The user experience (UX) process varies in its design and strategy, as does the role I play on a particular project.
Versatility is key, and I’ve combined what I’ve learned over the years as both a designer and a cognizant user to use the right tool(s) and wear the right hat(s) for whatever is needed at the time.
Each project begins with discovery
I start with stakeholder interviews, where I ask the client to tell their story. What’s worked? What hasn’t (or isn’t)? What are your competitors doing? What’s working for them?
Together, we analyze needs: What are the current goals of the system/product? Where are they not being met? We define problems, declare assumptions and desired experiences, functional requirements, with an endgame of ultimately determining what the key outcomes should be.
The way this comes together varies, but there is always one constant: Collaboration.
Deeply collaborative ideation
This is one of my favorite parts of any project. I love to see what insights develop from cross-functional / multi-disciplinary sources. Key outcomes may be different for different people. Collaboration provides the space to get different points of view on the table (or wall), and uncover potentially unexpected solutions. It also develops a shared understanding (as well as a shared mission), promotes trust, accountability, and pride of ownership for each team member.
Early-stage sketching may help get the ball rolling to envision an idea, or talk thru a specific (or subtle) detail with a programmer at a white board.
Questions to Ask
When developing personas, I coach the stakeholders into performing an exercise: Look at the [system/product/company] from the customers’ point of view: Wear their shoes long enough to articulate what their needs are.
Shifting the mindset away from a typical “business model” into user-centered thinking helps stakeholders to empathize with these various personas to address the overall usability, intuitiveness, and experience of the product:
- How is this useful to me?
- What benefits/values does it provide?
- Does it have the quality I expect?
- Do I like using it?
After these personas are developed, they become easy-to-remember reference points used during planning and decision-making processes. It also gets the stakeholders aligned around a target audience to discuss and review value propositions that serve the needs of that audience.
We will create [this feature] for [this persona] to achieve [this outcome].
Sketches, mockups, wireframes and protoyping
No matter what the project, I facilitate brainstorming sessions to determine functionality (and possible solutions). Invariably some level of sketches, mockups, wireframes and protoyping occur as a result.
IA, UI and IxD
I do Information Architecture (IA) for each and every website project I work on, creating the best way to organize information and content. This can include taxonomy, content categorization, site maps, process flows, and options available depending on the user journey. Not only is it an integral component for the building process, but IA helps team members attain a bird’s-eye-view of the project. This is also a great checkpoint for demonstrating usability.
Before beginning User Interface (UI) design, a very strong understanding of the workflow and how the user interacts with the system (Interaction design or IxD) must be established, at least as much as it can be at the time.
Since this is what the user sees, uses and interacts with, I define:
- What the best elements are for a given task(s)
- What needs to be visible and when
- What happens when a user clicks, taps, swipes, “interacts” (how it works)
Questions to Ask
Perception, a vital component of a user’s experience, evokes emotion. As a visual designer for 20 years, I’ve always advocated for the end user. And since half of the human brain is dedicated to visual processing1, typography, color, spatial arrangement, and imagery (overall look and feel) will always remain as a high ranking officer for any product.
Sometimes doing all of the above creates a super tasty stew:
Get the recipe:
Discover, interview, listen, interpret, identify.
Organize and Measure the ingredients:
User profiles and needs, brand guidelines, technology, business goals, other components and variables as the recipe dictates.
Develop information architecture, functional requirements, interaction, visual design, and build.
Test, monitor, and if the recipe needs tweaking for an even tastier stew, iterate.