What does a UX designer do, and how to excel as a UX designer?
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“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” (Steve Jobs). In this article, we’ll explore the journey and vision of Monde H Dikwayo, Senior Experience Designer at Wizeline. Monde will give us a glimpse of the world of a UX designer, bust some myths around the role and help us learn about what goes into being a successful designer.
Monde has more than 10 years of experience in the field of design and combines a deep understanding of user behaviour with a passion for innovation and cutting-edge technology. He started his career as a graphic designer at Intel’s computer clubhouse for kids. There, he discovered his love for computers and technology, and since then, has been on a continuous growth journey to become a Digital Creative, Product Designer, and now Senior Experience Designer at Wizeline.
Read on to know more about Monde’s experience in the design field and his views on the roles and responsibilities of a UX designer.
How a UX designer envisions and executes ideas
User experience is at the heart of a successful product, and the UX designer’s responsibility is to perfect that experience with the use of data, prototyping, and testing.
According to Monde, to create a user experience that truly meets the needs of your audience, it is essential to understand every aspect of your audience.
All of the above start with something known as “Design Thinking” which is critical to the development of a product.
Given below is a quick glimpse of 5 steps involved in the Design Thinking process:
“Empathize” means to understand and share the feelings of others and this is the core to understanding any user problem. Before putting a solution in front of your users, it is important to address their needs, which requires understanding your users early in the process and as deeply as possible. This can be done by conducting user research and gathering as many data points as possible with the following:
|Observation||Observation involves closely watching and documenting how users interact with a product, service, or environment to gain insights into their behaviours, emotions, attitudes, and needs.
Observations can be conducted in various settings like a face-to-face sitting or a virtual set-up or captured via recordings and camera footage viewings.
Interviews are a direct way of capturing data on user behaviour and needs. They allow designers to gather important insights into a user’s attitudes, feelings, and needs with the help of close-ended or open-ended questions.
This gives the users the freedom to give detailed answers to the questions put forward by the researcher or designer.
Here, a small group of people from the target audience of a product are brought together and a moderator gives them topics or questions to discuss.
This gives users a platform to share their opinions and researchers a brilliant way to capture useful insights.
The Five Whys is a unique problem-solving methodology that is used to identify the root cause of a problem.
The technique involved asking five “whys” at different stages of a conversation to help uncover the primary cause of a problem.
In a real-life scenario, Monde adopted the steps of the Empathy stage to solve the problems of an online delivery app owned by a friend.
The problem statement at that time was: “The app should help with fast and efficient delivery. But, it turned out to have a high churn rate, caused by dropoffs occurring at the Product Listing pages.”
As a UX designer, he had to:
– Uncover the root cause behind the problem statement by investigating additional product experience issues.
– Gather the PIC from the product and business team in a 4-day workshop to analyze product journey historical data and study past completed user flow.
– Summarize and conclude the priorities of improvements that needed to be made.
From this, we can see how important it is for teams to communicate and work together during the Empathy Stage and use the power of data and analytics to come to constructive conclusions.
The “Define” stage of design thinking involves building a deep understanding of user needs and is structured around creating user personas, journey maps, and job stories. A successful product can only be created when each individual user’s needs are met and the solution delivered goes a step beyond other competitors in terms of experience. Here are the key components involved in this step:
A Proto-persona is a simple, first-level profile of a potential user, created early in the design process when little is known about the user. It is created to communicate a shared understanding of a profile among different teams and is often based on assumptions and secondary research.
An example of Proto-personas
As we mentioned above, every user is unique in their needs and behaviours, which is why user personas are created to categorize the different types of users you want to target. This helps UX designers create features and products that meet the specific needs of each user persona.
Personas, though fictional, are more detailed than the Proto Persona and are created by collecting data from user interviews, focus group studies, and surveys.
An example of Personas
- Journey maps:
Journey maps are visual representations of a user’s experience or journey when navigating through a product.
Creating and analyzing user behaviour through different journeys helps UX designers understand their experience and pain points at each step of the journey so that they can be addressed in their new designs.
An example of Journey maps
- Job stories:
When building or improving user experience, it is vital to understand the goals and motivations of users when interacting with a product. Unlike traditional user stories that focus on product features and functionality, job stories help UX designers gauge the context or the intent with which the customer is using the product.
A job story typically has the following structure:
Answering these typically helps UX designers understand why the users engage with their product and what benefits or outcomes they hope to achieve by doing so.
This step involves the creation of an idea since no design process is complete without creative and analytical thinking. As a UX designer, all of the user behaviour analysis, journey creation, and profiling boils down to this step of putting those data points together and creating the main idea or concept of the product. The following are a few steps most companies focus on when working on a product design concept or idea:
|Brainstorming is the process to put together a large number of ideas from multiple people in a short amount of time. It is a safe and creative environment that gives all members of the team an open platform to share their ideas without judgment or criticism.|
|Mindmapping||Mind mapping is the process of visually representing ideas to better organize and structure them. It is constructed as a diagram that connects related ideas to a central theme or problem resulting in the exploration of possible solutions for the problem.|
Sketching involves quick visualization and exploration of ideas on paper or a digital pad. It is used to share ideas with others and explore different solutions to a problem. Sketching can be considered a low-fidelity way to put together and iterate design ideas before moving on to rough mock-ups.
These are rough designs of screens or products on paper that are used to present ideas in a basic layout. They are used to make quick iterations and improve design concepts without investing too much time or resources into the process. These are often helpful in testing or validating ideas with users or stakeholders.
After the conceptual design thinking process, UX designers can start with prototyping which involves creating an initial version of the product that can be tested by users.
Prototyping can often take many forms, from being on paper to digital mock-ups to interactive prototypes. The main aim of prototyping is to gather feedback and insights from users or stakeholders and improve the nuances of the product to make it more user-friendly.
The main components of a complete prototype include:
- Low-fi designs (digital sketches)
- Mid-fi designs (wireframes)
- Hi-fi designs (mock-ups with or without micro-interactions).
This is a user-centric process that focuses on putting the prototype out to a controlled audience and collecting their feedback about the product. Testing is essential for analyzing the usability of the product and its effectiveness in providing solutions for the problem statements.
Testing can be conducted in multiple ways:
- A/B testing
- Usability testing
- Heat map analysis
- Remote testing
However, the primary goal of these tests is to gather feedback from users and use it to improve the product before the final launch.
UX design testing can be conducted in multiple ways
UX designer vs other design roles
When Monde moved on to work with a digital agency, he had a fixed goal in his mind: “To expand my skill sets and to create more interactive and measurable designs than just aesthetic designs.”
This, he explains, is the main difference between a graphic designer and a digital designer. Both roles shared the same vision and principle, which is to create visual communication and deliver value to customers through design. However, the two fields differ vastly in their scope and approach. Similarly, the UX designer role is quite different from the role of other design roles like UI design and Interaction design.
Given below is a comparison chart that highlights the key difference between the different design roles as per Monde.
|UX Design||Interaction Design||UI Design||Visual Design|
|Focus on||– User needs
– The interface
– Overall user interactions
|– The interface
– Users’ interactions at a specific moment
|– The interface||– Aesthetic and communication|
|Roles||Multiple roles||Specialized role||Multiple roles||Specialized role|
|Expertise||Identify users’ needs and provide the best solutions for users’ interaction through research, testing, data||Analyze how users interact with the product and shape it to be more accessible||Transform UX designers’ visions into a smooth and intuitive interaction||Manage the communication and branding across all touchpoints|
|Deliverables||– User Personas
– Journey Maps– User Stories– Usability Report– Wireframes
|– Interactive Modules
– Prototypes – Motion Design Guidelines
– Logic and structure of user interaction
|Visual design of interactive elements (form fields, buttons, drop-downs, animations, etc.)
– Mock-ups– Graphic– Layouts
|Visual elements (color palettes, fonts, typography, images, icons, shapes, white space, textures, etc.)|
|Goals||– The interface is well organized and functions accordingly
– The product is accessible and usable
– The users’ journey is efficient and enjoyable
|– A user gets the desired experience at every touchpoint
– The interactions are engaging and meaningful
|– All the features are easy to access, understand, and use on various devices
– The layouts are easy to navigate
– The interface is aesthetically pleasing
– The product looks appealing to targeted users
– Brand image is positive and consistent with the right information.
How to excel as a UX designer?
Authenticity, passion, and the will to learn are often considered the key elements required to succeed as a UX designer. According to Monde, a UX designer does not need to have a graphic design or core design background. A good starting point for any designer is to have a design mindset or a product mindset, which allows them to understand a user’s problems and work towards solving those.
UX design mindset
UX design is more about a mindset than skills, and this is proven by all the above processes involved in building the right design thought.
A successful UX designer, according to Monde, should get to the basics and practice drawing and reading as daily habits.
- Drawing: Drawing helps create and visualize ideas, while reading can give insights into the latest trends and best practices in the design field.
- Reading: Like in every field, constant learning is important to keep growing in your career and improve your skill sets. Monde recommends the following books and courses for those looking to build their careers as UX designers and learn more from experts in the field:
Books for UX Designer:
- About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design
- Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
- The design of everyday things
- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Courses for UX Designer:
- UX Certificate by Wizeline
- Certificate program by Nielsen Norman Group
- Information Design specialization program by University of California San Diego
Adding on to the practices to be followed by a good UX designer, Monde states that having a UX mindset stands alongside having a product mindset.
A product mindset implies that you are always thinking of your users’ problems and improving the product for them. Successful UX designers work constantly with product managers and developers to create a seamless experience for their users.
Stating an actual work scenario, Monde shares the following as the key to becoming a successful UX designer:
- Collaboration and communication with all stakeholders to understand the problem and the possible solutions
- Focus on creating a product that creates an impact and helps solve users’ problems
- Be as authentic and honest as you can in the work that you do
- Try and learn something new every step of the way
A UX designer’s role is not limited to creating breathtaking designs, they also need to excel at solving user problems and building experiences users will love. Apart from these, it is all about the commitment and dedication of each individual UX designer to their role, which makes them excel at their job.
About Monde H Dikwayo
Get ready to be inspired! Our interviewee, Monde H Dikwayo is a true digital creative who has been nurturing his passion for innovation over the last 10 years. In this duration, he has worked for both SaaS and consulting services, alongside the brightest innovators across the globe. Monde has been part of South Africa’s most awarded digital agencies for both effective and creative work in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
As an experience designer, Monde is committed to delivering unique experiences that help shape communities. But that’s not all – he is also the co-founder of JCC Radio, a children’s radio station that uses technology to empower kids between the ages of 9-18. With his platform, he has successfully given children a platform to express themselves and explore new ideas.
Monde’s ultimate vision is to uplift and inspire, using his analytical mindset paired with cutting-edge solutions to help individuals and businesses move towards a brighter future.
Written by Ankita Dutta
“Technology is best when it brings people together” – Matt Mullenweg, and that is exactly what I aim to do with my writing – bring people together to converse about everything new in technology. A marketer by day and an avid reader and writer by night, my passion for writing is fueled by the changing landscape of the world and cross-cultural learning. With my writing, I hope to inform, inspire, and enable readers to pursue their passions.