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Enhance UX: Top Insights from an IxDF Design Course

by Mads Soegaard | | 39 min read
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One in three consumers (32%) will abandon a brand they love after a single poor experience. Designers can’t afford bad user experiences. This means that user feedback is a non-negotiable. You need to deliver the best user experience from the outset. Discover the principles of UX design in the IxDF User Experience: The Beginner's Guide course. You’ll learn the practical methods you can apply to provide a better experience for users. 

Just like the appearance of a dish can sway your appetite, user experience (UX) can shape how users feel about a product before they properly engage with it. UX includes all aspects of a user's interaction with a product. You create a seamless, intuitive journey where you understand and design for the user's needs, behaviors and limitations.  

"If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person: respectful, generous and helpful.

-  Alan Cooper, Software Designer and Programmer 

UX design determines how users interact with products. It influences their impressions, usage patterns and satisfaction. A good UX design makes the product appealing at first glance and efficient to use over time. You must understand user psychology, design principles and user feedback to create experiences that resonate on a personal level.  

Think of UX design as a bridge between human needs and technological solutions. What do we want users to experience when they navigate through our product for the first time? Understand UX design principles and apply them effectively to turn initial curiosity into a long-term engagement. 

Here are the top 5 things you must learn to create a better user experience. 

1. UX Design Fundamentals 

UX design is a process that design teams use to create products that offer meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This process includes the entire journey of design where you UX design provides solutions that meet users' needs and solve their problems. After all, a product without purpose will not find users. 

The Elements of UX Design 

Five elements influence how users perceive and interact with a website. You need these elements for UX research:  

  1. Strategy: This foundational layer sets the overall objectives of the product. You determine the goals for both users and stakeholders. For instance, an app designed to help users manage their daily tasks must align with specific productivity goals identified through user research

  1. Scope: Next, you define the product's features and content. This includes what users will find and interact with, such as options to categorize tasks or set reminders. 

  1. Structure: At this stage, you plan the navigation and organization of the product. You decide where users find pages and how they interact with content. Tools like sitemaps and flow charts help structure the user interface and content. 

  1. Skeleton: You create wireframes and prototypes that layout the navigation and interface elements. This helps users navigate efficiently through pages and understand interactive elements. 

  1. Surface: The final design layer focuses on the user's sensory experience. You choose colors, textures, and layouts that make the site intuitive and appealing. For a task management app, a consistent visual style helps users easily access and manage their tasks. 

Factors That Influence User Experience 

UX pioneer Peter Morville described seven key factors of UX. Watch Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, explain each factor in this video.  

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Let's break down each factor. 

  • Useful: A product must have a purpose. Whether for fun or functionality, it must serve the user in some way. 

  • Usable: A product needs to be easy to use. It should help users achieve their goals without hassle. 

  • Findable: Users must be able to find the product and its features easily. If they can't find it, they can't use it. 

  • Credible: Trust in a product is key. Users need to believe in the product's quality and reliability. 

  • Desirable: A product should be appealing. Branding and design should evoke a sense of want. 

  • Accessible: Everyone should be able to use the product. This includes people with disabilities. 

  • Valuable: The product should offer value. It needs to solve a problem or fulfill a need for both the user and the organization. 

Together, these factors shape the user experience. They impact how users interact with and feel about a product. 

2. Your Thought Process as a UX Designer 

It's essential to understand key concepts that elevate your designs as a UX designer. These principles can help you create experiences that resonate deeply with users. 

Human-Centered Design 

Human-centered design focuses on people and their environment. It helps you understand complex systems to solve core issues. You prototype, test and refine to meet real needs. Don Norman, a UX pioneer, emphasizes its value over traditional user-centered design. This method ensures that users benefit from the solutions.  The four principles of HCD include: 

Four principles of human-centered design

These four principles of human-centered design puts the people we are designing for at the heart of the process.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

  • People-centered: Focus on individuals and their environments. Design for their specific needs. 

  • Solve the right problems: Identify and address the root causes, not just symptoms. 

  • View as a system: Recognize everything as part of interconnected systems. 

  • Small interventions: Prototype, test and refine in small steps to meet people's needs accurately. 

Design Thinking 

Design thinking is a creative process to solve problems as you focus on the user's needs and understand users. You redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. This method helps you see beyond obvious solutions to discover more unique, effective approaches. It includes five key stages: 

  • Empathize: Learn about the target audience for your design. 

  • Define: Articulate the problem you want to solve. 

  • Ideate: Brainstorm a range of crazy, creative ideas. 

  • Prototype: Build real, tangible representations of your ideas. 

  • Test: Return to your users for feedback. It may lead you back through the process. 

Design thinking aims to create desirable, feasible and viable solutions. Here's what it means:  

  • Desirable: Understand and meet the real needs and desires of users. 

  • Feasible: Assess if the solution can be realistically developed with available resources. 

  • Viable: Ensure the solution can generate sustainable profits or benefits for the organization. 

Three lenses of design thinking

The design thinking process aims to satisfy three criteria: desirability, feasibility and viability.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Google Design Sprint Methodology 

Google Design Sprint Methodology is a process that accelerates decision-making and concept development for product design. It combines the phases of the design process in a concise process. This approach helps teams quickly discover viable solutions to challenges. The six phases of this design sprint methodology include: 

  • Understand: Build a shared knowledge base with the Lightning Talk Method. Experts share insights on the problem from various angles. 

  • Define: Evaluate the information you learned. Define context, desired outcomes, goals, success metrics and signals. Choose a specific focus. 

  • Sketch: Generate a wide range of ideas individually. Look for inspiration and narrow down ideas to one Solution Sketch per person. 

  • Decide: Share Solution Sketches and reach a consensus on one idea. Finalize the concept to prototype. 

  • Prototype: Create a realistic prototype quickly. Focus on the user experience flow to test. Use the prototype as an experiment to test a hypothesis. 

  • Validate: Test the prototype with users. Gather feedback, review technical feasibility and validate the concept. Progress with a validated or improved concept. 

Heuristic Evaluation

Heuristic evaluation uses guidelines to check if interfaces are easy to use. Experts use rules, like Nielsen and Molich's 10 or Ben Shneiderman's eight golden rules, to spot problems. The phases of heuristic evaluation include: 

  1. Select heuristics: Pick suitable heuristics. Mix them with design standards and market study. 

  1. Choose evaluators: Select experts with knowledge in usability and the relevant field. 

  1. Brief evaluators: Outline the evaluation steps in a standard meeting to avoid bias. 

  1. First evaluation phase: Evaluators use the product to see how it works. They choose parts for a closer look. 

  1. Second evaluation phase: Use heuristics on chosen parts. See how these parts fit in the whole design. 

  1. Record problems: Write down any issues found. Pay attention to detail and be specific. 

  1. Debriefing session: Evaluators discuss their findings to list problems. Encourage them to propose solutions based on heuristics. 

You can identify up to 75% of usability issues with three to five evaluators. More evaluators might find additional problems but with low returns. 

3. UX Tools and Methods You Need For The Problem Space 

The problem space defines the area where UX designers identify and solve user issues. You understand users' needs, frustrations and the context of their interactions with products.  

The problem space defines 'what' the product needs to achieve for customers. It describes the benefits the product should offer to the target customer. 

Let's explore tools and methods to help you navigate the problem space. They help you gather insights, define problems and generate solutions.  

Use Empathy

Empathy plays a crucial role in design thinking. It stands as the first stage in the process. Here, you observe and engage with users to grasp their experiences and motivations. This effort helps you set aside personal assumptions and focus instead on real user needs. Empathy allows you to: 

  • Understand users' emotional and physical needs 

  • See the world from users' perspectives 

  • Discover users' latent needs and desires 

Empathy differs from sympathy. You understand users without feeling pity —this leads to solutions that meet user needs. 

You use empathy to create feasible, viable and desirable solutions. Thanks to empathy, products like the iPod succeeded because they met users' desires. 

Leverage User Research 

User research helps you understand more about your users so you create relevant and easy-to-use products with a clear return on investment (ROI). Here's why you must do user research: 

  • Create relevant designs: Know your users so that they can make designs that matter to them. You cannot know if your design meets user needs if you don't understand your target audience.  

  • Ensure ease of use: Products must be simple for everyone. Usability tests help achieve this. If users struggle, they may choose another product. 

  • Measure ROI: Good design is also good organization. If you can show how design changes improve sales or user engagement, you can justify investment in UX. 

Create a Customer Journey Map 

A customer journey map visualizes the steps a customer takes with a product or service. It highlights their experiences and emotions. You must consider a few things before you prepare a customer journey map.  

  • Develop user personas to understand typical users' stories.  

  • Decide on the timescale for the customer journey.  

  • Identify customer touchpoints and channels of interaction.  

  • Consider influences on the customer experience from others, like friends or family.  

  • Plan for moments that create positive impressions. 

Next, follow a 7-step process: 

7 steps to create a customer journey map

Creating a customer journey map requires you to follow these seven steps. These steps provide insights to help you understand how your customers experience their journeys. The process also helps you identify potential bottlenecks.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

  1. Define organization goals for the mapping exercise. 

  1. Use existing user research to inform the journey. 

  1. Map touchpoints and channels where users interact with your product or service. 

  1. Create an empathy map to understand customer feelings at each touchpoint. 

  1. Sketch the customer journey. Show motion through touchpoints and channels over time. 

  1. Refine and produce a visually appealing map. 

  1. Share the map with stakeholders and use it to guide KPIs and improvements. 

This approach helps understand and improve the customer experience. 

4. UX Tools and Methods You Need for the Solution Space  

The solution space covers all aspects of a product or its design, such as mock-ups, wireframes and prototypes, which stem from the problem space. The problem space lays the foundation for the solution space. It includes any product or product representation for customer use.  

The solution space determines 'how' the product will achieve its goals and outlines the methods by which it benefits the target customer. Let's explore tools and methods to help you navigate the solution space. 

Use Ideation Techniques 

Ideation is a key stage in the design thinking process where you brainstorm to generate various ideas to solve identified problems. It bridges user needs in the problem space and viable solutions in the solution space. Through ideation, teams aim to think outside the box and explore various possibilities without judgment. Some common ideation techniques include: 

  • Brainstorming: Teams build on each other's ideas. 

  • Cheatstorming: Brainstorming based on previous ideas or AI chat

  • Braindumping: Individuals jot down their thoughts independently. 

  • Brainwriting: Like brainstorming, participants write ideas for others to expand upon. 

  • Brainwalking: Members walk around and add to others' written ideas. 

  • Worst possible idea: Teams think of bad ideas to reverse-engineer valuable solutions. 

  • Challenge assumptions: Question established beliefs to find new angles. 

  • Mindmapping: Connect ideas graphically to explore problem aspects. 

  • Sketching/Sketchnoting: Use drawings to express potential solutions. 

Watch Mike Rohde (Designer, Teacher and Illustrator) discuss the benefits of sketching in this quick video.  

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  • Storyboarding: Visual storytelling to outline problem or solution narratives. 

  • SCAMPER: Apply action verbs to interrogate problems creatively. 

  • Bodystorming: Role-play to discover insights. 

  • Analogies: Draw parallels to better communicate concepts. 

  • Provocation: Use extreme ideas to challenge norms and open new pathways. 

Ideation helps move from a stage where you know user problems to a stage where you create good solutions. It lets teams think of new products that satisfy and delight users.

Create Design Prototypes

A prototype is a simple model you use to test or validate design assumptions cost-effectively. It ranges from simple sketches to more developed models. You create a prototype to understand the real-world impact of ideas before full execution. It serves several purposes: 

  • Explore and experiment: Test out changes and their impacts. 

  • Learn and understand: Engage physically with prototypes to dissect their function or failure. 

  • Engage, test and experience: Gather insights from users or stakeholders. 

  • Inspire and motivate: Present new ideas or motivate stakeholders. 

Assess Design Effectiveness through Usability Testing

Usability testing evaluates the ease of use for a design with users who represent the target audience. You observe users complete tasks to identify how the design or product functions. You carry out this testing through development and product release to understand the following:  

  • Check if users can complete tasks without help. 

  • Evaluate their performance and how they feel about the design. 

  • Determine user satisfaction. 

  • Identify problems and find solutions. 

Usability testing is a step-by-step process: 

  • Plan: Define test goals and decide the testing method. 

  • Set user tasks: Choose up to 5 key tasks and create realistic scenarios. 

  • Recruit testers: Find suitable users through screening questionnaires. 

  • Facilitate testing: Conduct tests in a controlled environment or remotely. Observe, interview and note issues. For small numbers of testers, use qualitative excerpts to describe outcomes. Quantitative measures can be used with larger groups. 

Finally, compile a test report where you detail design issues and successes. Involve the whole team to review findings and refine the design. 

5. How to Design for the Real World 

Now, time to learn the practical aspects of UX design. When you design for actual users, you must follow certain processes that will help you consistently improve your designs.

The Product Development Process 

A product development process outlines steps and guidelines for a team to design and create a product. It starts with user research and then moves to design, prototype, testing and product launch. This structured approach saves time and prevents misunderstandings among team members. The specific process followed will depend on an organization’s culture and structure.  

What works for a large corporation with an in-house design team may not fit a small studio. Therefore, an organization must establish and agree on a process before it starts development. 

Accept Imperfection to Thrive as a Designer in Agile Teams

Agile teams aim to quickly release software to gather customer feedback. Designers face pressure to deliver designs rapidly, often in a week or two. This speed makes it a challenge to produce polished designs. Thus, it requires a mindset shift to accept imperfections so that you can survive and succeed in such an environment. 

Agile teams operate differently from design agencies. You must adjust their approach and balance how you skip research and provide polished assets. You may have to let go of the idea of perfect mockups and prototypes. 

It's common to strive for perfection among professionals, including designers. However, in agile settings, perfectionism is impractical for two reasons. You work on tight deadlines and it is difficult to meet every user's standards. What you view as perfect often differs from user perceptions of perfection. 

Key Soft Skills You Need to Succeed as a UX Designer

UX design solves user problems and enhances experiences. It combines technical tasks with "soft" skills. These skills are crucial, not just nice-to-haves. Develop these skills to make a big difference in your UX work as they help create effective designs and make you valuable to employers. 

  • Communication: Vital for UX. It helps in interviews, teamwork and demonstrates design value. 

  • Problem-solving: Designers solve user issues. You should have the ability to understand and tackle these problems creatively. 

  • Design principles: More important than software skills. It matters if you know how to research, test and apply design principles. 

  • Collaboration: Designers work with diverse teams. Make yourself open to different views to improve solutions. 

  • Interview skills: It's crucial to get insights from users, so you must have the ability to ask good, meaningful questions and listen well.  

  • Storytelling: Makes concepts and products memorable. Helps explain user needs and design solutions. 

  • Presentation skills: Necessary to share and justify your work. Influences decisions and showcases design value. 

The Role of a UX Portfolio 

You need a UX portfolio to showcase your skills, knowledge and career growth. Consider it as a tool to land a good role in UX. Here are its key roles: 

  • It highlights past projects and shows design work and problem-solving skills. 

  • It helps you stay current and evaluate new projects for inclusion. 

  • It offers a glimpse into how you approach UX challenges. 

  • It proves your ability to work, collaborate and communicate.  

  • It shows commitment to user-centered design and accessibility

  • It quantifies the impact of your work. You can use data to show success. 

A standout UX portfolio involves certain quality and strategic planning to show your work better. Here's how you can build one that captures attention: 

  • Choose projects wisely: Select projects that show your range of skills. Focus on those that highlight problem-solving and innovative design solutions. Include work that describes your ability to work on different aspects of UX design. 

  • Tell a story: For each project, narrate the journey from problem to solution. Explain the challenge, your approach and the impact of your work. This shows your thought process. 

  • Showcase your process: Detail your design process. Include research, wireframes, user flows and iterations. This will give insight into how you work from concept to final design. 

  • Highlight collaboration: Mention your role in team projects. Describe how you collaborated with other team members. This shows your ability to work well in team settings. 

  • Incorporate feedback and testimonials: Add feedback from clients or team members. Testimonials can add credibility to your work and showcase your impact. 

  • Focus on personal brand: Let your portfolio reflect your personal brand. This includes your design style, philosophy and what sets you apart as a designer. 

  • Quantify your impact: Where possible, use metrics to show the impact of your designs. For example, you can show increases in user engagement or customer satisfaction scores. 

  • Keep it updated: Add new projects to keep your portfolio fresh. It shows your continuous commitment to learn and grow as a UX designer. 

About User Experience: The Beginner's Guide Course

IxDF’s User Experience: The Beginner's Guide course will provide deeper insights into what we discussed in this piece. You will explore the breadth of UX design, understand its importance and discover practical methods to enhance your work.  

This course covers everything you need to navigate your career path and confidently discuss UX. You'll learn from leading experts, apply what you learn through hands-on exercises and even get tips on how to sell UX to management and clients. These experts include:  

  • Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, author of Statistics for HCI: Making Sense of Quantitative Data and the classic textbook, Human-Computer Interaction 

  • Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London 

  • Frank Spillers, Service Designer, Founder and CEO of Experience Dynamics 

  • Laura Klein, Product Management Expert, Principal at Users Know, Author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups 

  • Michal Malewicz, Designer and Creative Director / CEO of Hype4 Mobile 

  • Mike Rohde, Experience and Interface Designer, Author of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note-Taking 

  • Szymon Adamiak, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Hype4 Mobile 

  • William Hudson, User Experience Strategist and Founder of Syntagm 

This Course is ideal for you if you are:  

  • Individual new to UX design. 

  • Graphic designer transitioning to UX Design. 

  • UX designer seeking to enhance their careers. 

  • Software engineer and developer. 

  • Student curious about UX design and career paths. 

  • Business owner and entrepreneur. 

  • Product manager aiming to create user-centered products. 

  • Marketer seeking a holistic view of user experience. 

  • Curious about applying UX principles to your products. 

Throughout the IxDF User Experience: The Beginner's Guide course, you'll get 1many templates and guides to apply what you learn directly to your work. You'll engage in exercises designed for hands-on experience with UX methods. You can also interact with fellow learners in discussion forums. Leverage this collective wealth of knowledge and experience to enhance your learning journey. 

Reference and Where to Learn More

Enroll in the IxDF User Experience: The Beginner's Guide course. It's included in an IxDF membership. Sign up to become a member. 

Read our topic definition on User Experience Design.  

You can read and watch more about UX design from the inventor of the term, Don Norman, on the Nielsen Norman Group website

Learn what contributes to good and bad customer experience.  

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Soegaard, M. (2024, May 6). Enhance UX: Top Insights from an IxDF Design Course. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

New to UX Design? We’re giving you a free ebook!

The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

In 9 chapters, we’ll cover: conducting user interviews, design thinking, interaction design, mobile UX design, usability, UX research, and many more!

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312,266 designers enjoy our newsletter—sure you don’t want to receive it?

New to UX Design? We’re Giving You a Free ebook!

The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

In 9 chapters, we’ll cover: conducting user interviews, design thinking, interaction design, mobile UX design, usability, UX research, and many more!

A valid email address is required.
312,266 designers enjoy our newsletter—sure you don’t want to receive it?