The UX workflow is the process product design teams go through to take a product from conceptualization to launch. An optimized workflow streamlines processes to ensure everyone knows what needs to be done and who is responsible for each task.
A key goal of an organized workflow is prioritizing product usability. Ideally, at the end of the process, the user will be able to perform required or desired tasks with the product easily and effectively.
Design teams should keep these five usability factors in mind:
- Time - How long does it take the user to complete tasks?
- Learning - Is the software intuitive and easy to learn?
- Satisfaction - Does the user have a good overall experience?
- Memorability - Can the user remember how to do a task when using the product a second time?
- Error assessment - If the user makes mistakes, can they get back to where they started, or will the experience be frustrating?
When users are satisfied with the end product, the brand is well-represented, and the workflow and the teams have done their jobs effectively.
UX vs. UI design
The two key players in the UX design process: the UX designer and the UI designer.
What’s the difference?
People often use the terms UX design and UI design interchangeably because the jobs often overlap, complementing each other as these designers work together (and sometimes the same designer does both, with the title of UX/UI designer). However, their purposes and the tasks they complete are not the same.
What is UX (user experience) design?
UX design refers to the full experience a user has with a company and its product. UX designers focus on what the customer needs, their emotions, and their satisfaction, from their first touchpoint to their last. They want to ensure the product functions well and that the user has a positive experience.
What is UI (user interface) design?
In contrast, UI designers focus on the customer’s aesthetic experience with a product. They want to make sure the customer enjoys the product’s appearance while they are using it. Therefore, they focus more on on-screen layout, user accessibility, and brand consistency with colors, fonts, animations, images, ensuring the customer finds the product visually appealing and the interface intuitive to use.
Let’s look at Facebook Messenger as an example. The UX designer would be concerned with how efficiently a user can do the things they want to do in a messaging app. Can they find their friends quickly and easily, type or dictate a message, add photos, or start a video chat? Can users accomplish the goal of communicating with their contacts effectively?
In contrast, a UI designer would consider whether the fonts and images are consistent with the Facebook brand, how users can customize the interface, and whether users can navigate the app effectively using the icons on the page.
UX and UI designers both need to understand the client and the brand, and they both share the ultimate goal of client satisfaction.
Why do UX and UI design matter?
UX and UI design are both essential in the product development process. A product with great UX design and poor UI design might function well, but users will be underwhelmed by the appearance. Conversely, an innovative idea and a great UI might attract customers, but if they can’t use the product effectively, they might abandon it altogether.
The product design process
Design teams work hard to develop products with the best possible user outcomes. When you break down the workflow, it may seem like the UX and UI designers’ roles are divided, with each responsible for separate steps. However, it makes more sense to look at the process as a whole and consider the importance of collaboration from beginning to end.
We can say the same for UX copywriting. While UX writers used to work within a finished design, design teams are now recognizing the importance of getting their input throughout the process. Also, tools like Frontitude enable collaboration and communication with the full context of the design, helping teams work together more efficiently. This is helpful not only for designers and UX writers but also for the entire product development team.
The UX workflow
Here’s an example of a workflow that includes both UX and UI teams:
- Understanding the problem and user - What is the problem to be solved? Why does it warrant being solved? Who does it affect? Who are the users? Defining them concretely is crucial, as there’s no such thing as “targeting everyone.” Whether or not you create elaborate user personas (not always necessary, by the way), it’s important to consider their pain points and concerns and to think about what, specifically, would give them value and make their lives and their experience better.
- Conceptualization and research - Discussions with experts, user surveys and interviews, focus groups, and competitor analysis can help refine your understanding of the problem and zero in on a potential solution for the specific audience you’re targeting.
- UX design - At this stage, designers organize the structure and content with hand sketches, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes. These can begin as simply as pen and paper drawings, bare bones sketches of blank web pages or smartphone screens, or in basic presentation software. Eventually, the team will work in a design tool (like Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, Mockplus, and more...) where they can also include and test different versions of copy.
- User testing - Different iterations are tested with a number of users to get feedback. There are many different ways to do user testing, including having prospects or users verbally walk one of your team members through their thought process as they go through the product, bringing users into your office and using eye-tracking studies to see how they use the product, or using a site like UserTesting.com, which lets you set up customer/user flows and get feedback to see how users respond to them, to name a few.
- UI design - When the UI design team takes the reins, they incorporate the visual design and interactive properties that take the user through the product. This is where the different components of the look and feel, including the design and copy, come together into one—hopefully cohesive—product.
- Collaboration with developers (or, developer handoff) - The design is handed off to developers to create high-fidelity, interactive prototypes and do more user testing. The developer makes sure that the product can come to life as envisioned and that the different flows and user journeys behave as expected.
- Launch and ongoing feedback and analysis - Once the product is launched, it’s over, right? Wrong. The best digital products are constantly evolving, responding to user and market needs, and incorporating new features or sunsetting problematic or irrelevant ones. So even after a product has been launched, the feedback loop stays open, with team members (often customer support, for example) continuing to gather feedback and pass it back to the product team.
Though the steps listed show the focus on particular teams, they vary by company and product, and there is likely to be a lot of communication between the different stakeholders in the project throughout the process.
Creating good and optimized UX workflows simply means fewer product iterations and result in quicker product launches, saving your organization time and money. Another step to supercharge your product’s user experience.