We’ve been talking a lot about the User Experience lately so I thought I’d put this together to define UX and how we build products with the best UX in mind.
User Experience at Accella is comprised of the impressions, thoughts, emotions, and reactions as result of interacting with an application on a wearable device, mobile phone, tablet, computer, appliance, and really any technology that requires human interaction. We strive to create user experiences which align with a product’s business goals and exceed a user’s expectations. Or in other words we design positive experiences that are valuable and easy to use so businesses can better connect with their audiences. It’s fair to say that UX goes beyond the screen to every touchpoint customers have with a product or service, from customer service to shipping a product on time, but let’s stick to the screen for now.
So how do we go about designing applications that people want to use? I think it’s fair to say that every company or individual involved in UX design has their own process to achieve this. Ours can be divided into 6 key areas of an iterative process.
This is where the initial vision and direction begins, along with setting expectations for how the project will move forward. We look to develop a clear understanding of a product’s goals, what the business expectations are, how we will measure successes, and prioritize functionality.
The research phase will vary depending on the size and type of project but generally we we interview users and stakeholders who are most involved with and driving the product, compare competitor products to gain insight on how the market plays into the business’s goals, and review analytics to collect data to better inform ourselves.
Once research is gathered we go through an analysis of the information collected to begin to shape a path to a solution. Our analysis may point us to use one technology over another, gives us clearer understanding of user needs and expectations, and provides the designer with a solid foundation to make functional, layout and flow decisions on.
This phase is where we start to visualize solutions based on the strategy, research and analysis. These visualizations may come through as sitemaps, data flow architecture, low fidelity or high fidelity wireframes, and interactive prototypes. This iterative process is generally a cycle of creation, presentation, refinement, and repeat. Our goal here is to determine functionality, content layout, screen to screen flow. This gives us a roadmap to begin development and create visual designs in the Production phase.
The Production phase is when we design the style, look, and feel of the solution. We incorporate branding, color, and iconography into the user interface and content. We refine typography decisions by adjusting font styles and source any necessary photography. Like the Architecture phase this iterative process is a cycle of design, presentation, refinement, and repeat. In most cases programming will begin as developers are guided by the architecture and design direction. Once the visual design are finalized the full look and feel is implemented into a beta release.
Once a functional beta application is created we move into a comprehensive internal testing phase to ensure the developed application is inline with the charted requirements and user expectations. Once we are bug free the application goes into user testing where real users operate all or parts of the application and provide feedback about their experience. Depending on that feedback the application may enter any one or more of the previous phases to correct any misalignments.
Creating successful user experiences is an all-hands-on-deck kind of process. The entire process involves Business Leaders, Strategists, Researchers, Designers, Project Managers, Developers, and Testers to all be focused on creating the most usable and enjoyable solutions. It involves active monitoring and communication to ensure all points are headed towards the same goal.