User Experience (UX) Design not only makes things look great, it can actually increase productivity for intranets and sales for e-commerce. And yet I cannot tell you how many times UX Design is an afterthought. It’s only after all the planning and requirements are done that someone asks who is going to design it. When you approach a project that way you are taking a huge risk. UX Design is extremely important.

Okay, yes, I am a designer so I am biased. But let’s look at some statistics:

We have tons of statistics that tell us we need a UX Designer to be involved. More importantly, they need to be involved at the beginning. Why? Because the design decisions need to be based off of the goals of the website/app.

Let’s start from the beginning: When you meet with a team to discuss the project you are creating, you need to gather some requirements. What should the website/app do? What do you want the users to achieve? You start by identifying these important goals for your website/app. If you have more than four or five then you can make primary and secondary goals.

Now every time the team asks why you placed some content in a certain area, you can look back at the goals of the website/app. This way you are always keeping your user in mind. You can take a content audit of the current website/app, if one exists. Then you work with a developer or business analyst on the information architecture (IA) and start wireframes.

Wireframes are another important factor when it comes to UX Design. Wireframes force us to focus on good content. We are not looking at colors or design elements. Instead we are getting an idea of what content is most important — and naturally we want the user to see the most important information first. Again, we develop wireframes off the requirements and user goals.

If you are considering doing a usability test, now is a great time to do it. Yes, before the design comps are even started. You can get an idea of how your content is going to perform for the user. In fact, according to Jakob Nielsen, you will find 85% of your problems with only five users.

Now you can finally start the actual design comps. You can explore color options and adding in design and branding elements to give the website/app a personality. This will make it usable and beautiful.

[pullquote]Make your site usable before you make it beautiful.[/pullquote]The important point here is that almost everything designers do is based off of the goals. And those are decided at the very beginning of the project. If your UX Designer is not involved, then the wireframes, IA and design will not be connected to what your users need. It is important to make your site usable before you make it beautiful. If your users cannot understand it, it does not matter how pretty it is.

An experienced UX Designer can help you pave the path to an amazing digital experience for your users. UX Designers are there to defend the user and make sure the content and information are clear and easy to access. If you remove the UX Designer or do not fully involve them from the beginning you take a risk — and it’s a big, unnecessary risk at that. You might as well throw darts while blindfolded and simply hope one hits the bullseye.

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