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What are the basic UX process approaches?

Max Goebel
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Max Goebel
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29.9.2021

What actually is UX design?

UX stands for "user experience". This means that the user is the focus of all considerations, not the look of the interface of a website or app. UX design is about truly understanding users' habits, needs, behaviours, motivations and emotions. First you try to understand and analyse a problem in detail; who do you design for in order to prototype and iterate solutions. 

UX design requires the intensive examination and analysis of users and their behaviour. For this purpose, user journeys are collected with interviews, user surveys, heat map analyses on a small scale or eye tracking and reaction measurement on a large scale.

Without an explorative research part in the UX process, UX design becomes "normal" UI or web design. The latter is not less valuable, but focuses primarily on visuality, look and feel.

What is the right approach?

Uhura has been supporting UX design processes for large and small clients, public and private companies for more than 20 years. Time and again, our partners asked themselves which framework is the right one for the UX design process and when to use which framework. The classic waterfall method or Agile? And what is actually a Lean approach?

The choice of the right framework for the implementation of a UX design process depends on the scope of the project. You should first define as precisely as possible what you want to achieve with the project. This usually involves two areas: 

1) Your users: 
What does the user want and what do you want? What content is the user looking for, what problems are they facing and what solutions are relevant? What answers do you offer and what differentiates you from your competitors? The best way to start is to create the most important persona models and, based on them, the most comprehensive user stories possible that trace the needs of your target group. 


2) Your company, product or brand: What are the goals and values of your company and what is your mission? To what extent should your UX project contribute to these goals and mission? What do you offer? What is the real scope? What differentiates you from your competition?

The starting point for any UX design process always revolves around real user problems. Thus, the very first universal for any UX design approach is an analysis of the status quo and the definition and validation of the problems and needs of the users. 


"Engineers and business people are trained to solve problems, designers are trained to discover the real problems"- Don Norman in his book, The Design of Everyday Things.


Once you are clear about the basic issues, you can examine more closely which process is most suitable for your project. The basics of the most important frameworks will be briefly outlined:

Waterfall UX process

The classic management approach for UX design and web development is the waterfall method. Clearly defined work packages, separate project phases and few iterations with a fixed time frame are the main features. 

The analysis, design, development and deployment phases are clearly sequentially separated from each other, jumps between the phases are usually avoided. Often, it is only in the initial UX analysis phase and after the successful launch that actual users of the website or application are spoken to or their needs are analysed in more detail. 

A problem can be the time span between the analysis phase and the actual launch of the new product. The envisaged functions and design approaches that seemed to make sense at the start of the project may be outdated by the time of launch. The waterfall UX process offers little room for experimentation


When is the waterfall method suitable?

• Clear and stable requirements are defined and fixed in as much detail as possible

• Client and agency teams are experienced

• Projects with a clearly defined timeframe

• User needs remain consistent throughout the project

• Timeline and budget are more important than 100% functionality and fit

Deviations from the defined requirements are usually more difficult to implement, therefore all necessary stakeholders should be involved from the very beginning, in the analysis and in the setting up of the project. 

The Agile UX Process

The agile UX process has become established in recent years, especially for highly customised applications. It is suitable for scenarios in which requirements can change and supports teams that want to work on solutions for concrete development and design problems in an iterative process. 

The focus is on real users. Based on constant observation, analysis by means of customer feedback forms, user surveys, the evaluation of search logs, user data and the implementation of A/B tests, solutions are found and tested again and again. 

The best-known agile methods are Kanban, Scrum or Lean Software Development.

Typical UX process © Uhura Digital


When should an agile approach be used?

• when the goals are clear but the process of realisation is not 

• when a product needs to be adapted quickly

• when adaptations can be validated quickly and measurably through user data

• when customer requirements need to be responded to quickly 

• when maximum user satisfaction is to be achieved through continuous improvement or delivery in MVPs


The success of a project depends on continuous feedback from users and stakeholders, which is taken into account either in each sprint or in major releases of the product through validated design solutions.

Both process approaches have their justification in UX design. 

The waterfall method has its justification with clearly defined requirements, budget and timelines, but usually for less complex or highly customised and novel applications. For more complex, open-ended projects, where user expectations are not exactly known, an agile process is more suitable due to its higher flexibility.

Uhura works with classical and agile methods and has more than 20 years of experience in UX design. Are you looking for a new UX design for your website or application? But you are still unsure about the best way to approach your project? Just contact us!

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