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Understanding UX design

by Olivier Michelet
on 16 Apr, 2020 7 min read

UX design has become a major focus of today’s tech industry.

This buzzword is not new. In fact, the concept of ‘user experience’ or ‘UX’ dates back to the early nineties when cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman coined the notion.

 “I invented the term because I thought human-interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system.”

Today, UX design has extended to combine aspects of psychology, business, market research, design and technology.

While the term UX design may sound impressive, skillful and even exciting, it is easy to get lost if you are not well-versed in its core foundations. So, to make matters easy for you, we sat down with our in-house UX designer Harsh and asked him to break down the principles of user experience.


Spotlight interview with Thirst Creative UX Design expert Harsh Kapoor

What is UX design?

There isn’t a concrete definition of what UX design is; ask 10 designers and you will hear 10 varying answers. The evolution of the term and its widespread use across industry has resulted in a phrase that can be at times vague and heavily contextual.

UX is a large umbrella term that covers aspects of market research, product development and strategy, among other design disciplines.

In 2020, UX design refers to designers working on digital products, ensuring they are usable, useful and desirable. In creating seamless experiences, UX designers help a company to better understand and fulfill their customer’s needs and expectations.

For me, UX design encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with every touchpoint of a brand. It is about a consumer’s experience with a company starting from when they first hear about their brand till after a transaction when they tell their family and friends about the product or service they received. I believe that without great user experience, companies are less likely to build brand loyalty and authority within the marketplace.


How would you define a user?

The term user often strips a persona of their complexity and can reduce their behaviours to a singular, orderly act. Effectively, normative definitions of a user support the view that humans function like robots when, in fact, a user can be anyone- people like you, your parents, your siblings, your friends and your colleagues. Designing an interaction for this many people with differing needs and expectations is certainly a challenge, which is why UX design has grown to become an in-demand job title.

Instead of supporting the connotations that come with the term ‘user’, a lot of designers are urging to change their title from User Experience Designer, to Product Designer.


What does a UX designer actually do?

Imagine your favourite products and least favourite products you use on a day-to-day basis; my role is to analyse and explain what creates these positive versus negative interactions. Simply put, I seek to make basic products as user-friendly and accessible as possible.

At Thirst, I help clients with their digital products. I am here to make sure the conversation is focused on whether the product is in fact helping consumers achieve their goals while also promising a business sustainability and profitability.

What better way to explain my design process than with a visual:

Image of user experience double diamond diagram

While the diagram might make UX design look like a linear process, it most certainly is not! Depending on the product and what it is trying to achieve, I might start off with user testing, look at analytical data or even work on a wireframe.


What are the most important skills required to be a UX designer?

A career in UX design demands a highly diverse skillset as it is a fast-paced and complex industry.

Some people may think all it takes to become a designer is a keen eye for aesthetics. But in reality, as an advocate for the user, UX designers must possess both soft and hard skills.

In UX design, function should come before form, which is why your skillset must range from analytical research skills to empathy. You must be good at pulling and applying qualitative and quantitative facts and figures as well as putting yourself in the shoes of the user.

Most importantly, a UX designer needs to be able to communicate, whether this is with their team as they guide the project, with key stakeholders to get them on board with designs and even with users to find key insights about their day-to-day product use.

You must also be a wiz with technology; I always make sure I am up to date with the latest trends and best practices.

As a UX designer I spend hours and hours practicing and building on my wealth of existing skills and observing the work of others to gain inspiration for my next design.


What does good UX design look like to you?

Many psychologists believe that we often remember the bad before the good – and this is certainly the case with UX design.

Successful UX design isn’t something you can technically ‘see’ because it could mean anything from a clear navigation flow to great tone of voice, to thoughtful micro animations to whether a product makes sense to the end-user or not.

Good design is invisible; it is when things go smoothly, you can achieve your task you set out to do without friction and move on with your day. Great design is when the designer has thought through every possible interaction as thoroughly as possible. It is when a user notices the tiny details, the extra effort gone into making sure that the digital experience is so seamless it (to borrow Marie Kondo’s term) sparks joy.

Bad design however is much more evident. When you experience a poor user interface design, it’s very noticeable because you immediately become frustrated.


What is your favourite part of being a UX designer?

I’d have to say my favourite part of being a UX designer is discovering how technology is used in different industries to solve the problems consumers are facing every day. Constantly, I find myself coming across problems and solutions I would have otherwise never uncovered.


UX design in action

Clearly, successful UX design enables users to complete the task they came to the website to do without any added layers of complexity.

At Thirst, our developers deliver these frictionless experiences, but are also driven to achieve an experiential, aesthetic impression. Here are examples of some of our truly exceptional user interface projects that intuitively draw user engagement.


Baseball Australia

When Baseball Australia engaged us, we knew that the digital experience needed to be seamless for both the website users and the content editors. Our talented developers produced a solution that is fast-loading, future-proof and incorporates a myriad of functionalities based on actual user needs.

When recreating Baseball Australia’s brand identity we developed an iconic visual language and digital-first colour palette to ensure the website felt contemporary and exciting.

While the visual, functional and UX improvements speak for themselves on, you can learn more about the complexity of the project in our blog.


The Separation Guide

The Separation Guide exists to make divorce and separation simpler, more efficient and less expensive for the individuals involved. For that exact reason, our developers main priority was to consider every user interaction to ensure they were provided access to the right legal documentation as early on as possible.

Through focusing on the user experience, we were able to deliver a 63% increase in average traffic and strong web conversion rates for The Separation Guide within the first 5 months of operation.


Melbourne University Sport

When working with Melbourne University Sport, our team had to improve navigation and cater to a wide range of needs; be it finding training times, right though to booking courts and learning about programs on offer. After running user-testing workshops and testing a prototype, we found the perfect web design that prioritised the Melbourne University Sport member – check it out!

One of the most noticeable changes (aside from the complete redesign, of course) is their mobile-friendly timetable, allowing gym members to check upcoming classes at the drop of a hat; before this, they needed to download a PDF each time.

The addition of a UX lens to the Melbourne University Sport website created year on year results of:

  • an uplift in new users by 40%
  • an increase in sessions by 38%
  • increased page views and site exploration by 30%


Ready for action?

Our UX designer and team of specialised developers have expert knowledge and extensive experience in user experience design. Contact our team today for a website design that will better engage with your target audience and transform your digital presence.

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