Do you work in an organization that doesn’t have an established UX discipline, a clear owner of UX in the upper management and any shared design practices? Do you try to advocate for Users and their needs and start the conversation about the User-centered design process? Bringing the UX process into a project is the first step in that direction.
I’m confident that if you’re looking for information on how to bring UX into a project, then your organization is at that exact stage of UX maturity level I described above. It is because every stage of growing and maturing has its defined signs (and symptoms! :)) and the whole process follows specific progression steps. Jennifer Fraser & Scott Plewes in their white paper “Introducing UX into the Corporate Culture: A UX Maturity Model” describe those stages in detail and with clarity.
Piloting the first project with the UX process is a step toward enabling User-centered design process in the organization and moving it from “being aware” to the “adopting” stage.
So what are stages of the UX process and how to plan and estimate for each of them when you are walking the walk for the first time? UX process is flexible, but in general, it consists of the following:
What are the goals of this project and how this project fits into the company’s strategy?
Companies at the low levels of UX maturity may not have a user-centered approach set as a strategic goal. However, good Customer Experience (CX) influences the success of other high-level business objectives: innovation, lower cost of development and support, higher quality product, customer satisfaction.
Why this stage of UX process is important? When you know how this project fits into the business strategy you will also know what are the most important features, and what will be the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for this product or feature.
Interviewing stakeholders and subject-matter experts will help to learn about business goals and to gather initial information about the users. This information will help to plan for the next stage of the UX process — the user research. And, as I already mentioned, this will also be needed during the later stages of the UX process: you will be choosing and prioritizing the right metrics to evaluate if the business goals are met.
Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders by Steve Baty is a thorough article with a lot of details and valuable info.
2. Research and analyses.
Who are your users? What are their needs, motivation, values? How will they engage with your product or application, what steps will they take to complete their task?
At that stage, you will develop User Personas and their Journey Maps. User Persona is a representation of your user, it’s a model of your audience. There are a lot of online resources regarding research and creation of Personas and Journey maps. I would recommend an article by Steve Baty on User Research for Personas and Other Audience Models where he describes the purpose, research process, and methods for creating Personas, but also gives bits of advice from UX professionals on creating Personas and translating the information into user scenarios, and end-to-end user experience journey maps.
Neil Turner’s Step by Step Guide to Scenario Mapping is a must-read resource. “Scenario mapping is most effective very early on in a project to help flesh out user journeys, likely product features and possible screens for a UI. For Agile projects, it can be useful for helping to put together the product backlog and for more traditional projects (i.e. more waterfall in nature) for defining the functional requirements.”
Additionally, there is a step that is more often considered an object of market research but could also be the part of UX process as well — Competitive analysis.
You will evaluate a competing product’s usability, design, and any interesting or new functionality. “A competitive analysis can give insight into what their competitors are doing right, and what they might be struggling with, leaving opportunities available”, — says Sarah Khan in her article “How to Check Out the Competition“.
Personas, User Scenarios, User Journey Maps, and Competitive analysis will inform design decisions in the next stage of the UX process — the design and development.
3. Design and development.
In this stage, design concepts are developed and validated. The process is iterative, it starts from whiteboarding to card sorting to sketches to high fidelity prototypes to usability studies. UX activities of this stage fit seamlessly (or sometimes not so much) into the Agile process.
This stage often has the most amount of UX work. I think that in an organization where the UX process is not established, the UX tasks are sometimes seen as “adding an extra time”, or resulting in “bringing more work”. Those views come from not understanding the value that UX Design brings, and how investing into user-centered design results not only in better customer experience, and customer retention, but helps to save money on development and re-development. A great article by Emily Grace Adiseshian “How to calculate the ROI of your UX activities” talks about how measuring and presenting the return on investment (ROI) of UX activities as the key to successfully introducing user experience into enterprises.
4. Measurement and validation.
Using quantitative and qualitative methods of gathering information will help to inform if the new product delivers value to both customers and the business, and meets business goals and expectations. This stage of the UX process will illuminate areas of improvements.
Recently I was researching information about Systems of Records, Systems of Engagements, and Systems of Insights. There is an interesting article “Systems of Record, Engagement and…(Hint: It’s ultimately bigger than content services)” by John Mancini, who talks about the importance of information management and shift to Systems of Insights (Systems of Understanding): “We are moving truly into the era of Information Management. Not data in isolation. Not content in isolation. But data + content.”
The data gathered helps to measure KPI as well as informs further product improvements and changes. In this stage, UX blends with Business Intelligence — the path to becoming a data-driven organization.
5. Different UX process concepts.
As you can see, the UX process is not linear. Different schools of UX Design present the UX process slightly differently, but the concept and cycles remain: the user-centered design process has the user at its core.
There are many tools and techniques UX designers use at each stage of the process. For more information and more details, I would recommend the very thorough articles by UX Mastery: UX Process and UX Techniques.
Bringing UX process into a project is a sign of the developing organization’s UX maturity. The process is scalable and could be applied to other projects with the next goal to enable UX at the organization level. This will require different UX capacities, leadership support, and the advocacy of UX professionals.
- Jennifer Fraser & Scott Plewes. “6 Indicators of an Organizations UX Maturity Level.”
- Jennifer Fraser & Scott Plewes. “Introducing UX into the Corporate Culture”.
- Steve Baty. UX Matters. Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders.
- Steve Baty. UX Matters. User Research for Personas and Other Audience Models.
- Neil Turner. UX for the Masses. Step by Step Guide to Scenario Mapping.
- Sarah Khan. How to Check Out the Competition
- Brad Dalrymple. Competitive Analysis
- Leah Buley. The User Experience Team of One.
- System Concepts. Analytics and qualitative methods in UX research.
- Thai Lam. 6 Steps in A Common UX Design Process
- John Mancini. Systems of Record, Engagement and…(Hint: It’s ultimately bigger than content services)
- UX Mastery. UX Process.
- UX Mastery. UX Techniques.