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Academy Xi Blog

5 Top User Experience (UX) Design Principles

By Academy Xi

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User Experience (UX) Design is the process of understanding and designing human-centred solutions that create satisfaction. Simply put, a UX Designer exists to solve problems for real people in their real contexts — by delivering exceptional, intuitive, and seamless products and experiences.

In addition to problem-solving, UX Design takes into context the user and the circumstances in which the product or service will be used. Being a user-centric process that goes beyond executing customer feedback, UX Design aims to provide the best solution to the most number of users within a target audience.

The backbone of UX Design encompasses a person’s interaction with any digital product or service. It concerns itself with ensuring a user’s needs are met through meaningful designs and solutions. A UX Designer determines how it is that you shop on your favourite e-commerce website,  book a flight online, or navigate an internet banking transaction. Do these experiences frustrate or delight you?

So what are some of the fundamental UX Design principles that help ensure you’re designing a solution that’s on the right track?

Design Principle 1: Know Your Audience

It can be easy to mistakenly design a solution based on your individual assumptions and experience, but all design solutions should be user-centric by default. User-centric design isn’t a new phenomenon but at some point, the misconception that design equals aesthetics emerged.

Rather than focusing on just the look of a feature or solution, the core of any user-centric design is empathy; taking the time to understand the user, and design for their needs produces designs that are thoughtful, relevant, and accessible. In the context of design, empathy supersedes what you assume the user is thinking and feeling. It is an understanding based on thorough, pointed, user-research.

Typical research activities Academy Xi teaches:

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Observation and contextual inquiries
  • Personas and proto-personas
  • Customer journeys

P.S. Read our Introduction to Usability Testing or download this Ultimate guide to UX Design.

Design Principle 2: Know Yourself

Relaying the vision for a product or service can be a lengthy and often, an abstract process. When approaching the UX Design of your product, there is no room for an existential crisis. The motivation is simple: the aim of any UX Design is to improve moments with your customer’s day through meaningful digital and analogue experiences.

By providing memorable moments of interaction, UX Design plays an integral part in invoking a long-lasting relationship with your brand.

Typical visioning activities and UX Design exercises include:

  • Context and objective exercises
  • Service promises
  • Design challenge activities
  • Service ideation and creation workshops
  • Accelerated Design Thinking workshops

Design Principle 3: Know Your Customer’s World

Step into the shoes of your customer and ask:

  • Who are the people in their lives that influence their decision-making?
  • What does success mean for your customer?
  • Why do they need you? Why don’t they need you? How do they really feel about you…and your competition?
  • Where is the customer when they’re interacting with you? Where are you when your customer needs you?
  • When do we show up and provide service to our customers? When do we add value and meaningful interactions?
  • How might we provide services that make their lives better?

This is often known to the UX world as the 5 Ws and H.

Asking the right questions and knowing where to look is a key component of UX Design. Research enables the finding of hidden gems that appear outside of the assumption space.

Here are commonly used research techniques to learn more about your customer:

  • Observation techniques
  • Interviews
  • Desktop research
  • Comparative studies
  • Competitor reviews
  • Participatory design workshops

 

Design Principle 4: Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Besides having a thorough understanding of what you offer, be clear on what your competitors are doing well (that’s your baseline), what they are doing poorly (that’s your opportunity), and what they haven’t thought of yet (that’s your point of difference).

Competition makes us all better; however, it becomes immaterial when we know ourselves and why we’re in business. By knowing ourselves and our competitors, we carve out our own turf.

  • Competitor analysis
  • Trend assessments
  • Rapid feature exploration
  • Minimum Viable Product
  • Vision setting
  • Personas
  • Customer journeys
  • Opportunity identification

Design Principle 5: Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat

With inspiration derived from the ‘Lean Startup’ methodology, take out your pencils and sketch your ideas onto paper. Test them. Refine them. Explore more ideas. Expand concepts. Build them. Test again. Sacrifice them. Start again. Then pick something. Ideas are limitless and the barriers to prototyping are so low that you have no excuse not to play.

Things you can use through this iterative process are:

  • Paper
  • Whiteboards
  • Design Thinking
  • Participatory design
  • Rapid mobile prototyping
  • Guerilla testing

When it comes to UX, there are some basic principles that you can employ to ensure that your website or application is intuitive, user-friendly, and a delightful experience. If you’d like to know more about creating an exceptional product or experience, learn more about our UX Design courses here. 

Academy Xi Blog

Top 4 Wireframing Tools

By Academy Xi

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As our interactions with digital interfaces increase, consumers are faced with an abundance of choice. Online interactions are expected to be seamless, efficient, and instantaneous, and businesses that are unable to provide a high standard of customer experience risk being left behind in the current wave of digital disruption.

User Experience (UX) Design is a user-centric process that prioritises the human experience above all elements. It takes into context who the user is and the circumstances in which a product will be used.

The goal of UX Design goes beyond adding features or executing customer suggestions, as UX Designers look to provide the best solution to the most number of users within a product’s target audience. Crafting a product solution requires an identification of the user’s problem. Here are the top four tools used by UX Designers to help define the customer problem.

1. Balsamiq

Defining the customer’s problem and pain points starts with creating a low-fidelity prototype such as a sketch format. Fidelity is defined as the quality or the appearance of what something looks like. In UX Design, identifying the customer problem first starts with exploring ideas in a really rough format through low-fidelity.

Sketching thoughts out on a piece of paper helps UX Designers visualise the user’s problem. Tools like Balsamiq aim to replicate low-fidelity sketching.

In the initial problem sketching phase, Balsamiq helps to transfer and replicate a concept that may have been quickly sketched on a piece of paper. The tool can also create clickable prototypes but its primary purpose is to produce simplified views of a feature or solution.

2. Sketch

Sketch is a User Interface (UI) tool that supports the entire design process from ideation to final product design. Sketch is utilised across different touchpoints but is usually introduced after user research, and during the initial phases of prototyping and wireframing.

Sketch is great for initial prototyping, as its functionality and fidelity allows you to move through the process to the customer problem.

Sketch is a popular tool across different production teams as it easily allows file transfers. The tool is useful to showcase ideas to clients or stakeholders and can be used to handover files to developers. Unlike Photoshop which doesn’t contain a code output, Sketch allows a cross-functional process when developing solutions for customer problems.

As an added benefit, Sketch integrates with different plugins such as:

  • Craft: Allows you to create hotspots as you progress around the screens, crucial for communicating and understanding User Experience across different teams.
  • Zepline: Provides details of objects built into a Sketch, centralising the information for developers such as colour codes and the placement of buttons.

Sketch is not able to create clickable and interactive designs as it can only produce design screens. When interactivity is required, Sketch files are typically transferred into another tool called InVision. InVision allows clickable prototypes with gestures and other interactions. Just input any image file (whether that’s from Sketch, Photoshop or Balsamiq) into an InVision board to get started.

Tip: Read our top tips to using Sketch here.

3. Adobe XD

Adobe XD is similar to Sketch. This paid tool is part of the Adobe Suite, and is a self-contained, design enabling and clickable prototype tool all within one platform.

Adobe XD is effective in building low-fidelity views of a prototype that can easily transition between art boards and interactive prototypes. Prototyping is straightforward on the platform, allowing designers to switch to prototype mode, select an object, or group and drag a line into the screen where can be navigated.

4. Axure

Axure is another prototyping tool but allows UX Designers to replicate the functionality of an app or a desktop with gestures and form fields.

While Axure users will need some time to grow familiar with the platform, it is a very powerful tool in mimicking what the end solution is going to look like from a developer’s point of view. Axure does this by visualising transitions, object animations, and button interactions.

Axure is also the tool of choice for plugging into asset libraries so that any existing templates, files, or assets can instantly be accessed and shared.

Ultimately, the best way to get familiar with a tool is to get hands-on with the platform and practice. As a UX Designer, it is important to familiarise yourself with different tools to identify the right tool for different design needs. Read more about becoming a UX Designer or familiarise yourself with these five UX Design principles.

Academy Xi Blog

The 300m Button

By Academy Xi

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The Art of the Microcopy

A UX friend of ours reminded us of the case of the $300 million button, prompting us to think about CTA (call-to-action) buttons (if we don’t think about that enough already). As one of the main elements in bridging that gap between decision-making and a purchasing decision, a science has grown around how a call-to-action button should be designed, displayed, and perhaps most importantly, labeled. More specifically, microcopy. Often times designers have relied on proven messaging, but the best way to optimise is understanding your customer’s behaviour.

f you are familiar with Jared Spool’s User Interface Engineering, you will probably remember the usability study he did on Amazon. As an e-commerce site, the website designers made the assumption that users returning to the website would remember their login or account details whereas new users will comply with registering for a new account for checkouts. UIE found Amazon’s original prompt to “register” deterred new users from using the site, and returning users experienced problems remembering their login details – with 45% of those users having created multiple registrations. Users only wanted to complete purchases and not sign up for a membership.

As a solution, UIE used the word “continue” in place of the “register” button. A new message was also added to inform users that registration was optional and helpful for returning users rather than a requirement to check out. This change accounted for a 45% increase in sales in the first month and $300 million in sales in the first year.

The microcopy of a call-to-action button has more implications on the bottom line as that is what instructs your users’ psyche and actions, and can break down barriers to their access. When we think about bad websites, understanding your customer’s purchasing journey and the psychology of your buyer can unveil critical elements to unblocking that sale or purchase. There is no standardised call-to-action button.

What does your call-to-action button say? What methods have you tried and what microcopy have you applied?

Passionate about UX/UI? Learn more about how to start your UX career with us here.

Academy Xi Blog

How to Become a UX Designer

By Academy Xi

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User Experience (UX) was once a buzzword in digital speak, but today, the ability to identify user problems and solve usability issues is integral to any successful product or digital experience. As more businesses recognise the value of their User Experience (UX) Design, industries around Australia are looking for ways to improve the development and evolution of user experience.

What does a UX Designer actually do?

UX Designers aim to design experiences that create delightful product experiences for the end user. With a thoughtful blend of analytical skills, creativity, and a willingness to adapt to new learnings, the capabilities of a UX Designer can span anywhere from research and prototyping to designing and pitching. See our top 5 UX Design principles that UX Designers should follow.

Read more about what User Experience Design involves and why it’s important.

Characteristics of a UX Designer:

  • Driven by insights
  • Relies on human-centred research
  • Adept at usability testing
  • Willing to wireframe and prototype
  • Analytical and empathetic

A day in the life of a UX Designer

Understanding users

After a strong cup of coffee in the morning, the UX Designer gets straight into their user research. Understanding the user is typically the first step in designing user-centric features. When designing for a users’ experience, the research phase of UX Design aims to reduce and remove assumptions from the decision-making process. A UX Designer starts by defining a problem statement, which eventually forms a hypothesis about a user. This hypothesis is continually tested and refined.

Problem statements

Articulate the user’s problem that should be addressed and solved. It usually contains a hindrance or problem that affects a user’s ability to perform the desired action on site. As part of the research phase, a UX Designer conducts interviews, undertakes competitive analysis, and surveys to determine the behaviour, goals, motivations, and needs of their target users.

UX Artefacts

Based on qualitative data from user research, the UX Designer often spends time creating personas or archetypes that are representative of its users. When a persona has been identified and created, UX Designers adapt and develop scenarios to flesh out the motivations, pain points, desires, and needs of that particular persona. This helps the designer to visually communicate their research to key stakeholders.

User persona refers to an archetype or fictional representation of people researched. Personas will typically represent a group of people with similar traits or behaviours. Read more about personas here.

Becoming an (Information) Architect 

Upon swapping offices for a day, a UX Designer becomes an Information Architect (IA) – equipped with an idea of who they’re designing for. It’s at this stage, where the UX Designer begins to shape a product solution. UX Designers are integral in forming the elements of a website’s information architecture and it’s here where UX Designers cross paths with Web Developers and Product Marketers.

IA includes the structure and organisation of a website’s information environment including its page navigation path. The IA is the backbone of a website including elements such as the navigation, hierarchy, and categories that allow users to see where they are, the information they need, and how to get to their desired path.

Wireframing and prototyping 

Here comes the fun part. After lunch, a UX Designer may start the build and design process. This begins with a simple wireframe. Wireframing is the creation of a product feature or design using representations that act as a guide. Think of this as architectural blueprints that contain simple User Interaction (UI) elements or placeholders. Wireframes are followed by prototypes, which flesh out more of the elements that the user will interact with including the content and interactive options on the prototype’s interface.

Tip: Popular programs found within the UX Designers toolkit include: Sketch, InVision, Axure, and Adobe XD

Testing and Iterating 

UX Designers are always on the move – testing and reiterating a product. Through a combination of in-person or electronic tests, the UX Designer will look for feedback and assess the behaviour of a user as they interact with a new function or feature. Based on verbal or non-verbal feedback, a UX Designer will integrate updates and new features of a design to ensure a seamless user journey. Read more about the dos and don’ts of usability testing.

Sounds like a day job you’d fancy? Let’s explore the career options.

I love the power of UX. It can build strategies for promotions, SEO, branding, and more.” – Lucy Huynh, UX Designer at William Hill.

 

What UX Career is right for me?

From startups to freelancing, a day in the life of a UX Designer can vary depending on the size of the team and the depth of the project. Globally, there’s an insatiable demand for hybrid, purist, and specialised UX Designers. The options are as vast as they are varied.

A career in UX Design can lead to a range of pathways including:

UX Designer

A UX Designer can be a purist (wireframing/ prototyping/ conceptualising) or they can work as a hybrid of research and design. Typically, larger organisations will have specialised UX roles for researchers and designers, while agencies will offer a hybrid of research and design roles. However, the career paths and choices depend on the individual business and their definition and perception of UX Designer’s value.

Tip: Discover a career in UX Design with a short course at Academy Xi.

User Researcher

User Researchers are solely dedicated to UX research. Their job role includes running research workshops, conducting one-on-one interviews, creating focus group sessions, and producing surveys. Researchers conduct qualitative and quantitative research through a variety of detailed and bespoke methods.

Researchers will typically collate their findings and inform design recommendations to a UX Designer who will prototype and wireframe a new feature.

Hiring Tip: When looking for a User Researcher, businesses want candidates with: innovative minds, systematic approaches to work, agility in their working styles.

I’ve worn many hats over time, but I dare to say UX has always been a major part of what I’ve done during my career. Labels don’t matter so much I believe, you shouldn’t hire nor work for the title, but you should instead for the job that needs to be done.” – Pieter den Heten, UX Lead at Nine Entertainment Co.

 
 

UI Designer

UI Designers are involved in web development and designing for the journey of a product or functional design. UI Designers can be a hybrid mix of UX and UI Designers. UI Designers primarily focus on design principles such as colour, balance, typography, and consistency.

Hiring Tip: When looking for a UI Designer, businesses want candidates with innovative minds, systematic approaches to work and agility.

What’s the difference between a UX Designer and UI Designer?

Many design professions have hybridised to focus on the ever-changing purpose and need for digital products and services. Developing for the web has become more complex and now needs a whole suite of designers focused on improving customer experience. UX Designers are increasingly choosing to specialise in one UX niche. Typically, UX practitioners choose one of two pathways: designer or researcher.

  • While UI Design concerns itself with designs for responsiveness or interactive purposes, UX Design provides the underlying rationale and research that allows a product (including its UI features) to work smoothly. Both UX and UI considerations are crucial for the development of a product but the process behind each role varies – UX applies analytical skills to its research and design and UI lends itself closer to the actual graphics and visual elements of a user’s interactions.
  • In practice, UX Design concerns itself with more than the visual elements, acting as a bridge between functionality with the look of a product. A UX Designer approaches designs in four distinct design phases, known as the ‘double diamond’ strategy: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver.

Are you transitioning from User Interface (UI) Design to UX Design?

A career transition from UI Design into UX Design is common.

UI Designers are trained to consider the layout of a product and the interactions of each of its features on screen but UX Designers are concerned with the usability of a feature and will provide user-centric pathways that a UI Designer will visually communicate.

Tip: Gain real-life UX experience in your current role. If you’re a UI Designer, put your hand up for UX projects and if you’re in a Marketing team, start working on some research tasks to help improve a site. If you’re looking to move into a pure UX role, build up your portfolio with examples of UX projects you’ve worked on. Need help getting experience? Engage with a real case study in our UX Design course.

Tips on starting a career in UX Design

What to consider when you’re launching a career in UX:

  • Launch your career into UX with an accredited course to learn the basics and fundamentals. Try a dedicated course in User Experience Design
  • Make it a priority to build a strong portfolio – be open to mentorship opportunities to get your foot in the door
  • Network at design meetups and events to meet people in the industry. Design meetups, industry nights, or event listings are a good starting point
  • The way you present your personality is just as important as your design skills. UX Designers are not traditional designers so more effort may be required to get noticed.
  • Don’t forget to invest in your skills evenly – UX Design can be as much about research as it can be about the ‘design’, so make sure you’re across the skills required when researching and wireframing!

Our instructor’s most recommended UX Design resources:

Throughout your UX Design career, it’s important to stay updated and well read. Here are the top ten UX Design resources as recommended by our instructors:

  1. Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug
  2. Usable Usability: Simple Stuff for Making Stuff Better – Eric Reiss
  3. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People – Susan Weinschenk
  4. Mobile Usability – Jakob Nielsen and Raluca Budiu
  5. Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience – Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
  6. The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide – Leah Buley
  7. Service Design: From Insight to Implementation –  Andy Polaine,‎ Lavrans Løvlie,‎ Ben Reason
  8. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research – James R. Lewis and Jeff Sauro
  9.  Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences – James Chudley and Jesmond Allen
  10.  Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing… – Steve Krug

The UX Design Industry: Average Salaries

As businesses begin to grasp the value of a seamless UX, the demand for specialised skills such as research and prototyping continues to grow. Currently, average salaries in UX Design in Australia will depend on the level of skills and experience:

  • Average Salary for a Mid-level UX Designer: $106k (Sydney)
  • Average Salary for a UI Designer: $96.5k (2016 Australia, ADMA)
  • Average Salary for a Mid-Level Graphic Designer: $95k (Sydney)

How to Future-proof your UX Career:

Despite being a fairly new concept, UX Design is becoming a familiar process in the product development cycle. For businesses large and small, designers are becoming an integral part of improving the delivery of customer experience.

Users now expect an optimised user experience right from their first experience with a product. This translates directly to a company’s bottom line with “every dollar invested in UX returns $10 to $100” says Goran Paunovic, Creative Director of ArtVersion Interactive.

Did you know? According to the World Economic Forum, complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and service orientation will be in-demand skills for jobs in 2020.

UX Designers bridge the gap between a business’ goals and a customers’ experience, and with rising demand for seamless experiences – digital or otherwise – it is necessary now, more than ever, to understand UX Design.

Build a network of people in UX – this will be invaluable and allow you to develop the credentials to build a career in UX Design. – Stefano Portaluri, Senior UX Researcher at SBS.

 

Stand out from the crowd with complementary Skills of a UX Designer such as:

  • User interface or visual design
  • Understanding the role of UX in Waterfall, Agile and Lean methodologies
  • Refining soft skills to ensure a healthy and collaborative approach
  • An intense curiosity to ask the ‘what if’ behind the brief

Designers interested in our User Experience Design courses will get exposed to the theory and practice of understanding users and will develop the ability to create designs that create real-world impact.