivy League university. But since life decided that wasn't the path she should take, she yelled "PLOT TWIST" and became a communication professional, having the chance to work with challenging projects. She enjoys it, nonetheless, but still believes there is a huge need for dragons.
What does a UX designer do?
Whenever you plan on building a new digital product, alongside the technical development per se, there’s an important feature you have to take into account – the way the product will look like, both in terms of design and flows. Since humans are visual beings and aesthetic-focused, neither of these can be omitted from your plan. In order to have the design and the user experience, you will work closely with a UX designer first.
Here are three things that they do and which your product needs before entering the development stage:
- Userflows (Sitemap)
- Wireframes (Low Fidelity Prototype)
- UI Designs (High Fidelity Prototype)
To make sure the aforementioned features are top-notch, you need to work closely with a professional UX designer, whether they are a freelancer, in-house or from a product agency, just like here in Tapptitude.
But, before you burst through the door and start looking for them, here are some things you need to prepare, in order to get a head-start and to have a less bumpy road ahead of you. Aside from telling them “I want to make an app that’s like ….”, you have to give them valuable specifications about the business, such as audience, problem, solution, and competition, to make sure they perfectly understand what you need. Providing them with a brief is also in order, as long as it provides the right level of detail.
The UX Design Interview: What Questions to Answer
UX designers have very different functionalities aside from graphic and UI designers because they have a more technical approach to their work. Through their research, user insights and interpersonal skills, UX designers can empathize with the user – to understand what they want and need. This is why, before they can start working, they require several answers.
The best thing to do in these cases is to have an open talk, or an interview if you’d like, about your business, in order to make sure they understand both your vision and your business. It’d be better done in person, but if that isn’t possible, through Skype or any other communication method is as good.
Here are the things they need to know about your business before they can jump in creating the ultimate design for you:
- Your name
- Your project’s name
- The platforms you plan to use
- The initial launch date
- Similar products and/or current alternative solutions
- User feedback, if you have any
- Branding and visual guidelines
- Old design source files
- Any other documentation
- The unique value proposition
After they have received answers to these, the UX designers are now capable to manage your goals and expectations.
UX Documentation: Problem, Audience, and Solution
Aside from the competition analysis, in order to make sure the UX designers understand completely your needs, there are several other particularities you have to define and they have to know, such as:
- Problem: What is the problem you are trying to solve with this product?
- Audience: Who are we you solving it for? Ideally, we’d go from a broad definition of an audience to sketching a user persona, hopefully, based on some solid data.
- Solution: What are the solutions that you are creating for them? How will these solutions create value for the users?
As I mentioned before, the difference between a UX Designer and a UI Designer is the fact that the first have the ability to perceive things from a technical point of view and also to empathize with. Having knowledge regarding the aforementioned points will help the UX designer create some user scenarios and build several user flows based on the target audience, exploring different usability solutions.
The best way to make sure they have know-how regarding this is to send your already made documentation. In case you lack it or you don’t have the time to do it, the best alternative is to organize a workshop. Here, at Tapptitude, we organize the Product Discovery Workshop, where we work with founders just like yourself and give them a hand in getting a clearer picture of the product they want to develop.
Market Research in the user experience design process
One cannot build a product with a bit of research beforehand. So, after the communication is in line, the goals and expectations are set and after the three pillars – Problem, Audience, Solution – of your product have been laid out, the next step is the market research.
In the best case scenario, usually you, the founder, need to provide this type of research, that should include:
- Market analysis
- Research competition
- User interviews
- Focus groups
- Usability patterns
Even when the UX designers have these, they usually make desk research based on the information you have provided, to broaden their horizons. Additionally, they also look into expert interviews, user interviews and more.
You might be thinking, why. Why would this help a UX designer to come up with a design? After all, it’s just about defining some user flows, isn’t it? Well, not quite.
You see, the purpose of UX design is to focus on the users’ needs and to convince them that your product is better.
Therefore, the purpose of the UX Analysis is:
- To understand the market competition
- To gain insights from your domain/industry
- To explore and improve existing alternatives
Having insights about your product helps the UX designer get more creative and come up with solutions and ideas, to make sure your product will be top notch. These types of research also help you as a founder to understand your product more profoundly and to target and pitch it better to potential customers and investors.
User Goals and Product Tasks
Now that we have gathered enough information both from potential users and market data, you need to converge these into something we call a solution outline. Basically, you’re diving into two quick exercises, the User Goals, and Product Tasks, that help moving forward.
When it comes to User Goals, all you have to do is to ask yourselves “what big goals do the users have in mind when they sign up for my app?” After, together with a small group of stakeholders, preferably not more than five, you start brainstorming some User Goals.
The template for one User Goal is fairly simple:
- (I want to) write a book
- (because then I can) build authority
- (because then I can) have better clients
- (because then I can) make more money
Make sure you repeat “because then I can” at least 2 to 3 times in order to drill down the actual user needs. We highly recommend saving the most relevant goals in an excel sheet.
The User Goals exercises should come as a catalyst for your eureka moment. Their purpose is to help you achieve a more in-depth understanding of how does your app affect the user and to offer you a clearer perspective about how the final product is going to look.
After this, it’s time to go to the next level by defining the actual tasks the users are going to perform in your product – the Product Tasks.
There are three types:
- Proactive Tasks – creating and editing objects, aka “work:
- Post a picture
- Share a post
- Like a post
- Add an article
- Analytical Tasks – monitoring / analyzing performance:
- Dashboard overview
- Review reports
- Check Progress
- Reactive Tasks – handling incoming items
- Reply to Messages
- Check Notifications
- Handling and approving reports
After all the App Tasks have been laid out and defined, it’s time to go to the next level – the proactive analysis. As the name already implies, the point of this is to discuss every single choice from the user’s perspective. Basically, together with your stakeholders and the UX designer, you all take each task from each category and discuss it. One of you will have to be the devil’s advocate and to disagree, in order to reach the best option or alternative.
It’s good to note that the discussion should be made from the user’s point of view. Based on who your audience is, you have to get into their shoes and analyze how easy or difficult performing any of the tasks could be. This way, you will reach a point where you can improve them, creating better user retention.
Bringing it all together as user flows
When you finally finish detailing the user goals and you have exhausted all the options regarding them, it is time to take the next steps, which means the final outline.
The UX designer outlines the Product Core Flows – they design the sitemap, that includes the screens and the steps the users have to take in order to achieve their goals. This usually is in the form of a diagram.
When you all agree on this, a Product Manager and a product Strategist create a technology and functionality plan that can be transformed afterward into a minimum viable product (MVP).
The art of UX in MVP
When the wireframes are ready and you, as the founder, agree with them, the next step is the creation of the final UI designs and typically a prototype for your first product iteration or MVP. Basically, the UI designer creates the final screens of the app and stitches them together by making a beautiful animation that shows how the application works. When the design is done, it can enter the final stage – the development. Here, the Product Manager and Product Strategist discuss the best options development-wise – platform, frameworks, tools and offer estimates on how much time it will take until you have the final product.
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