I had a great time at this year's IA Summit Poster Night and am just getting around to writing a little about what I presented. Essentially, I hope this poster serves as a little reminder that, regardless of time constraints, it's always worth it to do at least a little research. The concept of Discovery as it relates to UX is pretty subjective. There isn't one way go about it and, since it is more of a process than any concrete deliverable, it's often more difficult to standardize than, let's say, a wireframe presentation. As soon as I get briefed on a new project, I usually have a bunch of ideas and just want to get them out and into the final product. Depending on the nature of the project, it's easy to jump straight into layouts. As I once made a habit of doing, you might find yourself thinking, "E-com site? I know the best practices. I have a few favorite tricks. A combo of those will do just fine here… AGAIN." I've since learned that formulating a plan and communicating it in a digestible way sets the foundation for better design. Let's walk through how the aforementioned thoughtful discovery can flex to accommodate, for sake of realism, a crazy-short, pretty-short, or short amount of time.
Any project should start with a through understanding of the ask (yes, I just used ask as a noun).
- What do they want?
- Who is it for?
- What do they really want? (As in, "Why build a wayfinding app when a giant blinking arrow would do the trick x10?")
- What's the competition up to in this space?
Finding these answers can be achieved by performing at least one task under each of three columns I've labeled as Ask, Stalk, and Show.
Ask - Question StakeHolders and Users
A-SYNC IT: Since time doesn’t allow for interviews, use online questionnaires and surveys to learn what the stakeholders expect as well as what the audience wants. Many times, a realistic sampling of a product's users can be found among your friends and co-workers. One piece of advice, don't be shy to mark that survey-request email as high-priority. Everyone respects the red exclamation point!
TIME FOR FACETIME: In-person or on screen, it’s best to have a realtime chat. This allows you to read participants facial expressions and reactions to uncover things like whether or not that redic QR code aspect is really required.
ALL TOGETHER NOW: Workshop it! Take a day. Maybe two! Let the clients in on design. They love that... and you kind of do too!
Stalk - Learn As Much As You Can About The Brand And The Industry As A Whole
THE US: Master the client’s current offerings and check out the competition.
THE THEM: Deep-dive into top-competitors and expand to the landscape as a whole. Analyize what they’re doing right and what mistakes you can avoid.
THE FUTURE US: Go beyond the industry and apply inspiration from other areas in a new way. Who knew that diagram for dissecting the anatomy of an F! engine could so perfectly translate into a visualization of a new multi-layered taco salad?
Show - Always Be Prototyping
GO PAPERFUL: Make lots of sketches. Flesh out the ones that work and include them when presenting your other findings.
GET IT IN THERE (You know, like in the computer): Start with some high-level wireframes, then turn them into something the client can move through. Even a simple click-through prototype is 100000000000000x more effective at communicating an idea than static pages. I know there are a ton of tools out there, and it doesn't matter what you use, but lately InVision has been my go-to. It's cloud-based, makes swapping screens super easy for fast updates, and the final project URL makes for a great presentation.
IS THIS REAL-LIFE?: Move towards visual design and higher-fidelity prototypes. It's easier than ever to make something look and feel like a finished product. You can get pretty far only using a tool like InVision or Axure. InVision has an auto-play feature for illustration or slideshow or custom animation and Axure even allows for some simple if/then formula creation. If you've got a little extra time, why not start actually start building the thing? There's tons of documentation for grabbing a user's location or accessing a device's camera with HTML5. A framework like Foundation is great for showcasing responsiveness and selling in the real. (Just make sure the client knows the finished product won’t be ready quite so quickly :) )
Great. So now you know what you're doing and might even have a few solid screen. DON'T FORGET TO MAKE IT LOOK NICE