4 UX design frameworks for your future projects

Oct 23, 2023

UX design frameworks blend creativity with structure, guiding innovative yet user-centric digital solutions.

Designers consistently innovate, yet they anchor their ideas within established frameworks. These guiding structures, from "UX design examples" to hands-on methodologies, play a huge role in how products are structured. They're invaluable for both startups seeking affordable UX solutions and experienced designers.

Breaking down UX infrastructures:

  • A breakdown of what a UX design framework entails.

  • The core purpose these frameworks serve in UI/UX design.

  • Handpicked examples of leading UX design frameworks.

Whether you're a freelancer, a key player in a corporate design squad, or a budding UX enthusiast, getting acquainted with these frameworks is vital to career advancement.

Why use a framework in UI/UX design?

Frameworks empower designers to chart the user journey more effectively. They lay the foundation for a user-centric design, a cornerstone of any UI/UX designer. Grasping the nuances of these frameworks amplifies the quality and depth of design projects.

Benefits of UX frameworks:

Frameworks bring order to creative chaos. Designing can be riddled with hurdles and unexpected challenges. A pre-set framework ensures that the design process stays cohesive, and that crucial milestones are met on time.

Holistic product oversight

UI/UX design isn't a fleeting process; it starts well before the prototype and continues beyond initial evaluations. Frameworks enable a comprehensive view, ensuring all design facets align, from inception to completion.

Efficiency in resources

A well-chosen framework is like a compass. It guides while saving time, money, and effort. This is especially relevant for startups and smaller entities where budgets are tight.

Improved creativity

While frameworks provide a structured guide, they're also adaptable, allowing designers the flexibility to innovate. They're general guidelines, not restrictive rules; they grant freedom to adapt and address emerging challenges innovatively.

Let's look at some actionable frameworks you can use today.

Four key UX design frameworks

It is important to understand the frameworks that guide designers. The top four UX frameworks, which are often applied by industry leaders are design thinking, the Behavior Model, User Experience Honeycomb, and the HEART framework. The latter has recently emerged as a fresh perspective in the world of UX, standing out for its comprehensive approach. 

*If you're starting fresh or have smaller-scale needs, consider checking out Implse as an accessible alternative.

designer for UX

1. Design thinking

Anyone familiar with UX design has likely heard of Design Thinking. Popularized by experts and employed by top-notch teams such as the ones at Heartbeat, this framework focuses on understanding and helping the user.

  • Empathize: The first step is all about deeply understanding the user; stepping into their shoes and seeing the world from their eyes. It helps designers really 'get' what users want.

  • Define: Here, designers take what they've learned and point out the main problems to solve. They make sure everyone knows the challenges ahead.

  • Ideate: Now, it's time to dream up solutions! Designers brainstorm different ways to tackle the problem.

  • Prototype: This step is about trying out the best idea. It's like a test run, making a mini version of the design to see if it works.

  • Test: Finally, designers let users try out their solution. They gather feedback and refine the design even further. Heartbeat's process often involves this kind of iterative testing to ensure designs hit the mark.

2. Behavior model (B.J. Fogg)

B.J. Fogg's Behavior Model is simple but powerful. It says that behavior comes from three things: Motivation, Ability, and Prompt.

  • Motivation: This is all about understanding the reason someone does something. Good designs can boost motivation. For example, a fitness app might set small, incremental, goals to keep users going.

  • Ability: This is all about making things comfortable for the user, such as letting them choose settings in an app so they feel in control.

  • Prompts: These are little nudges or reminders for users. They should be friendly and helpful, not annoying.

3. User experience honeycomb (Peter Morville)

Peter Morville's Honeycomb is like a checklist for great design. It highlights seven virtues to which all designs should aspire. These principles can be seen in the projects showcased on Heartbeat's work page.

  • Useful: Users should be able to get things done with the design.

  • Usable: It should be easy and clear, not confusing.

  • Desirable: The design should look and feel good.

  • Findable: Users should quickly find what they're looking for.

  • Accessible: Everyone, even those with disabilities, should be able to use it.

  • Credible: Users should trust the design.

  • Valuable: The design should add something positive to the user's day.

4. HEART framework for UX design

Introduced by experts at Google, this method brings together key aspects of design evaluation. It's highly flexible, allowing designers to adjust it as needed. These are the five pillars of the HEART framework:

  • Happiness: How do users feel about the product? Are they enjoying their experience? Instead of quick feedback forms or tracking how long someone uses a design, this step urges a deeper look into user satisfaction.

  • Engagement: This is all about how users connect with a design. Good designs keep users coming back. It's not just about how long they use it one time, but how often they return and stay engaged over time.

  • Adoption: When you launch something new, do users want to try it out? This step looks at how many new users a design can attract. It indicates how intuitive and appealing a design is for newcomers.

  • Retention: While drawing new users is great, keeping them is just as vital. This step checks if a design offers enough to keep its existing users engaged and interested.

  • Task success: At the end of the day, a design is there to help users get things done. This pillar measures how well a design lets users achieve their goals, whether it's buying a product, finding information, or anything else.

Considering these frameworks, especially HEART, designers can ensure they're crafting experiences that truly resonate with users. After all, the best designs are those that both meet the user's needs and exceed their expectations. If you're keen to understand more about the practical application of such frameworks, a closer look at heartbeat's projects can be illuminating.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are UX design frameworks?

UX design frameworks are structured approaches or methodologies used to tackle complex design challenges. They provide designers with guidelines and processes to follow, ensuring that user experiences are effective, intuitive, and engaging. These frameworks often encompass stages like research, ideation, prototyping, and testing. By using such frameworks, designers can ensure they're focusing on the end user's needs and preferences throughout the design process.

2. What are the 4 phases of the UX project process?

The UX project process can be divided into four main phases:

  • Discovery: This phase involves understanding the project's scope, researching the target audience, and identifying the problem to be solved.

  • Design: Here, designers create wireframes, prototypes, and visuals based on the insights gathered during the discovery phase.

  • Development: This involves transforming the design prototypes into functional products. Collaboration between designers and developers is crucial in this phase to ensure that the design's intent is maintained.

  • Testing & Iteration: Once the product is developed, it's tested with real users. Feedback is collected, and the design is refined and improved based on this feedback.

3. What is the 5 W's framework in UX design?

The 5 W's framework in UX design is a methodology used to gather comprehensive insights during the research phase. The five W's are:

  • Who: Identifying the target user or audience for the design.

  • What: Understanding what users want or need from the product.

  • When: Recognizing when users will most likely use the product.

  • Where: Determining the environments or situations in which the product will be used.

  • Why: Gaining insights into why users might choose to use (or not use) the product, and what motivates their decisions.

4. How to choose a UI UX design agency?

When choosing a UI UX design agency the following factors should be carefully considered:

  • Portfolio: Review the agency's past work to understand its design style and expertise.

  • Client testimonials: Feedback from previous clients can offer insights into the agency's reliability and professionalism.

  • Communication: The agency should be able to understand your requirements and communicate their ideas effectively.

  • Process: Understand the agency's design process. Agencies like heartbeat and Implse have their processes outlined on their websites.

  • Budget & timeline: Ensure the agency can work within your budget and meet your project's timeline.