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User Experience Design: The Design Skill That Matters

What is experience design? It’s the marriage of clarity and usability. Above all, it’s knowing what the solution is before the problem is even presented.

User Experience Design: The Design Skill That Matters

User experience design, the growing field of human/machine interfacing. It is the map to our future in the digital sphere. Make no mistake, it is an ever-evolving, living and breathing organism.

Why do we consider UX/UI a map? Because projects and programmes, no matter how well coded, need clarity and direction. If the user can’t navigate their way around a well-structured website, or make heads-or-tails of the next digital product, then it’s a wasted effort. Enter the User Experience Design.

UX designers are the digital cartographers of the 21st century.

User Experience Design: The Jacks-Of-All-Trades

There is no set pathway to become a UX designer. We see designers with backgrounds in front end development, engineering, visual designing, psychologists, and architects. As a result, they've all gathered to curate this field as it grows through the jacks-of-all-trades who continue to expand its definition.

“Experience Designers are an emerging and important role within organisations. Talented Experience Designers are visual visionaries and confident collaborators that understand the social, emotional, and cultural impact of their work—rewarded for being in-tune with the ever-changing landscapes of technology, media, and business,” Says David Mikula, Co-founder and CEO of Friends, Professor at Harbour.Space.

User Experience Designer - David Mikula

A UX designer implements the ways we interact with the digital and physical from the beginning to end of our user journey.

What is experience design? It’s the marriage of clarity and usability. Above all, it’s knowing what the solution is before the problem is even presented.

Through the utilisation of critical thinking and empathy for the stakeholder, user experience design creates a cohesive partnership between businesses and customers.

“User Experience Design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.” — Wikipedia

The Rule Of Six


Experience Design Flow Chart

So, let’s break down the six steps to crafting a design experience.

Step One: Comprehension

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

As the saying goes, ‘Every journey begins with the first step’. This one starts with an understanding of the guidelines for the experience you’ll be designing.

The parameters themselves are made with user personas.

Comprehend UX Design

A user persona is a reflection of the people who will interact with your product or website directly. Using demographic data, a persona shows who users are, what they need, and the best pathway to get it for them. The user will always be at the core of your user experience designs.

Designing for users requires these personas, which are gained, or created, the old fashioned way - interviews and observation.

“It is easy to fail when designing an interactive experience. Designers fail when they do not know the audience, integrate the threads of content and context, welcome the public properly, or make clear what the experience is and what the audience’s role in it will be.” -Edwin Schlossberg

At the end of the day, finding the pain points through your interviews are like finding gold nuggets. Your product could be AMAZING, and simply beautiful - but if no one needs it, what was the point?

Step Two: Research

Each project requires some due diligence, or homework if you will, on the:

Researching User Experiences

UX guidelines - Studying user experience design guidelines, and design principles

Latest trends - Keeping up to speed on the current (and upcoming) UX trends

Competition - One of the biggest takeaways from the research phase is understanding what your competitors are doing, and doing it better

The research itself became a staple for this field ever since Teemu Leinonen proposed the idea of “research-based design”.

Step Three: Sketch It

Post-its, wireframes, and sketches, oh my.

So you’ve compiled all your ideas - what’s next?

Paper sketching and the whiteboard are a UX designer’s best friends in this iterative process.

Sketching UX Designs

During the bleary days and long coffee-fueled nights, you’ll be wireframing the skeleton of your product. This sets the blueprints in motion.

Why sketch? Because it’s simply the best and easiest way to convey your vision to the stakeholders of your product - and ultimately it helps keep your end-goal in mind: A usable design.

Step Four: Design It

Going by the user experience design guidelines you’ve established, it’s time to gather up your wireframes and mockups, then mold them into some beautiful designs. Utilise your themes and personal style to bring your ideas into the physical. This also includes your specs for typography, colours, and icons.

“Design is what makes a product liked and attractive, even before it has been used. Design is what makes you want the product. It is beauty, the touch of a famous designer, a likable company, character—pretty much what brand value is thought to be.”

    – Nico Nyman

Step Five: Build It

It’s finally time to implement your designs into functioning experiences.

This is where things get technical - whether you choose HTML, CSS, or Java, having some coding abilities is fundamental to this stage. Especially since it connects the back-end with the UI, and thus bring your user experience design project to life.

Building the User's Experience

The goal? Bringing the UI to the forefront with complete usability. This allows for a seamless transition into the final stage of your user experience design project.

“UI is the saddle, the stirrups, & the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.” - Dain Miller, Web Developer

Step Six: Analyse & Test

One of the best things to do in this stage is what the industry coined “Starbucks Testing”. Gather up some people around you, bribe them with coffee, and finally let them try out your product.


Test your User's Experience

It’s an invaluable part of the test stage to evaluate the way potential users interact with your product. You have to see whether they move smoothly through an app or a website.

Finally ending with how their overall experience is, as they journey through your creation.

“In an ideal world, a user would remember every function after only a single use, but we do not live in idealism. The reality is that familiarity and intuition must be consciously designed into the interface.” -UXPin

Now you find yourself near the end. You’ve made improvements based on user testing. You’ve made reports on your findings, and you’ve delivered a user experience that’s smooth, beautiful, and usable.

The Conclusion

You’ve designed something HUMAN-centred.

“Our brain’s signature isn’t its capacity to process information but its power to create meanings and imagine the world through them. These meanings emerge out of the interaction between our bodies and the environment,” says Pancho Tolchinsky, Cognitive Science Missionary, Professor at Harbour.Space.

Many of you who choose to become a UXer grew up in the digital sphere - a world surrounded and crafted by design. It’s impossible not to be affected by it.

If you feel some modicum of empathy coming from that world, it’s because you are already well on your way to becoming an expert UX designer.

“There’s more to living than utilitarian needs and the functions which satisfy us as users. As technology continues to shape our lives, we’re interested not only in what this technology can do for us, but also in how it makes us feel. Does it enrich, by however little, our day-to-day lives, or just simply solve some annoying obstacles that we face from time to time,” says Anton Repponen, Co-Founder of Anton & Irene, Interaction Design Programme Director at Harbour.Space.


Learn more about how you can implement your User Experience Design from our experts in the Interaction Design Programme!

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Harbour.Space has birthed a multitude of startups across the years. As a student and a staff member, eventually you start noticing patterns that emerge from said startups.

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