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The most important design phase

I had an interesting discussion a few days ago about my personal UX design process. Without going into details, here is a rough and oversimplified list:

  1. Research
  2. Creation (wireframes and prototypes)
  3. Testing
  4. Reviewing implementation

Research and Testing can be bundled together under “Finding a solution”. What are people’s goals and problems? How can a project or product to be designed help them? Do I, as a designer, have wrong assumptions that are leading me astray? How can I test those assumptions? These phases are primarily concerned with finding and iterating on a solution.

Creation and Review can be grouped in “Team communication”. A solution should be obvious from good research. Creating wireframes is just a visualization that helps to communicate an idea to developers and stakeholders. It can also be a nice starting point for testing.

Most deliverables visible to non-designers come out from “Team communication” phases in the form of wireframes, prototypes and later working code. This is the main reason why most people are too focused on these deliverables and think Creation phase is the most important.

Good design is not wireframes; sometimes they aren’t even needed. If you want to build meaningful things, don’t miss the real design work that happens during research and testing.

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