UX creates solutions applying a user-centred approach and future-oriented thinking.
As UX designers, our first objective is to understand the user, the user’s goals and the user’s needs. Understanding the user is just as important when redesigning an existing system as it is when designing a brand new solution, but the approach to getting the information about the user may be different. A contextual inquiry to observe how the user interacts with the system in their environment is helpful for the former, while creating a persona or user mindset to profile the user pain points is helpful for the latter. The desired outcome of user research is to understand what problem we’re solving for the user and how the user will interact with our solution.
Further context for the solution can be derived from a heuristic analysis of the current state solution and an industry analysis of how others are tackling similar problems.
Armed with our research, we are ready to start designing a data-driven solution tailored for our user. When planning an application or a site, we often start by drafting a site or application map or a navigation flow to chronicle the user’s journey through the solution.
After we have some idea of how the user will interact with our app or site, we get to what others traditionally think of as design - the wireframing, visual design and prototyping. Wireframes range in fidelity depending on project goals, but the main objective of wireframes (which we affectionately refer to as ‘wires’) is to determine the information architecture and hierarchy - or what goes where on the interface. Tools we use include Omnigraffle, Axure and Sketch.
To bring the wires to life, a visual designer is brought on for art direction and colour theory, often using Photoshop to create high fidelity mock-ups.
A front-end prototype can be created either from wires or mock-ups depending on the goal, using a tool like Axure or InVision. Prototypes are good to give clients the look and feel of a solution, and for rapid iteration.
In addition, UX can provide high-level visionary strategy. We help envision the blue sky possibilities for our clients around the themes of context, community, sharing, social media and more.