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UX Design Explained: What is UX Design?

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The term User Experience (UX) has seen increasing popularity in recent times, especially with the relentless rise of big tech companies, namely Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, or more commonly known as FAANG. Unlike smaller companies, huge technological firms often allocate more resources to UX, with the field being seen as a key business requirement and represented at an executive level, to ensure a stellar end to end user experience in their products.

More and more businesses have also realised the importance of having good UX design in their products and services, as creating a good customer user experience have been proven to drive an increase in key results such as customer retention and conversion rates. This has resulted in the field of UX having an increasing importance and demand across various industries. So what exactly is UX and what makes a good user experience?

UX design explained

UX consists of all the interactions a user has with a product or service. It is part of our everyday lives, from the use of mobile applications to kitchen devices. Think about shopping on an e-commerce website where elements such as page loading speed, user interface design and checkout process are all part of the user experience. UX is the reason why Google’s array of applications is so easy to navigate between, or how users are able to easily find what they need on an e-commerce site like Amazon or Shopee.

UX design considers every element a user encounters during their experience, how it makes them feel and whether it helps them to accomplish their desired task. A good UX design strategy takes into consideration market research, user insights, product strategy and design to create a customer journey that is seamless from the start to finish.

In order for a user experience strategy to be successful, users have to be able to accomplish their goals or gain actual value, ensuring that their interaction with the product is effective.

Web illustrations by Storyset

The difference between UX and UI

The term User Interface (UI) is frequently used together with UX, however, they are both two distinct things. UX is focused on the user’s journey to accomplish a goal or solve a problem, while UI focuses on how a product looks and functions. UI is the actual interface which the user interacts with, such as the button on a mobile app or the homepage of a website. It is more concerned with visual design elements such as typography and colour. However, without great UX, even a good UI design would result in a bad experience.

The similarities of UI and UX lie in how both fields are involved in the user interface design process. UX is responsible for how the interface operates and functions compared to how it is seen. UX designers determine the structure and flow of the interface, such as where buttons should link to or what product categories are needed. It is a collaborative process where both design teams work closely together.

Illustration by ImaginXP

Key UX design elements

The UX design process follows five key phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Within each phase are some commonly-used UX methods and tools listed. These are key UX design essentials that every UX designer should be familiar with.

Illustration by Kim Chung

1. Emphathize

The phase is important as it sets up the foundation for the later parts of the UX process. The human-centered design process aims to get an understanding of the problem through observing and engaging with people to better understand their problems, needs, and motivations. It allows researchers to set aside their own biases or assumptions, to gain insight on their target audiences.

2. Define

To analyze and synthesize observations gathered from the previous phase to define core problems needed to address. Extensive user research and competitor analysis will then be conducted to better understand the problem.

User interviews

User interviews are carried out on those who are, or will be, directly engaged with the product, to understand their experiences or insight on the product. It is important to have a clearly defined goal in order to construct an effective interview. User interviews help provide a better understanding of your target audience’s issue or opinions in a closer setting.


Personas are fictional representations of the target users who portray similar behaviour, goals, and attitudes in relation to the product.

They serve to create a generalized figure for UX designers to better empathize with and allow them to work in a more mindful way around their users. Personas are based on the insights of the user interviews conducted.

Journey Map

A user experience journey map is a visualisation of the process a user goes through to complete their goal. The user’s actions, thoughts, and emotions are framed upon a timeline allowing UX researchers to better understand and relate to their experience through user journey examples.

Illustration by Nielsen Norman Group

3. Ideation

Ideation is the creative process where designers think up ideas from the research and analysis that they have obtained. At this stage, the team should already have a clearly defined problem to tackle and to come up with ideas for. There are many different techniques used for ideation, listed below are some commonly used examples.


In a brainstorming session, ideas are verbally bounced off each member of the team to find and create a solution.


SCAMPER is an idea generation technique using several prompts on existing products, to promote a variety of ideas. Viable ideas can then be taken and further elaborated.

Illustration by EgyptInnovate

4. Prototype

Prototyping allows UX designers to test out the functionality, structure and flow of a design solution to gather feedback on it. It allows the UX team to experiment with different designs and helps them to avoid costly mistakes. It is an iterative process as the prototype is constantly revised based on user feedback.


Wireframes act as the blueprint for the screens on an interface, indicating the elements that are required on each page such as buttons and texts. It is usually designed to be visually minimal, with the use of grayscale colors, boxes and lines. Its main purpose is to show how the product flows and works, rather than how it looks.

Illustration by Penji

Low-fidelity prototype

Low-fidelity prototypes have more details than wireframes, such as proper positioning of the different elements and basic clickability between screens. It is used to test information architecture, key screen layouts and navigation.

Illustration by Jyst

High-fidelity prototype

High-fidelity prototypes are closer to the final product, with more details such as actual content, in-depth interaction and detailed UI design. For example, the prototype might have buttons that change color when hovered over or cards that users can slide through. Tools such as Sketch, Figma and Adobe XD are commonly used at this stage.

Photo by teamairship

5. User testing

User testing is essential to the design process as it identifies any problems and uncovers any other opportunities for the design. It allows researchers to observe the target user’s preferences and behaviours when interacting with the prototype for better understanding which leads to better iterations.

Do note that these five phases and their processes are not always used in a fixed sequence. They can take place together or even repeated iteratively depending on the needs of the project. This design process serves as a guide for UX designers to develop a product with a user-centric approach.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Important soft skills

Other than the examples of UX hard skills listed above, certain soft skills are argued to be UX design essentials as well, especially for those working in this user-centric field.


Being able to understand the feelings and emotions of others is especially necessary for someone working in the field of UX. Having a deep understanding of their users allows designers to create better products that solve their needs and provide a positive experience.


A UX role typically involves collaborating and communicating with others, be it within the team, with other departments, or justifying ideas to management. A UX designer has to be able to convey their product ideas and communicate their thought process effectively.


Lastly, a UX designer has to be able to receive and provide constructive feedback, collaborate on ideas with others, and explore solutions as a team. This ensures that different perspectives and expertise of each member are taken into account to create the best product possible.

I hope that this article has given you a better insight into what goes on behind a UX design strategy as well as inform you on certain UX fundamentals such as wireframing and persona creation. This article has only barely touched the surface of the vast field of UX design and its different applications. If you are interested in learning more about user experience, feel free to check out some of our other resources, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

CuriousCore also offers both a 2-day UX course and an intensive 4-month career accelerator course for those keen on transitioning into the industry as well. Click the buttons below to find out more.