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What is UX design? User experience design process, principles & benefits

December 12, 2022 ・7 min read

What is UX design

What is user experience (UX) design?

User experience (UX) design covers every touchpoint users have with your brand and product: the website landing page that features your products and services, the signup and onboarding flow, and the customer service replies when they initiate an inquiry. Every feature or element inside your product impacts UX and how users think about your brand.

UX design is a multidisciplinary and rapidly changing field. Unlike user interface (UI) design, which focuses on the visual presentation of the interface, UX design looks at how to make a product as effortless as possible for users so we can achieve better adoption, retention, and loyalty.

UX design is an iterative process of constant improvement: product teams and designers continuously use data and usability testing to refine the product experience. Hence, it becomes easier for users as the product develops.

The history of UX design, where does it come from

4000 BC Feng Shui and Optimising Human Well-being With Space

It seems the history of UX design started as early as 4000 BC, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui which focuses on arranging the surroundings (and adding items to maximise or neutralise some influences) in the most optimal and harmonious way. While there are added elements of using crystals and spiritual objects which makes it sound less scientific, in reality, a large portion of Feng Shui (literally translates as “wind” and “water”) talks about to the spatial arrangement of objects (e.g. furniture) in relation to the flow of energy (chi). 

And just as an interior designer might arrange the furniture and appliances in the house in a way that makes it easy for the inhabitant to navigate the room, a UX designer may apply similar principles to the task of creating a website or mobile App. The overall end objective is the same, to create an intuitive, user-friendly user experience. 

500 BC Greek Civilisation Design Tools to Maximise Efficiency

There is also evidence to suggest that, as early as the 5th century BC, Greek civilisations designed their tools and workplaces based on ergonomic principles. Ergonomics, also referred to as human factors, is the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design and optimise human well-being and overall system performance.

We know all this because a text from Hippocrates describes how a surgeon should be working and how to set up what we know today as a surgeon theatre. It talks about things like how the tools should be displayed, where the light should be coming from, and if the surgeon is sitting or standing. All the information in Hippocrates’ text talks about how to create an efficient experience, not just for the surgeon but also for the patient.

Early 1900 Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford Workplace Efficiency

In the late 19th century, Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford and other great industrial time thinkers began to integrate basic experience design into the production process with the objective to improve efficiency and efficacy. 

In his book “The Principle of Scientific Management”, Taylor stated that systematic management is the solution to efficiency. Taylor also conducted extensive research into the interactions between workers and their tools.

1966 Walt Disney, the First UX Designer

Walt Disney was often hailed as one of the first UX designers in history, obsessed with creating immersive, magical, delightful user experiences, Walt Disney built Disney World as a true UX genius through deep understanding of his audience.

1970 Xerox, Apple and the PC Era of UX

The popularity of personal computers provided the foundation for UX, as high-end technologies entered every household and quickly acquired a vast diversified audience group, including adults, children, senior citizens, and people with disability, the need to design user-friendly interface so everyone could easily use the computer becomes the critical factor for the success of the brand. 

Some iconic names during this time include Xerox’s PARC research center, which invented the graphic interface and mouse, and Apple with its original Macintosh. These innovators allow personal computers to hit the mainstream and set the starting point for the coming wave of UX development.

1995 UX Gets Its Official Name from Don Norman

Don Norman, the author of  User Centered System Design” and “The Design of Everyday Things”, introduced the term “user-centered design”, the idea is that the designer shall put focus on satisfying the need of the customer instead of the system. Don Norman was the first person to coin the term “UX”, “user-centered design”, and have the title of “UX” for his position as a User Experience Architect in Apple.

UX design in 2023 and beyond

In the past decade, UX design rapidly evolves, with the development of virtual reality, Internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence, UX design is extending its influence to mostly digital interface such as voice technology, physical products and the mix of all. And more and more, the concept of inclusive design becomes important as we strive to create products that can be used by all potential users out there.

What are the key benefits of a Good UX design

After explaining what UX design is and its history, let’s talk about the benefits. A good UX is directly related to the business’s bottom line. With so many competitor products on the market and the cost of switching reduced to zero, the experience of the product becomes the success factor. 

Good UX design helps to improve conversion, and you get more sales

A company can hire top-notch marketers to attract customers to use their application but if the first experience is clumsy and confusing, the visitors will end up dropping off and for the company, the marketing dollar wasted.

While good UX design creates a good first impression and makes it effortless for customers to onboard the product. Customers experience the benefit of your product right away and may even become an advocate for your product. 

Good UX design benefits retention, so your customers are less likely to churn

Customers are surrounded by competitor products every day, and they are always offering attractive sign-up benefits and discounts, trying to lure your customers into converting. Good UX design makes your customer become attached to the product and form the habit of using it, and thus less likely to change their mind in front of an offer.

And that is why in UXlicious, we build our process around making a habit-forming product, from the initial design and development phase through user research, user testing, prototyping, and competitor analysis to post-launch user feedback analysis, A/B test, and UX benchmarking. We help companies optimise their main user flows and implement the 4-layer of product experience (product – notification – incentive – people) that is best suitable for the unique product workflows, so customers always have a good experience. See how we help Popular create an engaging digital experience by designing a gamified learning product.

UXlicious helps Popular create a gamified elearning experience and behavior-based reward system, the new system achieve over 90% assignment completion rate.

Good UX design reduces the need of support and customer service

Customers want to use a product to solve their problems and meet their needs, having to refer to documentation or ask for customer service support stops them from achieving their goals and thus create negative experience. 

The more intuitive a system’s UX design is, the less time it’ll take for customers to learn the digital product’s functions and/or features. As a result, they’re less likely to waste their valuable time reading and trying to understand a user manual. This will also enable your business to reduce customer service costs, as fewer users call for clarification or instructions on how to use your digital product.

Good UX design minimises development rework, and improve quality

Another benefit of deploying good UX in your project is saving costs. At first glance, it may seem that implementing UX design during product development extends the overall product timeline and cost. Since it is a new set of steps added to the development process, it is understandable that some people will think like that.

In reality, it is actually the opposite. Good UX design saves you time and money because you can avoid unexpected and extensive changes later in the software development process, where they will be far more expensive to fix. The overall cost of building a mobile app (or any digital product) could be even lower if you have a professional UX design team working with you from scratch.  What’s more, your code quality improves with less rework, and the overall software performance also benefits.

The UX design process

The UX design process is an iterative step-by-step methodology UX team applies to complete projects. Although the actual UX process varies by product and organisation, most companies use the design thinking process as the foundation: scoping, emphasise, define, ideate, prototype and validate.

UX design step 1: Scoping, understand the goal of the product/project

The aim is to understand the scope of the project, set expectations and understand the priorities. We will gather inputs from business, design, technology, and all other key stakeholders. In UXlicious, we often use hypothesis mapping to get alignment amongst the different teams on what the impact of various hypotheses is to the success of the product and how much uncertainty the team has on the hypothesis. This is a great tool to systematically collect all the important considerations to ensure the project’s success. Learn more about hypothesis mapping or want to invite UXlicious to conduct a hypothesis mapping workshop.

UX design step 2: Empathise, understand the problem

Next, the designers dig deep into the problem through several types of research, including user research (talk to the target audience directly and understand their pain points, expectations, etc.); market research (study the different market segmentation and products available in the sectors); competitor research (look at competitor offers to identify opportunities to beat the competition); and product research (analyze the existing product to understand user behavior).

UX design step 3: Define, and identify the user goal and pain points

This is one of the crucial phrases of the UX design and research process. The design team then summarises all the insights using user persona (a representation of a customer group with similar demographics), user journey maps (step-by-step visualization of a user’s problem and how they might use a digital product to solve it), empathy maps (a methodology for representing a user’s feelings and emotions as they encounter pain points while trying to complete tasks), etc. and use them as guidelines to start creating the potential solution.

If you want to know more about user persona and empathy mapping or how UXlicious can help you understand your users better, contact us now.

UX design step 4: Ideate, come up with potential solutions

With a clear understanding of the users, the market and the competitors, designers start to come up with potential solutions. We use a lot of sketching, paper prototyping, wire-framing to quickly visualise the solution we have in mind and socialise to get feedback. 

UX design step 5: Prototype, create mock-ups to test with actual user

Next, the UX design team converts wireframes and mock-ups to build high-fidelity prototypes that look and function like the final product. If the company has a design system, designers will use the UI component library to build interactive prototypes. 

UX design step 6: Validate, identify and fix potential issues before actual development

The purpose of creating a low/high-fidelity prototype is to validate (or invalidate) the solution we have envisioned. And to identify issues customers may encounter while using the product so we can get them resolved before the actual development. Sometimes we go through multiple test cycles to make sure we have an easy-to-use, intuitive user experience. Know more about how UXlicious conduct usability testing.

Key UX design principles

Even if you are not working in the UX design field or not familiar with the process, there are a few UX principles that can help you objectively evaluate a piece of UX work. 

UX principle 1: Meet the users need with minimum destruction

First and foremost, UX design focuses on the user task at the center. We need to be clear what users are looking for in the design (through user testing and other methods), do they get all the information they need to proceed, do they know how to proceed to the next step, can they change their mind easily and can they come back to continue if they drop off from the current user flow.

And these needs shall be met with minimum friction, as the primary objective of a product or service is to help users achieve their goals. And delay or destruction brings negative experience and you may risk losing the user.

UX principle 2: Have a clear hierarchy

A clear hierarchy ensures that the product is easy to understand, navigate and use, which means users can experience the benefit straight away and keep experiencing the product benefit. There are two chief hierarchies that you need to note:

the hierarchy associated with how content or information is organised throughout the design; take a navigation on the website for example, a complicated website may have primary, secondary and even tertiary categories so users are not put off by a long category list, and each sub-category shall be a subset of the primary so users do not end up getting into the wrong place;

the hierarchy associated with how visuals are presented; for example, a landing page shall have the most prominent content first and followed by less important information and end up with the footer that shows the full directory of the website.

UX principle 3: Keep consistency

The digital savvy users today are navigating through dozens or even hundreds of digital products and they expect products to share some similarities with other products they regularly use. This makes it easy for them to become familiar with the new product without any additional learning costs. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but the more familiar your design is to others, the faster users can learn to use it, which enhances their experience.

UX principle 4: Balance between white space and your content groups

Any site that is cluttered is bound to lose visitors. When the users are overwhelmed by the information, they will naturally resist to proceed and this creates the emotional hurdle which carries throughout the whole product experience. That is why we shall concentrate on clarity by bringing only useful features to the user’s attention.

Using white space in between groups of content helps to reduce the cognitive bundle and makes it easier to complete the task. The spaces make the content stand out in a meaningful way and help guide the users to the right focus through the task. 

UX principle 5: Use simple language, no jargons

Just as simplicity has become a best practice in visual design, UX-centric copywriting should avoid technical terms and opt for simple language. Users are busy, they’re on the go, they’re multi-tasking, so use words in your design that are closest to the user’s thoughts. Simple language is easy to understand, which enhances your design’s user-friendliness. 

UX principle 6: Give feedbacks to user actions

When users click on something, they need a response from the product to understand that their command has been received. When they fill in a form and submit, they want to know if the information is correct and if they have been received. Just like a conversation between two people, feedback is critical in the communication between machine and human.

We could use different forms of feedback: change shape, use different colours, play a sound, vibrate etc., and we shall choose what is best in a given use case. For example, a web form may use red to indicate wrong input; while vibration may be used when the phone is on silent mode to indicate incoming messages and calls.

UX principle 7: Pace the information through narrative design

Narrative design suggests we shall tell a story with our design. We can tell a story using time, which means pacing the content at the right speeds. Too slow, and we may bore the users with inadequate information; while too fast and we may inundate the users with too much information.

Another way we can tell a story is through rhythm, the pattern of unfolding the narratives. We use inverted pyramid structure to determine how contents shall be prioritised: starts with the conclusion first, followed by information that supports that conclusion, followed by additional background details.

What are the most important UX metrics?

UX key performance indicator (KPI), give you an objective way to measure progress over time, see if goals are being met, and analyse whether changes need to be made. The KPI can be categorised into two types: behavioural and attitudinal. Let’s look at 2 examples from each type:

Behavioural UX KPIs

Task Success Rate

Success rate shows the percentage of users who were able to complete a task in a study and helps designers identify usability issues. It is calculated with the following formula:

what is ux design

A good task has a clearly defined goal and a clear starting and ending point. In Flateasy, for example, we tested the task of publishing a flat and the task of sending an inquiry to the landlord, then we set the expected flow(s) we think the users will take through, and if it coincides with the one user take in the usability sessions, the result is a direct success.

Some examples of measurable tasks are:

  • Completing a signup form
  • Adding a specific product to a shopping cart
  • Subscribe to newsletter

Success rates are the KPI that offers a simple way to communicate usability findings to stakeholders. Context matters when assessing if your tasks’ completion rate is good or bad. However, studies have shown that, on average, 78% is a good completion rate.

Task Completion Time / Time on Task

Task completion time describes the time that a user needs to complete a task successfully, it is a measure of efficiency. For productivity and transactional tasks, the shorter the duration, the better the user experience. While for engagement tasks, the opposite is true.

The most common way to calculate task completion time is:

Attitudinal UX KPI

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric that quantifies how likely your customers are to recommend your product to a friend or colleague. NPS is a key indicator of customer loyalty and is relatively easy to collect.

Studies have shown that NPS is closely related to the perception of user experience. But it also has its own limitations. When used in isolation, it doesn’t give a complete picture. You may see users who give a high score have problems using your product while the ones who seem to navigate smoothly end up giving a low score.

NPS score is calculated by asking one question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this product to a friend or colleague?” Based on their rating, participants are classified into three categories:

  • Promoters: Participants who give a score of 9 or 10. They are enthusiastic, loyal customers who will refer your product to their friends, fuelling growth.
  • Passives: Participants who give a score of 7 or 8. Passive customers are satisfied but unenthusiastic.
  • Detractors: Participants who give a score lower or equal to 6. They are unhappy customers who probably won’t use your product again and who could potentially damage your brand through negative word-of-mouth.

Subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters yields the NPS score. This score can range from -100 (only detractors) to 100 (only promoters).

System Usability Scale (SUS)

System Usability Scale (SUS) is a post-test questionnaire given to a participant after a usability test is over. It consists of the following ten questions that address the usability and learnability of a system. Participants can answer each question using a five point scale, ranging from “I strongly agree” to “I strongly disagree.”

  1. I think that I would like to use this system frequently
  2. I found the system unnecessarily complex
  3. I thought the system was easy to use
  4. I think that I would need the support of a technical person to use this system
  5. I found the various functions in this system were well integrated
  6. I thought there was too much inconsistency in this system
  7. I would imagine that most people would learn to use this system very quickly
  8. I found the system very cumbersome to use
  9. I felt very confident using the system
  10. 10.I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this system

The SUS score is calculated with the following framework:

  • Convert the scale into numbers. “Strongly disagree” corresponds to 1, and “Strongly agree” corresponds to 5.
  • For each of the odd-numbered questions, subtract 1 from the score (X)
  • For each of the even-numbered questions, subtract their value from 5 (Y)
  • Sum all these numbers (X+Y) and multiply by 2.5

The SUS produces a score from 0-100 that indicates the perceived usability of a system. Based on research, a SUS score above 68 is above average, and anything below 68 is below average.

Final notes

According to a study conducted by the Design Management Institute, design-driven companies consistently outperformed the S&P 500 by 219% over a 10-year period . Furthermore, a study commissioned by Adobe found that design thinking in business creates a measurable competitive advantage. Design-led companies reported 41% higher market share, 50% more loyal customers, and 46% competitive advantage overall.

User-friendly, universal design is beneficial to everyone, and UX designers are in a position to truly shape the world around us.

The UXlicious team is of designers, engineers and product managers can handle the end to end process from requirement documentation to post launch monitoring, help you develop applications that meet user habits, and show your unique brand image.

Takeaways About UX Design

User experience (UX) design covers every touchpoint users have with your brand and product: the website landing page that features your products and services, the signup and onboarding flow, and the customer service replies when they initiate an inquiry. Unlike user interface (UI) design, which focuses on the visual presentation of the interface, UX design looks at how to make a product as effortless as possible for users so we can achieve better adoption, retention, and loyalty.

A good UX is directly related to the business bottom-line. With so many competitor products on the market and the cost of switching reduced to zero, the experience of the product becomes the success factor. Good UX design

  • helps to improve conversion, and you get more sales
  • benefits retention, so your customers are less likely to churn
  • reduces the need of support and customer service
  • minimises development rework, and improve quality

The UX design process is an iterative step-by-step methodology UX team applies to complete projects. Although the actual UX process varies by product and organisation, most companies use the design thinking process as the foundation:

  1. Scoping, understand the goal of the product/project

  2. Empathise, understand the problem

  3. Define, identify the user goal and pain points

  4. Ideate, come up with potential solutions

  5. Prototype, create mock-ups to test with actual user

  6. Validate, identify and fix potential issues before actual development

The KPI can be categorised into two types: behavioural and attitudinal.

Task success rate and task completion time are two behavioural metrics that measure how easy it is for users to complete a system task. 

Net promoter score (NPS) and system usability scale (SUS) asks users to answer a set of attitude question so we can calculate the overall score that measure the usability and learnability of a syste.

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Whether you want to learn about UX Design or need product design services, feel free to get in touch. We love a good challenge.

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