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UX Methodology

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UX Methodology

UX design emerged as a field in the late 20th century, focusing on creating user-friendly interfaces. Coined by Don Norman, the term "user experience" expanded beyond usability to encompass emotional and aesthetic aspects. With the internet and mobile technology, UX design adapted to meet evolving user needs. Today, it plays a vital role in product development, involving user research, prototyping, testing, and iteration. The field continues to evolve alongside technology and user expectations.

What is UX?

UX stands for User Experience. It encompasses various aspects, including usability, accessibility, functionality, aesthetics, and the emotional response elicited by the interaction.

UX is the practice of creating products that are valuable, user-friendly, and enjoyable to use. Its focus is on improving the overall experience individuals have when interacting with a product, ensuring they discover value, satisfaction, and joy.

Why is UX Important?

Why is UX important text on the left and a large question mark on the right on a purple background

User Experience is of paramount importance because it directly impacts the success and adoption of products, systems, and services. When users have a seamless, intuitive, and enjoyable experience while interacting with a product, it creates a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. This positive experience increases user engagement, loyalty, and the likelihood of repeat usage or purchases. Conversely, a poor UX can lead to frustration, abandonment, and negative reviews, damaging the reputation of a product or brand.

UX design contributes to improved usability. By understanding user behaviours, needs, and preferences, designers can create interfaces that are easy to navigate and use. Intuitive navigation, clear instructions, and efficient workflows minimise user confusion, errors, and the need for extensive training.

By streamlining processes and providing a good user experience, UX design positively influences users' decision-making by encouraging users to take desired actions which directly increases conversion rates and improves business goals.

By conducting user research, designers gain insights into users' motivations, goals, and pain points. This understanding enables them to design solutions that truly meet user needs and exceed expectations.

User Experience Methodology and Processes

The user experience methodology process flow diagram

The UX methodology is as follows:

  1. User Research
  2. Design
  3. Wireframes
  4. Prototyping
  5. Testing
  6. Launch

Please note this methodology is an iterative approach and each process should be revisited and reviewed until the product or service is ready for deployment.

Typically, the initial step in the UX process involves conducting stakeholder interviews. These interviews or workshops serve as a key trigger point, providing valuable insights into management directives, company values, organisational culture, challenges, and strategies for accomplishing specific objectives. A properly structured stakeholder interview enables the UX team to gather important information that informs the subsequent design and decision-making processes.

Create A Strategy

Create a strategy. A UX strategy involves a systematic approach to ensure effective user-centred experiences. To begin, clearly define the goals and objectives of your UX strategy, aligning them with overall business objectives and user needs.

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the success of your UX strategy, such as user engagement or customer satisfaction scores. Develop design principles that guide the creation of consistent and user-friendly experiences.

Create a roadmap that outlines the key initiatives and milestones, prioritising based on impact and feasibility.

Continuously iterate and refine your UX strategy by gathering user feedback, conducting usability testing, and evaluating performance against KPIs.

Remember, creating a UX strategy is an ongoing effort that requires continual improvement and adaptation based on user insights and data.

User Research

UX research methods diagram split into Quantitative, Qualitative, behavioural, and attitudinal

You should always start your UX design process with user research. Never make research-based assumptions based on past experiences. There are many different research methods to gain valuable insights, and data. Be careful, different research methods display different types of results.

Quantitative

Quantitative research serves as exploratory research, aiming to quantify a problem by generating numerical or statistically applicable data. It utilises various methods to collect data, such as:

  • online surveys
  • paper surveys
  • longitudinal studies
  • online polls

These methods help transform raw information into usable statistics, enabling researchers to analyse and draw insights from the collected data.

Qualitative

Qualitative user research involves directly observing and assessing behaviour to gain insights. It focuses on understanding individuals' beliefs and practices on their own terms. Various methods are employed in qualitative research, such as:

  • contextual observation
  • interviews
  • field studies
  • moderated usability tests

These approaches allow researchers to delve into the rich nuances of user experiences, perceptions, and motivations, enabling a deeper understanding of user behaviour and informing design decisions.

Attitudinal

Attitudinal research aims to comprehend users' attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs, focusing on the underlying reasons behind their decisions and actions. It delves into the subjective aspect of user experience, seeking to capture people's emotions, preferences, and opinions.

This form of research often utilises surveys or interviews to gather insights, where users are asked to express their feelings, preferences, or perceptions regarding a specific product or service.

By understanding the 'why' behind user behaviour, attitudinal research provides valuable insights that inform design decisions and help create more tailored and user-centric experiences.

Behavioural

Behavioural research focuses on studying user actions rather than relying solely on self-reported or hypothetical responses. It emphasises observing and analysing what users actually do in real-world situations.

This type of research relies on various observation methods such as usability testing, eye-tracking, or heat maps to gain insights into user behaviour.

By directly observing user interactions and actions, behavioural research provides objective data that uncovers patterns, challenges, and opportunities in user behaviour. It offers valuable insights into user needs, preferences, and pain points, guiding the development of user-centred designs and informed decision-making.

User Interviews

A user interview is a widely used qualitative research technique that involves a one-to-one guided conversation between researchers and participants. It provides an opportunity to ask targeted questions and record participants' responses either through recording or notes. The flexibility of interviews allows for in-depth exploration of topics, enabling researchers to gather detailed information and gain deep insights into the users' perspectives.

Structuring the interview effectively enhances its effectiveness, ensuring valuable and comprehensive data is obtained. User interviews are valuable for capturing nuanced insights and understanding user experiences in a personalised and interactive manner.

Surveys

UX surveys are structured questionnaires used to collect quantitative data from a large group of users. They help understand user preferences, behaviours, and satisfaction levels. Survey questions are carefully designed to ensure clarity and relevance. Analysing survey data provides valuable insights for data-driven design decisions. Surveys can be administered online, via email, or integrated into websites or apps. UX surveys offer a scalable approach to gather user feedback and inform user-centric design improvements.

Focus Groups

UX focus groups are qualitative research sessions with a small group of participants. The moderator facilitates a discussion to gather insights and opinions. Participants share their thoughts and build upon each other's ideas. Focus groups provide a platform for in-depth understanding of user experiences and preferences. They offer advantages like group dynamics and non-verbal cues but have limitations due to small sample size. Recorded discussions are analysed for common themes and patterns. UX focus groups complement other research methods for user-centred design decisions.

Card Sorting

UX card sorting is a method where participants categorise information by sorting cards. It helps understand how users organise content and their mental models. This method helps designers gain insights into users' mental models, information architecture preferences, and how they perceive relationships between different elements. There are two main types of card sorting:

Open Card Sorting: Participants create their own categories and group the cards based on their understanding and logic. This method allows for a more exploratory approach and provides insights into how users naturally organise information.

Closed Card Sorting: Participants are given predefined categories or labels, and they place the cards into these predetermined groups. This method is useful when designers already have a predefined information architecture or want to validate existing categorisation schemes.

Often, we can join up these two methods with a closed card sort exercise following a series of open card sort sessions. The aggregated output from the open card sort determining the categories or labels for the closed card sort session.

Competitor Analysis

UX competitor analysis involves evaluating and analysing the user experience of competing products or services. Designers examine design, usability, and other factors to identify strengths, weaknesses, and industry best practices. Insights gained guide improvements and help create a superior user experience.

Customer Journey

A UX customer journey is the sequence of interactions and experiences a user goes through when engaging with a product or service. It includes touchpoints, user actions, emotions, pain points, and opportunities for improvement. It helps designers understand user needs and guide the creation of a user-centric experience.

Design

During the design process, designers use the information and insights obtained from user research to create design solutions that address user needs and align with business objectives. This process involves generating various design ideas and concepts that aim to solve specific user problems and improve the overall user experience.

The output of the design phase is a well-defined and validated design that serves as the blueprint for the development team. It includes detailed specifications, visual assets, and interaction guidelines to ensure a consistent and user-friendly final product.

Parallel Design

In parallel design, designers work independently or in small teams to create their own unique design solutions based on a shared design brief or problem statement. Each design variation aims to address the same user needs and goals but may differ in terms of layout, interactions, visual aesthetics, or other design elements.

UX parallel design involves creating and testing multiple design variations simultaneously to explore different ideas and approaches. It promotes creativity, collaboration, and informed decision-making. By comparing and evaluating multiple prototypes, designers can identify the most effective design solutions and create a more user-cantered experience.

Personas

UX personas, also known as user personas or customer personas, are fictional representations of specific user groups or target audience segments. They embody user characteristics, behaviours, needs, and goals. Personas help designers make user-centred decisions and create tailored experiences. They enhance empathy and communication throughout the design process.

It's important to note that personas should be based on actual user research and data to ensure accuracy and relevance. Regularly updating personas based on new insights and feedback is essential to reflect evolving user needs and behaviours.

User Journey

The UX user journey is the path a user takes when interacting with a product or service. It includes stages, touchpoints, actions, emotions, and pain points. Designers use it to improve the user experience and meet user needs. By optimising touchpoints and addressing user expectations, the user journey contributes to a more seamless and satisfying user experience.

Storyboards

UX storyboards are visual representations that depict the user's journey or a specific interaction with a product or service. Each panel in a UX storyboard represents a specific step or moment in the user's journey. The panels may include images, sketches, or icons, along with accompanying text or captions that describe the user's actions or thoughts at each stage. UX storyboards are effective tools for:

  • Visualising the user's journey
  • Identifying pain points and opportunities
  • Aligning design decisions
  • Testing and validation

Wireframing

UX wireframes are basic, visual representations of a user interface that outline the structure, layout, and functionality of a digital product or website. They serve as a blueprint or skeletal framework that focuses on the placement of elements, content organisation, and user flow. There are various wireframe tools, from paper sketches to digital design software. The purpose of UX wireframes is to:

  • Visualise and communicate structure: Wireframes provide a visual representation of the interface's structure, enabling designers and stakeholders to understand the layout, hierarchy, and relationships between different elements.
  • Iterate and refine design: Wireframes allow for quick iteration and experimentation with different layouts and user flows. They help identify potential usability issues and refine the design based on user needs and feedback.
  • Collaborate and gather feedback: Wireframes facilitate collaboration among design teams, stakeholders, and developers. They serve as a starting point for discussions and feedback, ensuring a shared understanding of the design direction.
  • Plan for responsiveness: Wireframes can be used to plan for responsive design, considering how the interface will adapt and reflow across different screen sizes and devices.

While wireframes focus on the structural aspects of the user interface, they are often accompanied by other design deliverables, such as visual mock-ups and user flows, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the final user experience.

Wireframes are classed as low fidelity deliverables. Fidelity refers to the level of detail and realism in design deliverables. Both low and high fidelity are used at different stages of the design process to serve specific purposes.

Low Fidelity

Low fidelity design refers to simplified and basic representations of a user interface with minimal visual details. Low fidelity designs focus on the overall structure, layout, and functionality of the interface, without delving into specific visual elements or intricate details. They are quick to create and modify, allowing for rapid prototyping, iteration, and gathering early feedback on the user experience. Low fidelity designs are particularly useful in the early stages of the design process, when the emphasis is on concept exploration, user flow, and information architecture.

High Fidelity

High fidelity design, involves more detailed and polished representations of the user interface. These designs are often created using graphic design tools and include visual elements, colours, typography, and realistic content. High fidelity designs closely resemble the final product and provide a realistic preview of the user experience. They are used to refine and fine-tune the visual aesthetics, interactions, and details of the interface. High fidelity designs are useful for user testing, stakeholder presentations, and development handoffs, as they provide a comprehensive and accurate representation of the final design.

It's worth noting that fidelity is not a binary concept and can exist on a spectrum. Designers may also use medium fidelity designs that strike a balance between low and high fidelity, incorporating some visual details while maintaining flexibility for iteration and exploration.

Prototyping

UX prototyping is the process of creating interactive representations of a digital product or service to simulate its functionality and user experience. Prototypes are used to gather feedback, test design concepts, and refine the user interface before development.

A prototype enables UX researchers to identify design flaws, errors, and inconsistencies before the development team creates the final version. It serves as an early testing stage to ensure a refined design and user experience.

Testing

The testing process in UX design is an essential step to evaluate the usability, functionality, and overall effectiveness of a digital product or service. Testing ensures that the design meets user needs, identifies any usability issues, and validates design decisions.

Throughout the testing process, data is collected, analysed, and used to refine the design through iterative improvements. By involving users in the testing phase, UX designers can create products that are user-centred, efficient, and enjoyable to use. The testing process is critical for ensuring a successful user experience and optimising the product or service for user needs and preferences.

Usability Testing

UX usability testing is a method used to evaluate the usability of a digital product or interface by observing users as they interact with it. Participants are given specific tasks to complete while being observed by UX researchers or designers. The goal is to identify usability issues, gather user feedback, and validate design decisions.

Usability testing helps uncover areas of confusion, navigation challenges, and user frustrations, providing valuable insights for improving the user experience. By analysing the data collected during testing, designers can make informed design decisions, prioritise improvements, and create a more user-centred product.

Usability testing can be conducted through various methods, such as in-person or remote sessions, and plays a crucial role in refining and optimising the user experience. By involving users in the testing process, organisations can ensure that their digital products are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable for users to use.

A/B Testing

UX A/B testing is a method used to compare two versions of a design or interface to determine which one performs better in terms of user experience and predefined metrics. A random sample of users is divided into two groups, with each group experiencing a different version. Data is collected and analysed to determine which version performs better in terms of user engagement, conversions, or other key metrics. A/B testing allows designers to make data-driven decisions, optimise the user experience, and continuously improve the design based on real user feedback and behaviour.

Multivariate Testing

Although its similar to A/B testing, multivariate testing is a method used to analyse and compare multiple variations of a design or interface simultaneously. It allows for the examination of different combinations of design elements or features to identify the optimal combination that delivers the best user experience and desired outcomes.

Multivariate testing enables a more granular understanding of how individual design elements or features contribute to the overall user experience. It helps designers make informed decisions about which specific design elements to prioritise or refine for maximum impact.

However, multivariate testing requires careful planning and larger sample sizes compared to A/B testing, as it involves testing multiple variations simultaneously. It is best suited for scenarios where there are several key design elements or features to be evaluated.

By leveraging multivariate testing, UX designers can gain valuable insights into the impact of different design variations, allowing them to optimise the user experience and achieve desired outcomes.

Testing Against Heuristics

Testing against heuristics, also known as heuristic evaluation or expert review, is a method used to evaluate the usability and user experience of a digital product or interface based on established design principles or heuristics. Heuristics are guidelines or principles derived from best practices and prior research that help identify usability issues.

Testing against heuristics offers several advantages. It is a cost-effective method that does not require direct user involvement or large sample sizes. It provides quick insights into potential usability issues early in the design process. It also helps prioritise design improvements based on the severity of the identified issues.

It is important to note that heuristic testing does not replace the need for user testing and feedback from real users.

Here are some examples of heuristics methodologies:

Nielsen's Heuristics: Developed by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, this widely used set of heuristics includes ten principles such as visibility of system status, match between system and the real world, user control and freedom, and error prevention.

Schneiderman's Eight Golden Rules: Proposed by Ben Shneiderman, this set of guidelines emphasises design principles such as strive for consistency, enable frequent users to use shortcuts, and provide informative feedback.

Gerhardt-Powals' Cognitive Engineering Principles: Developed by Dianne J. Gerhardt-Powals, this set of heuristics focuses on cognitive aspects of human-computer interaction, including minimising cognitive load, supporting mental models, and providing meaningful error messages.

Tognazzini's First Principles of Interaction Design: Created by Bruce Tognazzini, this set of heuristics covers principles such as support the user's workflow, provide clear conceptual models, and ensure consistency across the interface.

IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking: IBM's framework includes principles like user-centred outcomes, multidisciplinary collaboration, and continuous learning.

Launch

Following user testing, the validated prototype can be transformed into the actual product for User Acceptance Testing (UAT) prior to its official launch.

After launch, UX design and research does not stop there, UX designers continue to play a crucial role in ensuring its success and making ongoing improvements. Some key activities that UX designers typically engage in after a launch:

  • Accessibility Updates: UX designers ensure that the product complies with accessibility standards and make updates to enhance accessibility for all users.
  • Performance Optimisation: Designers work with developers to optimise the product's performance, ensuring faster loading times and smooth user interactions.
  • User Education: Designers may create onboarding guides, tooltips, or tutorials to help users better understand and utilise the product's features.
  • User Testing: Ongoing usability testing is conducted to validate design decisions, identify any remaining usability issues, and gather data on how users are engaging with the product.
  • User Feedback Analysis: UX designers collect and analyse user feedback, reviews, and comments to gain insights into how users are interacting with the product or service. This helps identify areas of improvement and potential issues.

Experience Level Agreements (XLAs)

XLAs (Experience Level Agreements) work with UX by providing a measurable framework to ensure that the user experience meets specific performance standards and user satisfaction levels. While traditional SLAs (Service Level Agreements) focus on operational metrics, XLAs go beyond that and prioritise the user experience as a key metric for success.

When integrating XLAs with UX, the following steps are typically taken:

  • Defining UX Metrics: UX metrics such as page load time, task success rates, user satisfaction scores, and interaction efficiency are identified as critical indicators of a positive user experience.
  • Setting Targets: Specific targets or thresholds are established for each UX metric based on user expectations and industry standards.
  • Monitoring and Measurement: UX metrics are continuously monitored and measured to track performance against the established targets. This may involve collecting real-time data, conducting user surveys, or using analytics tools.
  • Feedback and Iteration: User feedback and insights from UX metrics are used to inform design decisions and guide iterative improvements to enhance the user experience.
  • Collaborative Approach: XLAs bridge the gap between various teams, including UX designers, developers, and stakeholders, fostering a collaborative approach towards achieving the best possible user experience.

By integrating XLAs with UX, organisations prioritise the user's needs and ensure that the design is continuously optimised to deliver a superior user experience. This user-centric approach leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and improved business outcomes. It encourages a focus on delivering value to users, making it an essential aspect of modern UX design strategies.

Key Performance Indicators

After the launch of a product or service, there are several key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to measure its success and effectiveness. Here are some examples of KPIs commonly used:

Conversion Rate: This measures the percentage of visitors or users who take a desired action, such as making a purchase, signing up, or completing a form. It indicates how well the product or service is converting visitors into customers or achieving specific goals.

User Engagement: This KPI measures the level of interaction and involvement of users with the product or service. It includes metrics such as time spent on the website or app, number of pages viewed, or frequency of returning users. Higher engagement indicates a more compelling and valuable user experience.

Customer Satisfaction: This KPI is measured through surveys or feedback mechanisms to assess the satisfaction level of customers with the product or service. It helps gauge how well the product meets customer expectations and whether it is delivering a positive user experience.

Churn Rate: This measures the rate at which customers or users stop using the product or service over a specific period. A high churn rate may indicate issues with customer retention and satisfaction, highlighting areas that need improvement.

Net Promoter Score (NPS): This metric measures the likelihood of customers to recommend the product or service to others. It is typically obtained through surveys and provides insights into customer loyalty and advocacy.

Revenue and Return on Investment (ROI): These financial metrics assess the revenue generated by the product or service, as well as the return on investment. They help determine the profitability and viability of the offering.

Customer Support Metrics: These include metrics such as response time, resolution time, and customer satisfaction with support interactions. They measure the effectiveness and quality of customer support, which is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction.

Iterative methodology and Process

a book with the words methodology on top and a flow diagram drawn in the book.

UX design is not just a one-time activity but an iterative methodology that emphasises continual improvement and refinement throughout the design process. It recognises that understanding user needs and preferences is an ongoing journey that requires iteration and feedback.

The iterative nature of UX design involves several key principles. First, it involves gathering user insights through research, user testing, and feedback. These insights inform the design process, allowing designers to create initial prototypes or mock-ups.

Next, the prototypes are tested with users to gather feedback on usability, functionality, and overall user experience. This feedback is then analysed and incorporated into the design, leading to refinements and enhancements.

The cycle of testing, analysing feedback, and iterating continues throughout the design process. Each iteration aims to address usability issues, optimise user flows, and enhance the overall user experience.

By embracing an iterative methodology, UX design enables continuous learning and improvement. It ensures that the final product or service meets the evolving needs and expectations of users. This iterative approach allows for flexibility, adaptation, and a user-centred design that delivers a high-quality experience.

Where Can you Learn More About UX?

Our BCS Foundation Certificate In User Experience training course is perfect for anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of User Experience. The BCS User Experience course will teach you the UX methodology, best practices, techniques, and a strategy for creating a successful user experience. The course will cover the following topics:

  • Guiding Principles
  • User Research
  • Illustrating The Context Of Use
  • Measuring Usability
  • Information Architecture
  • Interaction Design
  • Visual Design
  • User Interface Prototyping
  • Usability Evaluation

Click the button below to find out more.

UX course banner on a purple background

Conclusion

UX design is an iterative methodology focused on continually refining and improving products based on user feedback. It involves gathering insights, testing prototypes, and incorporating user feedback to enhance usability and overall experience. This iterative process ensures that designs align with user needs, preferences, and expectations.

UX is crucial because it ensures user satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty. By prioritising UX, organisations create products that are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable, leading to increased user adoption, customer satisfaction, and business success. It emphasises the value of understanding users, making data-driven decisions, and continually iterating to deliver exceptional user experiences.

About The Author

James Lawless

James Lawless

I’ve always been interested in media, I’m qualified at level 3 film production. I very much enjoy marketing, creating content, analysing, and watching the effect marketing campaigns have. Here at Purple Griffon I create blogs, newsletters, create graphics and much more. I’ve been interested in IT and technology from a young age, probably the same time I became interested in online gaming. I’m also a keen skier and enjoy going on family skiing holidays.

Tel: +44 (0)1539 736 828

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