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Academy Xi Blog

What is User Experience (UX) Design & the processes?

By Academy Xi

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Leave behind what you know and start with a clean state.

Welcome to User Experience (UX) Design —an approach bent on providing users with exceptional, intuitive, and seamless experiences, leaving them satisfied with what they were looking to achieve.   

UX Design involves unlearning the assumptions that every marketer, developer, and designer has of their customers. UX Designers rely on research, to better understand the motivations and pain points of a user.

What is UX Design?

Simply put, UX is the process of understanding and designing to solve problems, creating greater satisfaction. It’s about solving problems for real people in real contexts.

UX Design takes into context who the user is and the circumstances in which the product will be used. Being a user-centric process that goes beyond simply executing customer feedback, UX is a utilitarian approach that aims to provide the best solution to the greatest number of users within the product’s target audience.

UX Design focuses on a person’s interaction with any product and ensures their needs are met through meaningful designs and solutions. A UX Designer is concerned with how you shop on your favourite         e-commerce website, book a flight online, or navigate an internet banking transaction – ensuring these experiences delight and allow you to do what you intend, seamlessly.

User Interface (UI) vs User Experience (UX)

UX Design is not interchangeable with User Interface (UI) Design even though the two disciplines are closely interrelated. UI Design focuses on designing visual assets and on-screen interactions, as well as additional elements such as responsiveness. UX Design is concerned with the underlying function of UI. UX Design allows the product to work well for the user.

“You can have an application with a stunning design that is clunky to use (good UI, bad UX). You can also have an application that has a poor look and feel, but is very intuitive to use (poor UI, good UX).” — Helga Moreno for One Extra Pixel.

UX Design also plays a pivotal part in product creation. It’s a common misconception that UX Design is similar to Graphic Design. In truth, UX Design is not merely concerned with aesthetics. In fact, UX Design acts as a bridge between visual design and function, as well as the look and feel of a product.

The UX Design process

Strategy and research

Strategy and research is the start of the UX Design process. To create something truly insightful, meaningful, and useful, a deep understanding of your business’ goals and customers’ problems is required.

Designing a solution is useless unless you spend time understanding the goals of your customers. Meeting with users is critical, to ask them questions about your product and their experience of it: Is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it what you truly need?

We invest in research to avoid building the wrong usable thing. There are a variety of research techniques, from one-on-one interviews, providing a deeper understanding of our customers, to contextual inquiries or field studies, which give the opportunity to observe people in the real context of how they’re experiencing problems. This in turn allows UX Designers to think about how they might solve these problems.

Personas

To give further form to consumer research insights, we enter the analysis stage of the UX process. 

In the time-poor reality of today, most companies don’t have the luxury of lengthy research processes. UX Designers use proto-personas to gain an understanding of users before moving onto concept and validation.

persona is an archetype or a fictional representation of the customer group experiencing problems. Personas are used to drive design and feature decisions, focusing the product team on creating the right solution for the customer, thus reducing the subjective nature of feature decision-making.

From there, a customer journey is created, to show the process and journey a customer follows in order to achieve their goals. More than just a step-by-step task process, customer journeys are an important technique used to understand the time, context, device and most importantly, the feelings of the customer.

Concept, validation, and design

If we dive straight into the design process without having completed the previous stages, we’ve done so with very little but assumptions. Which means we run the risk of designing for ourselves, based on our needs instead of real users’ needs. It is critical to keep customers at the core of the UX process.

UX Design develops and evolves with technology. Borrowing heavily from the Agile process and Google’s famous 5-day sprints, modern UX Designers are moving away from waterfall delivery and are adopting a rapid, lean, and focused approach to releasing a product that can be built, tested, and validated quickly.

The concept and design phase gives the opportunity to explore low fidelity concepts, show them to real customers, hence probing if the product or feature is a truly useful, usable, and meaningful solution. This is a collaborative, iterative process which is critical in establishing the fundamental User Experience of the product.

Using low fidelity methods such as whiteboards and paper allow UX Designers to adapt and refine quickly before becoming attached to a particular design solution.

Creation

If you’ve worked with an Information Architect before, you’re likely to be familiar with this phase. It’s about creating wireframes and the design blueprint that details the page hierarchical structure, content areas, as well as the interactions between functions and pages.

In this design sprint approach, UX Designers work closely with Developers to ensure that they’re building the right thing at the right time and solving the right problem for the right customer.

Why is UX Design important?

UX Design considers all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product by ensuring its features and design are optimised, useful, desirable, necessary, and reflective of both the brand and client’s needs.

A UX Designer works at fulfilling a company’s objectives by satisfying the needs, goals, and motivations of a user. By considering the human experience above other elements, UX Design plays a fundamental role in retaining the attention and loyalty of users.

The value of UX Design doesn’t end after a product launch date, but involves itself throughout the product’s lifespan, using feedback to develop and roll out updates that continue to generate customer satisfaction.

Good UX Design has the potential of increasing and retaining users, directly impacting a company’s bottom line. Bad UX Design, on the other hand, encourages users to take their business elsewhere. 

With user research as a guiding light, every element and process of UX Design is prioritised and justified by data, ensuring a product is designed to satisfy a real user. For businesses of all sizes, the value of UX Design in a product’s creation and development is unquestionable.

Ensure you understand the fundamentals of UX Design and give your users the right experience by joining one of our UX courses today.

Academy Xi Blog

From Architect to Service Designer at Qantas

By Academy Xi

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Students of Xi: Meet Tobias

Tobias Robinson decided to leave the comfort of his job as an Architect to enter the world of Service Design — an industry that had only recently popped up on his radar.

“When I found Service Design, I started asking questions as I didn’t know what it was. The more I delved into that world, the more excited I became,” recalls Tobias.

Before Tobias found Service Design, he felt trapped in the slow pace of Architecture. “Most Architects will say they’re the most highly skilled, underpaid people. And it’s true, but for me, money wasn’t the chief motivator — it was also the pace of the industry.”

Instead of staying in a job that failed to satisfy and bring him fulfillment, Tobias went out in search of a new field, industry, and career. He landed at Academy Xi and took both the part-time Service Design (SD) course and the full-time User Experience Design (UX) course.

At first, Tobias replaced his nine-to-five job as an Architect with a full-time UX course — essentially comprising the same hours as a full-time job for 10 weeks. Throughout the course, students were exposed to other fields of design that utilise the skills of UX. One of these fields was Service Design. Tobias became interested in learning more about this field and delved straight into the SD part-time course, two evenings a week, at the same time as continuing the UX Transform full-time course!

The exposure of two different fields, the overlap of skills, and the insights of multiple instructors created the perfect storm of experience. This experience, led by a determined motivation to learn and dive into new industries, would lead Tobias down the path needed to meet the right employer.

During the Service Design course, Tobias worked on a real-life project with Qantas. All of the students in the course focused on the service design of baggage handling: a project that was both complex and intensive, providing the perfect learning environment for deploying Service Design skills.

While working with designers at Qantas, Tobias was headhunted for a newly launched airline project. Qantas was on the lookout for someone with skills in Service Design and problem-solving to help them launch their in-flight connectivity service — essentially their new Wi-Fi offering, and Tobias seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Tobias had always dreamed of working in the airline industry; it’s not only a glamourous industry, but it’s customer-centric at its core. “Airlines have a way of fostering skills and staff, which is not something that many corporations get right. There’s a lot of business-to-business work that goes on in Qantas, but at the end of the day, the touch point is the customer,” he explains. He started working officially for Qantas after [the UX/SD course ended] and was thrilled at the immediate opportunity available ahead of him.

In his new role as Service Design Business Analyst at Qantas, Tobias spends more than half of his time talking to people, whether they be customers trialing the MVP or engineers working on the service.

“It’s engaging with people, it’s coordinating people, and it’s knowing the right questions to ask,” explains Tobias.

On explaining the what-if scenarios, Tobias admits that if he didn’t have the courage to make the leap into Service Design, he would be stuck in an industry that just wasn’t for him.

“I would be very slowly chugging away at a career in architecture that presented a much narrower scope. There are a lot of amazing architects who really enjoy doing very particular things, but that was never me.”

And all of his hard work has led here: to a new job in his new industry, almost immediately after his investment of hard work and dedicated learning time. Reflecting back on his journey, Tobias smiles: “Working on real industry projects at Academy Xi has set me up for working as a Service Designer at Qantas.”

———

If you’re like Tobias and are stuck in a career that’s not the right fit, make the change today and transition into a role that’s challenging, exciting, ever-changing. Learn more about our Service Design course and how you can transform your career.

Academy Xi Blog

The Do's and Dont's of Usability Testing

By Academy Xi

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The Dos and Don’ts of Usability Testing

Usability testing is a vital part of User Experience (UX) Design. It involves validating a product or service with target users. The aim of usability testing is to determine whether a person with ‘common’ ability can use your product for its intended purpose without feeling lost or confused.

Testing a user’s interaction with a product is one of 5 essential UX Design principles that reveals valuable insights. A UX Designer will regularly facilitate usability tests on a prototype or wireframe to ensure a product’s design is user-friendly and human-centric.

Key Components of Usability

A user-centric product exhibits the following characteristics:

Products should be useful, solving a real problem and easily usable. The learnability of a product and service is also a key component of usability. Products will also be tested for its aesthetics and the emotional response it may elicit from a user.

 

Usability Do’s

  • Speak to the User: Use a language, tone, and style that the user would relate to and expect
  • Identify a Reasonable Journey: Note specific activities that are typical of your users’ interactions with your product (read more about customer journey maps)
  • Set Goals and Measurements for your Test: Each task should relate back to your product’s functionality and the data you’d like to collect. Eg. Does a square button make more sense to a user over a circular button?
  • Capture Everything: Collect as much information as possible; whether it’s an email address, payment detail, or contact information
  • Use Data to Make Decisions: Focus design decisions only on received information
  • Address the Root of the Problem, not the Symptoms: Some responses will be symptomatic of a bigger problem, try to identify the problem, not the cause Ie. poor email open rates may be symptomatic of misspelled email addresses not user disinterest  
  • Make it Visual: A picture paints a thousand words — make things easier for your users
  • Gravitate Towards Minimal Changes: The aim of usability testing is to see if your product works, not to redesign it! In a usability test: Ask open-ended questions and make the participant feel comfortable, provide hints or prompts based on answers received and be concise. 

Usability Dont’s

  • Use Product-Specific Terminology: Don’t describe the product and refrain from using technical jargon
  • Lead the Participant by Describing the Task: Avoid direction or telling people what they need to do
  • Create Dependent Tasks: If something needs more information, provide subsequent tasks
  • Mislead the Participant: Don’t direct the participant away from the test. Avoid giving the participant clues with responsive body language, facial expressions, and words.
  • Avoid Making Recommendations that are based on opinions, are vague, un-actionable, create a new set of problems for users, or target a single type of user. 

New to UX Design? Learn more about our 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.