User experience is one of the professions that didn´t exist 10 years ago.
10 Years ago we had web designers who would focus on just create web pages for internet.As internet evolved, many of the professions related to it, did it too. From web design we went to UX design, UI design, Information Architecture.. probably in the next 5 to 10 years we will keep creating new careers.
Now, UX design was born out of a need. The need of understanding the target of the webs pages better, and focusing more on how they were, what would they look for first, what would they want at first sigh and give it to them.
UX design is almost the beginning of a web page, is where you start to differenciate that page from the rest of the other out in the net.
What User experience is NOT
This is not User interface, is not just a step in the process, is not only usability, is not expensive or easy, and is not just a single discipline, but a collaboration with the other disciplines that involve a creation of a Web page.
Once you begin with the process of User Experience, you need to take all the information architecture study done, and see what´s all the information we are going to play with in the page. You need to also know your user, what other pages they visit ( but never make them your competitors ) and what you want them to see or how you want them to enjoy the page.
And then, start filtering all that information to present it to them, so it means, start to work out the wireframes and work flows for the page.
This is not User Interface so here, there is no pretty shadows and textures, or deep works in photoshop, this is about paper and pencil, and sketches, and maps made on Photoshop or Illustrator, or many times in tools like Axure, for example.
This step is going to require a lot of empathy for customer needs, aptitude for communicating with colleagues across organizational functions, patience, humility , and an eye for intuitiveness and simplicity.
The UX tools and techniques that I prefer
Sketching, like hand-drawn ideas, it generares a quick idea of what you think it should be, and gives you speed to start going with the design, it allows you to make decissions faster when the moment comes. This is not for the client, is for yourself, to start with it and get a clear idea of what you want to show afterwards.
Wireframes, It will let you explore deeply the ideas you first sketches, they are also highly interactive and although the client needs to understand this wont be the final design, it will allow them to have an early visión of how the project will go. It also allows you to make fast decisions over your work. Prototypes, mocking up ideas, this will allow you to show in an early process a product that almost everyone will understand, it can be a waste of time if the project is too big and you still dont have a clear idea of how you want it to work, also is risky when you show it to them for the amount of feedback your going to receive but, if well done, it can also save you a very big amount of time. People, think about your users, and place them in parts of the page and imagine what they would expect and what not at that moment. This can solver many questions in moments when you got stucked. This are some sources that may be helpful to learn more about it,
I really recommend a fast lecture of this book,
Don´t make me think, Steve Krugger