Every design projects requires a thought out process, particularly in the beginning stages. This isn’t any different for UX design. Whether you are working on an app or web site, you’ll want to create a strong foundation which will lead to an outstanding user experience. Without a strong foundation, you’ll find yourself jumping from one small detail to another. A lot of time, energy, and money will be wasted as a result. So the question is: where do you get started? 

Start with the Data 

The first thing you want to do is to run a platform audit if you have a completed product. Focus on how people are behaving on your app or site. Study heat maps, behaviors, abandon rates, entry/exit paths, and conversion data if there is one. By using different analytics tools and using different data points, you’ll start to get a better understanding of what’s happening. If you’re building a new app or site, then you’ll be skipping this process and moving towards the next step. 

Define the Goal 

What is the primary goal of your website or app? Are you trying to get users to use a specific function along with its related features? Are you trying to get users to meet a conversion goal? Are you trying to engage users into interacting with your content or website? It’s important to clearly define what you’re aiming for. You will often find that there are multiple goals and sub-goals you are hoping to achieve. 

That’s why you want to organize your different goals and place a hierarchy to them. Figure out how to create a UX design that will focus on the important goals and also allow users to meet secondary goals. This is where you want to create a simple flow chat and rough diagram of how these various goals will be met. 

Understand the User 

One thing you’ll have to do is to really research your target audience so that you can understand the average user. Identify their personal goals in context to your product, learn about their pain points, and figure out how to provide them with a solution. What you’ll learn is that your users will often have goals that are different from yours. Trying to meet the goals of both yourself and your users is a balance you’ll have to achieve. 

Another issue you’ll deal with is the fact that your target audience will often be segmented. For example, a guitar app may attract acoustic players as well as electric players. You’ll also have to deal with players that favor different kinds of genres. This means that you either will have to cater your design to both audiences or find a middle ground that will please both audiences. 

Start Sketching and Wireframing 

This is where you will start to bring together the UX with UI. You’ll be able to create your vision based on your analytics data, goals, and audience research. This is often the inspirational and fun part of the design process. You get to play around with different ideas and really great creative about how you can meet the needs of both your business and your users. 

The great thing about doing this after you’ve done the initial work is that your rough drafts will be focused. Designing a UI without having the data and audience research will lead you to creating products that are confusing, add little value to your users, and stray from your important goals. This is why you want to leave the UI design for later. 

Experiment and Redesign 

Once you’ve come up with a design that you’re satisfied with, it’s time to start your user testing. Get your product in the hands of your target audience. Collect valuable feedback from them, but make sure the behavioral data is given a stronger emphasis. It’s more important to know how users are subconsciously interacting with your product rather than getting the subjective opinions of your users. 

After a good amount of testing, you’ll have your hands on information on data that can be used to reiterate your design. You’ll be using all of this to fix errors, add features, change functions, improve various interactions, streamline the navigation, and work on the visual aesthetics of the product. After the iterations are made, you can conduct more user testing and launch your product if you are satisfied with your behavioral data and user feedback. 

This is a general guide you can follow for any UX design project. Having a strong foundation for the project will always trump the small details. You need to have a clear focus based on data and research so that you can design a product people will actually want to use. The small details and problems will usually be resolved once you have the important things figured out.