Both qualitative and quantitative research goes into each project. Each decision I make has a justification and a purpose.
Research results and years of internalizing best practices are synthesized into a site or app structure, navigation and content strategy that are best suited to users’ and business' needs.
The IA/UX documents that I produce help my clients visualize the structure of their project and function as blue prints for the visual designers and programmers. I work closely with these groups during all stages of the project, not only during the main UX phase.
The tasks outlined below will change to meet the needs of each project. I am not shy to lobby for tasks that I feel should be done and will give reasoning why. But, I am also respectful of the business when certain things are not possible due to time or resource constraints.
- Stakeholder Interviews and Business Needs Assessment What’s the bottom line of the product? What do you want it to do? What are your expectations?
- User Group(s) Analysis Demographic, ethnographic and psychographic analysis and user group(s) needs/wants analysis.
- Competitor Analysis Understand competitor products so we can do a better job at addressing end-user needs and wants than they do.
- Content Analysis Assess what content exists and needs to be created.
- Functional Requirements Content and functionality to go into the product is defined as informed by the above research.
During Information Architecture and UX Design
- Site Map/App Map Defines the structure, the navigation system and main sections of the site or app.
- Process Flows When the user will exchange information with the system (the "back end"), I define the ideal flow along with all possible exceptions. E.g. registration, log in/forget password, shopping carts, uploading, etc.
- Wireframes Annotated black and white blueprints of the screens showing the content and navigation system. I sometimes do multiple layouts and then do A/B testing on them. It is important to not rush into design and development with the first draft of wireframes. Which is why it is important to do...
- User Testing on Wireframe Prototypes I like to hold methodical user testing to test whether the wireframes are clearly understandable to an unbiased set of representative end-users (i.e. preferably not people in the office or our families and friends but total strangers we can screen from craigslist ads or a user testing company can help us.) We can then validate and identify at this early stage whether users are able to quickly and easily accomplish the tasks that they and the business want them to. Improvements informed by this testing are made on the wires before proceeding to visual design and development. The more user testing iterations the better the end result will be.
- Business Processes Occasionally I get a project where the client requires corporate “swim lane” business flow. It is usually to illustrate to their internal management how the new digital work we are making integrates with off-line business processes. This is important when the project will, for example, send customers to an office to collect things they order online, cause customers to call a customer help telephone number, or when users are scheduling appointments online, etc.
- Functional Specifications On some jobs, usually for large corporate clients, the above documents are packaged together with additional integration considerations such as: functionality details, CMS, reporting plans, benchmark metrics and post-launch analytics to monitor, SEO, technology, data tables, etc.
During Graphic Design
- Graphic Design Check-Ins I don’t give my wireframes to the visual graphic designers and walk away. I check in with them regularly to ensure that the user and business needs are being addressed. I work well with graphic designers and I am open to their input during design and during the phases preceding design.
- User Testing on Graphic Design Prototypes I like to hold methodical user testing to test whether the designs’ visual conveyances and affordances are clearly understandable to an unbiased set of representative end-users and that they can easily accomplish the tasks that they and the business want them to. Improvements informed by this testing can be made on the the designs before proceeding to development. The more user testing iterations the better the end result will be.
During Development + QA
- Development Checkins During development and QA, I check in frequently with the development team to see what questions they may have on the wires and functional requirements, and to peek at how it’s coming along. I review the alpha and beta versions of the product to ensure compliance with functional requirements. I work well with developers. I used to be one early on.
- My job is also to help educate the client on which analytics they should be looking at post-launch to evaluate product success. It is a best practice to iteratively - e.g. every week or month - to analyze and improve the product over time so that the products get better for the end-users and for the business with each launch. I can also help with reviewing analytics to see if the content the business wants consumed is being consumed.