Competitive analysis helps me know what companies are already doing to solve a target problem
For me as a designer, the opinion of a wide range of users to validate ideas is essential. So online survey gives me a pool of data to analyze in this regard.
After the initial paper sketches, I'd go a bit further to a grayscale mid-fidelity and then move on to reveal more details on the design like the UI elements, etc.
Pain points, errors, negative quotes, and user interaction with the product will subsequently be analyzed to evaluate which area of the product improvement is needed.
For me conducting user interviews to know the pain points of potential users is key to designing useful products.
The resulting facts via infinity mapping from the data help me confidently structure user flow to represent how my users will complete their tasks through the easiest paths.
Once my designs are almost ready, meaning that the layout is clear and UI elements are all in place, then I'd connect hotspots and make the design interactive using my favorite tool XD.
Once I'm done with this process, then I'd be ready to handoff the blueprint of my work to the team members. As a designer, I love to assist the developer with any further details in my designs as well.
After the user interviews, I decide on a primary user persona with necessary demographic details so that I can stay on track with user empathy and design decisions throughout the design process.
Using the user flow, I start off with paper sketches on papers to layout the landing pages of the product. This gives me pre-imaginative idea of the UI layout.
Since product designs are about users! I'd take the time to conduct a usability study and try out the interactive prototype of the design. The feedback I get helps make the necessary iterations to improve the designs.