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What is UX Design?

UX Design is the process of building products that enhance user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and overall experience. This can include product discovery, on-boarding, day-to-day usage, as well as aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

UX Design is the process of building products that enhance user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and overall experience.

But what exactly does that mean? While UX (or User Experience) has increasingly become a widespread term over the years, it’s seemingly common for designers and companies to have varying definitions of UX Design and what exactly the work may encompass.

Even if your official job title skews more towards the disciplines of graphic design, visual design—or if you’re a web developer or UI designer—you’re still probably familiar with UX-related terms as you conduct user research and user testing. And many designers may have tangental experience with these in the product development cycle of defining user flows or user interfaces, or wireframing mockups, or taking on tasks to make their final product feature a great user experience.

So, yes, while it can be a bit confusing discerning the subtle differences between UX Design, UI Design, or Interaction Design, to give us a starting point on how to define UX Design and UX skills, we asked eight designers from different design teams ranging from creative agencies to large tech companies to describe what they do as a UX Designer and what UX Design means to them and their respective teams.

1. Nicolette Robichaud, Zendesk

Zendesk is a customer service and engagement platform aiming to make better experiences for agents, admins, and customers. Product Designer Nicolette Robichaud shares what UX work can look like for her on any given day:

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“My ultimate goal as a Product Designer is to make users’ lives more awesome by finding their pain points and solving for them, so everything I do day-to-day aims to push that goal forward.

“At Zendesk, I work with a diverse cross-functional team (we even have a UX Content Strategist!), so I get to mix in the soft skills of UX design to bring these different perspectives together. Depending on the nature of the problem or how far along my team is in solving it, I might be testing a prototype with customers, facilitating a design session with my scrum team and other stakeholders, participating in a design critique or jam session, heads down mocking things up and prototyping, documenting design decisions.

“One of my favorite practices is keeping a log of design decisions along with all the rejected explorations so I can always show people why I chose a particular design direction and why the other options didn’t work.

2. Roman Khramov, Cuberto

Cuberto is a digital creative agency based in London. They focus on the design and development of mobile and web products for startups and design intricate trading platforms. Art Director Roman Khramov shares what UX means for their team:

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“The first thing I’d like to note is that in our company, there is no separation between UX and UI design. We usually create a team with one or several designers that work together with a Project Manager and Business Analyst to understand the product, industry, and audience needs. At this stage, we collect most of the necessary information from the client and structure it in the form of use cases. Results of this work will be later used to create a full UX map of the product.

“After finishing wireframes, our team consisting of a Project Manager, Business Analyst, and Art Director will check these for the compliance with use cases and client’s expectations. Additionally, a clickable prototype can be prepared in order to detect usability problems, and sometimes it also leads to unexpected discoveries and new UX ideas that can take the designed product to a new level.

3. Natasha Noltimier, Evernote

Evernote is an amazing app that helps keep your notes organized. With that being said, an intuitive and pleasant experience when using the app is crucial. Growth Designer Natasha Noltimier at Evernote explains how this is achieved:

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“UX design is a constant exercise in empathy and understanding. As a designer at Evernote, I’m always trying to put myself in our user’s shoes to get at what they’re thinking and feeling at important moments during their experience with our product.

“Designing for growth is really about creating and testing these emotionally compelling moments that inspire our users to engage more with our product, and hopefully get more value from it. We do that by applying design and psychological principles to our user interface design, and testing out lots and lots of ideas to see what succeeds and what fails.

4. Rebecca Chen, Ueno

Ueno is a full-service creative agency distributed across San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Iceland. Senior Designer Rebecca Chen tells us about her role and how UX plays a part in it:

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“I’m a designer at ueno, with a focus in Product Design. My role spans several parts of the design process depending on the project, from research and strategy to polishing final designs and prototyping. I like to think that UX and empathy for users is a skill set that all designers should have. Everything we do is meant to better a user’s experience, and it’s important to always keep the user in mind while considering business goals, tech constraints, and product roadmap. No matter where we are in the design process and what fidelity we’re working in, designers should maintain a UX mindset and be a strong advocate for the end user.

5. Josh Sullivan, Treehouse

Treehouse is an online platform that offers all kinds of technology education to people worldwide. Their Lead Product Designer Josh Sullivan shares what UX means to him and the design team at Treehouse in a few words. Treehouse also has some great courses for user experience designers of all levels!

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“Design has often been thought of as the way something looks—success was not measured by the effectiveness of the design but by the attractiveness. UX Design takes a different approach and often starts with the question of “Who am I designing for?”. By better understanding the audience and problems, designers can first focus on the experience—designing a more usable and enjoyable product.

“Designers in this role are required to be more involved with the process and ultimately build the experience by using many different tools and techniques. Research and testing are often the bookends of the process, but what I think best defines the difference between traditional digital design and UX Design is the time spent on Information Architecture. Creating product flows and wireframes, allows us to not only determine the final experience but validate it. Simply put, the UX Design process is a more purposeful design that leads to more intuitive products.

6. Sasha Turischev, Zajno

Zajno is a full-service digital design agency based in Los Angeles, California. Check out what their Founder and Design Director Sasha Turischev has to say about the importance of UX and what this process looks like at Zajno:

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“Here at Zajno we believe that the most important thing in UX Design, just as in life, is harmony. UX Design is always about balancing between what is beautiful and functional, intuitive and unconventional, informative and engaging, emotional and elegant, and clean and vibrant. It’s also about finding a balance between user and business goals, profit, and true value. So the ability to hit the sweet spot (which sometimes is as thin as a razor blade) is an essential skill every UX Designer should harness.

“At Zajno, I tackle lots of UX challenges on a daily basis. Some of the things I do to solve those are contextual research, where we watch people use our design prototypes and have them explain their thought process as they do that, and then asking questions about the experience. It gives a lot more insight into problems we might not have noticed otherwise.

“Another way we validate our UX ideas is through usability testing where we’ll let people interact with a specific part of the prototype to perform a certain action or reach a certain goal. This helps us focus on smaller things and make sure the pain points we identify during our research are addressed.

“And of course one of the most important things is to analyze the product goals and roadmap before even thinking about beginning to sketch out wireframes. I’ve seen people spend hours and hours pursuing a wrong idea given their context, and spending even more time to get on the right track.

7. Pedro Teixeira, Significa

Significa is a full-service digital agency based out of Portugal with a focus on creating meaningful products. Designer Pedro Teixeira explains how his team looks at UX and how it’s implemented into their workflow:

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“Every project we do at Significa has its own identity—a life of its own. Each serves a distinct purpose and targets a different audience, but our UX process always follows the same guidelines: To tackle the user’s needs it’s paramount to create empathy and place ourselves in their shoes. We start by researching and analyzing data, often collected from real use cases as we speak to the users directly.

“By focusing on their input we can decrease failure by eliminating guesswork—consequently creating a more accurate prototype. Then, we do it all over again.

8. Alex Oskie, Dropbox

Alex Oskie is a Product Designer who focuses on Growth at Dropbox. He designs product improvements that help customers get the most out of Dropbox. This is why he puts a huge emphasis on understanding the core needs of their users:

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“User Experience design is a process for solving problems. It’s the responsibility of UX Designers to get as close to the root of the problem as possible to understand the true needs of the user. Once the problem is understood, UX Design can be applied to reach a solution that empowers the user. Good UX Design doesn’t stand out. Instead, it feels like the solution has anticipated the user’s needs and helped them achieve their goals.

After gaining further insight on UX Design from all of these amazing teams, the biggest takeaway is that UX Design is extremely intentional—it requires designers, from interaction designers to graphic designers and beyond, to look through the eyes of their users and make informed design decisions based on these learnings. This ultimately leads to more meaningful and human-centered products.

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