USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN
The UX process varies in its design and strategy, as does the role I play on a particular project. I wear whichever hat is needed at the time (which may be quite a few).
Versatility is key and I’ve combined what I’ve learned over the years as both a designer and a cognizant user to grab the right tool(s) to wear with the right hat(s).
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? How can we measure? We define problems, declare assumptions, desired experiences, functional requirements, with an endgame of ultimately determining what the key outcomes should be.
The way this comes together varies, but ideally, there is a constant:
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.
Most importantly, collaboration develops a shared understanding, a shared mission or goal, and 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
Who is this for and how will they use it?
What are the desired goals or tasks of the user?
What are the business goals?
What assumptions have already been made?
What features or components can we implement now, and which ones can be implemented in the future?
When developing personas, I coach the stakeholders into performing an exercise: Look at the [system/product/company] from the customers’ point of view:
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 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 for more meaningful discussions around value propositions, ultimately serving the needs of their users.
Sketches, mockups, wireframes and protoyping
No matter what the project, brainstorming sessions are needed to determine functionality (and/or possible solutions). Invariably some level of sketches, mockups, wireframes and prototyping 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
How easy is it for the user to know what to do right out of the gate?
What is the appropriate design based on the user’s device (TV, large monitor, laptop, tablet, phone, or even a watch)?
How do they know what action is possible based on what is shown? Buttons or sliders? Text navigation or graphics? To scroll or not to scroll?
Is it consistent? Is it natural?
Will it work no matter what pathway they choose? What if they get stuck? Pop-up helper boxes, back arrow, or an escape button?
Visual Design, aka the Icing on the Cake
Perception, a vital component of a user’s experience, evokes emotion.
As a visual designer for over 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, test,and build.
Test some more, monitor, and if the recipe needs tweaking for an even tastier stew, iterate.
Never consider your recipe perfected, either. Tastes change, cooking methodologies evolve, ideas are shared, discoveries happen.