What Nobody Ever Tells You About UX Design (And What You Need To Know)

WTF is UX? Sure, it's one of those buzz-terms you all nod your head to, yet silently worry that you don't completely understand. And guess what, you're not alone.

How does anyone keep up-to-date with every new digital acronym that surfaces? 

(Let alone know all the principles and practices they stand for.)

But here's the thing about UX. You're already doing it. You're already owning it.  

And you know exactly what it is, without even knowing it.

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What is UX Design?

UX, or user experience, is all around us. It refers to the journey a user has with any product or service. The response of your remote control, the functionality of your coffee machine, the navigation of the website as you’re reading this extraordinary blog post – that's all UX. 

UX design takes it into account all those tiny details that shape the overall user experience; how it makes the user feel, and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their desired tasks. This boils down to any interaction – from how a physical product feels in your palm of your hand, to how straightforward the checkout process is when shopping online. 

The goal of UX design is always to create a simple and seamless experience for the user. 

Sounds easy enough, right?

“To design solely from a list of clients requirements and not consider the user, means we have failed them as the designer.” — Jason Soultan, Partner & Design Director at SOUL + WOLF

It's safe to say this way of thinking and theory is anything but new. Some might argue it's basically Feng Shui, or Ancient Greek ergonomics. But can you guess where the term UX was first applied?

Here’s a clue: It didn’t fall far from the tree.

Cut to the early 90s.  A cognitive scientist by the name of Donald Norman joined Apple as their User Experience Architect – the first person to ever claim UX in their job title. 

He coined the term 'user-experience design' as a way to describe the many perspectives that UX encompasses.

He explains, “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”



What Does a UX Designer Do?

The best way to answer this was to head straight to the source and ask our UX designers themselves. 

“My job as a designer is to ensure the user and the client get what they need and want, out of any product or website – to have the best experience possible.” – Stephanie Allen, UX Designer

Jason adds,  “While our solution is ultimately developed for the client, our role as UX designers is to humanise technology and do everything in our power to make the experience as simple, seamless and intuitive as possible for the end-user. ”

What Are The Principles of UX Design?

This is where stuff starts to get technical so without going jargon-heavy, we figured we'd distil down key design principles  to 5 terms you commonly know.

(And to make it easy to remember, we’ve made them all start with the letter C.)

1. Clarity

Think of a website or app. How is the content organised?

Is it marked in clear sections for you to cruise and click – or is it slapped against the screen like a Jackson Pollock for you to assemble in your mind? 

Thankfully, there’s a hierarchy within the sitemap design – allowing you to know where you are, and help you find what you need to find.

Things like:

  • Headings up the top are large and bold 
  • Pictures placed at the bottom or lay beside body text
  • Interactive elements like buttons or links marked in different colours

2. Consistency

You know what you know. And UX designers can't change that. That's why they tend to go with the flow. 

Tempting as it may be to deviate from the norm, designers lean on established patterns and elements that are innate, allowing fresh encounters to feel consistent with human recall. 

Because the more familiar any product is, the more easily users will learn it and the better the overall experience will be. 

When you get the latest iPhone, you know exactly how it all works because the design is consistent with every previous model. Right? 

3. Control

How many times have you had to click the cancel button – or use the keyboard shortcut for undo? 

That's control at work right there.

And the more control you can have over the task you're doing, the more efficient your experience. 

UX designers constantly look for new and clever ways to streamline functionality of products and give users the greatest freedoms in achieving their desired outcomes. 

4. Confirmation

You all know what human error is. And the important role UX can play is to save us from ourselves. 

Are you sure you want to permanently delete this photo? 

If it's something irreversible or significant, UX puts up a block and forces the user to confirm the action. 

And sure, this requires extra effort on the user. But a better outcome is worthy of a small inconvenience. 

*Please review your credit card details before pressing confirm.*

5. Convenience

Whatever the product that's being designed – it's for someone on the other end to use. And if it’s too complex, it’s not going to cut it.

UX designers are committed to ensuring their products are universally easy to use by as many people as possible. And thankfully, modern awareness includes designing for people with disabilities and technical limitations. 

Designers constantly look at ways to remove obstacles and roadblocks to promote accessibility – all in the name of the smoothest interface.

Would you rather fill out an entire sign-up form or just pop in your email address? 

Don’t answer that. Designers know you’re lazy. 

How Do People Do UX Research?

Where market research aims to get into the consumer’s heads and harvest buyer behaviour – UX research is trying to walk a mile in the consumer's shoes, a look inside the journey.

Because of course, UX is subjective – the experience that any person goes through while using a product can and will differ.  Therefore, it's crucial to understand the needs and desires of users, the context, and their tasks which are unique for each product. 

By selecting relevant  UX research methods and applying them rigorously, designers can aptly shape a product’s design, and can come up with products that serve both customers and businesses more effectively.

And the types of research will depend on the type of site, system, or app being developed.

Generally, there's two major types of user research:

1. Quantitative
Data that can be calculated and recorded – the numbers and statistics. 
Examples can include; online surveys, website interceptors and systematic observations.

2. Qualitative
Insights derived from behavioural descriptions – the stuff that’s examined but can’t be computed. 
Methods can include; user interviews, prototyping, usability tests, and field studies.

Though, as Einstein said; “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” There’s no better display of this principle than in design research. An understanding of user journeys may be hard to rationalise or obtain, but paramount in designing any ideal experience. 

Why Do UX Research?

“Going into a build without knowledge is setting yourself up for disaster. You need to keep up-to-date otherwise you’re designing products that aren’t relevant to today’s user and market.” – Stephanie Allen, UX Designer 

This seems common sense, yet developers often skip the research stage. We can’t understand why, as it’s essential not only in the beginning of any project, but throughout the entire process:

1. Understanding Relevance

Unless you have a real understanding of your users, there's no way of recognising whether your design will be relevant. Because a design that isn't geared for its target audience will never succeed. 

2. Testing Functionality

As Steve Jobs said; “If a user is having a problem, it’s our problem."

If the user experience of your product isn’t optimal – people will simply move on. Next. 

3. Assessing Return

Because if it isn't going to be sellable or resourceful to the market you're looking at, perhaps re-assess the idea. And if you’re over-capitalising on a product that isn’t sustainable – better to know before it’s too late. 

Wrapping Up UX 

UX design is fast-evolving every day. With each new platform, a new user journey emerges. And that's the challenge of UX, keeping up with the latest technologies to ensure they’re consistently responsive to their audience. 

In many ways, UX design is the fundamental step in ensuring that basic functions – that we all take for granted – remain part of the world we share.

It shapes the products and services we all use daily, and can make or break the success of any business or brand.