UX Design: My ideal process in a team environment
User experience design involves so many different categories and sub-sets. Most UX designers are really good at a couple of areas and knowledgable, or at least aware, of the other areas of UX. With that being said, here’s an overview of my involvement in the field and my experience with UX design projects.
With that being said, here’s my ideal process for UX design in a team environment. Notice that I’m saying “ideal”. The reality much of the time is that there is no time for this full process. As a freelancer, I’m not designing detailed user-story documents, but rather utilizing an abbreviated version of these steps for budget reasons or for time constraints. Every team and project is different, so often these steps aren’t taken in order or we are redoing wireframes or sometimes repeating steps.
Once a problem is defined and a general scope of the project is given to the development team by management or the product owner, it’s time to start gathering as much information as possible.
Data and Information Gathering
UX is rooted in fact-finding, analyzing data and making decisions based on evidence. So, before beginning any project, we are gathering as much information as possible. I’m looking for anything we already have in place now that I can learn about the users of the system. Reports from customer service, web analytics, business development and marketing, sales, IT and any other intel we can dig up. Identify trends and locate information you can use to benchmark.
Develop Personas of our Users and Communicate with Product Owners and Managers
User personas give the team an understanding of who our general audience members are. What motivates them, what are they looking to achieve with visiting your website or using your mobile app. By creating a User-Story document and passing it around to our team members, we can brainstorm, add to, and further define who the users are. Generally no more than 4 or 5 user stories. I’d say 2-3 is manageable for a first round.
Getting Prepared to Start Designing
Before designing, while designing and after designing you are aware of lots of things, but these base UX principles serve to guide your implementation of design choices. User-centered design focuses on making the application useable, useful, desirable, credible, accessible, valuable and findable.
And, as a general rule of thumb, we are focused on mobile-first. It’s required for good SEO anyway and Google says they are moving towards removing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, so by taking care of the minimum necessary content, we are providing good UX and a good mobile experience at the same time.
Once we have all of the information about who our users are and their motivations for using the app, it’s time for us to create the wireframe.
Tools I’ve used for wireframing
Axure, Adobe Fireworks, Blueprint (long time ago), Omnigraffle and Photoshop
UX Design for Web in the Browser
I utilize Design Patterns wherever possible. If a large majority of web users have adopted a method for interacting with a web page, then we like to utilize that method so they don’t have to “re-learn” the web application.
Accessibility for Users with Disabilities
Anytime I’m coding or designing, I’m aware of color choices for users with visual impairments like color-blindness, sizes of buttons (much of that is styled already, but sometimes I’m fixing legacy designs. It’s hard to believe they still exist!), contrast of text and background. Font selection (sans serif’s have better readability), line-height, white-space. I include alt tag descriptions for images (good for SEO and for your users with disabilities). Also, where we have video, there always needs to be closed captioning or subtitles for the hearing impaired. Content and forms need to be easily tabbed through for screen readers.
If our user story defines a special circumstance for users with special needs, we’ll develop and test a solution that achieves the best interaction with the system for ease of use.
Approval and Buy-in from Management
As a freelancer, most everyone agrees with what you suggest. There are times when product owners “veto” your design or decide to follow their own style preferences. Often they want their website wording and navigation to be original and match current marketing materials.
If I can succinctly and persuasively impress upon product owners to follow recommended design choices, then I’m one step closer to providing the best experience possible to the users. When I’ve created the best possible experience for the user, they’ll keep using the mobile app or coming back to the website.
Testing and Evaluating Results
While evaluating our results may appear at the end of this process, evaluating data throughout the design process (if there is time and a budget) is the best use of your time as a long-term investment because you’ll arrive at the best working application sooner with less iterations.
Tools I’ve used for evaluating results
Google analytics with event tracking, how long are users on the webpage, user flow on the site, web page loading times (especially for mobile devices), web surveys, and evaluating user behavior on the system through observation. I have not done any formal usability studies, but that would be tremendous opportunity I would welcome.
Areas of UX I have experience with
- Optimizing landing pages
- Improving web page accessibility
- iOS application prototypes
- A/B Testing
- Lean UX for Iterative Web Development
- Visual Design
- Content Strategy and Development
- Information Architecture and Sitemaps
- Mobile-friendly testing through emulators
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