UX designers take systems that are complicated and make them seem easy. They make processes with many variables easy to understand and flow through. They deliver systems that make sense. When users see these final deliverables and use those systems, they often think “of course it would be that way, how else could it possibly be?”
Users and, very often, teammates don’t see the many, many revisions the hundreds of hours that went into that design, or the thousands of hours it took to become a person or team that could deliver a system that couldn’t be simpler to use.
They use strong critical thinking skills paired with the ability to look at systems from multiple angles to ask the right question and determine how to deliver the best possible product. They don’t deliver what’s easy, they deliver what’s best for the user.
Since business is at the core of most software systems, UX designers must think about the impact on business. They consider the bottom line and the impact of actions by users towards the goals of the company.
There is a difference between being a UX designer and being a great UX designer. Being great at UX doesn’t mean looking at systems and intuiting ways to do things or creating pretty pictures. It means having a study how users navigate programs, having read volumes on usability, it means examining and re-examining datasets and using that data to make decisions, then analyzing implementations to determine success. Then oftentimes, starting over to implement an even better system.
People that are great at this profession have failed, sometimes at great cost, and learned from those failures. As in every profession, there is no substitute for experience.
Great UX designers have spent many years honing their skills in order to know the right questions to ask, how to ask, when to ask, and why to ask. They have also spent time becoming great at applying the answers as designs to make systems as usable as possible. This includes years of practice mastering design tools, different styles, different systems, and becoming a great designer, developer, businessperson, manager, artist, and critical thinker.
Somethings that non-UX designers (ie. graphic designers, print designers, product designers, etc.) often don’t think about that UX designers must consider is that they are not building just pages, they are building ‘views’ and ‘states’. The difference between a page and a state is that a page may have many states.
For example, when your mouse is over a button (known as the rollover state), someone has to show what this is going to look like. But it also gets a lot more complex because some pages have multiple actions that happen during a click, rollover, after a click. These can be things like notifications to the user, modal boxes (popups), and other changes to the ‘view’ of the page based on actions of users. This list is just the a small subset of the number of states that have to be considered by UX designers. They must consider these same states on every device type, screen size, input system (mouse, keyboard, screen reader, gesture, touch-system, etc.), and all of this paired with accessibility compliance.
Ask you a lot of questions about your users.
Ask you a lot of questions about what elements are more or less important (priority) on each page.
Take the time to thoroughly understand system users, what the system does, what the system provides users, and why users will use the system.
Ensure you have a well thought out information architecture.
Create a list of flows for your system. These are usually simple wireframes that show the steps a user will take to get through different processes in the system.
Get the feedback of everyone on the team as to how users will flow through the system.
Be very upset if everyone on the development team doesn’t look over what they’re putting together, and so should you.
Once they have consensus from the team, build out basic or more than basic designs for each page and view that show the main interaction aspects of each page, view, and feature (like the ones shown in the case study).
A senior-level SaaS UX designer almost always has design skills as well and will often be able to put together the design for most of the pages and views in the system. But if not, you may also need an additional web or graphic designer to do some of the more intricate designs. Just makes sure that your front-end developer reviews any work a graphic designer does before it is approved to be included in the system. Graphic designers are notorious for designing things that can’t be coded!
Your SaaS UX designer should also help you write the content for the pages they are working on. UX is all about explaining how things work, and if they can’t write up the text that explains what a user should be doing or how they should be using a tool of feature in the system, you should strongly consider getting a different UX designer. Don’t think for a second that it is a simple job to write up all the on-page instructions. It is very time-consuming, and the best person to do that work is the person designing the flow the users are going to take or should be taking.
While the designs are being implemented, the UX designer should review the process flows. Even the best planned designs get changed, and you are GOING to change their work as the developers get into it. So they need to plan on being in meetings with developers as they are building the tool so UX design considerations can be taken into account.