Graphic design is more than just making a project “look pretty:” it’s about solving a problem. Think of it like this: if your landing page isn’t converting leads, you can examine why from different angles. One of those happens to be design—maybe it’s not engaging or doesn’t clearly convey what you want users to do. By redesigning the landing page (and tweaking the call to action, for example), you may be able to solve that issue. This process of creative problem solving is called user experience design, and it’s a critical first step in any project.
In the past, we’ve discussed how to create visually appealing designs for the web and print, even if you aren’t a professional graphic or web designer. Let’s take this conversation to the next level by reviewing what user experience is all about.
What Is User Experience Design?
User experience encompasses everything from a prospect’s discovery of your site to the final product (which can be a physical product, a website, landing page, etc.). User experience design thus involves learning about your ideal audience and their behaviors and then using that information to shape your project. Essentially, you’re looking to understand:
- Your business goals—what do you want to accomplish?
- Your prospects’ goals—what are they trying to accomplish?
- Your brand—what does the “face” of your company look like?
We know this doesn’t sound very much like designing—where’s all the talk about typography and colors? But it’s an essential first step before we even think about those aspects. User experience identifies the value of your end goal—if it’s worth pursuing, your users will let you know in this research stage.
The Elements of User Experience
A successful user experience strategy calls for five elements that build on top of each other, gradually moving from abstract to concrete ideas:
- Strategy, or the product’s reason for existing.
- Scope, which determines the product’s features and functions.
- Structure, or how the product responds to the user’s actions.
- Skeleton, or how the structure of the webpage will be laid out.
- Surface, which is the user interface (colors, typography, images, etc.).
These elements work together to create a functioning and relevant product that your users will actually enjoy.
The Importance of Strategy
Strategy is, without a doubt, the most important part of user experience design. Without a solid strategy for creating a good user experience and data to back up your decisions, you’re going in blind and doing things just for the sake of doing them. Clearly, that’s not an optimal way to try to approach any project.
In fleshing out your user experience strategy, you want to research your user’s expectations and goals. You can glean this information by conducting surveys of your ideal audience and reading competitor reviews on what their users wish their products did. From there, you can answer the “why” of the problem you’re trying to solve.
Based on your research, you need to create user personas to model the customers who have specific needs that your product or service can address. In creating these personas, you need to include customers’ demographics, the challenges they’re facing, the things they need to solve their problem, and the ideal solution. This information helps you create measurable goals and experiments to objectively test how your product will fare once launched. This exercise also helps you remember that you are creating a product for your users, not yourself.
Only after completing these strategic steps can you begin to design a successful and worthwhile end product. Based on the five elements listed above, there are a few more steps in the user experience process; we will review those in a future blog post. Stay tuned!
Contact us today for more information about user experience design.
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