Everything Begins With Research & Exploration
At the onset of any design project it's important to set goals and define outcomes. Research gives the team an opportunity to learn and gain insight. I study what the client and their competitors have done in the past with a holistic mindset in order to understand the market. This initial phase allows me to look at the design challenge objectively and analyze what works in real life.
It's also important to set project goals, outcomes, and timelines so everyone's on the same page.
After interviewing a variety of research participants from the target demographic and asking in-depth questions, trends begin to emerge in goals, motivations, and behaviors. I plot the participants along relevant spectrums like the diagram above shows. Analyzing this empirical data, we can identify patterns upon which we can create a persona.
Defining the Persona
Focusing on understanding goals, motivations, behaviors, aspirations, and perceptions of real people in the target demographic is paramount. Personas can be simple or more elaborate. The example above gets right to the point. Simply put, a persona is a tool I use to help align everyone involved in a design project. It focuses design decisions towards helping a specific "person" achieve his or her goals.
Similar to a screenplay, a contextual scenario is a future-based story about the persona illustrating how the product being designed will help them achieve their goals.
Scenarios are important because they help us understand real world interactions. Scenarios give us context from which we can consider implied functionality and discover problems that need to be addressed.
Framework & User Flow
The next step is to begin working out a framework for the digital product. Frameworks such as the one above serve as a road map for the project and help to identify the number of pages or screens to be designed. I map out the desired ways users will flow through the product focusing on goals and business outcomes.
Wireframes & Prototypes
I account for the needs implied by the contextual scenarios and focus on user flow. I like to start with navigational elements and begin refining the design from there. Once the wireframes are cleaned up to a certain point, I'm able to build workable prototypes using tool such as Invision.
User Testing & Validation
It's important to point out that I like to test designs with both individuals and focus groups as often and as soon as possible. Testing serves to validate design decisions and possibly discover things that were previously overlooked. I have experience running both formal and informal tests. I'm always interested to see how people respond while navigating prototypes.
Eventually a point is reached where it's time to begin incorporating branded elements into the product design. Color palettes, typography, iconography, and other UI elements are defined for consistency. Spec sheets, such as the one above, make it easier for developers to code the final product.
The design of most digital products is never truly finished. New technology is introduced, new best practices emerge, and discoveries are made. Refinement is a continual process. And, as a UX designer, it's my job to advocate for the end user and constantly remember that we're working to help REAL people accomplish REAL goals.