MaRS Library The Process Behind UX Design with Darrin Henein
Video transcript | The Process Behind UX Design with Darrin Henein
What is the importance of user research?
User research is important to the process. It helps you understand what you’re trying to accomplish and how you might accomplish that. It’s too easy to jump to solutions and to assume that you can understand the motivations and needs and desires of your users. But unless you go out and actually talk to them and observe them in their kind of natural habitat, you’re just making assumptions. And so backing up those assumptions and validating them with observations in the field is a really helpful way to make sure that you are focusing on your users throughout the process.
Describe the project process for UX design.
The process for a UX team, regardless of the problem, often follows the same format. You kind of have two phases. One is where you’re discovering the problem, and one is where you’re discovering the solution. Often, you’re going to start with a “define” phase. This is where you’re really defining the problem you want to solve, challenging assumptions you might have, doing some research to understand, is the problem you want to solve really the root problem, or is it the result of some other thing?
From there, you’re going to go into ideation. Ideation is where you’re going to start expanding the concept that you’re considering. You’re going to think about all the different ways that you can solve this problem. There’s no ideas that are bad ideas. You really just want to make sure that you’re not missing anything.
From there, you want to start defining a bit more clearly what those solutions mean, and how well they might work and so you shift into a prototyping phase. This is the phase where you’re taking some of these more interesting solutions and seeing how well they actually work. You’re not building the real thing, but you’re building a prototype, or you’re faking it, or just having someone flick through a PowerPoint in order to understand, is this solution actually doing what we want to do in the first place.
From there, you start narrowing in on the solution. You start talking about how you build this thing. This is where the more traditional sense of design comes in, where we’re doing mock-ups and wire frames, and flow charts as artifacts that we can work with an engineering team to help build.
After that, we’re going to launch the product. There’s always this “learn” phase at the end. You never want to just put something out there and call it done. You’re always wanting to take the assumptions and questions that still remain, and look at how it’s performing in the real world as a way to start that cycle again, as well as look at the metrics that you have in mind to see how well the design is doing against the goal you had in mind.
How does the user fit into the UX process?
Understanding the user is really important, and it can take a lot of time in some cases. Ideally, as an organization, you’re building up this shared understanding of who your customers are and who your users are, so each time you’re not having to learn things anew. When you’re going into a new field or a new vertical, and you’re not familiar with the people there, it could take some time and more research effort to get a really good understanding of what their problems are, what their needs are, what are their desires. But as an organization, you’re eventually going to build this shared understanding of who these people are, so you can focus on the remaining unknowns specific to the project.
It’s really important to get feedback along the way from your users. We do it throughout the process, and so as we’re researching, as we’re interviewing and observing, we’re constantly asking and looking for opportunities to make their lives better. As we shift into the ideation phase, we’ll often bring in stakeholders either from a support team, or the users themself, to be involved in that ideation process. They’ll have insights that we just don’t have.
As we shift into the prototype, that’s a really good place to take things out into the field, take it to the hands of the people who are going to be using this product, and just seeing how they react. It’s not the final thing, and so they’ll have to kind of fill in the blanks. But seeing how they react to the solution, and if they get excited about it, if they’re still frustrated, those are good signs.
Then once it’s out in the field, once you’ve shipped something, having feedback mechanisms in your product for people to share their concerns at the right times, so if an error pops up, giving them an opportunity to say how they feel, or to kind of give feedback about how things could be better is a good opportunity.
How do you test & validate ideas?
There’s a few different ways we can test and validate ideas. It depends on kind of the maturity of the idea and how much uncertainty exists around it. Early on, we’re often just talking to people, we’re just giving them some sense of what we might think about, what are the problems they have, or really trying to explore where that alignment is.
Once we’re in the prototyping phase, we have some certainty about what we want to do, but there’s still lots of questions about the implementation and the language, and how we’re communicating these ideas. At that point, again just asking them, is this doing what you expect it to be doing? What do you expect this to be doing? Getting a sense of, is our intent coming across clearly.
Then later on, there’s lots of places for feedback for products that exist out there. We dig through forums, we talk to our support team, talk to all the different places that people might vent or share their frustrations or delights about the product and bring those back into the process.
What are key metrics to evaluate a design’s effectiveness?
There’s many metrics you can look when you’re thinking about how well a design is working. They should always tie back to the rationale, the reason why the design exists in the first place. Some design might exist to make something happen quicker, some design might exist to have someone spend more time on a website or not.
Understanding why you’re doing design lets you know which metrics to think about, and then you can look at those metrics to see how well that design is doing what you hoped it would do.
Understanding the basics of user experience design (UX) is one thing, but actually applying it to the development of your product and/or service is another.
Darrin Henein, Senior UX Lead at Shopify, guides you through the UX process and how to test and validate ideas generated from user research.