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UX Design Process: Choosing and Scaling Methods

UX design process, the key steps and digital product user experience methodologies.

Written by RamotionApr 6, 20215 min read

Last updated: Feb 6, 2024

Everywhere you look there is a new and improved process for making a better user experience. There’s Lean UX, Design Thinking, Playbooks, Human Centered Design, and many many more. If you go way-way back, not a whole lot has changed from the early days of Nielsen/Norman, Hackos and Redish, or Mayhew.

The phases are all still essentially the same:

  • Ask questions, do research, and develop a theory (you may know this as Discover or Inspiration). Oh and maybe do a little planning.
  • Try some things out (Define or Ideation).

Show some people.

  • Pick one or two and flesh them out (Develop).

Show some people.

  • Hand it off to development (Deliver or Implement).

Show lots of people and start all over again.

The big emphasis though is SHOW SOME PEOPLE. And then refine.

Iteration, and involving real users of course, is the key to a truly user-focused design.

Lean UX from the Interaction Design Foundation

Diverging and Converging

Many of the most popular current processes structure iterations into phases of “diverge” and “converge”. This allows you to explore and gather as much input as possible, then narrow it down to something you can work on easily. Each time you talk to users or test a prototype, you diverge. When you refine based on the information you gathered, you converge.

The “double diamond” from the Design Council summarizes a few variations such as the Design Thinking model.

The IDEO model is very similar but illustrates that even as you diverge for the second time by gathering input, the scope is narrower. You already have focused in on a particular area, and are gathering information on just that (not everything).

We are focusing on this general set of steps, which cover the basics of design processes really well.

Related posts: Web Design Process, Mobile App Development Process, Web App Development Process

Scale for Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Not all projects are created equally. Sometimes processes are assumed to be prescriptive. Every step has to be followed exactly. Newer processes take this into consideration more, and the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has become common. When a project is constricted by resources or has a narrow scope, we should still look at each factor of the design, and each phase of the process. We just don’t have to pull out every tool in the toolbox. Look at what method or tool will provide the most value to accomplish the goal.

Henrik Kniberg’s illustration puts it another way. Instead of focusing on one part of the product (wheels) focus on the simplest form of transportation. The same goes for process. If you have a small project, or short timeline, you don’t have to develop all new personas and workflows. Start with something that already exists, and focus on exploring the problem rather than the whole picture.


This phase is focused on digging into the “problem” to be solved. A problem can be solved by identifying a new way to accomplish a task, or by refining an existing solution. Your purpose is to find out what users really want and need in order to identify requirements. You are trying to look at the breadth of the project.

Lean UX results in a hypothesis at the end of this phase that summarizes the intent of an initial research phase, whatever it is called. The hypothesis follows a format

We believe that feature is essential for demographic users. This will achieve goal. We will have demonstrated this when we can measure goal metric.


  • Brainstorm
  • User Interviews
  • Subject Matter Expert Interviews
  • Competitive Benchmarking
  • Observation of Users
  • Literature and Study Reviews


  • User Stories
  • Personas
  • User Flows and Use Cases
  • Hypothesis

Key stakeholders

  • UX Design Team
  • Business Analyst
  • Product Manager

The discovery stage is an important one for every UI/UX designer.

Define and Ideation

In the definition or ideation phases, you are analyzing all the information you gathered in the first phase. This is the first time “converge” comes into play. Sift through all the information with your team to figure out what really stands out. Ask what surprised you and your teammates. This will help you to see things through the eyes of your users and really understand the problem.


  • Design Sessions
  • Sketching
  • Reviews
  • User Testing


  • Sketches
  • Wireframes
  • Content Hierarchy

Key stakeholders

  • Design Team
  • Product Manager
  • Subject Matter Experts

Develop and Implementation

Diverging in this phase is about establishing the depth of your product. You’ll take the best one or two concepts from the define or ideate phase and flesh out all the details, pieces and parts. And then test with users, as well as reviewing with stakeholders, to select the best solution for your users.


  • Prototyping
  • Reviews
  • User Testing


  • High Fidelity Prototypes
  • Content / Text Strings
  • Annotations
  • Graphic Assets

Key stakeholders

  • Design Team
  • Product Manager
  • Subject Matter Experts
  • Development Team


In this final phase, you’ve converged on the final solution and are ready to hand off your fully defined design to your development team. You’ll work with them to ensure that the specifications are clear, understood, and implemented as you’ve intended.


  • Quality Control Testing
  • Validation Testing


  • Fully Functional Software

Key stakeholders

  • Design Team
  • Development Team


Whatever design process your team adopts, iterate, iterate, iterate. Use all resources at your disposal, including stakeholders, data, and users. And finally, even when time and resources are limited, scale your process instead of skipping steps. If you are interested in learning more about a particular process or methodology, here are a few of our favorite resources.

Interaction Design Foundation Courses

Design Council Design Series

IDEO.org Design Kit

Stanford d.school

UIE — from Jared Spool