This is my typical project process overview
There are many approaches to user experience. The truth is that there is no formula. I aim to highlight some of the tried and tested approaches to both UX and user interface design that I take, and hopefully this will provide some insight into why user centered design is so important.
First and formeost, everything I do starts with a pen /pencil and paper. This really is my preferred tool.
User analysisBuilding People experiences
Project analysis is about getting to the root of the problem, way before any keyboards are worn out. Typically for me, this starts with a conversation. I need to find out a little bit about the brief. What is needed and why? What purpose does it serve for your clients? How can it help grow your business? What does a typical user look like? What are their accessiblity needs? Is this the right demographic? If so, what hasn't worked?
These questions and more are built into a discovery session where I aim to learn about your users, what they do, who they are, where you make contact with them, and decipher how to alleviate some of their pain points. Reaching deep into their train of thought, speaking with them, observing them, observing the data we collect and finally agreeing on the reasons for the brief in the first place.
PersonasPurpose and overview
User research should always be carried out prior to starting a project. This informs us of the type of user to cater for in our designs. It should be inclusive of how the person engages with the 'brand' in its etirety and offer empathy around their pain points, their objectives, and how they spend their money.
A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. Instead of focusing on thousands of individuals, personas aid designers to create different designs for different kinds of people and to design for a specific somebody, rather than a generic everybody.
Personas should include users, administrators, content editors and stakeholders. They should force designers and developers to think outside of their own bubbles and consider all possibilities.
Project IdeationTime well spent
As a creative this is my favourite part of the process. It can be done in so many ways but collaboration is by far the best way. The process entails pen and paper, markers, sticky notes, colour, typographic layout, grid systems, placement of content and much more.
The purpose behind the ideation phase, is to take all of the research to this point, along with the newly created personas, and try to be as creative as possible without ANY limitations. With no rules, fear of technological limitations, no barriers etc to come up with iterative concepts.
There is no need at this point to find solution. The sole purpose of this is to think as broadly as I can and to visualise, mix-up ideas, and consolidate these ideas. Formatting these ideas can then be used later on. By process of elimination I am then able to visualise multiple solutions.
Scenarios and storyboardsWhat you do, is what I do!
Once the ideation phase is finished, I am usually in a great place to get started on visualising the solution.
The way I like to do this is to draw out my personas' scenario in the form of a storyboard. What are the personas goals? If they click this button, where do they go to? Once they get there, how do they get back? Card sorting excercises are also useful here to determine navigation rules, what features will work best, when they should be there and so forth.
This is about information architecture. How would a content editor edit that piece of information, where do they access their admin rights? Can they publish content to the live site? Scenarios and storyboards help me organise all of the information I now know, into usable bitesize chunks.
This provides clarity on content strategy, what components need to be built, how they should be built. It provides end-users clarity on their buying cycle. It gives stakeholders confidence on the product, but most of all, it offers the opportunity to change direction on a whim if need be. No development has been done here. So it gives me the chance to reflect and adapt as necessary, it gives my clients the chance to change their minds (which they often do) and it gives everyone a point of reference for sign off.
Once agreed it becomes much easier to move into the prototyping phase.
Prototypinganalogue to digital
I use all types of software for prototyping. I have to say that for me it is less about software here and more about the structure. Everything should now be in place. I have my research, I'm fully armed with my ideas and solutions, I have identified the users and how they will move around the application, so the next phase is to build small, iterative, design cycle wireframes, mockups, and interactive prototypes of features.
This helps the software development process, but it should only inform development. No time wasting here. I want to get a visual out to the stakeholders quickly, and get feedback from users as often as is possible.
This could be just around the office, it could be printed artwork or digital. The purpose of the prototyping phase is to put what you have learned into practice. Is it working? Are they able to do what is expected? Is the prototype spitting out faults in your personas? If so how do you fix it? this is why we need to keep this phase small and cyclical. At the end of this step, we should have a fully functioning prototype (with content) to show the development team.
The tools should offer space for collaboration, note taking, document sharing and online access. My preferred choice is Axure RP, but Illustrator, UX pin, Photoshop, Sketch, Balsamiq etc all offer something good in their own way.
Implementation PlanningFocused collaboration
So the project documentation has been agreed, the prototype has been signed off and the development team are about to begin their sprint 0 kickoff with the work the UX team have produced.
There is a phase of strategically planning your approach now. What is the best appraoch to this?I believe that a decision making team consisting of a lead UX designer, lead UI designer, lead developer, lead architect, project manager, lead tester and the product owner, should gather in a room and inform the implementation planning strategy.
Each one of these poeple will have a different point of view, but will want to achieve the same thing. They need to work to budget constraints, time contraints and complexity of the problem.
This will enable everyone to have a high level overview of the product in its entirety before beginning the development process. Decide on the software strategy, the tools the teams will need, when, where and how content will be provided.
This is the phase where a good project manager will work with the UX team, the dev team and the design team, to discover their approaches to the solution.
Front-end DevelopmentHTML5 + SaSS/LESS
I am also passionate about being involved in the development phase.
Whilst UX is vey much about the users of the software applications I build, I am also obsessed with creating the cleanest, most accessible code possible.
HTML and SASS/LESS are used to ensure I am creating efficent, DRY(don;t repeat yourself), OOCSS (object orientated CSS).
I try to consider accessiblity at all levels, as well as limiting the use of crazy animations and videos (of course these are also a necessity). Lastly I aim to deliver highly responsive designs. This means that the use of mobile devices, smart phones, smart TVs and tablets are always considered.
This will al be convered in the UX design phase, but it just so happens that changes need to be made during development. This is when it is good to have a clear scope for approach. Collaboratively working with the design team and the development team to make sure delivery and quality of the product is at its highest.