Iteration in UX: Enhance Iterative Development in UX Design

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iterative development

Iteration of UX Development in the Design Process

Iteration in UX design process are contribute to creating more effective and user-centric digital experience. The user experience (UX) design process tends to be iterative rather than linear. The ultimate goal for UX design is to create an end product that satisfies the qualities of usability: easy to learn and remember, efficient and pleasant to use, and error-free. 

With new technologies and capabilities rapidly changing and evolving in the world of application, website, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR) development, it becomes imperative for UX designers and developers to evolve as well, while being able to develop products effectively and efficiently. Embracing iteration UX allows designers to evolve in tandem with emerging technologies, ensuring that their products remain innovative and user-centric. 

UX Iterative development is a software development life cycle (SDLC) methodology where development of a system occurs through repeated iterations or cycles, and in smaller portions or increments. The idea is that this type of development process allows developers and designers to take advantage of what is discovered during each iteration, make necessary modifications to the user interface (UI) and functional capabilities, and then repeat the process.

What is an iteration in UX?

Iteration in UX refers to the cyclical and repetitive process of refining and improving design solutions based on feedback, testing, and evaluation. In user experience design, iteration acknowledges that creating an optimal user experience is an ongoing journey rather than a one-time task. Designers revisit and reassess their work, making enhancements and adjustments in response to insights gained during each iteration. This approach allows for continuous refinement, adaptation to changing requirements, and the optimization of solutions to ensure that the final design aligns closely with user needs and expectations.

Why is the design process considered an iterative process?

The design process is considered an iterative process because it involves a cyclical and repetitive approach to problem-solving and refinement. Rather than being a linear sequence of steps, design is an ongoing loop where each iteration brings about improvements based on feedback, testing, and evaluation.

Continuous Refinement

The iterative nature of the design process allows for continuous refinement of ideas and solutions. Designers revisit and reassess their work, making enhancements and adjustments in response to insights gained during each iteration.

User-Centric Adaptation

Iterative design places a strong emphasis on user feedback and testing. Designers use insights from user interactions to refine and adapt their solutions, ensuring that the final product aligns closely with user needs and expectations.

Evolution of Ideas

Iteration allows for the evolution of ideas over time. Designers can explore multiple concepts, discard less effective ones, and build upon promising ones. This dynamic process encourages creativity and innovation.

Flexibility and Responsiveness

The iterative approach provides flexibility and responsiveness to changing requirements. Designers can adapt to new insights, emerging trends, or shifts in project goals, making the process agile and adaptable.

Error Identification and Correction

By repeatedly testing and evaluating designs, designers can identify and correct errors early in the process. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of major issues emerging later in the development cycle.

Optimization of Solutions

Each iteration allows designers to optimize and fine-tune their solutions. This optimization process ensures that the final design not only meets but exceeds the desired objectives in terms of usability, aesthetics, and functionality.

Collaborative Learning

Iterative design fosters a culture of collaborative learning. Design teams learn from each iteration, share insights, and collectively contribute to the improvement of the overall design solution.

Adaptation to Complexity

In complex design projects, an iterative approach accommodates the multifaceted nature of problem-solving. Designers can break down complex challenges into manageable components, addressing and refining each aspect through iterations.

In essence, the design process is iterative because it recognizes that achieving an optimal solution involves an ongoing cycle of reflection, adjustment, and improvement. This iterative nature is fundamental to creating designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also highly functional and user-centric.

UX Iterative Development Model

The UX iterative development model is an implementation of a SDLC with the primary focus being on simplified implementation. This implementation gains in complexity and broader features and functions through each iteration until the final product is completed. Let’s take a look closer at what the model is and how it came about. 

What Is An Iterative Development Model?

According to Goodcore, “An iterative development model works on a systematic repetition of small cycles of software development known as iterations.” The central idea is to create smaller projects that have a well-defined scope and duration. During each iteration, design and development is able to constantly evolve and implement updates right away. A new version of the product is produced after each iteration until you achieve your ideal end product.

How Did It Come About?

The concept of iterative development is not exactly new, but was not always used in direct relation to software development, but rather a way to improve efficiency. It slowly evolved from other methodologies such as Kanban or waterfall, which is where a project is broken into linear sequential phases, where each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one. These early concepts opened the doors to new ways of developing: 

  • 1950s: The Kanban method opened the way for the iterative development model. The method was based on lean production that focused on efficiency, quick delivery, and phased enhancements. 
  • 1960s: Craig Larman and Victor Basili's article "Iterative and Incremental Development: A Brief History,” provide examples of early usage with one of the earliest being NASA's 1960s Project Mercury.
  • Early 1980s: Barry Boehm conducted an empirical study that suggested iterative approaches were beginning to receive serious attention during that time. He also wrote a paper, “A Spiral Model of Software Development and Enhancement,” where he presented an iterative model geared to identifying and reducing risks through any appropriate approaches.
  • 1995: Alistair Cockburn wrote “Growth of Human Factors in Application Development,” that suggested one major reason why iterative approaches were gaining acceptance was due to the bottleneck in development shifting to learning. The idea was that human learning is a trial and error (iterative) process, thus, the same approach was considered to be used in the SDLC to develop software quicker and with fewer errors. 
  • 2001: Alan MacCormack reported a study of key success factors in recent projects with the first among them being that they adopted an iterative and incremental development (IID) life cycle.
  • 2004-present: Microsoft adopted iterative strategy in software development as did other developers. More recently, with the introduction of the concepts of agile and lean methodology, the focus has shifted to approaches based on the iterative model.

The UX Iterative Design Process

The UX iterative development process begins with planning and analysis where you map out requirements, gather necessary documentation, and create a timeline for the first iterative cycle. 

The second stage is design, at which point your UX design team can establish technical requirements for the architecture that can include language, services, and data layers.

Implementation is the third stage and is where your team develops the functionality and design required to meet specifications.

Stage four is the testing phase and is when testing is conducted that can identify and locate issues, bugs, and what’s not working or performing as expected. 

Evaluation is stage five of the iterative development process. Here, your team will compare the iteration against requirements and expectations set forth in stage one.

Once all five stages have been completed, the most recent iteration of the app or website (or product) and evaluation feedback are returned to stage one, and the process is repeated again.

How It Helps The UX Design Process

Now that you know the steps or stages of the iterative development process, let’s look a little closer at each step and how they help with the UX design process. 

1. Planning & Analysis

During the initial planning and analysis stage, you begin with planning by meeting with your client to identify software, app, or website requirements and needs as well as business and stakeholder requirements. Before you can begin the UX design process, you must understand the context and needs for the end product. 

After your team has gathered the requirements, it’s time to analyze them to ensure a streamlined development process. It’s good to remember that this stage will help set up the following stages and this is where you will need to create a plan and timeline for the first iterative cycle.  

2. Design

For UX design specifically, this is the stage where the team works on several activities such as creating the information architecture or the actual user interface (UI) design. This phase can include sketches, wireframes, prototypes, or design specifications. For software development, this is where the team would establish technical requirements such as languages, data layers, and services.

3. Implementation

The implementation stage is where the development and/or design team begins the development process based on the requirements and user feedback. This is the point when specifications and planning and design documents are implemented and coded.

4. Testing

Once the development team has completed their coding and development, it’s time to test for potential bugs or issues that might have been overlooked during the implementation step. This is an essential step as it helps the development and design teams determine whether their design or product works for the users. User testing can be done with stakeholders, users, and product testers. 

5. Evaluation

Once all previous stages have been completed, you’ll need to conduct a thorough evaluation of all development up to this point. The team and clients or stakeholders should examine the project and provide feedback on necessary changes that need to be implemented.

How Effectively Will It Help Your UX Design?

The iterative development process may not be ideal for every UX design project of course. But, it can effectively help your UX design project when:

  • Requirements are not clearly defined, but they’re easy to understand
  • There are high-risk features that could change
  • The app or website is large
  • Major requirements are defined, but some details may change

The most important advantage of iterative development is that it improves usability, and developing a product that provides optimal usability and UX is the ultimate goal. The iterative development process allows for a rapid turnaround and issue resolution, lets the designers create and test ideas quickly, is easily adaptable, and is efficient and cost effective.


“Redesigning user interfaces on the basis of user testing can substantially improve usability. In four case studies, the median improvement in overall usability was 165% from the first to the last iteration, and the median improvement per iteration was 38%.” Nielsen Norman Group

Improving Your UX Design Process

From product definition to design to testing, you want your UX design process to work for you, to allow your team to create end products that ensure optimal usability and UX. That may mean taking a look at your current process to look for areas of improvement. With the UX design phases often overlapping, it might be beneficial to lean into the iterative development process and take advantage of the repetitive nature of the methodology. This methodology can help your UX design team create end-products more efficiently, but more importantly, that meet or exceed the user’s expectations and needs. And the bottom line is that you need good UX to keep your customers. Dive deeper into iterative development and how it helps the UX design process.

FAQs on Iteration in UX and Iterative Design Processes

1. What is Iteration UX in the design process?

Iteration UX refers to the cyclical and repetitive refinement of design solutions based on feedback, testing, and continuous evaluation within the user experience design process.

2. Why is the design process considered iterative?

The design process is considered iterative because it involves a repetitive approach, continuously revisiting, refining, and improving design solutions throughout the development cycle.

3. What is an iterative development process in UX design?

Iterative development in UX design is a dynamic, cyclical approach that focuses on continuous refinement of design solutions, allowing for adaptations based on user feedback and changing project requirements.

4. What are the three phases of an iterative development process?

The three phases of an iterative development process typically include design, testing, and refinement. These phases repeat as necessary to achieve optimal results.

5. What is the central idea in a process-based approach (vs. linear approach) in UX design?

The central idea in a process-based approach, as opposed to a linear approach, is the iterative nature of design. It emphasizes continuous refinement, flexibility, and adaptability throughout the design process.

6. Should design be changed based on iterations?

Yes, design should be changed based on iterations. The iterative process allows for continuous improvement, ensuring that design solutions align with user needs and project goals.

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Abdul Suleiman
Abdul SuleimanChief Experience Officer
Abdul Suleiman

Abdul has helped over 40 Fortune 500 companies make informed user-centered design decisions through evidence-based user research and UX best practices. As an Adjunct Professor, Abdul has taught in DePaul University’s graduate UX programs and for nine other universities.

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