Hi! I'm Kathryn. I'm a user experience and product designer located in NYC. And this is my process.
1. DEFINE AND UNDERSTAND
It's impossible to do good design without first understanding the customer and business needs and goals. I try to gain an understanding by asking questions, such as:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- Who are we trying to help?
- What's most important to these people?
- Do we have a solution in search of a problem? Or is there a deeper need that requires addressing?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- Are they the same people who make the decisions?
- If not, who makes the decisions?
- What are the reasons to believe in this project?
- What are the questions we're not asking?
- What are we possibly missing?
2. RESEARCH AND ANALYZE
Next, I gather as many inputs as possible, try to refine assumptions, and fill in any blanks that may exist.
This stage may include in-depth interviews with internal stakeholders, client stakeholders, customers, and the people who support those customers (like sales representatives, customer service representatives, or operations folks).
Activities completed here may include competitive analyses, heuristic analyses of existing assets, a review of existing usability studies, a content audit, and more. If there is other qualitative and/or quantitative research, that becomes an input as well.
The outcome of this stage may take the form of customer journeys, experience maps, scenarios, user personas, and more.
With a better understanding of the problem being solved, and who will be using these products/services, it comes time to put pencil to paper.
This is an iterative process that starts with task flows and drills down to specific screens and states. A lot depends upon the difficulty of the problem or level of detail needed.
I may sketch dozens of variants of a screen, or explore several different ways to express a specific requirement. Dead-ends and rabbit holes are to be expected during this process, and are often necessary to come to the best solution.
The outcome of this stage may take the form of user flow diagrams, wireframes, storyboards, mockups, and more.
The best way to get a feel for if a design is working is to prototype it.
The prototype could be as simple as a clickable set of high level wireframes with placeholder text and images, or a fully-fledged high-fidelity one with animations and transitions that occur as the user swipes or scrolls down. Or something in between.
I use prototyping to quickly test out interactions, try new approaches, and make revisions on the fly.
Prototyping is also a great way to put new ideas front of internal stakeholders, clients, and prospective users, to get feedback as early as possible.
5. TEST, ITERATE, AND TEST AGAIN
I believe strongly in task-based qualitative testing as an integral part of the design process. Usability testing should not be just a box to be checked right before launch. (And I've done lots of usability research quickly, cheaply, and effectively, so those shouldn't be barriers to testing.)
Observing people use your product or service firsthand is the best way to find out if your design decisions actually work, because what people say is not how they actually behave in real life.
And by making it a part of the design process, the team can quickly come up with solutions to problems, having watched users struggle in real-time.
6. LAUNCH AND LEARN
After testing, iterating, and working with the engineering team to get something out the door, the job's still not done!
After something is live, I love analyzing support requests, looking at bug reports, getting user feedback, watching usage metrics, and seeing what happens after continued usage of the product by the internal team.
Where are people going on the site? Where are they getting stuck in the app? Are they using the brand new features we just added? What are the opportunities to improve? What can we add? What can we subtract?
And then, it's time to go through the design process all over again....
AS A DESIGNER, I believe:
- We should never stop learning about our customers
- We should never stop learning from our customers
- We should always be asking "Why?"
- Drawing is (usually) more effective than talking.
- The experience can always, always be better.
Thanks for reading.
Want to work together? Contact me.