Mastering Freelance UX Design Work: Research, Design, and Efficiency
I consider freelancers very talented and courageous people. Not only are they experts in their own field, but they also have skills that empower them to run their business, gain new clients and deal with many different people. The everyday work of a freelance UX designer demands combining two quite different skills: research and design. Those two elements, from my perspective, create the core of UX.
As both a trained psychologist and a person who runs a UX design agency, I’m aware of how different mindsets are needed to do both research and design, right. Research, for example, requires empathy, flexibility, and the ability to make instant decisions. Design, on the other hand, requires creativity, precision and patience – sometimes you need to wait for great ideas to come and be able to spot and visualize them so that other people can understand your vision.
It all seems quite challenging, doesn’t it? But freelancers aren’t alone in their everyday struggle. There are plenty of tools waiting for them. And no, you don’t have to be on a steep learning curve, trying to catch up with every new tool. The greatest advice I can give you is: the simpler, the better. So that’s why I’ll present two simple, yet powerful, tools that can help you exceed in both: research and design.
Before you create something that other people will use, you need to understand their needs. But that’s not all — you shouldn’t also forget your client and their objectives for the project. Here’s where User Centered Design Canvas comes to the rescue. It’s a simple tool that helps to organize the most important information about the users and the business on one sheet of paper. UCDC serves perfectly as an initial brief for the project: once you systematize all the information, you’ll get a general idea about your client and their users.
It’s also very useful to ask your client to fill in the canvas as well. Apart from gathering more information, you’ll get one more advantage: when thinking about users, their problems, motives and fears, clients realize the importance of user-center design, which makes cooperation with them much easier.
From there, you can proceed to research. Since there are many ways of conducting user research, it’s crucial to find the strategy that will fit a given case best. Not only will choosing the right research methods ensure sound results, it could also save you precious time.
In the case of working on an existing product, a UX researcher needs to get an idea of how it works, understand the brand, and learn who the potential user is. This is often when assumptions about user problems, motives, and fears appear. It’s really useful to write these down on the Canvas. It will help when thinking of possible solutions the product may offer. Having such a list, it’s worthwhile to highlight in red those solutions that aren’t yet implemented.
Looking at the fields altogether is helpful in choosing the right research methods. If you’re not sure about problems, motives, or fears, it’s reasonable to choose an interview or a focus group to find out more about the users. If, on the other hand, you have lots of possible solutions in red, you can prepare a customer feedback survey that will help to reveal which solutions are really needed. Yet another option: if filling the alternatives field revealed there are plenty of competitors on the market, it may be useful to start with finding out what the competitors’ solutions to the user problems are.
Once you have gathered the information about the users and the business, it’s time to proceed to design.
From rough sketches to interactive prototypes, the process of visualizing solutions has different phases. Developing ideas step-by-step is at the core of UX design. You need to take care of every single phase and make iterations before you’ll get to another. When ideas come about, sketching and wireframing are the first things to do, then, after some iterations with your client and users, you’ll proceed to design and prototyping. This will save time, and ensure the final product gives users positive experience.
Different phases don’t have to mean different tools. Adobe XD enables you to create deliverables for each step during the UX design process.
First and foremost, I find XD ideal for creating wireframes. Before thinking about fonts, colors, and white space, just use the default settings to create elegant wireframes to present your ideas. You can then quickly iterate with your client or potential users. Also, creating mobile wireframes is further simplified with the predefined artboards and UI kits available for XD.
When the wireframes suit both user needs and business goals, you can take your time to craft a beautiful product. With XD, you can use the same app for both wireframing (lo-fi) and design (hi-fi). Spare your creative energy thinking about the design, and forget about having to change the software you’re using, copy-pasting text or checking how much battery you have lost by running two or more apps at one time.
So now that you have the design, based on thoroughly thought out wireframes, what’s next? It’s time to present how the whole idea works. Of course you can do this part right after wireframing – it depends on the project and your cooperation with the client. Typically, some development skills are required at this stage, which means you have to either outsource part of the project to a freelance developer or prepare huge specification and let your client finish it. But with Adobe XD, you can jump right into prototyping within the app to bring your design to life.
Testing is an inseparable part of UX design. No matter how well thought out your ideas are, it’s the user who has (or at least should have!) the last word. First, you can make use of UCDC to prepare possible test scenarios. Just take a look at the user’s problems and possible solutions you’ve listed. Highlight those that you addressed in your design and prepare such tasks for users that will check whether your solutions are well designed and the tasks can be easily accomplished. Once you have both: user tasks and prototypes – share them with your potential audience. Adobe XD prototypes are easily shareable, so you can test your design on any device, gather feedback and avoid false start.
Being a UX designer means you always need to be up-to-date and constantly learn new things. It demands a lot of time and effort so you simply can’t afford losing your energy on dealing with inappropriate apps. But if you choose the right tools that help you organize your workflow, you can be a one man army and still have time to develop your skills.