Build a Better UX Process

wireframeWhat does a UX Process really look like? Honestly, depending on the project, it can look many different ways. I personally prefer to use a combination of in-depth process techniques, rather than just focusing on one specific area. It is critical to understand that UX is made up of several different components, each having its own importance.

There’s Research and Testing, Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Interaction Design, Visual Design and Front End Development. Today I want to focus on the first three areas.

Research and Testing

User research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies.

Think of a user researcher as an investigator. They have a variety of methods they use to come up with qualitative and quantitative data to understand what the users want. They can determine the difference between what people say and what people actually do. A user researcher will often span the lifetime of the process, from requirements to implementation. It is important to keep testing, evaluating and refining your design.

There are many techniques a user researcher can use. Deciding which technique(s) will depend on the project, time and tools available. These are the techniques I like to use (and you can find more details about them here):

• Usability Studies
• Ethnographic Field Studies
• Focus Groups
• Interviews
• A/B Testing
• Card Sorting
• Clickstream Analysis
• Content Audit
• Personas

This is a screen shot of a persona put together by Xtensio. Personas are a great way to collect data and behaviors based on a fictional character from your target audience. The first time I created a persona, I admit I didn’t fully understand the point. But once I began wire framing and designing, I referred back to the persona several times. It helped keep me focused on not only what I was doing, but who I was doing it for.

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Information Architecture

IA is incredibly important…and yet very often forgotten about. It doesn’t matter how good your product or content is if your user cannot find it. Discoverability is key. Information Architecture is the blueprint to your digital media. IA organizes the structure, content and hierarchy. It will help you understand how your user is going to navigate and search your content. It can help show the flow or thought process of the user.

Content Strategy

Content strategy will have a huge impact on your project. Once users do find what they are looking for, it needs to be high quality. Content strategy can range from the generic paragraph on the “About Us” page to the one-word button on a form. Imagery, videos, metadata and even error messages play an important role in your user’s experience.

Too much, too little, or just using the wrong word can have a large impact on your user. The $300 million dollar button study is probably one of my favorite examples to use when it comes to content strategy. The honeycomb below is a good visual representation of user experience and content strategy.

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These first components I covered are equally important. Some larger projects may need more exploration in IA and Content Strategy, while others will need in depth focus on Research. In my next blog, I will cover the other three components.

About Allison Christman

Allison Christman is a UI/UX Digital Designer focused on the human factor. She loves to create something great and then improve it after usability testing. Allison focuses mainly on desktop, mobile and SharePoint websites, and has been using the Adobe Web Suite of products (including Flash and Dreamweaver) for over 13 years. She creates most websites with CSS and HTML. Allison also creates Windows 8 apps and responsive design including CSS3 and HTML5.