What is your UX process? – UX Collective

Nadeeka Athukorala

When you first land on your job as a UX Designer or as an intern, first week or two might pass without any pressure. Developers might give you the requirements and you might use your existing knowledge about the tools to design what they have requested from you. You may deliver whatever the things you designed or you might spend the first two weeks designing that one task you were given.

If you joined a project which is few sprints old, you will soon realize that more often than not, the developers are waiting until your design is finalized and delivered to them. If your project consist of several applications and if you are the only UX person in the project, you will feel the pressure soon enough. Nothing hurts more, than someone being idle until your work is delivered.

That’s one of the many reasons why you need to have an UX process, for you or for a particular project.

Before I begin, I have to mention that when I was a beginner UX process was one of the most confusing things to me because I read about different descriptions and different terms by different authors and back then I couldn’t figure out how to really execute a UX process and why different authors have differently described it.

Just like you can’t learn to swim without getting into the water, you will not understand a UX process until you actually apply it to a project and it’s something that evolves with the experience you gain.

So Let me explain how I figured it out with both theorems and experience.

What’s a UX process?

via http://uxdesign.com

UX process is an iterative method which helps you to continuously improve and polish your designs.

There is something which must be included in a UX process to qualify a process to be an actual UX process: that is, your UX process must get the user input as much as possible at each phase where you will be able to incorporate user feedback in to your product design.

So we can re-word it like this:

UX process is an iterative method which helps you to continuously improve and polish your designs with user feedback.

Also, one thing you should know is: A UX process can be different from one UX designer to another, organization to organization and sometimes depending on the project.

via https://uxmastery.com

Few factors that will cause to have different UX processes:

  1. The project
  2. The client
  3. The budget
  4. The deadlines
  5. Experience level of the UX designer

Why you need a UX process?

Before diving into explore phases of a UX process, its characteristics and how they contribute at different phases of the UX process, knowing why you need a UX process will help you to understand the importance of the UX process better.

1.Which technique, When and How.

You can select which techniques out of the range of techniques available in UX design, to use depending on your needs and factors mentioned above and decide when and how to use those techniques. Because all the techniques might not be necessary for a project, so you have to pick them wisely.

2.Keeps everyone on the same page

As a UX designer you are designing or always have in mind about the way you are going to execute the project in terms of UX. Since projects are always a team work, you need to communicate what you are going to do, to a bunch of people who will be working with you. Having a UX process will help you to explain it easier and in a more clear manner.

3.Show your competency and experience level

Apart from being useful for a particular project, your general UX process which you may showcase in your portfolio for your clients or recruiters to see, will give an idea about the level of experience you have. If it’s an organization, your organization’s UX process will showcase the maturity of the UX team in your organization.

4. Help you to decide numbers for your work

By having a UX process, you can decide which techniques you will be using for each phase and with experience you will know how much time it will take to complete those which will help you in making your estimation and if you are a freelancer, based on this you can decide your ratings.

Key characteristics of a UX process

First of all, I have used the word “Key Characteristics” instead of using “Stages” because I did not want you to get confused the stages with the phases that I will be explaining later. Phases will be defined based on the factors like type of the project, deadline and preferences of the UX designer. So let’s call them characteristics of a UX process and the phases will contain one or more of those characteristics.

1.Strategy
Here we are referring to few activities, such as: Articulating the brand, guiding principals of the project, defining long term goals of the organization, goals of the project, how to measure success of the project and priority of the things to achieve.

via www.dtelepathy.com

2.Research
Also referred to as Discovery. This is the most variable characteristic between projects and depending the UX strategy you will be using for your project (Lean UX and Agile UX).

via https://careerfoundry.com

Surprisingly, research has the most tendency to be skipped, but it is the key to creating an informed user experience and what makes a process into a real UX process. Competitor research and user research are two good examples for the use of this characteristic in UX process.

3.Analysis
Analysis is where the UX designers understands the “Why” from “What”.

“What” — the insights from collected data during the research.

“Why” — confirmation of the assumptions made by the UX designer to the end users.

In order to understand “Why” from “What”, we need to capture, organize and make inferences on the collected data during the research.

via www.pinterest.com

I am pretty sure that you have heard the above quote by Steve Jobs. This is actually what is done by analysis. User may tell you the things they think they want directly but with research findings you can actually find the things which they are actually in need of. This is what we do with analysis and we as UX designers communicate our understanding back to the end users, confirming on our assumptions. This is how we introduce improvements to functionality or may be functionality and features directly.

4. Design

Design is collaborative and iterative.

Collaborative — involves input and ideas from different people. Those people could be the client, your team of developers and other stakeholders.

Iterative — cycles back upon itself to validate ideas and assumptions.

Design puts ideas in front of users, gets feedback, refines the design and repeats this process until the client and UX designer both are satisfied.

This design does not involve any graphic identity, branding and visual details because we do not want to distract users from the design of the solution. It only involves the low fidelity designs such as paper prototypes, interactive wire frames and semi functioning prototypes.

5.Production

This is where we do the things we didn’t do with the design. High fidelity design is fleshed out at the production. The content, digital assets will be created and graphic identity, branding and visual details will be added.

Also, this is where we validate the high fidelity design with end users and stakeholders with user testing, along with collaboration of developers.

It almost sounds like Waterfall model but we are following Agile!

Requiring work on each plane to finish before work on the next can start leads to unsatisfactory results for you and your users. — Jesse James Garrett “Elements of User Experience”

Above image is a perfect example for what you have in mind after reading the characteristics and Yes! that’s NOT what you should do.

This is where the best practices comes to play.

You have complete freedom to overlap and iterate between those characteristics.

A better approach is to have work on each plane finish before work on the next can finish. — Jesse James Garrett “Elements of User Experience”

So, all you have to do is to finish the work of one phase before you finish the the work on the next phase.

But you said “phase” where’re the “Characteristics”?

Let’s take the planes /phases explained by Jesse James Garrett as an example for a general UX process and discuss where are the characteristics in it.

Elements /Planes of UX — Jesse James Garrett

Again a reminder, we are not following this as a waterfall model, we do overlap and iterate going back and forth with feedback from users and stakeholders.

Strategy Phase

What happens in this phase?

  1. Determining scope
  2. Incorporating what users want to get out of the product — User needs
  3. Incorporating the business goals

Characteristic/characteristics involved:

  • Strategy — You will define the scope of the product/project and the business goals by taking the points mentioned in the strategy characteristic and it’s techniques
  • Research — Also, in order to define your business goals and user needs you will have to run few of the competitor/ Market researches and user researches. This is where research comes to play.

As you can see, you may use research and strategy in parallel or in different order, overlapping and by iterating between two of them.

Scope Phase

What happens in this phase?

  1. Defining features and functions which constitute the scope of the product
  2. Defining functional specification
  3. Defining Content requirements

Characteristic/characteristics involved:

  • Analysis — Action items for this phase will be based on the analysis of the research outcomes of the previous phase. Therefore, you can find the analysis characteristic here.

Structure Phase

What happens in this phase?

  1. Expression of abstract structure of the product
  2. Interaction design
  3. Defining information architecture

Characteristic/characteristics involved:

  • Analysis — In order to come up with a structure or information architecture, you need to analyze the requirements/functions which you defined at the previous phase along with the research findings in mind.
  • Design — You will be taking the first step in designing the interactions based on the information architecture and structure with techniques such as user flow diagrams.

Skeleton Phase

What happens in this phase?

  1. Expression of concrete structure of the product
  2. Information Design
  3. Interface Design

Characteristic/characteristics involved:

  • Design — You may use low fidelity wireframes for information design at this phase to emphasis on the information structure you defined at the previous stage. Also the interface design can be started with low fidelity techniques and put it through the user feedback cycles.
  • Production — Depending on the feedback you get at each feedback cycle, (if you are in a good shape in terms of information design) you may proceed to high fidelity interface designs where you will incorporate visual elements, branding and etc.

Surface Phase

What happens in this phase?

  1. Sum of all the work and decisions made
  2. Determines the look and feel & interactions of the product
  3. Conduct user testing

Characteristic/characteristics involved:

  • Production — You will be shaping up your product further and will be finalizing the product design with user testing and incorporating those feedback into the solution.

Hope it makes sense!

So, that’s the end of the explanation to how characteristics comes into play at each phase. You can define your own UX process by taking these practices, your choice of techniques and your needs into consideration.

Below is one of the UX processes designed by me and my approximated time estimation for each phase along with my choice of techniques for each phase.

UX process — Nadeeka Athukorala

Feel free to let me know your feedback, let’s help each other to grow!

Author: Nadeeka Athukorala

Collect by: uxfree.com

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