Recognizing the need is the primary condition for designCharles Eames
To recognize the need for design it’s important to emphasize with users and understand their context. Understanding Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How would reveal the context of use, the people, their tasks, their tools, and the environment in which they will be using the product I’m designing. This is an important first step into the design process, ‘Discover’.
The design is an iterative and non-linear process. The first step to solving any problem is understanding it. It involves understanding the business perspective, user needs, and how technology can help achieve the goal.
During this phase, I may talk to stakeholders, do competitive evaluations, market research, perform heuristic evaluations of the existing design if applicable, look at previous research, help the team identify design opportunities, understand user needs, pain points, and more.
Coming out of discovery, all of the stakeholders need to agree on what problem we are attempting to solve, what constraints are involved, and most importantly, how we will measure success.
Here are some of the artifacts I deliver in each phase of the design process based on the requirements.
Personas are often a good way to capture user research. This one captured all of the relevant data I had at the beginning of the project in a digestible format.
A user journey map helps to understand an individual’s relationships and touchpoints with a product over time and across different channels.
‘A day in the life’ helps to observe a user through a typical day, gain insight into the needs, behaviors, and goals of the user.
Card sorting/ mind mapping helps organize content so that it suits users’ mental models.
During the ideation phase, my goal is to explore the design space before settling on a single design that we will validate. This means quickly coming up with as many ideas for delivering business and user value as possible to contrast them and refine the strongest ideas. The ideation phase calls for speed and tools like pen and paper or dry erase boards.
It is important to focus more on generating many ideas rather than evaluating them. At this stage, I often facilitate design workshops where the product team can get together to pool our creativity.
Whiteboarding sessions are useful. After generating several thumbnails, I usually refine a few ideas at a greater level of detail.
Design Thinking Workshops help to step beyond the obvious solutions and bring together the perspectives and strengths of team members and uncover unexpected areas of innovation.
Sketching can be at the level of a single page or, as in this case, at the workflow level.
In the Design phase, I take the design ideas that emerge from ideation and iteratively develop them. In this phase, pen and paper and dry erase boards continue to be valuable, but here is where I use the sketch as a primary tool for wireframing, detail design mockups, and creating click-through a prototype.
I capture the designs at a higher level of detail with each iteration, soliciting feedback from stakeholders each time and adding detail to try to account for the complexities of the system and human behavior. It is important to recognize when you have reached the point where you have enough of the design fleshed out to validate it with user research. This is when the validation phase begins. Learn from a prototype to spark new ideas.
Low fidelity wireframes represent the skeleton of the interface that includes the most basic content and static visuals to try to capture as many ideas as possible.
High–fidelity wireframes add further detail to the sketches and often must be self-explanatory.
Wireframe for a page template, describing how space should be used on the page.
A mockup illustrates what the final design will look like when it’s put out into the real world with the use of visual design (colors, images, typography).
I use invision as a primary tool for creating a click-through prototype. Often, I communicate designs to developers by User Stories and creating invision inspect for design specifications which simplifies the design-to-development process by allowing your team to access measurements, colors, and assets for prototypes. The click-through prototype plays a critical role during user testing to validate the design and flows.
A prototype as a draft version of a product allows you to explore your ideas and show the intention behind a feature or the overall design concept to users before investing time and money into development. I use invision as my prototyping tool.
Once a concept is finalized and approved by all the stakeholders, tested, and updated based on user testing I proceed into the design implementation phase. This phase is a significant percentage of the overall design cycle. It is critical to handle this phase as efficiently as possible. The decisions before and during the design implementation phase can have a dramatic impact on the implemented design and project schedule hence the close collaboration with the development team, providing design specifications with great details and UI testing are the key activities in this phase.
Design specifications are one of the key documents when it comes to design handoff to the engineering team.
Reporting bugs in JIRA or any other product management tool after UI testing.
During the testing phase, I lead the planning of how we will test designs. Planning involves explicitly stating the objective of the user research activity and what hypotheses we want to validate. You must know how you will evaluate the effectiveness of the design—that is, determining the metric or metrics that tell you whether the design worked and meet users’ expectations.
Besides planning, I also am experienced with setting up and conducting user research activities, from online card sorting studies to usability testing, and then analyzing and reporting the results.
I use Respondent for user recruitment or UserZoom for user recruitment, usability testing and benchmarking information architecture research, and surveys during the user research and testing phase.
There are multiple possible approaches to testing. Some of the methods that I have used are shown below.
Card sorting determines how elements of UI should be organized. It helps to develop a site hierarchy and navigation that meets your users’ specific needs.
A/B testing is an easier way to compare two versions of designs, collect results from the target audience, and identify a clear winner.
Eye-tracking can be a great accompaniment to user testing to identify how users are interacting with a UI.
User surveys are an unbiased approach to decision-making. It helps base decisions on objective information.
When designing products, it’s important to remember that I’m designing for *people*. It helps to establish a more results-driven process.