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The senior UX designers kept seeing students leave university and bootcamp with the same cookie-cutter portfolios – a paradigm they wanted to change. Now, they help people learn the actual process of UX design from scratch while also encouraging them to produce work that’s completely their own.
Ludovic and Colton had so much to tell me about UX design during our podcast together, including some other traps to avoid when entering the industry.
But before we look at these, let’s go through the way Colton and Ludovic approach a UX project.
One thing to note, however, is that these steps are not linear. Depending on the needs and what you learn along the way, you’ll jump back and forth between phases all the time and different methods to learn and get to the final solution.
The 4 core phases of the UX process
The first phase is research and understanding. Making sure that everyone in the team – designers, developers, project managers, execs – feels comfortable with the exact problem that they’re about to solve, both from a business and user perspective.
You need to frame the problem and know that you’re tackling the right one for the right users, says Colton and Ludovic. To get there, conduct some early interviews with customers to make sure that the business and user needs connect.
Once you have clarity on the problem, the next phase is called ‘information architecture and wireframing’. It’s a very high level way of putting pen to paper and sketching a bunch of different ideas. This stage is about quantity rather than quality; eliminating what doesn’t work and keeping what works.
Once you have an architecture that you feel will solve the problem, the next phase is about connecting the dots by putting a prototype together. This third phase is what Ludovic and Colton call ‘prototyping and usability testing’. You take all of the screens that you’ve created and come up with a usability test plan to have the user go through from beginning to end by creating a prototype that looks, feels and behaves like the actual product would.
Based on the results you get, you iterate on this again using the learnings and redo your prototype, improve it and test it once more to make sure it works.
If it does work, the final parts of the UX process are what Ludovic and Colton call ‘visual design and handoff’. Now that you know and have the certainty of the data to back up all your design decisions and you understand the ‘why’ behind everything, it’s about taking the architecture and experience and making it pixel perfect; making it feel like users can actually consume it right off the bat.
So, now you know the best way to run a project, here are some UX fails to avoid according to Colton and Ludovic.
Believing UX is all about visual design
Ludovic: People tend to think that UX designers make things pretty. And that’s so, so wrong. If they make things pretty but not functional, they completely miss out on what UX means in the first place.
Colton: The No. 1 misconception is that UX is just the visuals. There are a lot of online search queries out there about UX, and one of the top ones is ‘What is the difference between UX and UI?’
People have a fundamental misunderstanding about UX just being the visuals, so they don’t allot enough time for research, usability testing or other things that actually help with the true functionality of the product.
UX is an umbrella term with 6 core disciplines. There’s user research, business analysis, content strategy, information architecture, interaction design and visual design. Visual design is just one of those pillars, but it’s a part of UX.
Thinking you don’t actually need a UX designer
Ludovic: Depending on the size of the company, there might be different needs as to how many designers you require. But at the end of the day, UX designers have really connected business objectives with people and end users. So there’s no way around creating a good experience: you have to have a UX designer in the team.
Not investing enough effort into UX design
Colton: Some businesses say that they invest in UX, but they really don’t put the time or energy in. They don’t allot time for doing the research and they expect you [as a designer] to be done really, really quickly. There are just so many different ways that UX designers can fail during the process.
Ludovic: That’s so many companies, right? That are product led or engineering driven. It’s not a design culture at all. And it’s always an uphill battle line to educate the entire company to make sure that they understand the benefits of UX.
It should never be taken for granted how important it is that everyone else understands. So, it’s definitely true that we as designers have to play that role in educating people.
Not being as objective as possible
Ludovic: UX is about stepping away from preferences and subjective opinion. The key is to move towards what works for the end user. We need to actually talk to people, see what they think, see what makes sense to them. Does it solve their problem and their needs? That’s a much more interesting conversation to have rather than what I think and what you think.
Not being curious or having empathy for the user
Colton: You have to try and understand the ‘why’ behind things. That’s probably the most fundamental skill you need to have as a UX designer: a yearning to understand why.
Ludovic: That matters more than what you think as a designer. Try to see the perspective of the other person and you’re golden. Pretty much the No. 1 thing you need in UX is empathy for the user.
Not communicating properly
Ludovic: There’s a lot of attention paid to skills, prototyping, software, methodology, but at the end of the idea, the one thing that makes a huge difference in the overall success of a product is communication. Articulating and defending your decisions to different types of stakeholders – developers, product managers, execs, who all have different needs and different expectations about your work – is super, super key.
Being able to communicate well with each of them is something I wish I had paid more attention to back in the day because it’s the key to getting your solution adopted and supported by everyone in the team.
Colton: There are a lot of designers out there who just can’t adequately articulate their design decisions in a way that gets support for what they’re doing. And it makes their job much harder. Then they have to go back to the drawing board because stakeholders didn’t get on board for one reason or another. And a lot of that can be attributed to communication.
I hope you found this info useful! What did you think of it? Let me know, then get more great advice from Colton and Ludovic by listening to the podcast!