When a UX designer begins researching your organisation and your users, they will start by getting an understanding of the foundations – what services you offer, products you sell, or memberships you provide – by speaking with your stakeholders. Typically, this is done through a series of workshops and interviews right at the beginning of the project, before they even think about project goals and specs.
They will look over your website to understand its content and the Information Architecture (IA – the navigation of your site overall) and build a picture of how a user might use your website in its current state. They will also start identifying key user groups and match them to areas of the site they may frequent or use.
They'll then speak with end users in the different groups identified by stakeholders to understand how they discovered your organisation, how they have interacted with your website/organisation in the past, and how they feel the experience is overall. The UX designer will ask a series of questions in interviews or surveys to gather Qualitative and Quantitative data (Qual = Quality, or detailed information, Quant = Quantity, or data by numbers) to find common themes presented.
One of the themes could look like this:
"I was looking for some information about x, but when I searched for it, I couldn't find it anywhere! I even tried the search bar, but this didn't find me what I was looking for, so I gave up and went elsewhere."
The UX designer will take all the information collected from the organisation and end users and pull out common threads found throughout the data. In doing this, they can build a user journey with the end goal and pinpoint any frustrations, friction points, and roadblocks the user may face on the current website. This information is vital as it helps the UX designer make educated changes to the website based on concrete evidence. Each piece of information helps them to begin the design process.
After reviewing the information and painting a bigger picture with collected data and evidence, the UX designer can start building solutions to the user's goals via wireframes.
Wireframes are effectively sketches of tools, features, and functions of the website, without any colour or branding, to give an idea of how everything will be pieced together to help the users reach their goals. If a user is looking to find a piece of information on a website and there are thousands of resources and articles on that particular topic, one solution might be a special tool that narrows down information based on a few key fields the user might input.
Once the product is built and brushed up with branding, imagery, and visuals, the UX designer will take these designs and test them with end users – this ensures that the solution built will be used the way users envision. They will also test to see if there are any new or remaining friction points in the overall experience, allowing them to tweak and perfect the experience based on feedback from the testing sessions.
This process is iterative and could be used for smaller areas of the site over a more extended period, where budget allows and where time and resources are available.