Part 7: The UX process

Most user-centered design projects follow a set of steps commonly known as the design thinking process. 

Design thinking is best undertaken as a project kick-off activity, but the elements of it like user research, prototyping, and testing are used throughout the project lifecycle so it serves as a good framework for learning about the whole UX process.

Core

Design Thinking: Understanding the Process (Chris Nodder)

Early-stage UX work helps a team work out what to build by keeping their users in mind. This overview lists each stage, along with the rationale.

UX Design 1-7 (Chris Nodder)

A series of 7 short courses, which describe each stage in the design thinking process in enough detail that you can follow along. 

  1. Overview
  2. Analyzing User Data
  3. Creating Personas
  4. Ideation
  5. Creating Scenarios
  6. Paper Prototyping
  7. Implementation

Homework

Watch the chapter on UX Design Deliverables from UX Insights Weekly to see how the output from different parts of the UX design process is often delivered.

Think about the differences between the types of working document a team might use during the design thinking process (sticky notes on flip chart paper) and the types of document you might present to stakeholders, management, or clients to get buy-in to the design changes you are proposing.

Discussion topics

Use the time you spend with your study group to plan the design thinking project. Even if you are each working to improve the interface of different companies, the steps in the design thinking process will be the same.

Work through each stage, thinking about what you’ll need to prepare in advance, what information you might want to share with participants, and how you’ll collate and share the output from each part.

Project

Run a design thinking exercise for a product or service, from user research through to testing a paper prototype and creating an implementation plan.

This is the major project in this whole syllabus. It is possible to do this on your own, but you will get the most valuable experience if you can work as part of a multidisciplinary team.

That team should include stakeholders from the target site, people who would be responsible for implementing the changes (developers), marketing people, and obviously the UX people. It helps to have a couple of UX people involved. That way you can share the planning responsibilities and have more pairs of eyes on the process as you go through each step.

I’ve created a handout to help you and the rest of the team you assemble understand each stage of the process.

This is a big undertaking. It’s important to plan it well. The steps involved are:

  • Describe the process to all the people who will be involved, get their agreement to participate.
  • Schedule and conduct observation sessions with representative users (or remote user interviews if in-person work is not possible). Invite the other team members to observe and take notes.
  • As a team, create an experience map of the findings from the observation sessions, extract pain points and turn them into project goals.
  • Create personas from the observation data.
  • Ideate on solutions to the pain points using a design charrette exercise. Decide which ideas to take forward.
  • Create scenarios or storyboards describing how users would work with the chosen ideas.
  • Build a paper prototype of the interface to support the scenario or storyboard.
  • User test the paper prototype.
  • Use the findings from the prototype testing session to update your design, then create a story map to plan out how you will implement the changes.

Keep copies of every digital artifact and take photos of every physical artifact. You will need these as you create your portfolio. Although you’ll pick and choose which elements you want to use, it’s important to have all the pieces available to help you tell a good story about how you went through the process.

Note: if you are unable to work in-person, it’s still possible to run design thinking sessions at a distance. Dave Birss has a great course called How to Create and Run a Brilliant Remote Workshop that will help you set up the environment and get attendees ready for an online event.

There are several tools that can help support remote creation of experience maps and story maps. These are also useful for storyboard creation:

It is possible to run a design charrette remotely, where each person sketches on paper in their own location, then shares the sketches digitally (or just by holding them up to a video camera) for the rest of the group to see. It’s really important that everyone uses thick marker pens so that their sketches show up!

You can create scenarios in a shared document. You may have to create a digital prototype rather than a paper one, but please keep it low-fidelity. Believe me: you won’t get such good feedback in your usability sessions if the prototype looks too much like a real product.

You can run usability sessions remotely. There are specific tools to help you do this, but it’s also possible just by sharing a screen in a video call.


Next – Part 8: Finding a Job in UX


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