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21/01/2020

The UX & UI Design in the Software Development Process

Why are design strategy and human-centered design important in the software development process? Because they serves humans, not computers. The software product development company should always think about the impact the design will have on users. If it doesn’t align with natural human habits and market tendencies, it’s destined to fail.

User Experience can be understood as a net force of psychology (behavior and mind), sociology (social relationships, social interaction, and culture) and new technologies expression (programming, applications, digital products, software, hardware).

User experience is all about the interaction between a user and a product and ergonomics in this communication. User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

UX design focuses on having a deep understanding of users, their needs, values, abilities, and limitations. It is the process of increasing customer satisfaction by improving the level of usability and pleasure provided through the interaction between a customer and a product.

In the simplest words, UX design is about making the user’s connection to the product the best it can be, making their journey of using the product as easy and productive or fun as possible.

Why do we use user experience design and design strategy in the software products?

The basic reason is that UX design increases the experience for the user. Good user experience improves the process of adoption of the product. If the UX design is successful, you can achieve two important benefits: happy customers and increased sales. To achieve these benefits, our aim should be to align the goals of the user with the goals of the business.

For example, if a user’s goal is to perform some sort of action, then the business goal needs to be making that action as useful (to solve problems and needs that user currently has), usable (to make it clear from usability’s point of view) and attractive (to give the user some pleasure in contact with the product) as possible. Achievement of this goal will be profitable: a satisfied, well-informed user will return; a frustrated one will not.

People ignore design that ignores people.

Frank Chimero

The undisputed advantage of UX design strategy in the software development process is the reduction of development costs. UX design process helps to keep a project within budget, save time and diminish software development costs – user research, prototyping, and usability testing mean that development time is targeted on the functionalities that really matter. This focused approach means less risk of feature creep, a good choice of relevant content and better design specifications – which is helpful for the front-end development team.

Because of UX design, developers can keep their attention on the functional logic and technical implementation, instead of visualizing interface design. Good design specification (detailed documents, which provide information about a product, such as a user interface design details and technicalities: colors, fonts and measurements, interactions, flows, behaviors, and functionality) can be used as the base guideline documentation for developers. It can help them in communication and cooperation with each other and to stay focused on their own part of the work – what keeps safe their valuable time and help them to feel more confident at the project. UX design takes care of the development team.

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User experience design process

The UX process is all about ensuring that no aspect of a user’s experience with the product happens without conscious and explicit intent. This means considering every possible action the user is likely to take and understanding the user’s expectations at every step of the way through that process.

The UX design strategy can be divided into five key phases: understanding & researching, analysis, wireframing, prototyping, and evaluation.

While the design process typically takes place in that order, it’s important to remember that UX is an iterative process. It is necessary to check the usability level of the designed product after the whole process and make changes if necessary.

1. Understanding & researching

Design solves problems. It is about defining solutions to real issues. In order to provide an answer, first, designers need to understand the core of the problem.

This phase includes analyzing requirements, contextual and individual interviews, observing users in a real environment, competition analysis, and conducting brainstorming workshops with the clients to understand users, their needs, behaviors, motivations, goals and learn about their perspectives.

The outcomes of this phase are:

  • Defined design goal
  • User persona

2. Analysis

In this stage, designers use all the information gathered in the previous phase to analyze and find the most important elements. This is a moment for generating ideas from the insights from collected data during the research. In this phase, it’s the time to create a general shape of the product, translating collected data and user’s needs into functionalities, thinking about the user’s journey through the product. In this stage empathy and creative thinking are the most important values. As a result, they help to drive innovation.

The outcomes of the analysis phase are:

  • Basic sitemaps
  • User journey maps
  • User stories
  • Use cases
  • User flow

3. Wireframing

After the analysis, it’s the time to dress up insights from the previous stages in the low fidelity skeleton of the product – wireframes.

Wireframing is used to design digital products at a structural level. A wireframe is generally used to layout content and functionality on a graphical user interface (GUI), which considers user needs and user journeys. It happens early in the design process, and it serves to establish a basic structure (architecture) of information, navigation design, and interface design before visual design and content are added.

The most important benefit of wireframing is that it provides an early version of the product for you to review with both your internal and external stakeholders. Adjustments can be made easily to the wireframes before moving on to the more complicated process of technical development.

A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Steve Jobs

The outcomes of the wireframing phase are:

4. Prototyping

Essentially, a prototype allows the project stakeholders to see what the final product will look like early in the project lifecycle; it is a draft version of the product that takes stakeholders as close as possible to a good representation of the final user interface before any coding. The prototype is more detailed than wireframes.

Usually, prototypes already are in high visual fidelity — they contain graphic elements of product branding. Sometimes they are clickable and interactive, which allows users to navigate from page to page and use functionalities such as pop-ups or drop-downs.

There are many reasons for building prototypes: to test theories and ideas regarding layout and structure of the product, to gain agreement on what is in and out of the scope, to generate support or even investment for the project, to gather user feedback through usability testing, and to help frontend developers in their work. Prototypes help save money and time.

The outcome of the wireframing phase is:

  • High-fidelity prototypes

5. Evaluation

The evaluation phase is all about user testing. It is the time to check if system requirements from initial phases were addressed in a useful way. Within this phase, designers again meet with end-users and conduct usability-testing workshops with them. The purpose of usability workshops is to identify problems or issues the users have in communication through the interface and to find out why such problems arise.

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Empathy is the keyword in the UX design world.

The measure of a good UX design is the simplicity of the product’s usability. Even the most complicated ideas can be presented simply enough for everyone to understand, accept, and adopt. If the product you’re working on is complicated due to a subject (financial, economic, medical, law-related issues) or is rooted in a not popular field, it only means that the designer is facing a challenge to present theoretically “uneasy” data in a way that can be easily understood by the end-user.

How to achieve straightforwardness in the design process? The simplest solution is to remember for whom we are designing and to put the end-user in the center point of the design process.

User experience design strategy is a method in which users have a deep impact on a design by being involved as partners of designers throughout the whole process of design.

We have to remember that users are people. They have their own expectations for the product. They probably want a designed product to help them solve some specific issues. Designers must empathize with them, try to understand their needs, limitations and expectations. The father of the UX design process, Don Norman said:

Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.

Donald A. Norman, "The Design of Everyday Things"

Today, we can find many popular methodologies of designing usability, for example: User-centered design / human-centered design, human factor studies, usability engineering. Their common features understand the feelings and potential problems of end-users (which mean empathize with them) and similar iterative design processes.

Summary

UX design strategy puts end-users in the center of the process, and always focuses on having a deep understanding of users, their needs, values, abilities, and limitations. It is the process of increasing customer satisfaction by improving the level of usability and pleasure provided in the interaction between a customer and a product. Empathy is one of the most important values in the UX world.

UX design can be categorized as an iterative, multi-stage problem-solving design process that not only involves designers. Analyzing and envisioning the way users are likely to utilize a product, but also validating their expectations regarding the user behavior in real-world tests.

UX design strategy is very helpful in the software development process because it helps to keep a project within budget, save time, and diminish development cost.

UX makes developers life easier because it helps them in communication and cooperation. It relieves developers from visualizing interface design and lets them stay focused on functional implementation.

CSHARK Product Design Team - Martyna Mrozek
Martyna Mrozek
Senior UX & UI Designer at CSHARK, designed solutions in the medical and educational sectors. For her, design should be a part of everyday life, complementary to each of the phases of the software development cycle and in the communication layer of the entire organization.
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