• UX Design

A Bit-by-Bit Guide to Creating an Effective UX Design

Simon Khramtsov
3 Sep 2020
11 min

Think of the applications you use most often. These could be social media, delivery, finance, business, or any other apps that come to mind. In most cases, what they have in common is good user experience.

According to the latest stats, 25% of mobile apps have only been used once. The most common reasons are performance issues, poor navigation, and aesthetics. Today’s market is full of similar apps, so to stand out from the crowd, your app needs to do two things: bring value and be easy to use. The latter can be achieved by carefully considering your app’s user experience.

But the question is, how can you create a good UX design? And what advantages will it bring to your company? Let’s find out the answers together.

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Investing in User Experience Design: A Must or a Surplus?

Very often, companies tend to move faster through the UX design phase to speed up development. That decision is usually made because of a limited budget, tight deadlines, or similar products on the market, which could be used as a reference. In reality, the outcome of such a rash decision might well be the opposite. 

Skipping the prototyping phase may lead to a situation where you find problems with the user flow only once the visual product design is almost complete. That means your team would need to take a step back to rethink the UX and spend additional time making changes to the UI. They may end up going back and forth a lot, making revisions, until all the gaps in the design are covered. Or, worse, you need to return to the drawing board, do the UX first, and start the UI design again, entirely from scratch. At the end of the day, your desire to move faster might result in taking twice as much time than was initially planned, to say nothing of the additional money spent. 

UX design is an integral part of an app creation process since its purpose is to turn your business goals into app screens and guide your customers through your product. Trampling over UX is like building a house without an architectural plan — it lowers the chances of the final result meeting your expectations. 

Yet, the question is how to do it right? What steps should be taken to make your UX worth the resources and time spent on it?  

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating UX Design

Many companies fall into the trap of expecting the UX should be hand-drawn schemes or simply screenshots of a similar product, be it an app, website, or even a complex CRM system. But the UX creation process should start long before drawing sketches and making user flows. The primary benefit of such an approach will be building a closer relationship with your users. That, in turn, increases the chances of your app to satisfy their needs. 

So what should be your starting point? And how can you make the most of the UX design phase? Here are the five main steps to take when creating a user experience design.

Step 1: Find out user needs and align them with business tasks

Did you know that only 1 of 26 unhappy customers complains? And the rest simply churn without a word. Given that, the absence of feedback does not always demonstrate satisfaction. But how can you make sure that your hard-earned users won’t abandon your app right from the doorstep? 
The answer is simple: always make users the North Star of any project. This means that your journey should start with studying your target audience, their problems, and how your product will tackle them. Once you know the answers, you’ll be able to move further.

target audience target problems

Your next task is to understand whether the project aligns with your brand mission and business goals. Simply put, you should “sift” your findings on users through these two aspects. What does it mean? For example, you are the CEO of a low-fare airline, which offers peanuts during their flights. But one day, your marketing manager suggests serving a light salad instead and proves the point with user surveys. However, no matter what the statistics say, you’ll reject her idea because you are an unchallenged low-fare airline, and the chicken salad won’t represent your brand mission. 

Knowing the company’s initial and long-term goals can help your design team minimize changes in the future since the UX will be designed with possible features in mind. 

Step 2: Research

A typical target user is rarely going to be one of us, so what seems intuitive and straightforward to you might not work for them. To this end, as soon as you know your user pain points, how your project is going to solve them, and whether it goes in line with your mission and business goals, it’s time to unearth your users’ mindsets. This can be done by conducting interviews, gathering focus groups, and running online surveys. Let’s consider each of these user research methods in detail. 

User interviews

Like journalistic interviews, user interviews are one-on-one sessions (though several facilitators are possible). The possible questions can be the following: 

  • What are you struggling with? 
  • What do you usually stumble upon when interacting with similar products? 
  • What do you expect from this product?

User interviews are one of the easiest and quickest ways to collect UX data. The face-to-face format is also preferred since you can acquire more data due to the body language.

Focus groups 

Unlike user interviews, focus groups involve 3-5 people who discuss their relevant pain points, their feelings and concerns associated with the product, and beyond. It is not an interview. It is a discussion where the moderator’s role is to keep the group’s focus on the topic. Focus groups are an effective way to collect information when you know a little about your target audience.

Surveys 

A survey is just a list of questions that you send out to your target users. It is an easy, relatively quick way to gather data about users. Surveys are also inexpensive — you don’t need to have a separate room, invite people, or recruit facilitators. 

On the downside, surveys can lie to you. A good survey should include simple questions, have a structure that minimizes the number of people dropping out, contain no bias, and balance between open and closed questions, and more. 

Step 3: Distill the acquired data

All the data you’ve collected during two previous steps should now undergo thorough analysis. Its purpose is to identify the most critical points. Creating user personas and user journey maps are the most effective techniques for processing raw user data.

User personas

A user persona is a fictional character that represents your target customers. These customer representations typically include the average age and gender of your potential users, as well as their backgrounds, goals, behaviors, pain points, and needs. Since target audiences are never homogeneous, there’s no need to squeeze all your user data into one persona — instead, you can create as many personas as you see fit. And remember that these personas should be the starting point when it comes to all your decisions regarding the product. 

User journey maps

A user journey map is a visual representation of how your user interacts with your product. Based on the data acquired during the research stage, it contains information on users’ hypothetic emotions, thoughts, and feelings as they are using your product. The gained insights will allow you to create a truly “empathic” product that addresses users’ pain points. 

Step 4: Design

The next step is building out your design, which means creating a low-fidelity version of your product with the help of things like icons, colors, mockups, site maps, and more. Though it sounds chaotic, we can point out four main design stages. 

Defining content types and app functions 

First up, you need to arrange the content of your future application into a logical and manageable hierarchy. This can be achieved by utilizing an information architecture framework. It helps to:

  • identify every piece of content needed to communicate your business value
  • categorize the content, and define how and where it should be presented in the design
  • structure and organize your ideas into blocks, and map out the correlation between each of them
content types and app functions

This step is usually done by writing cards, either on board with pen and paper, or using software like UserZoom or Optimal Sort. The major benefit here is that spending a couple of hours on this now will save you days, or even weeks, in the future. How is that possible? The answer is simple — you define what functions your app should have and resolve all questions with the content early on, thereby avoiding content-related problems cropping up later in the process. 

Making an interactive architecture

Once you’ve decided on content and features, it’s time to build an interactive architecture. The function of interactive architecture is to define the steps you want a user to take, and determine how they are going to navigate through your app, from the splash screen to other sections of your app. In other words, you build a structural map — the foundation of your future blueprint.

You may think: why not go ahead with creating wireframes as soon as I know what functions my app should have? Skipping the interactive architecture stage may result in the absence of logical screens (e.g., no return screens, duplicated actions), and puzzling navigation for users. There are many helpful tools — like FlowMapp, Axure, and Stormboard — you can use to sketch out your ideas.

interactive architecture

A big plus of this step is that you can also plan what features should be released during the first iterations, and what is better left for the future. For example, registration is a must-have for a social media app, but for a to-do list or tasker app, it can easily be postponed until a later version.

Creating UX wireframes

This is actually where your work on UX wireframes starts. During this step, the primary focus is on ease of use and accessibility of the website or app. By developing UX wireframes, you structure and indicate:

  • the position, shape, and size of your app elements
  • the places where boxes, buttons, input fields, content, and images are going to be
  • ways the user will navigate through your mobile app

Wireframes usually don’t show the colors, content itself, or text fonts. They can be created using Proto.io, Axure, Justinmind, Invision, Figma, or other similar tools with the help of ready UI Kit elements. Such wireframes are called low-fidelity and include only the most basic content, visuals, and their schematic position. 

UX wireframes

Designing UI

Unlike UX wireframes, which show how each page will look from a general perspective, UI design offers a graphic representation of your application. It’s the final stage, during which your design team creates illustrations, animations, navigation controls, and other UI elements. At the end of the UI stage, your design should look well-polished (though improving it throughout the entire development cycle and after its release is vital).

UI Design

Step 5: Test it out

As soon as the product prototype is ready, it’s time to pass it to the development team. Once delivered, test it out. We recommend combining these three methods. 

  • User testing is the UX evaluation technique, which involves real people using your product. This type of testing can be remote or in-person, with or without the moderator.
  • Beta testing is a product release to a small number of people. Its goal is to detect as many bugs or UX issues as possible as well as to define whether the product delivers value to the target audience.
  • Internal testing is when your team members use your product to evaluate its usability level.

Also, don’t forget that release is not the endpoint of the UX process. After your app is in the app store, you need to continue working on the design. That means making adjustments based on the users’ feedback, thinking through improvements and new features, and ways of incorporating them into the existing product.

Step 6: Analyze in retrospect

Yes, user data is not the only thing that you should analyze. Once the product is launched to the world, it’s time to do another analysis round. This will help you to point out the best practices, discuss difficulties, and avoid the same mistakes in the future. The questions might include: 

  • What went well? 
  • What went wrong? Why? How did we solve the problem? How could we have avoided the problem? 
  • How do our customers respond to our product? Do they experience issues?
  • Does the product deliver value and address the customers’ pain points? 
  • Is there room for improvement? Where? 

Connecting the Dots

UX Design encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with your company by transforming your business value into a product your users expect. It’s not just about sketching and creating wireframes — it’s about getting closer to your customers, learning their needs and habits, keeping them in the center of your design process. So if you want to gain users’ trust and ensure user retention, investing in UX design is a must.

Book a strategy session

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