UX Challenge? This Is How I Tackle It
The saying goes, “there are more ways than one to skin a cat” — sorry Peta. Whether large engagements or smaller projects, having a tight UX process can set yourself up for a smooth ride. Processes come in many flavors — and depending on budget, scope and timeline… you’ll most likely have to create a plan that is tailored to your client/project. The following is my specific approach when a UX challenge is thrown at me.
First thing is to understand the challenge fully and to identify the key factors (ex: client/project, budget, timelines, business requirements, user expectations, etc.). Putting a heavy emphasis on a thorough Discovery phase can help shine a light on the main challenge.
My UX approach… and then some:
- Discovery — I gather high-level information & requirements to help build a strategy. Typically, interviews with stakeholders, competitive analysis/landscape, surveys, review analytics (key metrics, heat maps), etc. What are the main pain points and collect data regarding wants/needs. Creating personas (ideally based on field research) and user journeys help shape the experience and keep goals front and center. Personas and user journeys are key deliverables in this phase, they point us in the right direction and function as a key reference point if/when the project begins to veer off. Main goal is to see how the current solution is failing and how we can solve it. For new products, what are the business goals and value proposition for our users. The goal here is to HORDE. Horde all the info you possibly can so you can synthesize the information over coffee and your choice of “brain-enhancing” supplement.
- Form Theory / Blueprint — Equipped with the data from Discovery, I can start to formulate ideas on how to solve identified challenges. This can be hashed out via collaborative white boarding with a team to low-fidelity wireframes and prototypes. Prototypes can focus on specific tasks or to test and solve for more challenging interactions. This phase can definitely happen alongside Discovery as the techniques in both work together effectively.
- Testing / Validation — With the various materials and prototypes created, testing out the specific solutions becomes easier. The main focus is to listen thoughtfully and gather information. Whether testing out an entire flow or specific touch point, prototyping is an incredible tool that sheds light on how a user interacts with the solution. Surveys/Interviews, direct observations and A/B testing can be ways to test usability. Budget and time will determine how deep this can go.
- Refinement — Now that we gathered some crucial information, was the theory correct? What have we discovered? Possibly some expected and some unexpected. This is the crucial cycle where we pivot and make the appropriate changes to optimize and test again. OCD types need to practice some restraint here… you have to ship SOMETHING. Pinch it off and move one, there can always be a phase 2.
- Design — Once functional requirements have been addressed and tested, and wireframes/prototypes have been validated… design can begin. Referencing brand guidelines, mood boards, and initial concepts, high-fidelity comps are created and iterated upon. Clickable prototypes, animations/transitions, personalizations, and CTAs are fleshed out and tested in this phase. Using tools like InVision or Axure can help create interactive prototypes to review with stakeholders. For the interaction designers in the room, time to show off your animation skills to really sell the idea. This is the time for fancy footwork.
- Production / Deployment — Once concepts are tested and approved, content and digital assets are prepared for development. Redlines and spec exports are created as well as constant communication with development ensures expected results. Again with skinning the cat — dealer’s choice on tool (Sketch Measure, Craft, Zeplin, etc.). QA-ing is key, don’t be self conscious about coming off like a nit-picky asshole. Throw in your project management software of choice for clear communication and accountability and voilà — it’s a wrap.
With the approach above, I’ve shipped countless solutions big and small. For the UX specialists out there, I would love to hear your thoughts on this and perhaps share your specific workflow. After all, UX is an evolving field where research methods and tools are constantly improved upon. For those getting their feet wet in the field, I hope the above can help you structure your engagements. Your process should become second nature, you want all your brain power focused on solving your client’s challenges — not scrambling to cram process in at the last moment.
The great thing about UX — there’s a wealth of resources out there from amazing people. Get out there and have some fun.