Imagine that an architect designed the world’s best interior, but he forgot to put a door on the building. Guess he isn’t winning any awards because nobody can experience the masterpiece!
The same goes for digital products. It doesn’t matter if you have some incredible code that can stop global warming and solve world hunger while ordering takeout. If your users can’t access the functionalities and navigate the application to accomplish the goal, nothing will happen.
User Experience (UX) design bridges backend functionalities with the users’ needs so a product can be as relevant and useful as possible. Read on to find out what UX is, why you should care, and how to apply it to app development through a design-driven process.
What Is User Experience (UX)?
User Experience refers to how an individual perceives and responds to the use of a product or service. UX design starts with an in-depth understanding of the target user, such as their goals, the value they expect from the product, their ability to interact with the product, and their limitations. It also aligns users’ needs with the business objectives of the company providing the product or service.
A relevant and valuable user experience must be useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, and credible. The design and delivery of an effective UX involves user research, usability evaluation, information architecture, user interface design, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, accessibility, website analytics, and project management.
Why Is User Experience Important?
By improving users’ interactions with and perception of a product or service, organizations can acquire more users, increase engagement, and retain more customers. Here’s why good UX matters:
- Improve the customer experience: An intuitive experience makes it easy for users to engage with your content and reduces friction along the purchasing path.
- Increase customer retention: A good UX encourages users to return to an app or website. It helps retain loyal customers who are likely to buy more from you.
- Refine the customer journey: The UX design process evaluates every element along the customer journey. The insights can help you streamline workflows and facilitate conversions.
- Lower support cost: An intuitive interface enables users to find what they need and complete the actions on their own. This helps lower customer support ticket volume so your team can focus on high-value interactions.
- Build trust: The UX design process ensures coherence and continuity throughout a user’s interaction with your brand. This builds trust and credibility, which can drive conversions.
Now we have established that UX design is awesome. But how exactly do you apply it to app development so you can reap all the benefits “as advertised?” This is where design-led app development comes in to turn theory into practice.
What Is Design-Led App Development?
A design-led development process is based on design thinking methods to achieve an optimal UX. It brings designers and developers onto the same page, enabling them to address users’ needs at every stage of the development lifecycle
Wait… what’s design thinking again?
Design thinking is an iterative process that allows us to understand the users’ needs, challenge current assumptions, and identify alternative strategies. It offers a solution-based and hands-on approach to solving problems.
A design-led app development process typically involves five key steps: Explore, discover, design, deliver, and run & scale. As an iterative process, the design and development team learns from real-life user feedback to inform the next iteration of the solution.
Why Is Design-Led App Development Important?
Design-led app development helps deliver an outstanding user experience that focuses on the target audience, so you can reap the benefits we discussed above — increase engagement, lower cost, drive conversions, and more.
Here’s the long(er) story:
App development isn’t a coding contest. Ultimately, it’s about creating solutions that meet users’ needs. Therefore, you should drive the process by exploring business challenges and innovation opportunities. Design-led app development starts with a discovery phase, during which the design and development team understands the needs, behaviors, and preferences of the end-users. The insights can then inform the product strategy to deliver a user-centric experience.
This approach is quite different from how traditional business solutions were developed. The old paradigm focuses on quantitative data, demographic research, focus groups, surveys, etc., which work just fine in a controlled environment. But as we all know, consumers aren’t always rational. Many assumptions break down in the real world when the rubber meets the road. On the other hand, a design-led development prioritizes the users and the context to ensure that the final product works in real-life situations.
A critical step in a design-led process is the development of a minimum viable product (MVP). It allows you to ask some important questions that will provide you with insights to create a user-centric product. For example, you can better define the problem that your product solves, identify who will pay for your product, the market you want to enter, the key features that’ll differentiate your app, and how you should test your idea and scale.
It sounds good in theory. Now show me the money!
Talk is cheap. The proof is in the pudding…
McKinsey & Co. analyzed 2 million pieces of financial data and 100,000+ design actions over five years. They tracked the design practices of 300 companies in multiple countries and industries.
The study found that organizations most committed to design thinking and most adept at executing design principles generate 32% more revenue and 56% higher total returns to shareholders. The results are consistent across the three major industries McKinsey studied: medical technology, consumer goods, and retail banking. This suggests that a design-led process is relevant whether you’re selling physical goods, digital products, services, or a combination of them.
A design-led development process is effective because:
- It measures design performance with the same rigor as you would track other business performance metrics, such as cost and revenue.
- It breaks down silos by uniting cross-functional teams under the same objective of creating a user-centric experience.
- It lowers risk by continuously listening, testing, and iterating with the end-user, so you can focus resources on developing the most relevant features.
Incorporate Design-Led Development Into Your Product Strategy
To deliver a seamless user experience, infuse design thinking in every step of your app development process. When you work with a full-service digital product agency, your team will take a holistic and user-centric approach every step of the way, from product strategy and prototyping to app development and monetization, to ensure the product’s success.
Ready to implement a design-led approach in your app development process? Schedule a free consultation to see how we can help!
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