How come the UX design process is so difficult to pin down? Above all, its meaning has shifted over the past 10 to 20 years as technology has advanced and development cycles have shortened.
As a result, it can now mean different things to different generations of designer. On top of this, as with any design process, it will always look a little different depending on the user needs and business needs in any given project.
In this piece, we’ll explore some of these considerations, before outlining the version of the UX design process that we teach here at Designlab—and why.
How the UX Design Process has evolved
In a sense, all design since the dawn of the human species has been user experience (UX) design, because every designed object is intended for a use. However, that’s not what we mean by “UX design” in the context of today’s design industry.
Instead, the term “UX design” refers to a specific design discipline that is concerned with understanding user needs and shaping a product experience that meets those needs well. Most of the time, the product in question is a digital one—today, most often a website or mobile app.
When the UX design process emerged in the 1990s, it was quite a techy discipline. Sandy Chen, Director of Product here at Designlab, explains:
The universe of UX design has changed so much in the past 10 years. UX used to be more about data organization (‘Information Architecture’ or IA), click-through flows (‘Interaction Design’ or IxD), and the usability of digital interfaces.
What we could call “classical” UX design didn’t focus on the aesthetics of interfaces, although this was one consideration amongst many. Rather, the focus was on the usability of those interfaces, and everything about the user’s situation that contributed to, or subtracted from, a product’s ease of use.