Best UX Design Frameworks For Your Future Projects
Learn about the significance of UX design frameworks in the success of a project. Read about the leading examples to adopt what suits your needs.
There is a lot of room for creativity in the field of design. Tackling new problems and coming up with creative solutions is more of a habit for UX designers. It is because the discipline itself is highly flexible and ever-advancing, which ensures that the designers can experiment with new solutions, come up with new methods, and meet the changing needs of the target audience. However, this does not mean that the field of design lacks a structure. In fact, there are certain principles of UX design that almost all projects follow in order to be successful and useful for the audience.
One way to stay on top of these principles is to adopt predefined strategies that can help in structuring the overall design process. Over the years, designers and UX researchers have developed certain frameworks that can be applied to the design of products and services. Some of these frameworks have gained so much popularity that they are also adopted by the best UX design services providers in the market. From initiating the project and conducting background research to developing the finished product and evaluating a design, UX frameworks cover all the design elements.
In this article, we introduce the concept of UX design frameworks along with their significance in the design process. We then present examples of some of the leading user experience frameworks to help you with your future projects as a UI/UX designer.
- UX design framework definition
- Purpose of framework in UI/UX design
- UX Design frameworks examples
Whether you’re a freelance designer, a member of a design team in a big organization, or an aspiring UX designer, familiarizing yourself with the concept of a user experience design framework is essential for your career.
UX Design Framework Definition
Before introducing some of the important frameworks, let’s answer the most basic question: what is a UX framework? A UI/UX framework is, in simple terms, a guide to successful designs. With the help of carefully developed UI design frameworks, professionals can give more structure to their design process, making it efficient and adding to the value of the final product or service.
What is a UX design framework?
A UX design framework is a standard approach to a design project. These frameworks help in giving a structure to the design process and creating successful products and services.
It must be noted that having UX design frameworks are, by no means, rules set in stone. In fact, these serve only as guiding principles that the designers can seek help from. A lot of research goes into the development of a UX framework, and the researchers ensure that the approach can be adopted by different types of designs, whether in the digital or the physical environment. The primary aim of these frameworks is to give a clear understanding of the user flows when interacting with a design.
Purpose of Framework in UI/UX Design
When designers follow an established framework, it gets easier to map the user journey. This helps in developing a user-centered design process that is, in fact, the ultimate goal of any UI/UX design project. Having a thorough understanding of user experience design frameworks is an essential element in the UI kit, as this knowledge can add immense value to any design project.
Adopting a good UX framework serves a number of purposes. Some of the most important ones are as follows.
Adopting a structured process
One of the most important benefits of having a framework for design projects is that it makes the entire practice streamlined and structured. With a lot of challenges and the need to think out of the box, the design process can sometimes get messy. Like any other project, if things get complicated, it’s not easy to manage the process effectively. This is where having a predefined framework can be of great help as it keeps the project on track, making sure the important deadlines are met along the way.
Effective product management
UI/UX design always takes a holistic approach. This means that the design process starts way before the actual prototypes are created and last way longer than the initial evaluation of a design. User experience frameworks help in managing the journey of all products and services while keeping this holistic approach in mind. A structured process in the form of a proven framework can help in keeping track of the essential principles and creating viable solutions.
Saving time and resources
Another important purpose served by the adoption of UX design frameworks is that these help in saving time, effort, money, and other resources invested in any design project. When designers, or a design team, pick a framework that best suits their needs, they take their limitations into consideration. This is extremely important for startups and small businesses where the budget for design is limited, and UI/UX professionals have to prove their worth every step of the way.
Finding creative solutions
UX frameworks are also excellent ways to find and apply creative solutions in the design process. Since these frameworks are nothing but guidelines for designers, it is not difficult to mold them according to the requirements of a particular project. The steps or principles in any framework are not rigid or specific to a certain type of project. This helps in sticking to a strategic approach but having the freedom to resolve new problems as they arise.
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UX Design Frameworks Examples
Now that we know the importance of design frameworks in creating an interactive and effective user interface let us look at some of the UX framework examples that you can adopt for your future projects.
What are some examples of UX design frameworks?
Some the leading examples of UX design frameworks include:
- Design thinking
- Behavior model
- User experience honeycomb
- Three circles
- Agile UX
The list of examples shared below is not exhaustive. Over the years, UI/UX designers and researchers have come up with a number of quality frameworks to create a better user experience both for digital and physical products. We’ve picked some of the best UX frameworks to help you get started. Remember, these frameworks only list the guiding principles and can be altered based on the needs of the audience and/or the requirements of a project.
1. Design thinking
The field of UI/UX design would be incomplete without the discussion of design thinking. It is one of the most important frameworks for designing useful, usable, and user-centered products and services. The benefit of using this framework is that it makes the users an active part of the design process right from the beginning. This makes it easier for designers to keep track of the users’ needs and understand their pain points.
According to the design thinking framework, there are five steps involved in the design process.
The first step is to relate to the target audience in a way that their needs are not only understood, but the designers feel a connection to them. This is why UI/UX designers use the term ‘empathize’ instead of ‘sympathize’. The aim here is to detach from the design ideas and look at the entire process as an outsider. Stepping into the users’ shoes is what ensures that the design is user-centered.
Once the designers have established some connection with the users’ needs, the next step is to define the problem and identify the goals. It is important to be as clear about the problem statement as possible as this then serves as a foundation for the entire design process. The feedback from the users, their pain points, and their priorities are translated into understandable terms that the designers can relate to.
The next step is to come up with ideas that can help in resolving the problem — or problems — previously defined. Here, the designers get creative and come up with solutions that can then lead to useful design solutions. It is important to note that being ambitious is an essential part of this step. Some solutions may not be realistic, but it is good to have them on the table as a source of inspiration.
After generating some creative ideas, the designers then select one solution and start the prototyping process. Now, the design is brought to life with the help of tools and resources at the disposal of the design team. The prototype created in this stage may not be entirely functional, but it can help in moving forward with the design.
Once the prototype is created, the designers then go back to the users and ask them for feedback. The users interact with the product or service and share their feedback. This helps in highlighting the positive and negative aspects of the design. The design team can then sit together and resolve these issues in an iterative manner to make a final, useful product.
2. Behavior model
B. J. Fogg’s behavior model is one of the simplest and most important frameworks in UX design. This is the framework that designers can seek help from when conducting user research to improve the quality of their existing or new designs. According to this model, human behavior is a combination of three important factors: motivation, ability, and prompt (B = MAP).
The behaviors of users are highly influenced by the motivation for a certain action. The quality of a design can motivate or demotivate users to interact with it. For example, when using a fitness application, the users can be motivated by setting small goals, such as ‘stand for one minute in an hour’, that can keep them motivated.
The second aspect is where the users are given the authority and control when using a product or service. If the users have no control over their interaction, their overall experience will not be satisfying, to say the least. The ability to turn the notifications of an application off is one such example.
The third important factor is that the designers have to be creative and cautious at the same time. Prompts are what keep the users coming back to the design and can also help in attracting more audience, generating revenue, and making the design successful. However, if the prompts are too authoritative or too frequent, the users will move away from the design.
3. User experience honeycomb
User experience honeycomb or UX honeycomb by Peter Morville is a holistic approach to the design process. The honeycomb is, in fact, a list of seven principles that all designers should follow to ensure that their final products meet the criteria of a successful design. These not only include the aspects of visual design but also cover other important but often overlooked elements such as accessibility.
The design of a product or service should be useful to the users. This means that the audience must be able to accomplish their tasks using the product in an effective way.
A design should also be usable, which means that it should not be highly complicated to interact with. When a design is simple to use and familiar to the users, it ensures a better experience.
To add value to the overall user experience, a design should also be attractive and pleasing to interact with. This is what makes the design desirable so that the users keep coming back to it instead of switching to alternatives.
Findability of information when interacting with a design is essential for the success of a product or service. Additionally, it is important that the design itself is findable both in the physical and the digital environments.
The purpose of a design is that all the members in the target audience group can interact with the design, irrespective of their physical ability — or lack thereof. A successful design must, therefore, ensure that it meets the needs of all the users.
The credibility of a design is what makes the users trust an organization and stay loyal to it. Providing accurate information and saving the users from ambiguities is an important feature of a design.
The last but equally important factor is that the design adds value to the overall experience of the users. If a design is not adding any value to the users’ lives, they won’t have any reason to come back and keep using it in the future.
4. Three circles
Andrew Hinton introduced the concept of content, context, and users in his book titled “Understanding Context”. Although this book mainly deals with one aspect of UI/UX design, that being information architecture, it is equally relevant to the entire design process. These three circles of UX design provide a thorough understanding of the users, their goals, and the value of a good design in their lives.
Content in information architecture includes texts, images, and other media elements. When we expand this concept to the entire design process, it covers all the things a design is made of, including but not limited to login screens, micro-interactions, and aesthetic elements.
Context is what positions a design in the real world. It can be understood in two different ways. One is the environment or setting in which the users interact with the design, and the other is the background of the design itself. The former dictates the user flow, and the latter ensures that the goals of the organization are given due consideration.
No design is successful without its users. This is where user research comes into play. For a successful design, UI/UX designers need to develop a good understanding of their target audience and ensure that their needs are prioritized throughout the design process.
BASIC UX is a fairly new framework for modern designs. It covers some of the most important elements required for a successful interaction design framework and provides the designers with valuable guidelines. The BASIC framework consists of five important elements of principles that UI/UX designers should focus on to create successful products and services. There are certain similarities between the user experience honeycomb and the BASIC framework in the selection of important principles for design.
When working on a design solution, the designers need to ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing. If the design is not pleasing to the eye or does not give a good feeling to the users as they interact with it, it will not be able to retain the attention of the audience for long.
A product or service should be designed for everyone. This definition can be molded based on the target audience. However, it is important to consider that every person in the target audience, irrespective of their physical abilities, should be able to interact with the design.
The design should be simple and easy to understand. The use of complicated actions, buttons, and graphics in a design can leave a bad impact on the overall experience of the audience.
The design should be easy to learn and get used to. If the users have to spend a lot of time understanding the design, they will quickly jump to an alternative that is easy to use. This also means that the design should stick to the principle of familiarity, thus making sure that the users do not have to learn so many new things that they get overwhelmed in the process.
All the elements of the design, including user flows, the use of media elements, and the usage of design on different platforms, should be consistent with the overall system. This is where a design style guide comes in handy.
6. Agile UX
Agile is a strategic process adopted mainly by software and product development teams to manage complicated, long-running projects. It is one of the most efficient techniques in project management. The field of design has adapted the principles of agile development to create the agile UX framework. This framework is highly efficient for iterative designs and helps in creating flexible designs. The key principles of agile UX development are listed below.
a. Realistic timelines
Agile UX required realistic timelines for the entire project and also for all the stages of the project. This is important to keep the project on track and to meet all the deadlines.
b. Working designs at all stages
One of the distinguishing features of agile UX development is that it produces a working design at the end of each stage. This helps in creating something that the users can interact with in a real-world scenario.
c. Responding to change
When adapting the agile framework, it is important for organizations to be aware of the changes happening in the market. This helps in creating a design that is responsive to such change and meets the varying needs of the audience.
d. Adaptable and flexible designs
As working designs are deployed in the market and feedback from users is received, designers are able to make iterations to the design. The users’ feedback highlights key concerns that the designers can then address in the next stages of the design process.
e. Effective communication across teams
Agile UX is highly dependent on effective communication, both among designers and between designers and other teams. Since the process is ever-advancing and highly responsive to changes, it is important for all stakeholders and contributors to be on the same page.
f. User feedback at all levels
When working with the agile framework, it is important to gather feedback from users at all stages of the design process. This helps in making the users an active part of the process and also helps in improving the design along the way.
g. Constant testing
Agile UX works on the principle of constant production and testing. As working prototypes are produced at every single stage, these are introduced in the market, and the users are encouraged to interact with the design. The feedback from the users can then be incorporated into future iterations.
HEART is a new approach to user experience and interaction design, primarily the evaluation of products and services. This framework was developed by scholars at Google with the aim of providing a strategic approach that can evaluate the quality of a design in a comprehensive manner. The subjective and flexible nature of this framework makes it easy for designers to mold this framework based on their needs. There are five major elements of the HEART framework, as discussed below.
Happiness is the extent to which the users are satisfied with their experience when interacting with a design. Just conducting a small survey or logging the duration of time spent with a design is not enough. Instead, the HEART framework calls for a more in-depth analysis.
This aspect focuses on the way users interact with the design and the level of engagement it provides. A successful design is one that the users keep coming back to. Engagement, therefore, should not be defined by using a product for hours in a single setting. Instead, it should be measured on a longer timeframe to see how many users come back to the design and how often they interact with it.
Another factor to focus on is the way a design attracts new users. This is where adoption comes into play. If a design is easy to use and engaging enough for new users, there will be an increased number of new customers. This should be a guiding principle in the design process.
In contrast to adoption, retention focuses more on the existing users. If, on the one hand, a design needs to be easy for new users, then, on the other hand, it should also give something new to the existing audience. This is where the creativity of designers is extremely important.
e. Task success
When users interact with a design, they do so with a certain goal in mind. The purpose of a design should be to help the users accomplish their tasks with ease, less time, and little effort. If the users are able to complete their tasks successfully with a design, that will lead to the success of the design itself.
Most UI/UX design projects can get complicated pretty quickly. It is, therefore, important to adopt a strategic approach that can ensure efficient completion of the project without compromising its quality. This is why UX design frameworks are extremely important. These frameworks not only help in better project management but also ensure that the basic principles of user-centered design are not violated in the design process.
If you’re working in a big team at a UX design firm, you may find these frameworks extremely helpful in managing collaboration and communication. If, on the other hand, you’re the only designer or a freelance UI/UX professional, you’ll see great improvements in your projects once you adapt a design framework from the start of the project.
It must be noted that these design frameworks, just like any other principle in the field of design, are not rigid. In fact, designers can mold these frameworks based on the needs of a project or the goals of an organization. This is what makes UX design one of the most creative disciplines.
Updated: May 29, 2023