Ditch complicated process diagrams and get back to the objectives
Having founded UX departments at two different companies, I have sat in dozens of meetings trying to hash out the UX process and distill it into a neat and tidy diagram. Each time seemed to produce a nasty drawing full of arrows, circles, and labels to cover every conceivable and possible nuance in the UX process. Do a google image search on UX design process and you will see what I mean.
Those meetings never produced anything that I felt really met the demands for how the UX process and agile software development works, at least not in my experience. Even the act of trying to diagram out an agile process seemed like a fools errand. There are always unique situations and circumstances where you need to be flexible and go outside the rigid confines of a diagrammed process.
Finally, one day, a coworker and myself tried to boil down our process to the broadest strokes possible. This is what we came up with:
Learn — Create — Share
That’s it. No 24 steps, no mandated times to engage users, devs, or owners. No restrictions on tools, methods, or techniques. Just objectives.
What I like about this simplification is that it directs us towards the goal. The goal is not to conduct a contextual inquiry; the goal is to understand the job the user is trying to accomplish. The goal is not to score an 80% on a usability test; the goal is to ensure that the solution is useful and usable.
I know I am engaged in my work when I can boil down what I’m doing to one of these three phases. Am I learning, creating, or sharing? If I can answer yes to that question, then I’m on the right path. As a UX designer everything you do should focus around one of these three objectives; you should be learning something, creating something, or sharing something. I am less interested in how these items get done and more interested that they do get done. If you are driving towards these objectives, good things will happen.
Let me explain.