What UX-ers Want to Know about UX Process
So, you’ve been handed a project to which you are required to create the whole UX design? Don’t get all twitchy and frantic! It only works to your benefit that the UX process has its key phases outlined; no matter the terminology and the structure, one thing definitely stands certain - every UX process somehow includes the same steps: Strategy, Research, Analysis, Design, Production, Testing, and Iterating.
The phases might overlap as every UX process is famous for its iteration possibilities; however, they are all part of the deal. It might be absolutely imperative to make further research, explore new design ideas, or get additional stakeholders feedback for strategy. In this article we’ve underlined – in our own way – the clear-cut steps that are common to every UX process to help you face the music!
Before cutting through the cake, let’s first tackle crust. As a sweet reminder to all of you UX-ers, one must mention that irrelevant of the process, there are certain conditions that must be taken into consideration when going round a UX project. Read them carefully:
Now that we got the above off of our chest, we can delve into the details of a UX process. Think of this article as a definitive guide, your UX anthem, or a reference you can come back to whenever you’d like; whatever you do, take what we’ve elaborated herein into consideration when handling your UX project.
Finding the Fossils
At this stage, you play paleontologist. Meaning – this is where you dig very deep to unearth all the hidden fossils that might cause you trouble in your mental models.
This is the discovery phase. You’ll have to ask all the right questions; consider the following - at this stage you’ll be laying out the ground work that will kick off the whole project. Connect the dots between many elements such as target audience, competitors, available content, objectives, etc.
Administratively, you’ll ask your team members in for a kick-off meeting where they’ll be assigned to uncover the eurekas related to hypothetical customers, user journeys, and personas. You should basically tackle these topics, if you’re starting completely from scratch:
- Potential Users – Who will use this experience? How will they use it?
- Competitive Analysis – How to steal the competitor’s thunder?
- Brand Guidelines – What will the branding strategy look like?
- Technology Constraints – What can hinder/fuel delivering the experience?
- Project Tasks – How to oversee different teams & parties?
Once you’ve given a name to all of the above, consult all the stakeholders, and make sure to get their “okay” before putting it all into action. This preliminary research shouldn’t take more than 7 working days; however, the timeline does depend greatly on the project itself.
On another note, if you already have an experience that you’re iterating or revamping, here are a few more things you’ll have to add to your meeting:
- Experience Gaps – What can be improved in the UX performance?
- Content Audit – What type of content is best for this experience?
Setting Up the Ws
Done with the research? Now you can actually define the goals, objectives, and strategy for your UX. Filter the information you’ve encompassed previously to identify the five Ws.
- Who? Defining the personas and the mental flow (user scenario).
- Why? Identifying the tasks that the experience should accomplish – from micro-conversions to its Majesty the macro-conversion.
- What? Anticipating the channels through which users will engage with the UX.
- Where? Predicting the user’s location.
- When? Detecting what time of day is the user more likely to engage with the UX.
After having answered the aforementioned questions, capture all the information in a briefly written report that you copy all of the team members on.
You’d want to mention the following in that brief:
- Features & Functionalities that the UX will showcase.
- Personas that determine user behavior and users types. Accompany this with a possible scenario which showcases how a persona would interact with the experience to achieve a task.
- The Objectives that the users want to reach by using the experience.
- Preliminary Content types – for example, say you’re designing an ecommerce website, the content type will differ between homepage and product details page.
- Primary Sitemap/Information Architecture (IA) that showcase how the experience will be grouped into menus and submenus.
- Mood Boards that reveal the emotional experience of the design.
- Competition Study where the areas that can differentiate your experience are fleshed out.
If you’re revamping an existing experience, then you might want to include a Content Audit that features the issues of the current experience, and their respective solutions.
Doing the Real Thing
Here comes the moment of truth – transforming all the data to design. Exciting! These are the deliverables that you should be covering:
- Detailed Sitemap including the main categories and what falls under them; think of all the breadcrumbs your experience will need!
- Features & Functionalities accompanied by the content types, where they will be placed in the information flow, and how they’ll be used.
- Wireframes that shows the entire information flow for the pages type (homepage, landing pages, etc.) along with the functional specifications that determine the technology requirements for each wireframe.
- Taxonomy to build up the hierarchy of information and to steer clear from the feature-clutter syndrome.
- The user journeys for all the outlined tasks.
- Visual guidelines that capture the principles for the visual elements such as page type, colors, typography, fonts, margins, gutters, images, videos, etc.
- Designated CMS that explains how content is supplied, tagged, and published.
- Metrics to measure the experience.
And it’s All Out in the Open!
To say it bluntly, this is where you put your I-know-how-to-speak-developers cap on! The truth is that your responsibility as a UX designer is not solely design; you have to keep everything within the realm of your vision, and maintain a healthy communication with the developers to avoid any form of negative rework.
The production phase is very critical, as the idea is transformed to the real product, and shared with the world. Even if you’ve submitted the high-fidelity design to the technology teams and properly briefed them, that doesn’t imply that you can set the gear on cruising mode; you’ve still got a couple of tasks you’ll have to knock off your to-do list to prepare for your testing phase such as setting up a reporting dashboard and developing a clear testing plan.
Has My UX Fallen Ill?
Assess and evaluate till you drop – that’s the spirit for this phase! What you’ll do is use the metrics you’ve previously defined to measure the performance of your experience. Testing sessions are not optional, as they are your gateway to validate your information flow, or uncover the shifts you need to apply to your design to improve your conversions.
Unclogging the Drain...
Or like other UX folks like to call it: Iterating.
After having gotten enough feedback from all the stakeholders, your job is to tweak your design accordingly. This is why many UX practitioners adopt the agile lifecycle when they get their hands on any UX project. Iteration doesn’t only happen once; you’ve got to keep on doing it till your current experience is optimized.