How I approach
The activities at each stage vary from project to project, and these days I'm guiding others through this process as often as I'm conducting it myself. Nonetheless, the spirit of the approach always remains the same:
Phase 1 - Understand the users & context
I start off by conducting research and looking at existing processes. I'll meet with stakeholders to gather insights, perspectives and concerns. This stage culminates in a clear understanding of the problem space, of the business/social/cultural context in which we're working and, most importantly, of the users for which we're designing. Typical activities and deliverables include:
- User research
- Contextual inquiry
- Competitor analysis
- Marketplace analysis
- Usability testing (of existing systems)
- Desk research
- Stakeholder workshops
I created this sketch after a contextual enquiry session, having observed call centre agents at work to help build up a picture of all the different systems and tools that they needed to interact with on a daily basis.
Phase 2 - Define a clear vision & criteria for success
The next stage is to flesh out a clear idea of the experience that we're aiming for and how we intend to get there. We'll draw insights from data into personas, identifying key journeys and scenarios. Low-fi exploration and quick-fire sketching of concepts will help to establish a clear direction. Collaboration is key to ensure that the vision is aligned with and supported by stakeholders, as well as all those who will ultimately be involved with delivering the experience. Typical activities and deliverables include:
- Requirements analysis
- Stakeholder workshops
- Low-fi sketching & prototyping
- Establishing design principles
- Setting KPIs
- User journeys
- Concept testing
These early scamps for a large supermarket chain were created to bring to life an app concept for the senior stakeholders and in order to help ensure a shared vision for the team.
Phase 3 - Design, test & repeat
This final stage is really a process in itself. The concepts are developed at increasing degrees of fidelity, getting user feedback and stakeholder input to inform decisions along the way. The process is collaborative and iterative, ideally done as part of an agile team, working hand in hand with designers and developers. Typical activities and deliverables include:
- Annotated wireframes
- Functional specification
- Stakeholder reviews
- User/usability testing
- Agile development
These example pages formed part of the final UX documentation on a project for a large financial services business. I worked closely with designers and offshore developers in order to ensure that implementation went as smoothly as possible.
Next up, why not check out a case study to see how I put this approach into practice?