Good Website vs. Great Website: What Do UX Designers Do?
As business becomes increasingly digital, a website's user experience (UX) can make or break an online company.
Although some companies design their own websites and mobile apps, it takes a professional UX designer to translate customers' intent, preferences, and needs into a customer-centric, intuitive flow of pages and functions.
A UX designer is the person responsible for a site's "blueprint." He or she physically designs the layout and is accountable for the placement of every asset, function, and element of a site's design.
Once the design is complete, it's handed off to developers and engineers for coding and building of the app or website.
Use this article to understand what UX designers do and how they can help your company provide a high-quality website or app experience.
Responsibilities of a UX designer
UX designers are responsible for a variety of design elements on a site or app – as such, they need to possess a combinations of skills including:
- Graphic design
A UX designer's most crucial skills, however, are wireframing, interaction design, and cognitive psychology.
Think of a UX designer as a customer satisfaction expert. Their job is to understand user expectations and create the flow of dozens, or even hundreds, of pages and views that match customer needs.
Every UX designer's job comes with different responsibilities, but there are 3 stages common to all:
- Review and research
1. Review and research
The UX design process starts with review and research. This stage helps businesses uncover the unique needs of their target customer for their app or website.
According to a video report by Career Foundry, UX designers are responsible for creating a web or app product that's intuitive enough that people can use it without any learning curve.
To achieve this, a website audit helps UX designers understand the needs of the company, its customers, and the product.
An essential part of this process includes interviewing existing or potential users to determine their pain points and discover opportunities for improvement.
Designers begin by asking questions that help them identify customer needs, such as:
- What do users want?
- What problems should the product solve?
- What features are users looking for in this product?
- Why do people use this app?
Audits also include competitive research and creating buyer personas that inform product design.
It's easy for companies to get lost in what a product does or what it can be. Part of a UX designer's job is to stay focused on what users want and ensure that those preferences are realized in design plans.
Related article: How Mobile Apps Users Have Changed and What They Need Today
2. Wireframe sketching
Once UX designers identify customers' needs, the design stage begins. This takes form in wireframes of site plans using screenshots or hand-drawn images.
Wireframes communicate how a designer intends to lay out a project, emphasizing usability over aesthetics.
Sketching wireframes helps businesses save time and money by iterating changes before the prototype launches.
Wireframes also allow web developers to review and offer feedback about design, which helps inform their development plan.
For example, Qello concerts, a concert streaming service, created wireframes that mapped out various functions of its app before development.
Designers incorporate UX best practices in their wireframes to avoid common annoyances and misleading web elements later on in the development process.
Feedback, adjustments, and re-sketching are all a part of the wireframe process – the more adjustments that can be made before development begins, the better.
3. Prototype testing
When designers finish iterating wireframes, the testing stage begins with prototype design. Prototypes are simulations or samples of the final product that design teams use for testing.
The prototype stage focuses on testing: the more testing and changes that take place during the prototype phase, the more time and expense businesses save.
Early and continuous testing allows designers, developers, and brands to catch problems and develop solutions early in the process.
Designers use three main methods when prototyping a product:
- Paper: Using Paper prototypes are a cost-effective way to identify problems with the design before creating digital products that are harder to change.
- Digital: Using digital platforms and software to demonstrate prototypes of the product – this includes online prototyping tools such as Mockplus.
- HTML: Prototyping in HTML lays a foundation for your product and provides a more realistic view about how the product will look and operate. This approach, though, is subject to designer familiarity with HTML.
The above example shows a high-fidelity paper prototype – appropriate for when teams are ready to show the prototype to clients and users.
By the time the final prototype is complete, any required changes should be minor.
Each method has benefits and downfalls, but all can be used to mimic the product's function and iterate before product advances make changes challenging. UX designers and project teams should determine which method best suits their project's unique needs.
UX designers help businesses create customer-centric websites and mobile apps
UX designers work with app developers and web development project teams to create high-quality apps and websites that focus on users' needs.
Specifically, they create personas that drive website and app design so that brands can create customer-centric websites.
Their process breaks down into 3 stages:
- Reviewing and researching company needs and user preferences to gauge the scope and function of the product.
- Creating wireframes that outlines the stages of design and functions of the product.
- Developing prototypes to test the product at a higher level before digital development begins using paper, digital, or HTML.
Through their work, UX designers provide a better experience for users, making it an essential business investment for companies looking to grow their digital presence.
This is a guest post by Kelsey McKeon. Kelsey is a Content Writer for Visual Objects, a portfolio website where companies can display visual projects for B2B buyers to review.