The great thing about working in the web space is the number of options to choose from, but it comes down to establishing your own well-structured and organized set of processes that fosters communication and collaboration.
The primary objective was to develop an application that correctly generated real data based on the user's search criteria. However, although the application eventually worked, it was never deployed because the company unfortunately lost it's funding, and subsequently the entire team was laid-off.
UX Research & Analysis
Brainstorming & Ideation
Director of Customer Experience
Found myself again in a situation where I was the only UI Designer in the company tasked with designing an interface for an innovative, data-driven, web-based application, as well as, the external client-facing website. Therefore, it fell on me to create a design culture based on the latest best practices and methodologies.
In addition, the project required a different approach because this was a new and innovative application, so there was no actual customer data to evaluate or real metrics to leverage. Therefore, I also assumed the role of a UX Architect tasked with conducting user research, analysis, surveys and testing all intended to define the overall customer experience.
Kick-Off Meeting Questionnaire
Review, discuss and complete questionnaire
Created a statement that helped the team map out and create consensus around the key aspects of product and how it would be used.
Created a rough product roadmap to prioritize features and provide a strategic guide to team members with a plan to shape, define and achieve our product's vision.
Develop the project goals and deliverables
Define key success factors
Identify team members and responsibilities
User Personas, Customer Journey Maps and Empathy Maps are a vital and crucial aspect of any design process. Based on two-real use cases and our data analysis I created a custom template, and set up two personas, which were archetypes of real users. The personas affected the way we handled each aspect of the product design. We referred to them throughout the entire product development process as a guide to make assumptions and scenarios where they would perform as users.
The primary objective of an interactive and visual designer is to make users effective, therefore my initial approach was to find out what problems (pain points) existed, and start working on solutions. Therefore, the goal was to define the overall information architecture in order to plan the layout and interaction of the interface through a simulation of real use cases and a series of basic, but probing questions:
Information Architecture: How well are screens categorized and organized?
How well are navigational features constructed?
Learnability: How easy was it for users to learn to perform a task?
Intuitiveness: How obvious and easy is the task to accomplish?
Efficiency: Are users performing tasks optimally?
Are there ways to streamline and reduce the time it takes to complete the task?
Memorability: How easy is the task to repeat?
Preciseness: How prone to errors is the task?
What are the reasons for any errors?
How can we improve the interface to lower errors and unneeded repetition?
Fault Tolerance: A user makes a mistake performing the task, how fast can they recover?
Efficiency of Navigation: How fast and in how many actions (number of clicks, etc.) does it take to get to page of interest?
Findability: Are there sufficient site features such as search boxes, navigation and links that aid in finding relevant screens?
Affordance: Are interactive elements such as buttons, links and input text boxes related to the accomplishment of a task obviously interactive and evident what the results of a user action will be when the user decides to interact with it by clicking, mouse hovering, etc.?
5. Process Flow
I am a proponent of the “Lean UX” methodology with less emphasis on deliverables and greater focus on the actual experience being designed. This means all of your efforts should be focused on planning, designing, developing, and delivering a remarkably well-crafted core experience. What's unique about this stage is that for most of the deliverables, the documentation is the design.
Again, the problem was there was no actual real customer or industry data to examine or evaluate. However, I was fortunate because my direct manager had invested considerable time and effort detailing the application's functionality in a set of slide presentations. Nevertheless, several assumptions had to made in an effort to formulate a creative plan and approach to designing the interface. It required several weeks of review and study to gain a cursory understanding of the application.
B Design Thinking
There is no better thought process than “Design Thinking,” to adopt to change or to challenge conventional thinking because that's when innovation happens. Now, it's an organisation wide culture change, therefore in an effort to promote design thinking I encouraged everyone's suggestions and ideas because it's been my experience that when teams collaborate, they get to a solution faster.
In addition, I followed experts in various disciplines and technologies, which not only helped me keep up to speed on the latest trends, best practices and methodologies, but provided me with resources I could reference when advocating for a particular solution. This approach worked especially well with colleagues unfamiliar with the design process because it served as a valuable educational tool. All these efforts helped to drive an environment and culture that was focused on the user experience, especially given design thinking also combined the problem-solving roots of design with deep empathy for the user.
C Rapid Iteration
It was my responsibility to ensure that an end product achieved its core business objectives by driving conversions and revenue through the most efficient and engaging experience possible. I often collaborated with the lead developer and software engineer in an effort to gain their insights to help drive the design. Designs rely on a process of iteration, with new inputs helping to support strong outputs.
D Interactive Wireframes
Together with discovery and iteration, which enabled me to begin designing a series of low-fidelity wireframes. The goal was to define the core components in the initial concept in an effort to quickly visualize the workflow. Therefore, our first approach was to create a wireframe that depicted the page layout and arrangement of the content including interface elements and navigational systems, and how they worked together. The wireframe omitted typographic style, color, and graphics, since the main focus lied in functionality, behavior, and priority of content. In other words, it focuses on what a screen does, not what it looks like.
E User Testing
Empathy is the foundation of the whole design thinking process, and ties directly to the primary principle, wherein you actually conduct research and interact with the people you're trying to help. The company had a handful of prospective clients who we were able share our initial concepts with in an effort to solicit their honest feedback based on their expectations and requirements as a user.
However, in order to design a truly successful product you need to adopt a process of continuous improvement. Iterative design follows the idea that design should be done in repeated cycles: it's a process of constantly refining and improving the product based on both qualitative and quantitative feedback data from your users.
The most important and obvious thing to test for was whether users were able to accomplish their tasks and goals, and to ensure they're able to do so in the best and most efficient way possible. It was their actual experience that helped set a baseline for further development.
F High Fidelity Mockups
Often, the interface design (UI) is intertwined with the experience design (UX), but they are entirely different. However, I personally see both fields as a whole. User experience is comprised of both functionality and visibility, but when addressing the two as linked fields, it's obvious that one relies on the other.
We focused on every aspect of the interface including the navigation, color scheme, typography, iconography, buttons, tool tips, visual cues, panels, feature set, and a responsive layout. However, we were always mindful that the experience makes the product, not the features.
G Rapid Prototyping
Now, there were a handful of iterations and variations proposed initially in the wireframe phase, but more fully explored during the prototype phase in a concerted effort to reach the desired solution.
After very careful review, testing and deliberation the team choose a solution that best leveraged both a minimalistic, but highly intuitive and functional interface. This solution generated very detailed data in a two-column layout that allowed the user to easily navigate and dive deeper into the system for information more relevant to their search.
The end result was that we were finally able to successfully generate actual data that correctly populated the interface based on the user's interaction and search criteria.
It was argued by a handful of colleagues that the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development technique would have gotten the product to market in a much more timely manner. Therefore, the critical takeaway is to develop a new product with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters, and implementing an additional set of features is contemplated only after considering feedback from the product's initial users.
“Mario is an excellent worker, and I would consider him to be a valuable asset to any organization he joins. He is loyal, imaginative and proactive, and can be counted on to produce excellent work — and always on time.”