UX Design Process
By Gene Steratore
Research & Brainstorming
Every project starts with a strong foundation, grounded in relevant research and discovery. Having a strong base ensures that personas are accurate and user needs are effectively identified.
What better way to start a project than to talk to stakeholders about their needs? Initial brainstorming sessions provide invaluable data and background on what the end-users wish to accomplish.
Once brainstorming has concluded, a detailed persona can be created. As the project progresses and testing occurs, frequent revisits to personas will help keep the product vision in focus.
Competitive Analysis (If Applicable)
If there are direct competitors or solutions that address similar needs, it is always a good idea to embrace what they do well and implement similar features. It is equally important to engage what competitors struggle with, as these struggles could be indirectly applicable to the proposed solution or directly applicable to the existing user base.
When the initial phase of discovery winds down, it is time to start designing. I have applied Bootstrap or Material Design in nearly all of my web-based projects. These design frameworks have solid rationale for their design decisions and each component is carefully crafted to be accessible for all users.
Tip: If drawing is not your strong suit (it is not mine), stick to a whiteboard for basic outlines and utilize programs like Sketch and Axure for detailed digital representations.
Wire-framing is a large part of the initial design phase. I have used Axure RP in the past, but am honing my Sketch skills. Initial wire-frame aspects contain general elements such as potential page layouts (article, table, splash) and can also include specific elements if the proposed solution calls for something more specialized.
Following the approval of initial wire-frames comes the creation of website framework. In April of 2018, I utilized a mixture of Bootstrap and Material (MDBootsrap). If you have not heard of or used MDBootstrap, I highly recommend it.
When the actual pages start to come together, its time to loop back with stakeholders for more feedback on what they like or do not like about the proposed prototype. Meeting users individually is an excellent way to understand the thought process behind their offered opinions.
Before actual data implementation or manual creation, its smart to use dummy data to reflect where elements would appear on screen. This is an effective way to avoid having to completely re-create something if it is not received well by stakeholders.
When prototyping concludes, its time to test the final build to your target audience. At this point in my career, all of my professional projects have a specific target audience (currently it is Dick's Sporting Goods Vendor Direct Team), as opposed to the general public.
For Limited, Specific Audiences
Since my target audience is limited and specific, the testing process is handled differently than if the product was public-facing. I have the luxury of meeting one on one with director-level, manager-level and analyst-level positions in which specific feedback and suggestions are provided.
For public-facing tests on prototypes, tools such as UserTesting.com, Optimal Workshop and others are excellent ways to garner valuable input. I have issued usability tests built with UserTesting.com to audiences that met specific conditions that I detailed in a screener. These tests were geared towards testing specific elements within the taxonomy of Dick's Sporting Goods website.
Lastly, no project is ever really "complete". UX enhancements to whatever product is created last for the entire life cycle of the product. It is always important to build upon the solid foundation and boost usability as technology and user base evolve.