Myth #31: UX design is a step in a project

Many think that user experience design is confined to sketching the interfaces. However, UX design is a much broader process that – ideally – starts at the strategy level and affects the whole lifecycle of a project or a business.

UX design begins by learning about the business model, doing user research and understanding how a service can fit into the users’ lives in a meaningful way. Thus UX design has a crucial part in defining the business strategy, providing baselines for business decisions with such design deliverables as personas or user stories. A UX-driven process doesn’t end with the UIs either, it’s also about testing with people, supporting development, making ongoing adjustments even after the launch.


How UX design is way more than user interface design:

  • “Interface is a component of user experience, but there’s much more.” – Peter Merholz
    “I’ve had clients tell me not to worry about what their strategy is, because why would a designer care about that? UX is more than just skin deep.” – Dan Saffer
    “User experience design isn’t a checkbox, you don’t do it and then move on. It needs to be integrated into everything you do.” – Liz Danzico
    … from 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design.
  • In Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology at UXmatters, Pabini Gabriel-Petit shows the steps of a complete product design process, chunked to three phases: discovery, design and development support. UI design / wireframing is only a step in the 8-step process.
  • The many different activities of user-centered design is well demonstrated by the Generic Work Process, listing 100+ techniques and methods that can be used in UX design.
  • Jesse James Garrett defines five planes of UX design starting from strategy-level to the concrete UI – The Elements of User Experience: simple version (PDF), detailed version (PDF)
  • That Squiggle of the Design Process visually shows how research and prototyping are essential and move the design process from the abstract to the final design.
  • The book A Project Guide to UX Design details the steps of UX design from defining the user experience (i.e. project objectives, business requirements, research, personas) to designing for the user experience (site maps, wireframes, usability testing, post-launch activities).

Some UX design process examples:

  • Typical UX process by the Usability Professionals’ Association on a poster (PDF)
  • Todd R. Warfel’s process diagram (JPG)
  • ZURB’s design process
  • Userfocus’s UX model
  • SCM’s User-Centered Design Process (PDF)
  • Huge’s design process (presentation)
  • The design process of Boxee Beta by Whitney Hess
  • …but don’t forget, “Great design does not come from great processes; it comes from great designers.” – Fred Brooks