User Experience (UX) Design is complex and ever-changing. It’s vast in its scope and far too expansive for one article, but an outline is provided here for a better understanding. So, what exactly is UX you ask, and why is it important? Well I wrote another post on that very topic. Now that you’re caught up to speed, we will move forward into the realm of UX, which includes information architects who develop their user stories to map out a wireframing plan. But first, we must understand the user.
Five Things to Keep in Mind
There are five ingredients that are always included in UX design: psychology, usability, design, copywriting, and analysis.
Getting into the complex mind of the user isn’t easy. The feelings and thoughts are purely subjective, which can champion or berate your design choices. Designers must ignore their personal taste because what they design is not for them. It’s for the user.
Usability is conscious; users know when something confuses them. Even when something is hard, they want it if it is fun, such as a game. If it’s not fun it must be easy.
In UX design, design is not quite so artistic. It’s about how it works, and it is not about style.
UX copy is not at all similar to copywriting as we know it. It’s not about the company marketing; it’s about being simple and direct.
Analysis in UX makes the designer extremely valuable, because design typically does not include analysis. It is imperative in UX Design.
One hard rule applies in user research, do it early and do it often. What are you trying to learn about your users? You will find out through both subjective and objective research.
Subjective research does not involve fact, but opinion, memory, or impression. It is personal: feelings and expectations.
- What is your favorite color?
- Do you trust the company?
- How does my haircut look?
There is no right or wrong answer. You ask the questions.
These questions can come in the form of interviews, observing users, focus groups, surveys, card-sorting, and searching online for data already compiled.
Objective research involves factual information.
- How long did you spend on our app?
- Where did you find the link to our site?
- How many people visited the website today?
We don’t ask these questions, we use measurements and statistics for this data.
A larger group of test subjects tends to be more reliable. A lot of subjective information tends to look a bit objective. Averages tend to be correct.
Create user profiles
Based on your research data, you create personas of typical users. These are not stereotypes, demographics, characters, concepts, or predictions. They are based on your research. They describe goals, expectations, motivations, and behavior of people.
- Why would they come to your site?
- What are they looking for?
- What makes them nervous?
You will profile ideal users of your website using: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Who is the user?
- What do they do?
- When do they use the site?
- Where do they access the site?
- Why do they choose this site?
- How do they access the site?
Designing for Devices
First you will have to decide if you’re designing for touch or mouse interfaces. Next you’re going to start with the smallest first. Mobile is popular, but the reason you’ll design for mobile first is because simplistic design works best there. And no matter how simple a web app is it will not look simple crammed into a tiny screen.
Consider the portability of a mobile device to the power and keyboard of a laptop when designing. Consider the software, whether it’s Mac PC, and their many variations. Sometimes it is a decision on which version you will support.
Respond to the current needs and uses of the market. The modern internet is used on all devices. Make sure your app can adapt to be seen on all screens. Think of multiple screens at a time, seamless syncing.
Information architecture creates structure out of information. This starts with a site map and the navigation it provides. These site maps can either be deep or flat, but never both. Sites with a lot of products will need deep architecture or the menus get insane. Sites with many users and one thing they do, like YouTube, need flat architecture.
For user stories the information architect takes the personas developed from the research data and creates a story of them navigating the app. There is no plot here; it’s about usability not entertainment. The purpose of the story is to make design flaws evident. They are a communication tool to the team.
Types of information architecture
Your site or app can be developed through one of these formats:
- Categories—the most common type, includes menus and sub-menus
- Tasks—based of the goal of the user, like a banking site
- Search—for very complex sites, like YouTube
- Time—changes in real time, like Facebook news feed
- People—social networking, like LinkedIn
- There are other types to use
A wireframe is the bare bones of a website or app. It is a technical document, not for the user, but for the team. It is not pretty: it has lines, boxes, and labels. It’s simple black and white squares with maybe a color or two to highlight buttons or other large navigational elements. It is essentially a blueprint. They are relatively easy to draw up after the many hours of research, planning, and sketches have been done. It is not the final wireframes until it is useable.
From this point the graphic designer takes over. It can sometimes be the job of a UX Designer, but often is not. The programmers take over and code the site next and the product is tested, goes live, is tested again, and as user needs change, it gets scrapped as a new product is designed to take its place.