Designer or non-designer alike, no matter your area of expertise there are elements of UX Design that are applicable to your industry. You may be thinking, How? Isn’t UX Design specific to technology? While the term UX, User Experience, was coined by a cognitive scientist at Apple (Hey, Donald Norman) and is frequently associated with technology, UX is not synonymous with the tech world.


If we break UX down to the basics we realize that “users” are involved in every single flavour of business interaction, and that their input is integral in the success of your venture. The two most important elements of UX Design are: people (specifically, your users), and communication.


There is psychology behind UX Design.

Gone are the days where goods and services are created because an innovator deems it as the next big thing. Of course all ideas start somewhere, but it’s not until that good or service has been purchased, and experienced by the customer that the fun can begin. Our world is constantly changing, and along with it, changing perspectives, needs, and
wants.
These perspectives, needs, and wants highly influence the success of a good or service. It’s highly common that users cause a good or service to completely change based upon their experience. Often, important requirements, qualities, or standards of a good or service aren’t recognized until that point! This also switches the lens of the innovator
from solving problems from the perspective of, I think, to the perspective of, you, the user thinks, meaning the innovator is adapting to a Design Thinking mindset.

 

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a human centered approach to creative problem solving. Rather than focus on creating a good or service, this method focuses on the people the goods or services might be created for. In this method, human needs drive the business decision, not revenue. There are 5 phases of Design Thinking:

1. Empathize – Understand what problem needs to be solved by researching user needs. Consult with experts. Talk to users. Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Define – Compile and synthesize the information you’ve gathered to determine core issues within the problem.
3. Ideate – Generate ideas. Look at the problem with multiple viewpoints and alternative approaches to begin creating a solution.
4. Prototype – Experiment. Take the ideas and create an inexpensive version of the product or feature to explore the problem solutions.
5. Test - Take the ideas you created and put them into action to see if they work. Use the results to redefine the problem(s) at hand (note: testing is not performed to create the solution).
Design Thinking is not a liner approach. Repeat each phase as needed!


Design Thinking in Action

One of the unique aspects of Design Thinking is its first phase, empathy. Buffing up on soft skills is not always easy; neither is effortlessly changing your thought process. Start here to begin a Design Thinking process, and begin to integrate or better integrate UX Design into your business practice. Here are some quick tips on how to refine your empathy and communication toolbox:


Tip #1 Talk less and listen more.
Tip #2 Ask users real questions. Stick to probing questions that include: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Ask “why” five times to bring you to a root cause of a problem. Try to create unbiased questions and avoid phrasing words in ways that sway
a users answer. You want honest, transparent responses to support the remaining phases of the Design Thinking process.

(Pro Tip: #1 works great in all aspects of life, not only UX Design.)

Now that you understand the psychology of UX, have a Design Thinking mindset, and brushed up on your soft skills, it’s time to deliver.

 

Tell a story!

Depending on your industry and your product or service, tap into your five senses to tell a story through the medium and form that your business exists. The below examples engage elements of vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, to consider to create a storyline that signals specific messages and appeal to a target audience.
 

For an App or Website, consider:
Purpose, colors, brand (reputation, status), logo, typography (size, font, style), number of clicks to navigate through platform, functionality of links and buttons, features or capabilities that missing or need to be refined, use and spatial alignment of icons/photos/text, verbiage and tone, background sound or reaction noises, price, defects or bugs, speed, and pixels.
 

For a Restaurant, consider:
Purpose, brand (reputation, status), exterior décor, interior décor, furniture, colours, typography of menus and signage, quality of materials (menu, dinner ware, napkins, etc.), flavour and presentation of menu items, staff interactions, timely service, cleanliness, music volume and sound from other patrons, lighting, accessibility, parking and price.
Remember, what’s important is not simply to consider these factors, but consider them in relation to how users (your customers) experience them. With UX Design, products, services and business are created, refined, and operate based on users, not the products, services, or business singularly. The above lists are not exhaustive, but are examples of the kinds of elements to consider when engaging UX Design and Design Thinking to refine how customers experience your products or services, and your business overall.

UX Design is expansive and can serve various purposes across various industries. However at the center of it are people and how you as a business communicate with them in a way that effectively meets their needs and tells your most authentic story.