UX/UI Design Process

Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked autonomously, in a partnership, in small teams, large teams and international teams. So I’ve seen a LOT! of process documents. However, in my experience, most projects will attempt to improve User Experience through a process of research, design, testing and iteration (Design Thinking), or by following a version of ‘The 4 D’s’;

Stage 1: Discovery

The goal of a Discovery stage is to uncover the purpose, aspirations and intentions for a project and to align all parties involved from the outset. There is inevitably ‘the big idea’, but the delivery of any solution – particularly on a large project involving multiple teams, may have to be broken into smaller parts. Initially, this means meeting, listening, learning, understanding, mapping, prioritising and sometimes challenging & reframing.

We dive deeper into researching user needs, what is technically feasible, our competitors approach to similar problems and assess potential project tasks on an ‘effort-to-value’  ratio. Strategising gives us a clearer picture of what the user experience should be, what work is required, and in what sequence. This allows us to make more informed recommendations for the next phase of the project.

It’s important to remember that the first step of the design process is not to immediately offer possible solutions. It is to assess, understand, align and agree on the specific problems that need to be solved for both the business and our users and to chart an appropriate path forward.

Stage 2: Define

This is the Definition stage, where UX designers work with stakeholders to provide a written brief based on the agreed requirements extracted from the Discovery phase. Once we identify and prioritise the ideas to be developed, a clear creative brief is formed for the UI/Product designer and Content writer.

On larger projects, we begin design work by organising Lo-Fi sketching workshops to stimulate creative solutions to the problems and opportunities we see. The main purpose of these creative exercises is to generate and assess a wide range of concepts as quickly as possible. Initial ideas are voted on by the design team + stakeholders and preferred ideas are carried forward to wireframing & iteration stages.

Stage 3: Design

This is where our concepts are created, prototyped, tested and iterated. This process of trial and adjustment helps designers to improve and refine ideas. Early validation of concepts involves in-house testing and field trips to airport terminals where willing guests are invited to complete specific tasks.

Live-testing allows us to observe early concepts ‘in the wild’ and helps us to better understand the needs of our users, how well our designs fulfil those needs and what challenges exist in the real world that perhaps were not considered in the office. Upon return, learnings are shared with the entire team. We iterate as soon as we identify opportunities to improve the design.

The process of design, testing, iteration and re-evaluation is repeated many times over until we have produced workable designs which satisfy ALL of the design criteria.

Stage 4: Delivery

The last phase of our process is the delivery stage, where the final validated designs are fine-tuned, developed and A/B tested. Sometimes, if we have more than 1 valid solution, we may create multi-variant test and measure both options performance against production. Once we have a winning design, this is placed on a roadmap for development.

Designers remain heavily involved to steer and support developers, respond to queries, track bugs and conduct ongoing design reviews to ensure that what is being implemented is consistent with the intended design and design standards.

Our work does not end with the launch of a product. After release, the product enters a system of measurement & analysis. We constantly examine user metrics and track user feedback to identify potential weak spots in order to keep gradually improving the design.

In summary, delivering great user experiences is very much a team sport which requires close collaboration at all stages of the project. The typical process outlined here is scalable depending on project size and budget. Smaller projects may only involve some of the steps above, whereas the execution of a large-scale design and build process can require contributions from multiple teams and stakeholders.

By agreeing on, committing to and trusting in a UX/UI process, we

– Save time
– Save money
– Reduce or eliminate technical and design debt (and the need for expensive reworking)
– Maintain good communication between teams & stakeholders
– Efficiently manage project stages, checkpoints and timelines
– Create a better product that solves user needs more efficiently.