I sit in the boardroom awaiting further instructions. I am about to get briefed on a couple of projects coming up. I am no longer front end developer, so these meetings and their topics have shifted. What used to be “This is the specific work that needs to get done. You have two weeks to complete it.” becomes “We need to know more information before moving forward.”
The great thing about User Experience is there’s a focus on knowing as much as possible about a project. The more information we gather on a project before designing it is necessary. Knowing demographics, customer journeys and user intention, can create something that provides value.
The meeting begins. As I listen, I realize that there’s no interest in gathering information. Instead, I am asked to start designing wireframes right away. No user research, usability testing or assessment on the current state of the project. The conversation hasn’t changed. Instead of getting asked to code, I am just getting asked to open UXPin.
During the meeting is when I have my epiphany. I realize that a lot of people consider User Experience as wireframe designers. User Experience is still a relatively new role within most organizations.
Companies are starting to realize that they need to focus on User Experience. The only problem? Not everyone understands the role or responsibilities. Not understanding the role of UX is why so many companies have job postings for “UX/UI Designers.”
Wireframing is an important part of a project, but it’s not where a project should start. To successfully create a wireframe or prototype, research should first get done.
So what does a User Experience Designer do other than wireframes?
The best place to start a project is by understanding the user. Designing interactions and functionality without understanding the user can result in potential failure. We need to know the motivation of a user to have success.
Without doing any research, we start to work based off of assumptions. We assume that the user is looking for coupons or recipes and design our solutions around that. By doing a little bit of user research, we may discover that users are looking for products.
We’ve failed the customer if we’ve designed for the wrong information. Assumptions can be dangerous to the outcome of a project.
Taking the time to learn about our users can impact the entire project. User Research can influence the position of elements on a page to what colours or sizes get used and more.
User Personas are a great way of making the research more personal. We are designing for Women between the ages of 35-45 with successful jobs and has a family. It’s not personal though and any good UX Designer understands that empathy plays a large role in what we do.
So how do we make it more relatable? We create Peggy, who is 39, and works as a nurse. Peggy’s married to Dan and has two kids.
The information is the same. Peggy is a woman between the age of 35 and 45 and has a successful job, but we can relate now. Before making any decisions, we can ask ourselves “Would Peggy do this?” or “How quick could Peggy complete this task and does she have the time for it?”
User Personas give a face to our users. The information may be subjective, but that’s OK as it’s about connecting with users.
Customer Journey Map
Understanding the Customers Journey also helps provide insight before creating a wireframe. It’s important to know where users are going and what tasks they are trying to complete.
By leveraging the research and user profiles, mapping out a journey becomes easier. We can understand that Peggy needs to complete the sign-up process quickly due to her busy job.
Using that insight, we add the sign-up form on the home page, removing clicks. Peggy can now arrive on the page and immediately sign up.
Without taking the time to map the users flow, the initial customer journey could have been:
- Arrive on the home page.
- Look for a sign-up link.
- Click on the sign-up Link.
- Arrive on the sign-up Page.
- Fill out the form.
- Interact with the app
By taking some time to map the user flow, the customer journey becomes:
- Arrive on the home page.
- Fill out the form.
- Interact with the app.
We cut the sign up process steps in half, which makes Peggy happy.
There’s so much more that we can do to improve a project when we don’t start at wireframing. The examples listed above are just a couple ways to improve the user’s experience.
Even more exciting is that we shouldn’t stop once the wireframes get completed. We can start leveraging different forms of testing to determine if our goals are getting met.
UX Designers shouldn’t get limited to only one task and then move on to the next project. We should constantly be monitoring, reviewing and testing to improve the project’s experience.
Are wireframes and prototypes important? Absolutely. Just don’t define User Experience by one task.