UX design is a discipline that ties user needs and business goals to a tangible prototype. It ensures that strategy and requirements are accounted for in interfaces and it sets the direction for visual design and development. In addition to this focus on user needs, it also provides an opportunity for rapid and efficient iteration, saving time and money on rework.
Read on to find out why UX design is a critical ingredient in any digital project, and how a UX designer’s work keeps projects on track and on budget.
Imagine you want to have a custom home built. You know how many bedrooms you want, how many bathrooms. You know you want a big kitchen and an attached garage. You know the colors you want to paint it and what you’ll hang on the walls. Would you hire an architect to construct blueprints, or simply hire a construction crew, and trust them to figure it out?
Of course you would hire the architect. Imagine installing the walls and plumbing for your new kitchen, only to realize that you haven’t left enough space for the living room. Your builders now need to move everything. Changing your mind or fixing mistakes after construction work begins can blow up your timeline and budget.
A UX designer is like an architect for digital projects. They set expectations and outline work for other teams. They convert needs and goals to blueprints so that when construction begins, there are no doubts about what goes where. UX assets like sitemap diagrams and wireframes are relatively easy and inexpensive to construct, so if changes need to be made, they can be done quickly and inexpensively. UX designers thus prevent rework by ensuring everyone on the project team is on the same page early on.
UX design, visual design, and technical development are all crucial tasks in digital work. Projects run most smoothly when there is an expert dedicated to each of these facets—and when team members are able to focus on their respective roles.
Taking the time to identify users and business goals early on in the project ensures that the resulting work can successfully address these needs. At the risk of stating the obvious, “UX” stands for User Experience. The UX designer is the team member most closely in tune with what user are thinking and feeling, how they’ll interact with the proposed interface, and how usability best practices should be incorporated. Involving a UX designer is the best way to advocate for end users, without whom the project couldn’t succeed.
Without a dedicated UX phase and UX practitioner, visual designers or developers may be expected to address UX feedback iteratively, in addition to completing their own planned work. The detailed, technical nature of this work means that extra revisions tend to be costlier and may take longer than planned for. Not only is it more cost-efficient to address UX feedback through tools such as low-fidelity wireframes, but it also enhances the value delivered during later project phases by allowing other team members to focus on their respective areas of expertise.
In addition to saving time and money, addressing UX prior to creative design also allows project team members on the client and agency sides to focus together on one thing at a time. If the project team is focusing on UX changes during the creative phase, it’s easier to overlook UX design problems. The inverse is also true. Having a dedicated phase to address each area—UX, creative, and technology—ensures that each gets appropriate attention.
In addition to making work run smoothly on project teams, UX design can also prevent rework situations arising from fundamental misunderstandings of the user and their needs. Wireframes create an opportunity to test solutions with end users early and inexpensively. This is a great way to review progress and ensure the project team is headed in the right direction. It’s also an opportunity to find further improvements—changes that will enhance the experience and promote business goals. If changes are needed, they are easier to execute in wireframes than they are in high-fidelity designs or development.
Putting wireframes in front of prospective users in a well-designed user test gives us an opportunity to find possible enhancements early on, before more money is spent on a less effective solution. This early feedback can also ease project team anxiety about whether they’re on the right track, and give clients the confidence they need to approve decisions.
Without users, no digital work can succeed. UX design is a practice that keeps those users and their needs at the center of all other work, which is critical to success. UX design keeps projects on time and on budget—an investment in UX will always pay off before the project is completed.
Interested in learning more about how HD's UX design can make a difference for your brand? Or are you looking for a partner in UX design? Check out our capabilities and offerings.