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Understanding User Experience: How People Drive Design

Authored by: Logan Bingaman (Graphic Designer) and Adam Helm (Sr. Graphic Designer)

It’s hard to imagine getting through the day without technology. Think of all the revolutionary designs that have popped up in our daily lives just within the last several years. Touch screens. Voice activation. Facial recognition. Bluetooth integration. Not only do these features make our lives better, but they also open up a whole realm of possibilities—and challenges—in the UX (user experience) design process. During that process, one idea must remain at the forefront: product success relies on people. More so, it relies on how convenient, accessible, and essential people believe that product is in their day-to-day activities.

When building or updating a website, mobile app or service, which we refer to as “products,” it is crucial to start understanding the customer early in the development phase. This will ultimately inform decisions throughout the entire process. For a better understanding of just how important people are in the design process, let’s break down how MonkeyTag approaches the user experience.

Research
Before you build a framework for design decisions, you’ll want to understand what motivates your customer. You can conduct research using a variety of tools including focus groups, customer personas, journey mapping, and analytic programs. The data gathered will provide valuable insight into your customers’ needs. If your assignment is a product redesign, then collecting data will reveal problem areas and help you figure out new ways to enhance the customer experience.

Wireframing
With the data collected and priorities mapped out, your next phase is wireframing and concepting. The best way to understand wireframing is by comparing it to the blueprints of a house. A well-designed blueprint lays out the specs of what you are building and ensures it all works together. For example, you would hate to get to the end of construction and realize you forgot to add a door. Wireframes work the same way. They provide a simple visual drawing of a product to understand content layout, website hierarchy, user flow, and navigation. Wireframes allow the designer, developer, and client to determine which format is most effective by testing and comparing user scenarios. Proper wireframing reduces time spent during the skinning process and also sets expectations for the final product. Our advice? Never rush this phase. Putting in the time and effort now saves time and money down the road.

Prototyping
Now you’re ready to test your product before it goes through the time-consuming development process. There are a variety of quality tools available to assist with product prototyping. At MonkeyTag, we use Sketch and Invision. The Sketch application allows us to build out our wireframes into high-fidelity designs that look very similar to the final product. This is perfect for user flow experimentation and understanding the customer journey. Once our designs are in a good place in Sketch, we transfer those to Invision, which allows us to make interactive prototypes of our web and mobile designs. Both of these programs are great tools for sharing progress with clients and making updates in real time.

User Testing
Following our UX process will lead you to a solid product; however, unanticipated complications are always possible. That’s why alongside the prototyping phase, we also perform user tests with target audiences. Usability testing is an industry-wide accepted technique that helps us validate strategy and design solutions, identity problem areas, and ultimately, see how the product works in real-life scenarios. When you’re taking a user-centered approach, the best way to prove your strategy is to involve the user early on in the process. Testing enables users to comment and assess multiple versions of a prototype so you can see what performs best. The results will help you decide if a product is ready to go or if it needs more work before it achieves your objectives.

In conclusion, the consumer is one of your most valuable assets. When you’re building a product, be mindful of how individuals interact with your design throughout each phase of development, from focus groups to user testing. We live in a time where user experience cannot be ignored. Never disregard the user or make assumptions. Take the time to get it right and know when to pivot to meet the demands of tomorrow.

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