4 Stages of a Good UX Design Process Explained
UX is an ever-evolving art and science that impacts every digital product—from websites and mobile apps to connected devices and complex applications. It’s important to understand what the UX design process entails and what UX design services you will receive before you get started.
The best way to do this is to take a look at the main steps that comprise the process of UX design and then expand on each step so that you can apply these tools to your work. Knowing the UX design process steps will help you increase your workflow efficiency and create a better user experience.
What is UX design?
Defining the UX design is the first step toward understanding its process.
User Experience (UX) design enhances user satisfaction by ensuring that products that users interact with are usable, accessible, and enjoyable.
UX design is not just about visual design. It incorporates various product design services that are focused on ’s about understanding the users’’ needs and motivations and designing a product in such a way that meets those needs. From laying out a digital product or service to implementing it and making specific changes in response to user feedback, user experience designers use a variety of methods to improve the usability and enjoyability of digital products and services. The process of UX design aims to enhance the usability, pleasure, and effectiveness with which users can achieve their goals.
The goal of the UX design process is to create a satisfying and easy experience for the user, including emotion, senses, and physical interaction. UX design is involved in a lot of different products and services, but it typically refers to the digital design experience.
The term UX has been frequently associated with web design and software engineering, but its origins are much older. In fact, the term was coined in the early 1990s, when cognitive psychologist Donald Norman joined the staff at Apple as a User Experience Architect. It is the first time ever that the UX has been added to a job title. The term “user experience design” was put forth by him as a way to encompass everything that UX is.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, founded by Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, “To achieve high-quality UX, there must be a seamless merging of multiple disciplines, including interface design, engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design.” The process of UX design has been gaining popularity in the industry, and now it has evolved to include various fields, including User Research, Information Architecture, Usability Engineering, Service Design, and so forth. But still, it all comes back to the people you’re designing for.
The Main Phases Of UX Design Process
The UX design process typically encompasses four stages that begin with the discovery, followed by strategy, design, and validation. We break down the UX design process steps in detail below:
From this foundation, we can plan for the UX design process steps of the project lifecycle. These activities are normally performed by in-house designers or design agencies. If you need help with your product’s design, hire UX designer for maximum results.
Stage 1: Discovery
As stated by Nielsen Norman Group, the discovery stage is “a preliminary phase in the UX-design process that involves researching the problem space, framing the problem(s) to be solved, and gathering enough evidence and determining the next steps.”
We use product discoveries as a way to understand and frame a problem, as well as research what existing solutions exist. This helps us see if there could be any hidden impediments (or even blockers) that would prevent us from creating something truly groundbreaking. These are some of the UX design process steps you need to take during the discovery stage of the UI/UX design process:
The UX design process starts with gathering as much information as possible from the client. Stakeholder interviews are a great way to understand what aspects of the product your stakeholders care about and how you can design for them. They are also useful for gathering information about how stakeholders are using the current system, their attitudes towards it, and how it could be improved. Before you begin, ask yourself: Who are the people who need this feature? What do they primarily want from it? What don’t they like about the current product? This will help you stay focused on your users while conducting stakeholder interviews.
A UX roadmap holds your team accountable for your strategic plan. One of the primary UX design process steps, roadmapping helps you prioritize problems and initiatives, allocate resources accordingly, and set clear expectations for the UX design process of each project. It also provides a visual representation of how all parts of your strategy interconnect—helping you communicate it to others in an understandable way.
Market research is a part of the UX design process where the team collects and synthesizes information about the preferences and buying habits of consumers. It reveals target groups for a product or service, as well as trends related to consumer behavior.
User research is a fundamental part of the UX design process steps like the decision-making and prototyping cycle. User research involves observing behavior, analyzing tasks, and providing feedback to understand user needs, wants, and motivations. These insights help us create concepts centered around our audience’s needs.
The goal of the UX/UI design process is to leverage their deep knowledge of user behavior and human perception to solve business problems through the design and development of user-centered products. To achieve this goal, they can use a wide range of user research methods within the qualitative and quantitative methods.
- One-on-one in-depth interviews. Before starting with a problem, the team reaches out to potential users. They let them share their insights and experiences. This gives us an in-depth understanding of the problem and helps us put together a solid approach for solving it.
- Usability testing enables design teams to test features, interaction design, and product usability by watching users interact with it in real-time.
- Focus groups are a research tool that enables you to understand how people react to products and services in real-world situations. They can help you gauge the success and effectiveness of your product in reaching its target audience. Focus groups involve inviting a small group (typically from 8 to 12) of people who represent the target audience to discuss their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, or concept.
- Guerrilla testing. It’s a simple and effective strategy for getting user feedback that comes without any preparation—just get a prototype, take it in your hands, and ask people about their experiences.
- Surveys, also known as questionnaires, allow you to gather a large volume of responses which in turn can lead to more detailed user analysis.
- Eye-tracking makes it possible to know what people look at, where they look, and for how long. Eye-tracking enables you to increase the effectiveness of your communications by optimizing visual elements like photos and headlines.
- Product analytics gives the ability to track and measure all of the usage data from real users of your product. This insight helps understand how people are using the product and improve it in ways that make their experience better.
An increasingly competitive environment demands that you know your competition and how you stack up against them. When developing a new product or service, competitive analysis is essential to the UX design process. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of existing products and services, you can develop effective product strategies and improve upon them.
By conducting competitive research, designers can help identify new opportunities for innovation and improvement—and build a stronger, more relevant product that meets consumer needs. Knowing more about their competitors allows businesses to:
- Understand the market so you know how to react to changes.
- Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses (and how they can serve as an inspiration for improving your own product).
- Become aware of new prospects in the market, who you might do well by partnering with.
- Learn about other products that can be useful for providing user feedback.
The desired outcome of the abovementioned UX design process steps during the discovery stage is a deep understanding of:
- Users. Before defining a problem, the project team needs to understand who the users are and how they’re affected by a particular problem. The team has to learn what users need from your product, what they value from a solution, and how all of that can be addressed in an effective way. It is user research that allows teams to collect data about users’ behaviors, needs, and motivations, as well as destroy false assumptions about the user. This step is where design thinking comes into play—understanding how people’s needs and wants might be satisfied through the design of a product or service.
- Problems & opportunities. The team must understand not only how and why the problem occurs, but also what effect it has on users and the organization. It must identify the magnitude of the problem and opportunities for improvement during the UX design process.
- Vision. As a part of the discovery process, the team collaborates with stakeholders to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining success for the product. This ensures everyone is aligned with the desired outcome and can proactively measure whether your solution is working towards that outcome.
Stage 2: Strategy
A careful UX design process is the difference between releasing your product and releasing a failed, poorly planned attempt. The whole purpose of the design strategy is to create a focused and feasible plan and to set goals for future iterations of the site. This proven UX design process has been refined over the years to create a framework that is both efficient and effective.
The following UX design process steps are typical of the strategy stage during the UI/UX design process:
UX workshops are tried-and-true UX design process steps, aimed to ideate, build, and test product design.
At this point of the UX design process, we conduct workshops to bring stakeholders, designers, and developers together for an intensive collaborative session to drive consensus, generate ideas, and establish a shared understanding of the product’s vision. With a clear understanding of goals, objectives, and user needs, we can begin to develop initial solutions.
At Limeup, we typically advise including three basic workshops in the UX design process that enable us to get on the same page with stakeholders and accelerate design ideation. These workshops include:
Discovery workshops allow us to get up-to-speed quickly on a project, and make sure that we understand business requirements. They also help us gather existing knowledge from client or stakeholder teams. One of their biggest benefits is in helping the team reach a consensus on plans and priorities for a project. Discovery workshops can help designers work more efficiently because they speak the same language and are committed to achieving shared goals.
Empathy workshops are a structured, focused, and collaborative approach to understanding who the end-users are. They help create connections with the people who use the product or service so that designers can empathize with them. Through empathy workshops, stakeholders gain clarity about the needs of the user, which leads to better design decisions during the UI/UX design process for an improved customer experience.
A design workshop is an interactive activity that helps teams to innovate during the UX design process. It provides a structured approach to generating and then discussing ideas, allowing everyone to contribute their thoughts, intelligently combine those ideas, and feel ownership of the innovation process. A workshop ensures cross-functional involvement in the brainstorming process and helps reach an agreement on a shared vision of how the product will look and perform.
User persona templates are used to represent the needs of different types of users. The user persona is an important tool in the UI/UX design process. Personas help to create empathy with real people, which increases the impact of the resulting user experience. This empathy allows you to make inferences about how likely a person is to use your product based on their characteristics and goals.
Typically, a persona is presented in a one or two-page document that includes fictional personal details (e.g. quotes from real users), as well as context-specific details. Designers usually create user persona templates during the strategy stage of the UX/UI design process to help teams understand real users and their needs, create more usable products, and make decisions regarding user experience design and content creation.
User stories are a way to frame, clarify and prioritize what goals users have when they interact with an application. Although they originated as a part of Agile and Scrum development techniques, they are now used by designers during the UX/UI design process to organize and prioritize how screen designs are organized and prioritized.
This tool is also great for reminding us of what we’re creating, who it serves, and why it matters. Users care about different things than designers do, but if you can both share the same vision then you can better collaborate on the product together.
User stories are written in the format of “As a user, I want to …,” and they have a specific format so everyone knows how to understand them. Because they are so specific and know that there are several other types of stories that need to be written, you will find that it takes many different kinds of stories to cover every feature.
Customer Journey Map
Customers’ expectations of how to accomplish their goals can vary from one channel, device, or platform to the next. To create an experience that meets their needs and expectations, you need to design across all channels and devices.
The customer journey map is a framework for understanding a customer’s needs, behaviors, and motivations. It shows the path customers take through your products and services as they interact with them. Knowing where in the journey customers drop off, struggle to find value, or become confused helps design teams identify areas where they can improve their designs during the UX design process.
Value Proposition Map
The value proposition is the primary way that people understand your product. It should be a succinct statement describing how your product or service meets a need and addresses a pain point. The process of UX design implies the value proposition to help make the product stand out from competitors by explaining why this particular product is superior.
While it’s important to understand the big idea behind developing a good value proposition, simply knowing that concept isn’t enough to give you the framework you need for creating one. Working through a customer value proposition map is a helpful step-by-step part of the UI/UX design process that will get you closer to identifying the factors that make your business distinctive so you can effectively market yourself to customers and grow sales.
Value proposition map (or canvas) is a framework that helps shape products and services based on what customers value and need. It was initially developed by Alexander Osterwalder in order to determine if a product is a good match for the market. It is a detailed tool for creating a detailed picture of the relationship between two parts of his broader Business Model Canvas: customer segments and value propositions. It enables organizations to gain insight into what they should offer during the UX/UI design process in order to create value for their customers and drive revenue by enabling them to more clearly understand how they can reach out to their target audience.
Concept sketching is often referred to as the “first draft of an interface,” and it gives designers a chance to explore concepts and ideas during the UX/UI process before committing to visual elements such as colors and graphics.
Sketching is a relatively easy and efficient way of rapid prototyping that helps generate and communicate ideas, as well as effectively test them out. Whether you’re working with a team or stakeholders, sketching can be great for ideation, proposal, or even just visualizing an idea.
Stage 3: Design
Designers move from identifying user wants, needs, and expectations to creating a design that meets those requirements. A product design team works on various tasks at this stage, from building information architecture to finalizing the interface design. An effective design phase cycles back upon itself to validate ideas during the UI/UX design process and ensure that they match with users’ expectations.
The design stage of the UI/UX design process includes the following UX design process steps:
A user flow diagram is a visual representation of a sequence of interactions through which a user navigates while interacting with a system. Using it during UX/UI design process helps represent the order in which different steps and diagrams are executed by the user to complete a task. User flows also help to detect unnecessary steps which make it more difficult for users to complete tasks or lose interest in the service because they have not been able to do what they wanted by the time they finished all mandatory steps.
Information architecture (IA) is where the design begins. It’s how we think about the user’s flow through your product and how content needs to be structured to aid their journey. Organizing content into a system that makes sense requires understanding how users work with different types of information and what their goals are for interacting with the site.
IA is truly about fitting the pieces together to create the larger picture. This means that to succeed with your UX/UI design process, you need to consider the user experience from a broad perspective and understand how your content can best be organized to help people find what they’re looking for when they need it. Our recent betting website design, for instance, demonstrates how we built an information architecture.
User experience sitemap is a user-centered tool that helps designers visualize the content of the product and how it is interrelated. It allows identifying the various options and choices that users will have when they interact with the product and understanding how they will navigate between them. Also, this part of the UX/UI design process helps to define what content needs to be added or removed from each screen.
Wireframes are a critical part of the UI/UX design process. They are essentially a layout of a product that demonstrates what interface elements will exist on key pages. Wireframes allow you to quickly experiment with different layouts and approaches during the UI/UX design process, helping you choose the best way to convey your message while providing you with invaluable insights into how your users will work with your product’s interface.
There are three common types of wireframes:
- Low-fidelity wireframes depict only the most important design components to get the message across and are typically used during the primary stages of the UX/UI design process. They’re often created in grey tone to save time, but can be turned into a full-color design afterward. Lo-Fi wireframes are best for creating stakeholder buy-in, as everyone can focus on the important information needed from a visual standpoint rather than worrying about content flow, sizing, and white space.
- Mid-fidelity wireframe is the most commonly used in the UI/UX design process. It is perfect for communicating the functionality of a product with the stakeholders and end-users. This type of wireframe allows its users to visualize the look and feel of a UI, but not in its exact detail. It’s essential that designers should use this type of wireframe before designing a high-fidelity one.
- High-fidelity wireframe is the complete blueprint of the design. It includes the user interface and layout, color scheme, and any other features you may want to test in your application. This gives a clear representation of your idea of how you want it to look.
User Interface Design
Any product’s user experience is strongly influenced by its user interface (UI). In fact, it can make or break the user’s experience with any device, app, or website.
UI design has a powerful effect on the appeal and usability of your product. During the UI/UX design process, you should put extra emphasis on balancing form and function, with a positive experience for users in mind. A good user interface design makes it easy for users to find what they need, even if they haven’t thought about it in advance and encourages them to engage with the product from start to finish. Interfaces should be designed to minimize the effort that the user has to invest in interacting with a product and help users accomplish their goals with ease. When working on UI design, ensure it is functional, reliable, and enjoyable to use.
A design system is a comprehensive set of standards intended to manage design at scale using reusable components and patterns. It can be used to make any product or service more consistent by establishing visual language and identical interactions.
Design systems provide a way for product teams to deliver consistent user experiences across any number of products. By reducing redundancy, improving efficiency, and increasing the speed of team collaboration, design systems give you an easier way to design, build, and ship products faster.
Key components of design systems during the UI/UX design process are:
Style guides. They usually contain a set of standards to ensure a consistent user experience and interface across platforms, devices, and applications. Style guides offer guidance on logos, icons, and color choices. They also clarify how copy should be formatted and when images should be used, instead of text.
Component libraries. Component libraries are an essential part of any design system. With a well-designed, comprehensive, and accessible library of components, designers and developers are able to create UI elements faster with higher quality. Component libraries should be carefully crafted to support all teams on your design team or agency. Every component in the library needs to be documented, consistently branded, and accessible.
Pattern libraries. Pattern libraries are often thought of as less robust compared to component libraries, but they can be as thorough or as high-level as needed. Templates, content structures, and layouts are usually included in pattern libraries. The patterns are intended for reuse and adaptation, just like the components.
It is important to design with motion in mind. Understanding the physics of motion, for example, inertia and friction helps create interactions that are more realistic and enjoyable. Designers can use animation to redefine the object’s behavior—to convey relationships between objects and provide visual feedback on the user’s actions or system status.
Motion is the invisible glue that connects each part of the product experience. It’s the element of the UI/UX design process that brings clarity to navigation and helps users understand what they can do in an app or on a website. The motion will keep users engaged longer by helping them retain information and creating a more natural experience.
Prototyping is essential for designing better products, faster. It makes it possible to identify and solve user pain points and validate your design decisions with end-users before making any final decisions and entering the development stage. The idea behind prototypes is to create a prototype that is inexpensive, easy to change, and can be tested with real users during the process of UX design.
Prototyping is an integral part of the UX design process and it serves in numerous ways:
- Test and optimize designs before the development process
- Minimize issues in future rounds of development
- Reduce redesigns and iterations
- Share vision with stakeholders
- Obtain feedback from users
- Get quick validation of decisions at scale.
Stage 4: Validation
The validation phase of the UI/UX design process involves testing a design with both stakeholders and end-users to confirm that the design meets their expectations. The validation step typically happens after the high-fidelity design is ready, but some teams like to validate their low-fidelity designs too. Both stakeholders and end-users validate the product during user-testing sessions.
The UI/UX design process requires the following UX design process steps during the validation phase:
Usability testing is one of the most important UX design process steps. It can help determine whether your digital product meets users’ needs and expectations. In fact, it can be one of the most effective methods for identifying usability problems with a product. And that could mean big improvements for your products’ perception among consumers.
Usability tests allow you to determine if the design, features, and functionality of your website or other product meet real user needs. During the UI/UX design process, you can identify how long it takes users to complete tasks and whether they are satisfied with the product or feedback on areas for improvement. Test scripts have been developed to help you plan, write, and conduct usability tests in the most cost-effective way possible.
In a nutshell, A/B testing allows to test a hypothesis and identify what page elements work better than others. The basic idea is that you run the same experiment in parallel on two different pages or sites and compare the results.
Running the A/B testing is a simple task:
- Define areas for optimization.
- Establish conversion goals.
- Generate and evaluate ideas for testing.
- Create several variations of the design and make changes to find the most appealing option.
- Allow real-world users to interact with your design variations and track their progress to determine which is most effective.
- Evaluate the results of the experience, determine whether adjusting the experience had a positive or negative effect, and consider how you may apply them to future experiences.
Proper A/B testing can generate powerful insights for product teams during the UI/UX design process and can help designers learn why certain elements of their experiences impact user behavior. This knowledge will help teams make data-informed design decisions as well as be more specific in conversations with the stakeholders.
The process of UX design ends with UX analytics. It is the practice of measuring and analyzing user behavior on a website or app to understand how its design can be improved by adapting it to meet the needs of present and future users. The UX analytics toolkit includes quantitative and qualitative data for measuring why users behave the way they do.
UX design companies use UX analytics to pinpoint where and why users leave the site, optimize the customer journey, and rethink visual design to improve usability and accessibility. This is also a final fundamental step of the UX/UI design process before the launch.
Iteration Is Key (and Applies to Each Stage)
Having a clear idea of what is involved in the UX/UI design process allows you to plan better, and it’s important to iterate along the way. Utilize research and testing to inform your design decisions, and continue until you meet your goals.
The UX/UI design process is all about learning as you go, which means you need to test and iterate as you progress so that you can deliver the very best experience for your users. It sounds like a lot, but don’t worry — it’s not hard. You just have to know what to test at each stage. Testing along the way will help ensure that you take the process of UX design to a high-quality level and provide a great experience for your users.
Final Words on UX Design Process
Unlike most of other processes that rely on a linear approach, the UX design process works in a circular fashion. This means you can go back to the drawing board at any stage of the process and start over again and again until your product is ready. In other words, there’s no all-purpose solution. But no matter what process of UX design you follow, the goal of each design process is the same: create a great product for your users.
You don’t have to follow the same UX design process every time. The key is to know what aspects of each process to include, and which elements to leave out. Every project is different, so think about what works best for the product that you’re working on, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
UX design process is all about making your product easy and pleasant to use. If you are looking for a reliable design team that will guide you through all the UX design process steps and help you build a powerful product, you have come to the right place. Feel free to contact us. Our team will make all UX design decisions for you, crafting an outstanding user experience that makes it easy for users to find what they need so that you can get more users, who will stay longer and keep coming back.