look at ui/ux design process
Post on 13-Apr-2017
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An Inside Look at Our UI/UX Design Process
UI & UXDESIGN PROCESS
Elumalai JayaramanUX Designer
Zoho Finance Team
We recently launched Zoho Inventory, our inventory and order management
We're definitely learning a lot as we expand our suite of products. Our goal is to
not only ensure that each product is fantastic to use, but also to make the
experience consistent across products. This is important because our products
are designed from the ground up to work together and to be used with each
Let's see how we accomplished this for https://www.zoho.com/inventory/.
A unified, consistent experience across products.
In my previous article about how we redesigned https://www.zoho.com/books/,
our online accounting solution, I talked about how we improved the overall UX
through lots of experimentation and learning.
Zoho Inventory, on first glance, looks a lot like Zoho Books. Thats because we
designed it that way. We used the same basic design skeleton and built upwards
from there. This design style persists across many of our products: Zoho Invoice: https://www.zoho.com/invoice/
Zoho Books: https://www.zoho.com/books/
Zoho Subscriptions: https://www.zoho.com/subscriptions/
And Zoho Expense: https://www.zoho.com/expense/
This uniform design provides a level of UX and visual consistency across products
that you simply will not find when you integrate independent solutions from
a) Identifying the key design challenge.
The very first thing we needed to do was to ask the key question: What problems
are we trying to solve? Problem-oriented thinking provides structure to the
entire design process. Once you start thinking in terms of problems, the specific
solutions will automatically follow.
For Zoho Inventory, the entire inventory and order management process is
centered around managing sales orders and purchase orders. Theres a lot of
complexity here. For example, sales orders contain a lot of information. Imagine
you order some items from a marketplace like Amazon. If youre ordering a lot of
items, the seller cant ship all of them at the same time. Depending on various
factors, like the size limit of the package and the availability of different items,
some boxes may be shipped at different times.
The seller needs to keep track of which of those items have been invoiced, which
have been paid for, and which have been shipped. Multiple items are often placed
into a single package, while there are also orders with multiple packages for
different sets of items. All of these things need to be tracked.
Before we started designing the UX to solve these problems, we first needed
deeper insights into how business owners and inventory managers approached
these problems in the real world.
b) Stepping into the shoes of the user.
You cant build a great car without knowing how to drive.
Similarly, you cant build a great user experience without knowing exactly what
You need to get all that background information long before you start putting pen
to paper (or cursor to screen). Only then will you be actually designing something
thats nice to use and allows the user to get things done as quickly as possible.
Luckily, we had all the background information we needed before we started
designing the interface for Zoho Inventory. Weve been running Zoho Books and
Zoho CRM for many years, and weve had numerous requests for an inventory
management solution that ties right into these products.
Heres just one example of a customer asking for an inventory management
solution on our forums over 4 years ago. Weve gotten hundreds of such requests
over the years.
A customer requesting a product to manage their inventory.
These requests provided a treasure trove of information. We got a peek directly
into hundreds of real-world scenarios and problems that needed solving by a
dedicated inventory management solution. All this experience meant that we had
a very good idea of what kind of software that our users would like before we
even started the design process.
Plus, months before we released Zoho Inventory, we opened up an early-access
version of the product for over 700 users.
The feedback was golden.
Wed never have gotten these insights by working on the UX using only internal
feedback from design and management. You need user feedback to design a
great user experience.
It is easier to talk than to listen. Pay attention to your clients, your users, your readers, and your friends. Your design will get better as you listen to other people. ELLEN LUPTON
c) Getting some structure: Designing the Information Architecture and wireframing.
Weve seen that inventory managers need to handle a high level of informational
complexity when it comes to managing orders. Theres lots to track and manage
to make sure everything is going smoothly.
The goal with designing the interface was to empower the user to handle all this
information and take action on it quickly.
If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings.
TOM & DAVID KELLEY
This process starts with designing an information architecture this is basically a
representation of all information that needs to be tracked by the user, and
how it should be organized hierarchically.
For order management, this is the basic information that the user has to
Items: Number of items, quantity
Packages: Number of packages, items in the packages, status of package: packed, shipped or delivered
Invoices: Number of invoices, packages/items in the invoices, status of invoice: sent, fully paid, partially paid, overdue
Its pretty simple, but this is the essence of the information architecture,
and its a good illustration of the complexity and the infinite number of use
cases that the user will have to handle.
For example, a sales order can have ten different items, and these items
are packaged into three different packages (taking weight into account) and
one invoice is issued for one package while another invoice is issued for the
other two packages. And there will be lots of different sales orders with
very different configurations. The final interface should allow the user to
handle and take action on all of this information.
Putting together a complete wireframe was important because there can be
a lot of things to think about, a lot of individual use cases to solve for. A
wireframe puts a structure to all the fragmented problems and thought
processes running through the designers head.
With the information architecture in place, we put together a wireframe
that allowed easy access to all relevant information in a sales order, and
any action you need to take can be done right from within the above
Wireframe for the Zoho Inventory order management screen.
d) Nailing the visual design.
Visual design is exceedingly important to a products success. Why? First
impressions matter. Studies have shown that users form opinions based on
visual design in less than 50 milliseconds. Plus, first impressions are
persistent. Its very hard to shake that first impression you create with a
A visually appealing design primes the user for good expectations even
before they start using your product. Once that first impression is created,
the user leans toward viewing the entire product through a positive lens.
Its important to have a consistent visual experience as well. Good design
has to extend right from your website to your entire product in order to
maintain that positive impression.
With all this in mind, and after much experimentation, we carefully put
together the above visual design for Zoho Inventory. Now, since visual
design is a creative process theres no definite set of steps to designing
something that looks good. However, we decided to use basic visual design
principles as guidelines to structure our process.
Here are the things we took into account:
TYPOGRAPHY: Readability of UI elements is one of the basic things that you need to ensure. We have been using the Proxima Nova font so far in many
of our products. We carried this over to Zoho Inventory and it worked out
COLOR SCHEME: Choosing the right color scheme is like dressing up really well. When people have nothing else to go on, they will immediately judge
you based on what youre wearing. If you want that kind of judgement in
your favor when people look at and use your product, its important to
choose a color scheme that is visually appealing.
While for many of our products (such as Zoho Books), we went for a
pastel-style color scheme, we did something different with Zoho Inventory,
going for a dark and flat color scheme that mixed elements of black and
blue. This gave it a clean, professional look.
ICONS: Icons play a role of giving important visual information which text by itself cannot achieve. We needed to choose icons that were not only
meaningful, but complemented the rest of the design choices.
We had a debate in our design team about whether