What is UX Design?

Over the last couple of decades, technologies have become increasingly intricate, with the functionality of apps and websites becoming broader and more complex. 

The first websites were simply static pages that delivered information to feed curious searchers. 

However, the tide has drastically changed a few decades later, as sites are more interactive and offer a much richer feel for different user bases. 

A large part of this ‘richer feel’ pertains to the evolution of user experience (UX) design. 

While seemingly complicated, this discipline encompasses different user elements from accessibility to wireframing to cater to users’ emotions about a product. So, let’s delve in more, shall we?

Ux design
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UX Design

To kick off, let’s first define user experience. 

User experience (UX) revolves around a person’s emotions, actions and attitudes when using a specific product, system or service. 

UX encompasses the practical, effective, experiential, meaningful and valuable elements of human-computer interaction and product ownership.

Consequently, user experience design (UED or XD) are a set of activities that seek to enhance user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility, and pleasure derived from the interaction between a user and a product. 

Fundamentally, UX design incorporates knowledge from multiple disciplines, including: 

  • Interaction design 
  • Cognitive science
  • Human factors engineering (HFE) 
  • Computer science 
  • Industrial design 
  • Psychology 
  • Anthropology 
  • Sociology 
  • Graphic design 

UX design essentially considers every element that shapes how users feel, and how easy it is for users to accomplish their desired tasks. This can be from how a physical product feels in users’ hands, to how straightforward a checkout process is when buying something online. 

The goal of UX design is to create an efficient, easy to use, relevant and an all-round positive experience for each user. Thus, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty via usability and the pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.

What does a UX Designer do?

A UX designer is a professional who investigates, researches, and analyses how users feel about products or software applications. In some organisations, UX designers have the luxury of UX researchers to help with the user research while they focus on the design of the user journey. 

UX designers apply the user insights they learned to product development to ensure that users have the best possible experience with a product. 

UX designers also strategise and share with other members of the product development team their findings, and monitor development projects to ensure their findings are well implemented. 

UX practitioners focus their efforts in understanding the relationship between human users and computer-based products. These include websites, applications and systems—  to create seamless user experiences for products and services. They help build a bridge to the end customer, helping a business to better understand and fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations.

Tools used by UX designers

UX professionals’ work includes user market research, sketching, wireframing, interaction design, visual design, user testing, prototyping, and continuous iterations on designs.

For the most part, UX designers usually rely on a number of different tools to execute their work. For example, at the research stage, they can use survey and polling tools, and video chat software to interview users and gather actionable data.

Though the most popular tools used by UX designers are programs for wireframing, prototyping and usability testing like InVision, Adobe XD, Figma and Balsamiq.

The UX design process

The UX design process mainly has five key stages, namely:

Product definition

This phase of UX design occurs before the product design team creates anything. Before you build a product, it’s important to understand the context for its existence. The product definition stage helps set the foundation for the final product. 

This phase includes:

  • Stakeholder brainstorming sessions and interviews to gather insights about business goals.
  • Value proposition mapping to determine what the product is, who shall use it, and why they will use it. Essentially, value propositions enable the team and stakeholders to create a consensus around what the product will be, and how to match users and business needs.
  • Concept sketching to create an early mockup of the future product (for example, low-fidelity paper sketches of a product’s architecture).

Product research

After defining the idea, the product team then moves to the research phase. This phase usually includes user research and market research. 

Overall, seasoned UX designers consider research as a good investment that informs design decisions to save the organisation money down the road.

However, product research typically depends on the intricacy of the product and timing, and can include:

  • Individual in-depth interviews (IDI) to derive qualitative data about the target audience like their needs, wants, fears, motivations, and behaviours.
  • Competitor research and benchmarking to understand industry standards and identify specific opportunities for the product within its niche.

Product analysis

The analysis phase aims to draw actionable insights from data collected during the research phase. During this particular stage, UX designers confirm if the team’s most important assumptions are indeed correct. 

This stage of the UX process includes:

  • Storyboarding.
  • Creating user personas.
  • Creating user stories.

Product design

After confirming users’ wants, needs, and expectations from a product, UX designers can then move to the design phase. This stage involves various activities, from creating information architecture (IA) to UI design. 

wireframing
Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash

An effectual design phase is highly collaborative (involving active participation from all team players) and iterative (cycles back upon itself to validate ideas). 

The design phase includes:

  • Sketching
  • Creating prototypes.
  • Creating wireframes.
  • Creating a design specification.

Validation/Testing

The validation stage helps teams understand whether their design is applicable and acceptable to their users. Usually, this phase starts after the high-fidelity design is finished. 

This is because testing with high-fidelity designs delivers more valuable feedback from end-users. But we have also seen many teams that invest in smaller user testing rounds on wireframes or low fidelity clickable prototypes to get earlier insights to guidement their design refinement.  

During user testing sessions, the team carefully validates the product with both stakeholders and end-users using:

  • Surveys 
  • Testing sessions
  • Analytics across quantitative data (such as number of clicks, navigation time, search queries, etc.)

Benefits of a good UX design

In the early days of the internet, product design was much simpler as designers built products they thought were awesome and cool. 

However, there was far less competition for users’ attention online. Secondly, there was no direct consideration for users of the product at all. Actually, the success or failure of a project was down to luck and the judgement of the design team. 

In today’s fast-paced tech-driven world, UX focuses on the user to increase the chances of a project’s success when it finally hits the market. 

So, what are the benefits of a great UX design?

  • UX helps companies to discover the goals of their audience: During research into UX design, UX designers will get a lot of opinions. These can shape your website design goals and help you define your customer base by creating personas. 

This can also help an organisation to analyse who will most likely visit their site, and once they figure this out, they can easily provide a good user experience. 

  • Augmented customer satisfaction and engagement: The better the experience one creates for their customers, the happier they will be. And the opposite is true.

A bad experience will make customers more frustrated with what you’re providing them. And consequently, they shall be less likely to recommend your offering to friends and family. 

  • User Experience affects the product itself, not just its promotion: There is a vital difference between digital marketing and user experience. Generally, marketing is about making people want things, UX design is about making things people want.
  • Lower cost of support: An easy to use and logical interface, service, process, or product doesn’t require extensive help documentation, and support staff on standby. In turn, this translates into cost savings on people devoted to support and user assistance.

UX Design Examples

There are several vital factors that affect the overall experience a user has with a product: 

  • Usefulness: Is the product helpful, with a clear purpose? 
  • Aesthetics: Is the visual appearance of the site and its design appealing to the user?
  • Emotions: Are positive emotional feelings evoked in response to the product?
  • Usability: Is the product easy to use
  • Learnability: Is the product simple to master quickly, with minimal instruction? 

To a large extent, the quality of a user experience can make a difference whether a company succeeds or fails. 

For instance, consider some companies that have failed in the last decade like Yahoo! It wasn’t only disruption or technological advances to blame, but failure to continually consider the user’s needs.

Yahoo! introduced substantial clutter on their homepage. In turn, rather than allowing users to complete simple tasks like a search or email check, this disrupted the user experience. 

Conclusion

Though often confused, UI and UX aren’t the same but are separated by their focus on interfaces versus interactions. 

As has been noted, UX design focuses on designing (digital or physical) products that are easy to use, and delightful to interact with. UX design aims to enhance the experience that users have while interacting with a product, and ensure they find value in what you’re providing.

Overall, as an art and science, UX design aims to generate positive emotions through product interactions. 

The central goal for good user experience design is to keep engaging users to purchase/subscribe or continue coming back to the site for similar queries. Finally, remember a good UX design also always seeks to improve from the user feedback gotten.

Reach us at Netizen Experience for UI/UX design services in Malaysia.

 

Why Personalisation Matters in User Experience?

User experience (UX) activities primarily revolve around enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability and accessibility for users interacting with physical or digital products. 

These activities usually include user research, sketching, interaction design, wireframing, visual design, prototyping, user testing, and continuous iterating on designs.

UX design aims to examine every element that shapes this user’s experience. For instance, how the product makes them feel, or how easy it is for them to interact with the user interface and accomplish their desired tasks. 

Fundamentally, the central objective of UX design is to create efficient, easy, relevant, and all-around pleasant experiences for users. And a critical component of achieving this is personalisation.

Why personalise in UX?

The manner in which a user interacts with an app determines their overall impression of it. For instance, is the interaction clumsy and perplexing, or rather fluid and intuitive? Or better yet, does it feel random or logically structured when navigating the app? 

As digital products and services advance, so have the expectations by users for convenience, speed, and predictability. Now more than ever modern users expect products and services to be specifically tailored to them as many currently abandon products, or services that don’t provide any level of personalisation.

So, why is personalisation part and parcel of any UX initiative when building out the user experience of an application.

  • Convenience

Personalisation ensures applications fit seamlessly into a user’s lifestyle or routine in a manner where the user interface is almost an invisible part of the process. Through personalisation, applications become so frictionless that it doesn’t feel like work to the user to use them.

  • Loyalty

Personalised experiences heighten user loyalty and affinity towards a brand. Essentially, as users encounter more relevant content and interactions, they feel understood by the brand. In turn, by reinforcing a sense of identity and connectedness, these emotions help increase the customer lifetime value.

  • Conversion Rate

Personalisation delivers users more relevant and more individualised experiences. In turn, this ultimately translates into an increased conversion rate.

  • Reduce Cognitive Overload

Excessive information and options can act as a cognitive barrier and distract users. Fortunately, personalisation reduces the amount of information and the number of options for users as it guides users through a funnel expressly designed for them and their individual needs.

Types of personalisation

There are two main types of personalisation:

  • Role-based personalisation: Here, users are grouped according to specific characteristics that are well-defined and known in advance. 
  • Individualised personalisation: In contrast to role-based personalisation, individualised personalisation involves a computer creating a model of each individual user, then presenting different things to each person. For example, the computer program might infer that a user is pregnant based on her searches and recent purchase history.
Types of personalisation
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Customisation vs Personalisation

The part of the human brain that focuses its attention is called Reticular Activating System (RAS). It fundamentally works as a filter and sorts out what is essential and what is not. Because this human brain element evolves really quickly, customisation and personalisation are necessary to maintain user attention. 

Despite being often confused; personalisation and customisation have a different impact on the final user output. 

Though they share similarities, their implementation styles demonstrate the considerable differences between them. Nonetheless, their objectives remain the same– to enhance a product’s features and content as per user requirements. 

So, what are the key differences between personalisation and customisation?

Personalisation is performed by the system being utilised. Here, a system is set up to identify users and deliver to them tailored content and functionality that matches their roles. 

Personalisation essentially delivers useful content after analysing users’ characteristics, behaviours and attributes, down to the individual level—for example, Amazon’s suggestions based on past browsing and purchase history.

Customisation is performed by the user. Here, a system enables users to make preferred changes to an experience to meet their particular needs and priorities. For example, configuring layouts, content, or even system functionality. 

Fundamentally, customisation enables users to get precisely what they want while also giving them the sense of control to filter unattractive content. On the downside, many users don’t know what they need when customising, or aren’t interested in doing the work required to alter user interfaces to match their preferences.

UX personalisation tips

User touchpoints

Businesses need to understand how customers view them across all touchpoints to connect with the user on an emotional level consistently across different touchpoints. 

As more customer interaction points emerge across channels and devices, brands need to manage the entire customer journey, not only individual touchpoints. This is key to delivering a consistent experience across all channels.

Test and Repeat

Testing is critical to understanding whether your personalisation initiative is ready to drive sales and brand engagement. 

Testing helps to ensure that your app personalisation initiative feels seamless and frictionless on any user’s device of preference, as well as clear on what the objective is. If users are continually feeling confused, frustrated, or even consider another option, then the experience is ruined. 

User Research

User research helps you understand if your product actually needs personalisation. If yes, then where it should be applied, and how much is enough.

User research also allows business owners to understand what matters to users, what their limits are in terms of over-use. And if what they seek to do will be relevant to various audiences.

Remember, personalisation isn’t the silver bullet for every product, application, audience, or interaction. So, user research helps streamline where and how it can be applied most effectively.

Data

Data lies at the heart of any personalisation initiative. Generally, it demands a deep understanding of users’ needs and a solid framework for tracking and measuring user behaviour. 

Typically, brands use approaches that combine qualitative research to understand the needs and motivations of users, while collecting objective data about their context and online behaviour.

Because users nowadays are constantly connected across a myriad of devices, it’s imperative for businesses to exploit data science techniques to provide coherent interactions and intuitive user experiences via every channel. 

For example, real-time responses and transactions with minimal effort, or even access to compelling experiences, personalised for them specifically. 

Essentially, the only way to achieve these seamless interactions is via data-driven strategies that target audiences with relevant, timely content to trigger conversions and interest. 

Creativity and Imagination

In theory, brands selling directly to consumers potentially have access to the same data as their competitors. So, businesses can see favourable outcomes with personalisation by creatively connecting the dots that user data provides with logic, imagination, and creativity.

creativity
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Context

Personalisation is all about context. In essence, highly effective brands deliver the right content, at the right time, for the right users. Fundamentally, contextualised and personalised experiences mainly involve knowing why personalisation is important, and how it could help your users. 

Furthermore, personalisation is now more commonplace as most users are currently educated, informed, and more accepting of personalisation. Hence, why it’s more imperative for brands to gather contextual data and segment users into specific target areas. 

Remember, every user is unique, and what some users might find uncomfortable, others will find helpful or fun. 

Personalised User Experience examples and applications

Machine learning

Currently, machine learning has taken modern-day personalisation to a whole new level. Machine learning and natural language processing mechanisms intelligently understand the sentiment and story behind users’ interactions and behaviour while continuously adapting to contextual factors.

 Furthermore, machines can easily make sense of the chunks of user data. For example, they can draw actionable conclusions about each individual person, like identifying a user’s persona, attributes, intent, or stage in the customer journey. 

This allows companies to accomplish real-time, one-to-one personalisation (individualisation) while interacting with their customers.

Contextual Messaging

Contextual messaging is a personalisation approach that allows businesses to customise messages to suit different users based on characteristics like location, customer behaviour, or even device type. 

Essentially, contextual messaging allows brands to deliver content of much higher relevance to users, based on their exact location and behaviour at the moment of interaction.

Predictive Recommendation

Existing recommendation engines accurately predict products a person might find interesting by exploiting relevant purchase behaviour data from other users from the same target group. 

For example, if you’ve ever browsed anything on an online retail store, you have probably come across phrases like “If you liked this, you might also like..” or “Other customers also purchased…” This is a clear example of predictive recommendation as a form of personalisation.

Conclusion

user experience design
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All things considered, user experience design aims to create products that deliver meaningful and relevant experiences to users. Since personalisation is a subset of user experience design, it also includes aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

To achieve effective personalisation, it is imperative to critically understand your target audience through research, prototyping, and conduct extensive usability testing. Remember, the central objective is to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, ease of use, and usability when interacting with a product or service.

Personalisation does this by delivering content and functionality that matches particular user needs or interests– with no effort from the targeted users. 

Essentially, the system should be able to profile users, then adjust the user interface according to their profile.