What Does a User-Centred Design Process Look Like?

What Does a User-Centred Design Process Look Like?

A diagram showing the iterative stages of a UX process, with the user at the centre of the loop.
The design process can be visualised in a number of ways ...

Articulating the process that UX Designers follow on a software design project is not a straightforward task. Where should someone new to the field start, and what techniques should they apply for maximum gain?

We hope the new UX Process overview and Techniques Bank will help to answer these questions.

We’ve discussed on this website before the importance of following a UX process in order to achieve a consistent outcome that delights our users and delivers them a memorable experience. But what does that process actually look like?

The answer to this question is, of course, it depends—at least when you get into the nitty gritty. However, on the surface every UX process consists of the same high-level phases:

Strategy → Research → Analysis → Design → Production

Agencies may choose different labels for these phases, or they may make a bigger deal of the concept/ideation that occurs somewhere between Analysis and Design, but in general every UX process can be represented as above.

What really differentiates user-centered design from a more traditional waterfall model of software design is the user feedback loop, which informs each phase of the project.

This feedback loop is established through the use of a range of techniques that have become the staple for UX Designers. There are a ton of them, and knowing when to use which techniques during which phase of a project comes with experience. Personally, I find experimenting with new techniques and tweaking old favourites is part of the fun of being a UX Designer.

Introducing the UX Mastery Techniques Bank

We think we’ve captured a good number of UX Techniques on the UX Mastery Techniques Bank, which we’ve added to the website’s primary navigation menu for easy reference. This is a page that we’ve been wanting to pull together for a while. We’ve currently listed over 20, and we’ll be adding more over time. Each entry includes a description of the technique, the stage of a project it should be applied, and some brief information on how to apply it.

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You can sort techniques by different columns, or use the handy Filter function to narrow down to what you’re looking for. And we welcome submissions—if there’s a technique that you think should be added, we’d love to hear from you!

A UX Process For Success

To complement the Techniques Bank, we’ve also added a new UX Process page, which lays out the user-centred approach that we recommend and use on software projects.

Each phase contains links to techniques that are relevant to each phase of the process. In the future we intend to make the integration between the UX Process page and the Techniques Bank more seamless, but for now we hope you find them useful!

A UX Process Diagram … Or Three

Finally, there have been a number of attempts over the years to capture this iterative model in graphic format. Below is a collection of our favourite infographics for communicating the UX process.

A board game of snakes and ladders, used to describe the user-centred design process
Designing The User Experience, a board game from the UXPA. Download the poster or purchase a print.
A treasure map, starting with user research and where X marks the spot: a product that people love!
Peter Morville and Jeffrey Callender have fun with UX deliverables by depicting them on a treasure map.
Pascal Raabe's take on the UX iceberg includes cute eskimos and penguins.
Pascal Raabe’s take on the UX iceberg, which comes complete with cute eskimos and penguins.

What do you think of our UX Process page and Techniques Bank? Let us know in the comments.

Written by
Matthew Magain
Join the discussion

  • I love your take on UCD, namely describing it as a “user feedback loop, which informs each phase of the project”. This should make the process clearer for stakeholders / business people. I will try and apply this explanation in the future!

    There are different versions of the wheel and most of them are pretty similar. The version I personally like is the one that includes ‘measure/optimise’ as a separate stage after launch. It’s important to depict it as a part of the process because it helps us demonstrate the value of our work by demonstrating the often missing ROI.


  • A really well informed article and I found the Techniques Bank and Process Overview particularly helpful. Excellent resources – Thanks for sharing.

  • I am new to the world of UX/UI Design. The company I work for insists on giving preliminary demos for conceptual designs in hi-fidelity. Something I have been protesting greatly, to deaf ears. I am making an attempt to establish protocols and process for wireframes since non exist at my company. Is it customary to send hi-fidelity HTML files to developers? It seems counter-intuitive if the wireframe file is a viewable link, why would an accomplished developer need (example: Axure RP Pro) the HTML files? Aren’t these proprietary files loaded with junk code similar to what MS Word HTML files would produce, basically unusable? Please enlighten me if I am wrong or help provide me with ‘ammunition’ to back up my argument.

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