UX design for startups: The 6 steps in a design process

Jun 22, 2022Mikenzi Ross

When building a startup product, there are many types of designers, departments, and stages to manage. It's exciting—but also really stressful.

Creating and delivering a product with pressure from stakeholders and turn-around times that leave your team feeling whiplashed is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting at the best of time.

And if your startup doesn’t have a solid plan?

Well, things get hairy, and a great product can suffer subpar development that lead to high churn rates.

But it’s okay… take a deep breath. We’ve got your back today.

The TDP experts have broken down the steps in a design process into 6 easy-to-follow stages. From developing a user experience map to the different types of designers involved, you'll come to learn how to ensure the most optimized and effective UX results possible.

That way, you have a solid foundation upon which to generate realistic timelines, track progress, and create the most effective and user-focused product possible.

Step 1: Research everything—including the kitchen sink

You cannot build a successful product without extensive research. Your team must thoroughly research your industry, competitors, trends, and the deep emotional side of your users.

What does that look like?

  • Their values
  • The specific issues they face
  • The language they use
  • Their demographic information
  • The deep emotional reaction their pain points trigger

The list goes on…

If you conduct research correctly, you'll likely invest the most time in this step. From books to media to asking users directly, there's no such thing as too much insight.

Only through deep and empathetic research can you pluck out the specific opportunities to identify someone's unique needs, solve their problems, and make them feel acknowledged and understood. Empathy is what sets an okay product apart from a great one.

Step 2: The User Experience Journey Map

It goes by many names: UX journey map, customer journey map, user experience map—but at the end of the day, it's basically all the same. All that matters is creating a highly-detailed map that depicts the user's journey (from start to finish) with your product.

There is so much more to User Experience Journey Maps, so we recommend that you check out this article.

Step 3: Define a feature prioritization framework

Once you understand your user, you'll understand how your product solves their problem or improves their lives. That data should then transform into a feature prioritization framework. An FPF allows you, your team, and stakeholders to assess the highest priority features/elements of a product.

There are endless styles of feature prioritization frameworks to choose from, and you can learn about three of our startup-specific favorites by reading this blog post on them.

Step 4: Creating the wireframe

So you've done your research, created a thorough User Experience Journey Map, and you’ve implemented the feature prioritization framework that brings out the best in your team. Now it's time to build the wireframe.

Now UX and Product designers get to let loose with their creativity, and it can be a ton of fun to piece together your hard-earned data into a tangible product.

You'll have a few creative reviews with the UX designers and stakeholders during this stage. Everyone has the opportunity to review the current flow, provide feedback, and start identifying potential friction points.

Step 5: High fidelity

The high-fidelity stage is usually when the UI designer applies the bulk of their expertise. Now that the product's functionality is solid, the UI designer uses a blend of psychology, graphic design, and research data to create beautiful and complementary user interfaces that enhance the user experience—and never distract from it.

If possible, you can start collecting live user feedback to study precisely how users interact with your product and where they encounter friction.

Step 6: Testing & Revisions

Alright, your UX and UI designers have done everything in their power to build the most exceptional, engaging, and user-centered product possible.

Your stakeholders love it, your team loves it—so now it's time to share your creation with the world. You've done it—you’ve completed all the steps in a design process!

Sorry, not quite.

Most think this is the final step—but it's just the beginning. The best types of designers (be they UX, UI, or Product designers) know this is just the "fourth trimester" of product design. Now you'll start seeing how real users experience your product—and identify areas for improvement.

One last thing—but it's worth mentioning because it catches most startups by surprise

The most essential thing to remember about UX design is its fluidity. A product will never be 'finished'. As your startup and product scale, as your users grow, technology, science, and trends evolve, so will your product.

Don't be afraid of user feedback—go out of your way to collect and encourage it. This real-world data is invaluable, and dramatically improves the chance that your product is strong, effective, and long-lasting.

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