Cheat Sheet

UX For Dummies

From UX For Dummies by Kevin Nichols, Donald Chesnut

The world of UX (user experience) strategy may seem complicated and hard to grasp. But anyone who wants to build a digital experience (whether for a local business or a national corporation) can leverage UX best practices to ensure that the experience meets basic user needs. Optimize the user experience by following UX design phases — from discovery and defining to designing and building. Finally, evaluate and refine your design to ensure a great user experience.

4 Important Parts of a UX Design Strategy

The goal of any well-crafted user experience (UX) strategy is to focus the company's web presence on the needs of its customers. You achieve this by integrating web design, user research, business planning, and data analysis. Always remember that a strong UX design strategy includes these four parts:

  • A clear, well-defined intent for the experience, goals, and objectives.

  • Documentation defining the features, functionality, and content necessary to support the objectives. Here, the user is tantamount, meaning that you must design your experience around your users' needs.

  • A testing process to make sure the design works. Validation is critical, so don't forget to test your designs and direction throughout the process of developing it.

  • Solid planning. Good UX connects the goals and objectives of a business with users' needs by serving up an experience the users can, well, use. How do you do it? Start with a plan for what you need to do.

UX Design: 8 Elements of the Discovery Phase

During the discovery phase of UX (user experience) design for a website, you assess the current state of your UX, if you have one, and your competitors' experiences. The following eight points should be part of your assessment:

  • Survey and define who your users or potential users are. Get as much information as you can about them. Look at any existing user research, consumer or customer data, and insights from user testing to gather information about who will use the experience.

  • Assess any user feedback or analytics to determine what is working and what is not working within your current experience.

  • Conduct a competitive analysis to identify the types of features and functionality you can offer your users. Find out what competitors and their users do and don't have, and then do it better in your UX!

  • Review your existing content and figure out what you need to do with it, what types of content will tell your story, and what your competitors offer that you don't. Use a content inventory to capture your content or that of your competitors and overlay it with an audit to assess how well the content is performing.

  • If you have a current experience, identify gaps where you could improve the experience, issues, and strengths. Use a tool, such as a heuristic assessment, to measure the performance of the UX. A heuristic assessment is a scorecard that weights what is working and what is not based on UX best practices.

  • Review your technology environment and note the constraints (such as what you have in place to deliver the experience) and the channel outputs (where it needs to live).

  • Ask those people in your organization who have a vested interest in the experience to specify their requirements. Interview brand representatives, marketing teams, product leads, legal teams, tech folks, and any other people who need to be involved with the UX and the ultimate solution.

  • Ensure that all stakeholders agree with the final list of needs, requirements, and findings from what you learn in the discovery phase.

UX Design: 5 Questions for the Define Phase

The define phase of a UX (user experience) design defines the goals, objectives, and strategy for the UX. During this phase you detail who your website users are and the requirements they have.

The easiest way to define this information is to take the findings from the discovery phase, look at what's working or necessary and what's not, examine at any gaps or issues with your existing experience and/or that of your competitors, look at your business or organization, and then ask yourself, "What does my experience need to accomplish?"

Start with a goal, such as, "Be the most competitive website in the market," and define a set of objectives that are realistic and attainable. An example is "The experience will increase overall revenue by 20% over the next six months." Create a strategy around what the experience needs to do and answer the following questions:

  • Who? Use personas (tools that document how users behave) and user scenarios (tools that capture detailed information about prototypical users) to further define your users.

  • Why? Examine the user needs or tasks that need to be accomplished in the UX. Employ user tasks to detail the end-to-end journeys required for the user to accomplish a task. Remember, list the tasks you need the user to achieve and frame your journeys around that.

  • What? Anticipate which devices or channels — such as desktop, smartphone, tablet, and so on — the user will employ to engage with your UX. Compose a list of every type of device the user will engage while using the experience. Remember, you don't control whether a user engages with a mobile device or desktop computer in most cases.

  • Where? Predict where the user will most likely use the experience. With the prevalence of mobile technology today, the user's venue could vary. Ensure you capture and consider various locations, such as at home, en route to the store, in the store, and so on.

  • When? What time of day is a user likely to engage with the experience? Don't just plot the times to a clock. Also consider events and holidays, such as anniversaries involving gift-giving, Valentine's Day, or any time the user would need to re-engage with the experience.

When you have answered these questions, capture the information in a brief — and ensure that you use this logic when fleshing out the lower-level designs of the experience.

Consider the following:

  • High-level requirements that list the features and functionality you want your UX to showcase.

  • Personas for representative users that capture behaviors and characteristics of your types of users. At a minimum, complete four or five personas. Also sketch out some user scenarios, which detail what a persona would do to complete a task.

  • A list of user tasks that details the types of things you want your users to accomplish and a high-level user journey that captures the end-to-end steps the user will complete. These can be further fleshed out during the design phase, but remember to capture the channels with which your users will engage and the types of content they will need to do so.

  • A list of preliminary content types — for example, news releases, home page content, product details page content, and so on.

  • A high-level sitemap or high-level architecture, which includes the primary areas of the experience grouped into categories and subcategories.

  • Mood boards for the visual design, which define the emotional experience for the UX.

  • A finalized content audit that lists issues with any current experiences or content and where the content needs to go.

  • A survey of your competition where you learn in which areas you can differentiate your UX from your competitors' experiences.

UX Design: 15 Deliverables for the Design Phase

The design phase of a UX (user experience) is when you actually design the solution, including the look and feel, the functionality, and the detailed specifications for how the UX will perform.

Your design phase should include these 15 deliverables:

  • A detailed sitemap that lists the major categories of information in your experience, the subcategories that fall under the main categories, and any tertiary or additional categories. For example: Animals>Cats>Hypoallergenic Cats.

  • A finalized list of features and functionality. You should account for content types with definitions for each and a description of where and when to use them.

  • Wireframes that capture what goes on a page type or template and the placement of information.

  • Navigation models that go into wireframes and show the navigation (primary, secondary, and tertiary) of the experience.

  • Page-level content strategy that lists the goals and objectives of page types and identifies who will use those pages. Include prioritized types of content necessary to accomplish and fulfill the objectives.

  • Content matrix and models that define the rules for how content is used, from templates to each module that lives within the templates.

  • Taxonomy (if necessary) that shows the hierarchy of information. The taxonomy is used to build search engine and metadata schemas.

  • Detailed end-to-end user journeys for each type of task.

  • Functional specifications that detail the rules (business rules and technology requirements) for each wireframe.

  • Visual guidelines for color, typography, and brand.

  • Visual design comps (comparables), or final drafts, that finalize the look and feel of the experience.

  • Visual style guide that captures the rules for the visual design, including measurements for each page type, colors, typography, fonts, margins and gutters, and specifications for content (such as images, videos, and so on). Include a content style guide within this document for voice, tone, and rules of use of content.

  • End-to-end content life cycles for each content type that captures who supplies the content; how it should be acquired, created, reviewed, and entered into a system, such as a CMS; how it should be tagged and published; and how it should be measured and optimized and/or retired.

  • Governance model for the overall solution that shows a governance committee and the tools used to govern the solution, such as a visual style guide.

  • List of factors you want to measure and the types of metrics you'll use for measurement. These factors should take into account what you want your experience to achieve.

For navigation, labels, nomenclature, wireframe designs, user journeys, and taxonomies, you can take advantage of user testing to validate what you come up with. Use card sorting to figure out how to group information and label it. Reverse card sorting (tree testing) can validate a navigation and taxonomy after an initial iteration of it. Use clickable prototypes to test wireframes, the placement of information, and navigation. You can also use participatory design techniques to test visual design comps.

UX Design: 5 Tasks for the Build Phase

Technology teams implement the build phase of a UX design, so UX designers might think it's time for a well-deserved break. Sorry, but during the build phase, you can still create some deliverables, including finalizing the documentation (such as a visual style guide for the UX).

Additionally, you can complete the following:

  • Final metrics that you want to measure, a schedule for when and where the data will be collected, and a reporting dashboard.

  • Content production (creation) plan and migration plan, which may include a map for which content in the existing experience will migrate to the new UX and where it should go.

  • Editorial calendar that plots out which content is necessary to support the future experience.

  • A testing plan and scripts for testing the solution within its actual environment.

UX Design: The Evaluate and Optimize Phase

During the evaluate and optimize phase of UX (user experience) design, you use metrics and user feedback to evaluate what you've launched. As you uncover what's working on the website and what isn't, you can make recommendations for future releases.

Continually evaluate your experience. UX is an ongoing process for as long as the website exists. Test your experience every three to four months and update it accordingly.

Technology is always evolving, so remember to evaluate your UX against changes in technology and trends. Taking a good hard look at your experience in comparison to the new technologies that have been developed can help you keep your UX relevant for the future!

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