Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a UX designer working across different platforms and dealing with various individuals from Web Developers to SEO experts to eCommerce Managers to Managing and Finance Directors?
Specialising in UX (User Experience) isn’t the same as designing a new brand logo or creating graphics for social media pages and flyers. It involves understanding user behaviour online and how they interact and respond to a website. These are often considerations that get neglected. While it’s all good and well having a website that looks stylish, if it doesn’t function correctly from a UX perspective and engages with the user, or even for SEO purposes, then it becomes nothing but a shop window.
But what does it take to be a UX designer working at a specialist Magento Agency? Our UX designer Clark reveals all.
UX Design and Website Platforms
As a recognised eCommerce and Magento Agency and Partners, the majority of websites that we work on are Magento with PageBuilder. So, when it comes to drafting out a design element, our UX team research PageBuilder every time to prove that it’s possible to build such a feature before it’s passed on to the development team.
Aside from Magneto platforms, WordPress is our second most worked on template, with portfolio sites being an integral part of the business at PushON.
We put a few questions to Clark, to uncover the hidden truth about what it’s like to be a UX designer.
What Input Do You Have From The Functional Spec Stage and How Is That Carried Out Throughout The Web Build?
The functional specification stage has evolved. Initially, our Head of Development would spec a job based on the business requirements from the client and add extensions (Amasty extensions) that would be included as part of the spec.
As UX designers, we would then utilise any data/ analytics from the current site (or client do’s/ don’ts and like to have if there is no current site) and review the brief with the agreed extensions in mind.
Projects with small budgets can be more challenging, as we have to try and stay within the confines of Magento and utilise the core features set we are given. UI (user interface) plays a strong role because we want to deliver a website that feels premium and adds a level of trust to the consumer browsing, helping them to make an informed decision about whether to convert or not.
Functional specs allow all parties involved in the project, particularly for UX designers, to be more expressive and engaged with the client. The UX team will scope the project and research the client and the brief. In the next stage, we will engage with the client directly and conduct a UX session that explores any requirements, do’s, and don’ts, and features that the client wishes to include in the website.
Once the client has signed off the functional spec, we will then speak with the lead dev and project manager. They will create clear timeframes in our project management tool and provide additional support on the project, manage budgets, and ensure we stay within the brief and the feature set of Magento.
How Do You Adapt To Last-Minute Design Changes?
Last-minute changes can affect small parts of the user experience but can also have a significant impact on the user journey. With a Magento build, we have to budget for such things, for example, UX changes or UI changes, but this rarely happens because of the thorough sign-off process with the client. Adapting to last-minute changes can be challenging and depending on the change (which can affect budget), it may be that it’s phased into future revisions or in rare occasions, the user journey if a particular change is revised.
Sometimes, it’s a simple colour change that affects the user journey; others include a missing step in a process or a feature request late in the project. It’s up to the UX designer to integrate a requirement with efficiency and see where gains can be made in other parts of the journey. There will inevitably be changes because the more a client sees the project evolving and coming to life, the more they want to add more or in some cases, less than what was originally briefed or spec’d. It always becomes a business decision.
How Do You Combine What The Client Wants to What You Suggest?
A client will have a million ideas about how they want their website to function. It’s dangerous to say to a client “give us some website/competitor examples” because most clients won’t see what’s gone into the site build. Most importantly, eCommerce websites will have most likely decided to A-B test and variant test to understand consumer habits that push them down the funnel and improve conversion.
It’s better, to be honest, and upfront with the client and treat the website design like version 1.0 template. There should be a phased approach to any website/app build, and data plays the biggest part in building reasoning and rationale for any future website revisions. Businesses need to understand that any UX design will not be a 100% improvement to their existing site and that it will be incremental improvements in phases of the user experience. The overall major improvement, especially to conversion, comes within a planned, tested, and phased approach.
Challenges from the client within the process of the project can vary. It can be something as simple as an intended piece of functionality that in the client’s eyes, doesn’t work as intended or something about how the data is deployed hasn’t previously been mentioned, which can result in a complete design change. The Product Page is usually the page that gets the most changes because it’s the most popular and fundamental part of a website for consumers, as this sits at the beginning of the funnel journey.
Experience has taught me that you do need to strike a balance between what the client wants and you what you recommend to enhance website performance. Sometimes, clients will ask for simple changes to a page to improve conversion rather than looking at the broader picture. However, there are situations where a ‘simple design change’ isn’t simple. Working closely with clients and present different solutions that work for user experience while meeting business needs is critical.
The biggest challenge faced, which travels across all marketing attributions, is clients being afraid to test something new. Fortunately, PushON has an experienced team who can guide and support the client and provide A/B testing, as well as training.
Working closely with the developers enables us to overcome and resolve any challenges quickly while ensuring the client is always at the forefront of what we do. Communication is essential.
The Rewarding Side of Being a UX Designer
The most rewarding aspect of being a UX designer is the outcome. The concept and ideas are mostly derived from data, so, it’s important that all aspects of the brief and analysis can be combined to create an end product that a user/consumer can engage with.
With PushON being a Magento Partner agency, it means, as a team, we constantly update with new functionalities, how users respond and interpret a Magento site. When working on a Magento website, the most important thing is getting the user to the checkout efficiently and with no obstacles. Ensuring the journey from landing on the site to convert is a positive experience, as this is what makes them a returning customer.
Incremental improvements can be rewarding when you see percentages increase for users heading to the checkout page, as it means we’ve achieved our primary goal and improve conversion.
So, Why Is UX Design Important?
UX design is important because the thought process allows for an analytical improvement and not a ‘hunch’ improvement. Even though Magento has a base template with extensions to help improve the experience, every client has different needs, and we need to find the right solution. We need to push the boundaries where possible with Magento from a user experience perspective.
Iteration is key to UX, and testing is an important factor.
Are There Certain Stages Within The Site Build That Requires UX Input/ Sign-off First?
We work with developers where necessary, and it’s essential to review work regularly. We may look at user interactions in more detail due to certain complexities of exceptional client requirements. However, we work together throughout the design process to avoid any amends mid-build.
What’s Your Favourite or Most Exciting Project That You’ve Worked On?
For me, I have worked on many varied types of e-Commerce websites; however, one task stands to mind. The client is a medical supplier who distributes medical equipment and PPE in a B2B workspace. Due to the nature of the content and how customers interact with the site, it needed a new direction. It also had to function as a typical eCommerce website with the ability for the user to go into their account and interact with existing orders and upper management.
I tackled this by researching the current site and utilising any analytics to see where the site was and wasn’t working. Also, as this website was used for demonstration purposes to new/existing clients, I needed to take the approach of “the same across all devices/platforms” and design a website that functions as consistently as possible across desktop/tablet and mobile. This meant coming up with a menu/header that looked and worked the same on each device, with little to no differences. This allowed the user to navigate and use the site with ease and allowed presentations to prospective clients to flow naturally. It allowed businesses to interact and purchase from the site with ease (new/existing account members). I’m proud of this project and its a perfect example of solving a UX task while communicating with the client regularly.
Difference Between Graphic Design and UX Design
Graphic design and UX design share many similarities. If you’re designing a 100-page brochure, you still have to plan pagination, page styling, colour usage, legibility, typography choice, brand direction, a page grid and many other elements. To me, this is no different from designing a website – we still need to think about the user/reader’s end goal and what the product needs to achieve. My only difference is the end goal. In user experience, we may need to get there quicker. We may need to prompt in different ways and lead the user to the funnel through various channels such as SEO, PPC and other marketing channels.
The outcome may be different, but the process can be the same for certain areas of design. A thought process in a logo, a typographical poster or signage is a type of user experience. Road/Motorway signs are a perfect example of user experience around us. They direct us, inform us, and get us to our end goal – the ‘user’ journey so to speak.
What Other Aspects Need To Be Considered Other Than Design Work? For Example, Achieving CRO or How A User Behaves and Moves Across The Site.
It’s always important to use the data where possible and make an informed judgement with any piece of UX. However, on occasion where we don’t have data, we can research competitors and get user opinion through personas. Accessing data can dictate our design, as it’s the most useful tool to analyse and interpret to the best of our ability.
Lastly, A Bit About You and Why You Became a UX Designer
I graduated in Visual Communication – a course designed to challenge the perceptions and creativity within different mediums such as art, design, entertainment, history, and everything around us. But ironically, my first role in the industry was as a junior web designer for an eCommerce company. My critical thinking helped me engage with web design in a way that I didn’t think was possible. The way you approached Typography was completely different and to design for a screen for the first time was about adapting my skill set to another medium.
As my experienced improved, mainly through eCommerce design, my thought process changed – for the better. I was always thinking, how would I like that? How would I use this? Or, that’s not attractive enough. But it was the wrong way of thinking and the wrong thought process. After winning the role at a certain eCommerce company, I was rewarded with better use of my critical thinking and how to approach web design through the use of data and iteration testing, and from there, I was hooked! It made me want to help the user and inform their decisions through design information.
I’m proud of what I have achieved, but there is so much more to learn. Trends change all the time, and it’s important to stay up to date with current technology and industry development. Mostly, eCommerce is a way I can express my ideas. Magento is a platform that has many possibilities, and it’s up to me to get the most out these potential features so that any client can feel the business benefits for the long-term.
To learn more about UX design and how it can dramatically improve your website performance from users landing on a page to adding items to their basket, speak with our UX team today on 0161 820 7628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.