The Stages of UX Design Process
Whether you’re building a SaaS application, website, game, or other digital product, developing an efficient UX design process is crucial to your project’s success.
This systematic, iterative process ensures teams follow standard protocols to deliver projects consistently while meeting the organization’s quality standards.
Table of contents
- What is UX Design?
- What is a UX Design Process?
- 8 Stages of UX Design Process
- Best Practices for a Great UX Design Process
- Enhancing the UX Design Process With UXPin
Improve your end-to-end UX design process with the world’s most advanced UX design tool. Sign up for a free trial to explore UXPin’s code-based design features.
What is UX Design?
UX design (user experience design) is a digital product design methodology to solve a human problem. This human-centered design approach ensures design teams make decisions based on users’ needs rather than assumptions.
Empathy is at the core of this human-centered approach. UX designers must understand what a user wants to achieve using a digital product and the pain points they might encounter along the way.
What is a UX Design Process?
A UX design process is an iterative step-by-step methodology UX teams use to complete projects. While this UX process varies depending on the product and organization, most companies use the design thinking process as the foundation:
This iterative process ensures designers test their ideas throughout the UX design process.
UX Design Process vs. Design Thinking Process
The design thinking process is a five-step UX process for developing user-centered solutions to human problems. A UX design process is a multi-stage end-to-end methodology that incorporates design thinking for delivering UX projects.
While companies base their UX design process on design thinking principles, the steps and methods might differ slightly.
Importance of a UX Design Process
Here are some reasons why companies standardize a UX design process:
- Ensures projects meet quality and consistency standards
- Ensures designers design solutions without bias and assumptions
- Enables designers to test and iterate on many ideas to find the best solution
- Promotes collaboration between teams and departments
- Reduces the risk of rework by following set protocols
- Allows stakeholders to track a project’s progress
- Identifies hidden risks and opportunities
8 Stages of UX Design Process
A typical UX design process has six to ten stages, from defining the product’s goal to design handoff and quality assurance (QA).
Stage 1 – Project Definition & Scope
The first phase of a UX design process defines the project’s goal and scope with team members and stakeholders from multiple departments–usually consisting of representatives from:
This early design phase aims to identify a problem the new product or feature must solve. The product team will also outline the project’s scope, plan, deliverables, and delivery date.
Stage 2 – Understanding the Problem
Once the design team has the project’s goal and scope, they must define the problem from a user’s perspective. Designers use various UX tools to empathize with users to understand the problem. Some of the tools UX designers use during this phase include:
- User personas: A representation of a customer group with similar demographics
- User journey maps: A step-by-step visualization of a user’s problem and how they might use a digital product to solve it
- Empathy maps: A methodology for representing a user’s feelings and emotions as they encounter pain points while trying to complete tasks
Stage 3 – UX Research
Next, designers research the problem to find possible solutions. During the research phase, UX designers conduct several types of research, including:
- User research: Studies the target market to understand customers better
- Market research: Analyzes the market to determine market segmentation and product differentiation
- Competitive research: A competitive analysis to understand how competitors solve similar problems and identify opportunities
- Product research: Analyzing insights and analytics from an existing product to understand user behavior
Stage 4 – Ideation – Sketching & Low-Fidelity Prototyping
With a clear understanding of their users, market, and competitive landscape, designers can start the ideation phase. Designers use paper and pen during early ideation to iterate on many ideas fast.
Some of these low-fidelity techniques include:
- Sketching: Hand-drawn sketches of user interfaces
- Paper prototyping: Paper versions of a prototype
- Wireframing: Digital versions of paper prototypes featuring basic lines and shapes
- Low-fidelity prototypes: Digital prototypes using wireframes to test user flows and information architecture
The team might also use a design sprint to solve a specific problem fast.
Stage 5 – High-Fidelity Mockups & Prototypes
Next, the UI design team converts wireframes into mockups to build high-fidelity prototypes that look and function like the final product. If the company has a design system, designers will use the UI component library to build interactive prototypes.
Stage 6 – Usability Testing
The primary purpose of high-fidelity prototypes is usability testing. UX designers test these prototypes with real users to:
- Validate ideas
- Identify usability issues
- Test accessibility
- Identify business opportunities
It’s important to note that even though user testing is the fifth stage, design teams conduct multiple tests throughout the UX design process to validate ideas and hypotheses. These tests include internal testing with team members or sharing ideas and prototypes with stakeholders for feedback.
Stage 7 – Design Handoff
The second to last stage of the UX design process is the design handoff, where the design team hands its mockups, prototypes, and documentation to the development team to start the engineering process.
Although the handoff is near the end of the UX process, designers and engineers start collaborating during ideation to streamline the transition from design to development while ensuring designs meet technical constraints.
Stage 8 – Quality Assurance or UX Audit
The final stage of the UX design process is a UX audit to review the new release. This UX audit ensures the new release meets the project’s business goals, user experience, and accessibility requirements.
Best Practices for a Great UX Design Process
While the UX design process might not be the same for all organizations, projects, or teams, there are some best practices designers can follow to streamline the process.
Designers must keep end-users at the center of design decisions to ensure designs meet users’ needs. This human-centered mindset delivers products that users want while reducing costs on irrelevant UI components and features.
One of the ways to maintain a user-centered mindset is by empathizing with users. As designers progress through the UX design process, they can drift from focusing on users to designing features that look great but don’t serve a specific need.
By practicing empathy throughout the UX design process, designers stay focused on solving users’ problems.
Building a Design System
Design systems can significantly reduce time to market while enhancing consistency and coherency across the organization. If you can’t afford to build a design system from scratch, consider using a themeable open-source component library like MUI or Bootstrap.
Take prototyping to the next level using UXPin Merge–a tool that connects UXPin’s design editor to a component library so that designers can build fully functioning prototypes using code components.
Communicate and Collaborate
Communication and collaboration are vital for a successful UX design process. Designers must connect with other design teams and open communication with engineers, business managers, product teams, and stakeholders.
DesignOps can help facilitate better communication and collaboration while streamlining other time-consuming operational and administrative tasks.
Enhancing the UX Design Process With UXPin
A successful UX process relies on tools that allow design teams to make changes and iterate fast. UXPin is an end-to-end design solution, providing designers with features for every stage of the UX design process.
Designers can use one of UXPin’s built-in design libraries or import their dev’s component library to start prototyping immediately. Because UXPin is code-based, prototypes feature higher fidelity and more functionality than image-based design tools.
Better User Testing
With code-based prototypes, UX designers can conduct accurate, more comprehensive tests. Better quality testing means fewer errors and usability issues make it into the final product.
Better Stakeholder Feedback
Stakeholder feedback is crucial during the UX design process. If prototypes aren’t intuitive, stakeholders battle to understand design concepts that could impact buy-in and funding.
Whether you’re using UXPin, prototypes have significantly higher fidelity and interactivity than other popular design tools. In turn, designers enjoy meaningful, actionable feedback from stakeholders.
“Our stakeholders are able to provide feedback pretty quickly using UXPin. We can send them a link to play with the prototype in their own time, and UXPin allows them to provide comments directly on the prototypes. UXPin’s comments functionality is great because we can follow along and mark comments as resolved once we address them.” Erica Rider, Senior Manager for UX – Developer tools and platform experience at PayPal
Next Level Prototyping With UXPin Merge
UXPin Merge allows designers to get better results during testing while streamlining the design handoff, thus reducing time to market and costs.
Instead of designing from scratch, designers drag and drop components to build fully functioning code-based prototypes that look and work like the final product.