Each project usually requires a bespoke process. In an ideal world every step would be undertaken and analysed. However, in practice, many steps may be minimised, or not included, due to other project constraints, such as budget & time.
Interpretation of Brief
It is essential to fully understand the brief given. Often brief’s contain useful snippets of information that can influence the structure and design of content. After all, the client usually understands their needs more than the UX Designer. Careful analysis of the brief can identify what the real issues are – and separate these from potential solutions already written into the brief.
Every website, App, shop etc. has competitors. They are essential for your business to survive. Whilst it’s important for businesses to have a unique selling point (USP), lack of competitors usually indicates a lack of market – and that can be disastrous for a business to survive.
Analysis of the competition allows the UX Designer to understand the market in detail – some competitors could be doing things really well – highlighting good practices. Others may have poor UX Design, and thus poor usability. This understanding can be more useful than the competitions’ good points – showing things to avoid, or areas for you to excel.
Heuristic Analysis give the UX Designer, and more importantly – the business, a detailed analysis of their existing content. It identifies the depth & complexity of content, what works & what doesn’t, where improvement is needed. From this, you learn about which areas to concentrate on – what to borrow or improve on, or where to start again. This enables effort to be targeted where it’s needed, preventing wheels being reinvented.
The Content is tested and scored against pre-defined sets of requirements – each allowing parts of the content to be analysed in isolation. e.g. The written content may be excellent – but difficult for the user to read, due to poor font size selection, or insufficient space allocated for it to be easily read.
Heuristic Analysis is usually conducted on a businesses existing content – although also mapping the heuristics of the competitors can be a very useful step.
This survey identifies the requirements of the business. Whilst most sites or Apps are created for users outside of the business user, it is essential to what’s important to the business. Sometimes, the business requirements may be in opposition to the user requirements. They need to be captured, and analysed as they will usually be based on careful analysis of user behaviour, captured through knowledge of the industry and/or data collected from numerous users over time.
Surveying users can identify important understandings about existing content, or that of competitors. It is highly likely that the data gathered will be highly subjective, but can offer important insights as to what each user likes – most user surveys’s identify the extremes of content – the bits that really work and those that don’t.
Personas are, in my opinion, an essential stage in UX Design – but one that is often overlooked or minimised. The creations of Personas (fictitious users) allows information gathered to be distilled into a few key users. The extremes of user requirements can be incorporated, so that the resultant content is suitable for as wide a spectrum of users as possible.
Each persona is written to make them as human as possible. The more than can be identified with, the more successful they become. They become the basis for further testing throughout the UX Design.
This stage is the distillation of all the information gained to this point. The information is simplified into a number of key requirements, that can be readily identified with, and tested against. This can be a particularly important stage for the project’s key stakeholders.
Site Map Design
Once the naming convention and the layout has been designed, a site map can be created. This simplifies all content into a simple table, so that it’s easy to identify where in a site a user is.
It is common to number each part of a site map, so that it can be identified in the Prototype and/or Wireframe Design
It can be useful for this stage to be interactive – so that users can interact on their actual screen. Testing can also be undertaken on hand drawn prototypes, simplifying the process – but lacking the additional benefit of realistic interaction.
The more user testing that is completed, the more likely you are to meet the defined requirements – it is not a step that should be overlooked.