What ‘Value’ can Designers Bring?
Asides from creating pretty graphics and cool-looking illustrations, being a GREAT designer is not all about the pixels. As designers, we craft end-to-end experiences from the first use of a product until they stop using it. Which happens to be the worst case scenario as we do not want users to stop using a given product and come back to it again if the need arises. To understand how we can create better experiences we first have to understand the user.
User Experience Design?
User Experience (UX) Design is an emerging and in-demand field since the proliferation of modern technologies not limited to mobile phones, but also computers in everything (think Internet of Things). As such, every product, be it electronic or not, should aim to guide the user from the start to end so that they will be satisfied and businesses will be able to accelerate their growth and sales as satisfied users will only churn more growth.
Number of design jobs over the years.
Understanding the user has become increasingly essential when new products or features are to be being thought of. Development time and resources poured into building new products or features are costly and prior understanding of the users’ needs will certainly make a bigger impact.
My job as a UX designer is to save time and prevent investment of resources into building an application that users will not use. All at the same time, enhancing the process from getting the product, onboarding to the product, to using the product, and then finally always making sure that they are always satisfied with the product — ultimately delivering an enjoyable/satisfiable end-to-end experience.
What this also means is that a UX designer’s job is (should) never complete. We should always be asking ‘How else can we make this better?’.
A great UX designer usually puts on multiple hats:
- Researchers / Detectives - Asking many many questions and conduct tests to debunk myths and hypotheses based off certain assumptions.
- Analysts - Drawing insights from collected data to define focus and scope of the problem.
- Behavior Psychologists - Putting ourselves in the users’ shoes to design a solution — Empathize to understand thought processes and the emotions when using the product.
- Communication Experts - Efficiently get an intended message to the end user and prevent miscommunication.
- Critical Problem-Solvers - Thinking a few steps ahead and outside the box for innovative solutions.
- Product Managers - Understanding the constraints (non-technical and technical) and requirements of the project as you build your solution.
- Creative Artists - Having an eye to visual details while not compromising utility.
A great UX designer is data-driven, empathetic, creative, critical thinking, and highly inquisitive to bridge the user and product.
My Own Design Process
I usually start the process with preliminary research and set the focus of the project before working on understanding the constraints around it.
As designers entering an age where there are many considerations to take note of, we have to keep ourselves up to date within constraints such as the technologies behind the products, the legal and government restrictions of usage, security and privacy guidelines, and on top of our user-centered processes in order to build a successful product.
We set goals to work towards by asking important questions — Who are we designing for? Why do we want to achieve this? What are the current solutions? How can I better improve it?
Answering these questions will provide clarity and focus on the project as you will build your designs around the answers. If you don’t have these questions guiding your work, you have to do more research so you will design something that solves the problem. If you do have answers to these questions, DOCUMENT IT. Share it with the rest of your team! Get them on the same page as you in the form of a persona or presentation. This enables your team to provide higher quality feedback and when they are working on building the product, the end goal (understood users’ needs) are insiduously stuck in their minds. For instance, when I was redesigning the landing page for Arch Systems, I created a document for the business team to know the parameters of the redesign, i.e. who is our audience and the purpose of the website.
Setting up the scope of a project for Arch’s landing page redesign.
I proceed to brainstorm on solutions to solve the pain points. No ideas are discounted at this stage and just piled up before filtering down.
Once an approach to the problem is decided, a visual representation is then made (the idea/concept is stuck in your head and no one else can see it). Put it out on pen & paper (low-fidelity). Don’t spend too much time on designing this. As long as you can communicate it, a simple sketch is worth a billion dollars.
Now you have something visual to demonstrate your idea! Go share it with your team and get feedback, reiterate new changes, repeat.
Using design tools (Sketch, Photoshop e.g) with the low-fidelity sketches, mock ups are designed look close to the final product in your head. Better yet, make it interactive and link it up and make it as close as possible to the experience you have imagined from the beginning. I use InVision to develop a fully functional prototype (as how I would imagine the product to behave).
Share that prototype and go back into that feedback loop again — gather, reiterate, repeat.
Once these questions have been validated after rounds of testing, development efforts can be invested without worry as you have data from your users to work on high-fidelity designs or setting up development roadmaps.