UX Design Process: A 6 Stage Process to Keep Users Engaged
The UX design process is an iterative process that allows product teams to create products that people need, use, and enjoy.
It's getting harder to satisfy users. According to Forrester's research, 70% of projects fail due to a lack of user acceptance.
People won't stay around for long if your product isn't useful or even if it is useful but they don't like how it works. With so many options available, users don't need to use your product. They have to want to use your product.
So how can you ensure your product is useful and enjoyable before you put a lot of money and time into actually building it? This is where the user experience design process comes in.
The 6 Stages of the UX Design Process
The UX process typically consists of six stages that accompany and define the product development process from early ideation to the release of a final product.
The order suggested in this article is the most common one, although every company adjusts the process to their own needs. The most important aspects of your UX process is that it’s flexible, iterative, and aims to involve user feedback at every stage.
We'll cover what every stage consists of and how each helps you design a better user experience for your end-users. No matter how unique and complicated your design environment is, your UX process should start with a definition of your product.
Stage 1: Product Definition
Even years before the term user experience was popularised, successful businesses performed market research to understand who would be using their products and what for. Now products have become much more complex.
Within one product, users can perform an astonishing number of tasks, and that can be overwhelming to both users and creators. Following the product definition stage of the UX design process, product creators should ask themselves these questions:
- How will the product help users?
- How will the product help my business?
Without answering those questions, you may end up creating a product no one needs or that brings no revenue to the business. Forty-two percent of startups fail because there's no market need for their products.
A typical way to answer these questions is to facilitate group discussions with multiple stakeholders, conduct interviews with potential users, and conduct brainstorming sessions with a team of developers.
The results of these discussions should include:
- A product story: a short, possibly abstract sentence that describes the value of your product to the end-users, e.g. "The fastest website builder in the world"
- Business goals and objectives: key performance indicators, an approximate timeline, required investments
- A minimum viable product description: a list of critical features that your product's earliest version may include
At this stage you usually don’t even have a product yet, however you might have a concept, and you can test this concept with users. Just create a paper sketch or even a simple description of your product, and ask people what they think about it.
This is the earliest form of user testing there is, and it can get you valuable insights about your product before you actually start designing it.
You can test paper sketches and your earliest prototypes with Teston, and we can save you a lot of time by finding the appropriate testers for you.
After the product definition phase, it's time to elaborate and test your findings during the Research stage.
Stage 2: Research
Although all stages of the UX design process are critical to the product's success, UX research is the one most often neglected. Only 55% of companies conduct any kind of user experience testing.
The research phase allows you to understand the pain points of your target audience as well as how your product may address those.
Typical methods used at this stage are:
- Card sorting: This is a method that allows you to create an information architecture of your product by observing how people organise your product features by themselves.
- User Interviews: This is a way to elicit user pain points and needs your product can address. At Teston, we can help recruit a specific audience for your interviews.
- Focus groups: This is a group variation of interviews with several users and, possibly, business stakeholders to help you further understand and compare user goals and motivations.
Don’t feel restricted to only these three methods. At this stage, try to diversify your research methods to obtain as much data from different sources and techniques as possible.
Using Teston, you can even analyse your potential audience’s reaction to marketing promo materials and how people will search for your product on Google.
The information obtained during user research should be thoroughly analysed in order to present actionable advice for the development team. That's why the next stage in the UX process is analysis.
Stage 3: Analysis
Analysis in the UX process is not an abstract interpretation of research results. Instead, a UX designer develops a series of UX deliverables based on the research phase findings that are later used for effective development.
These deliverables include:
- User personas: a representation of your product's end-users in the form of fictional characters with defined needs, pain points, and motivations
- User stories: a narrative of a specific user flow that serves as a development specification, especially in the Agile development methodology
- Journey map: a visualisation of a user journey, including the process that users go through to achieve their goals — you can test your user journeys with Teston as well
After analysis, developers and UX designers can officially start the design phase of the UX design process.
Stage 4: Design
The knowledge accumulated following the previous stages of the UX design process creates a context that the design team can work within. Utilising user personas, journey maps, and research insights, they can design products according to their users' needs.
The complexity of the designs can vary from paper prototypes, mockups, and wireframes to low-fidelity and high-fidelity interactive prototypes.
Due to the iterative nature of the UX process, there's no need to create a finished product at this stage. The goal is to create something tangible that can later be tested with real users during the evaluation stage of the UX process.
After the prototype has been tested, developers and designers can bring the prototype closer to the finished project and then test it again.
Whether you're creating a computer game, a mobile app, or an online store, bringing it in front of real users is crucial.
We can help you test a wide range of products at Teston, but first let’s talk a bit more about how testing is incorporated in the overall UX design process.
Stage 5: Evaluation
Finally, it's time to test your designs with end users and find opportunities to improve your product even further. There are many ways to test your products.
Let's talk about the most common ones.
During usability testing, you observe how end users interact with your user interface. You design a set of tasks that users complete step-by-step. There are several variations of user testing: remote usability studies, onsite research, and unmoderated and moderated research.
At Teston, we help you perform unmoderated remote usability studies by simplifying the whole process of designing test tasks and recruiting target users for you.
A/B testing is a research method that allows you to test two slightly different versions of your product, mobile app, or website, and evaluate how successful each of the two designs is compared to the other. A/B testing is usually performed with a large number of users in order to get reliable quantitative data.
If you have a high-fidelity product that people can interact with, you can track where your users click the most in order to analyse the most and the least used features of your product. As with A/B testing, reliable data comes from a larger number of test participants.
There are many more user research methods available to you. Make sure to combine them when testing your products.
Gathering research data from diverse sources helps you validate your findings against each other and gain unique insights by observing how people interact with your products from different angles.
After following the previously described stages, we’ve come to the most critical element of the UX design process — iteration.
Stage 6: Iteration
The aspect of the UX design process that makes it so effective is that it's an iterative process that allows you to constantly improve your products. Once you're finished with the design and evaluating stages, you have insights that can enrich your initial research.
For example, during usability studies, you may unveil that a completely unexpected category of people finds your product useful and uses it in a special — maybe even surprising — way. Did you know that Instagram was originally a complicated meet-up app named after an alcoholic drink?
Your user personas and user stories will be more detailed after every new iteration. Your interaction design, visual design, and interface design will improve based on the insights revealed during user testing. Then later, you can test the new design again for continuous improvement.
How to Make Your UX Design Process More Effective
In order to make your UX design process more effective, you should understand that the process is not linear.
Stages described in this article don't necessarily follow each other in a strict order. Some of the stages can be merged. For example, you can first create a rough version of your product and then discuss it with focus groups or even test it with end-users in order to inform the design of more detailed, high-fidelity versions of your product.
There are no right or wrong approaches here as long as you ensure there is an iterative approach to improving your products with user feedback involved at every stage of your process. Every company eventually creates a design process specific to their needs and environment.
If you want to start improving your products, bring them in front of your target users as soon as possible. Teston can help you test with target users.
Whether you have a storyboard, a mobile app or a fluid prototype you want to test, we'll help you design test tasks and find the best recruits so you know exactly how people use your product and what you can improve. Let's test!