It’s an exciting time to be a user experience (UX) designer. As more companies are shifting to D2C (direct-to-consumer) and focusing on eCommerce, leaders are starting to understand the real value of UX and are seeking to integrate UX expertise into their internal marketing teams. They’re seeing conversion rates increase dramatically from building digital solutions that are focused on what the user needs.
Along with this integration and industry growth, comes many challenges. As a UX designer, we are tasked with solving problems from two perspectives: the client and the user. It’s our job to use facts and validated ideas to solve for the user while achieving the business goals. It is crucial to separate truth from opinion. In this highly collaborative role, requiring the participation and knowledge of many stakeholders within the organization is crucial. This collection of ideas naturally introduces friction, but this mash-up of minds is necessary to gather alignment, requirements, and valuable insight about the product being created.
There are basic steps to take that ensure the delivery of not only a great product that meets business expectations, but also one that provides the final user with an engaging and memorable experience.
The Discovery Phase
One of the most important stages of UX is the discovery phase. This is when we gather as much information as we can about the initiative at hand. During this phase, our goal is to understand the user’s behaviors, needs, desires, and attitudes. There can never be too much research. Without it, our work can only be based on our own experiences and assumptions, not the user’s.
Depending on the scope of the project, discovery can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. Our basic process typically includes:
1. Stakeholder Interviews and/or Questionnaire
We need to understand from the business perspective, the goals, pain points and considerations as part of defining the problem we are trying to solve. Tips on how to conduct a successful stakeholder interview can be found here.
2. User Interviews and Survey
Interviews and surveys help us understand the target audience we are designing for (aka: The users that will be using the product).
Written surveys are best for providing data that validates our project to key stakeholders. Closed questions work better to get more precise information, which means adding yes/no questions and multiple selection answers.
Interviews work best in person or over video and they help us get an intimate look into the user’s world. Guide the conversation while allowing the interviewee to elaborate and explain their answers. 1v1 interviews are best if the project scope allows.
Pro tip: Goggle forms lets you create free surveys and send them out to your list of participants. They also create a spreadsheet and graphics with the results, saving you time and easily allowing you to share with others.
3. UX Audit
Many clients we work with have an already existing web/app and ask us for recommendations on how to make it better. I like to make user flows with screenshots of the current site, to help find the pain points and identify opportunities. Having the whole flow laid out visually makes it easier to understand at a high level how things can be changed and improved.
4. Social Listening, Inspiration, and Competition
What other solutions are already out there in the market? What are people saying about them? How can we build a better product based on what we gather from the current landscape?
We search for answers to these questions by taking screenshots, saving references, and sharing knowledge that can help us visualize and conceptualize our solution. Inspiration is the best tool used to open the creative mind and it can come from anywhere.
Pro tip: When looking for references, start with heuristics to narrow your search path. Heuristics are specific features, tools, styling, similar sites, training materials, filters, etc.
What does your Discovery Phase look like? Leave us a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to know.