My process

Project summary: A detailed rundown of my complete process. Where applicable I mention variations depending on goals, time constraints or size of the project

Company: Various companies/clients

Duration: January 2011 to present day

Role: Being the lead on the El Corte Inglés team means that I either lead/coordinate the project or setup the base by which my team will move forward with the project. On freelance jobs I am usually the only person working on the design, usability etc.

1.  Objectives

The first part of any project for me is getting to know the Goals and Objective of the project. What experience the client wants to present to the user and what are the business goals.

For this part I prefer to sit down with as many of the stakeholders and team members as possible. This can be a single meeting with all involved or various smaller group meetings in order to get the most complete briefing possible. When I can’t get the various teams to meet, I try to work as a go between for the teams.

Sometimes it’s fairly easy to understand the goals, however many times the goals are very vague and so I have to ask various questions and get teams talking in order to make sure that everyone has the same objectives.

I usually jot down the ideas in a notebook I carry around for projects.

2. Discovery / Research

mockups_analytics

The complexity of this stage depends a lot on the project timeframe as well as the size of the project. If it’s a single landing page with information and maybe one button that might require less research as opposed to a project that has multiple pages, formats and content, but a larger site usually means I have less time to develop it which can also limite the process somewhat.

Google Analytics: I have a monthly report I put together of various sites and their usage, but for individual projects I like to delve into a specific page to understand how users are interacting with that page and how the page might have worked in previous years. Google Analytics is my go to tool in that sense and gives me great insight.

Competitor Analysis: I like to know what our competitors are doing especially if it’s an important project, but I don’t stop there, it’s also important for me to understand what are the latest trends and what is converting. After all, our competitors might be doing great things, but it doesn’t mean that it converts or that it will work for us. That’s where I usually have to put on the hat of the user and try to understand what they see.

Product Audit: In recent projects the have a lot of complexity or many years of history, I’ve created the habit of auditing the pages to understand what might be redundant, what might no longer be necessary and what has been forgotten in a site. I also like to analyse to make sure that all pages have a similar base so as to ensure as consistent an experience as possible.

Team meetings: As important as understanding the goals of the project, we also need to understand what each team is capable of. I can’t assume that I already know what is possible. These meetings are usually very good to brainstorm ideas and I usually manage to get a few alternatives to what I thought might be the best solution, but the new suggestions are more realistic.

User Research: This is a complicated area and not all clients/companies are easily willing to interview users or put out surveys. There are several ways to work around this problem which I have had to resort to whenever necessary:

  1. Talking to the head of the call center to try to compile a log of what users have said in relation to said project/site and hopefully share that information with me.
  2. Getting interns or company personal who doesn’t normally use the product to try the product/site while we observe or ask them some questions in relation to their experience.
  3. I like to do quick card sorting session with the team involved. Although this limits what the clients have to say, it still can give us some pretty good ideas on how to organize information. This is an activity that we only do on more complex products

Both these methods are limited, but still give valuable feedback that can be used to develop the product/site.

3. Requirements / Hypothesis

site_map

Measurement of success of a project can vary greatly, whether it’s more revenue, higher site traffic or an increase in visitors to physical stores. Independent of the requirements, I use similar basics, but adapt each to the need of the specific problem.

SEO: When working with websites I try to make sure that I adhere as much as possible to SEO best practices. Other than the base code and structure used, I try to optimize for speed and use Google’s Page Speed Insights as a guide. I also connect the sites to Google Webmaster Tools and make sure to set up a sitemap.xml and robots.xml. When the team responsible for servers allow, I also ask them to run some of the optimization scripts I know, such as installing GZIP compression.

Resources: Knowing what resources are available is very important and can drive the direction a project takes completely. I usually try to find an automated solution for the tasks if possible. If however we have technical limitations which prevent such capabilities, I try to find a solution that is executable by the team behind the scenes, which sometimes means manual tasks for us, but a better experience for the user.

Personas: Personas can be an incredible tool and whenever possible I try to incorporate the concept of personas. This can sometimes mean just jotting down a few words or ideas, while other times we create complete personas. All depends on the level of complexity and once again time constraints, but helps me to associate a face/person to a concept or product.

User Flows:  I like using User Flows to understand how a client interacts with my site and what path he might take to get to the point that is needed. It’s also an incredible way for me to understand dropping off points and possibly where I should concentrate my energy in finding a solution. The user flows I put together range in intricacy depending on the level of complexity of the product and what the ultimate goal might be.

Sitemap/IA:  Whenever the project is complex and has multiple pages/sections I put together a sitemap that can be used as referance. I also feels it’s important to understand the heirarchy or importance of the content presented. To understand the best way to organise the content I use a mix of analytics data and information from team meetings.

With the above documents and research I like to set up various Hypothesis of how best to approach the situation. I usually like to get various team members into the same room to bounce ideas off each other and slowly build a Hypothesis that everyone can agree on as much as possible.

4. Mockup/Design

mockups_pencil

Finally bringing all the ideas to visual presentation can often be rewarding, but also frustrating. If a step was skipped or we didn’t collect the right information, chances are that there are going to be quite a few corrections and updates. If need be I like to call those responsible in for one last verification that we’re on the same page.

Pencil Sketches: Usually during the initial stages of the projects, i like to carry a notebook or notepad with me and begin sketching some concepts/ideas from the very beginning. Many UXers might not agree with the idea, but I feel that by having a visual support that is developing as the project develops can be a huge help and I can also bounce ideas of other team members before wasting anytime on complex designs. That way I also don’t mind scrapping ideas for new ones.

High Fidelity Mockups: I do have a tendency to skip the low-fidelity mockups as usually my paper sketches serve as a good base and have already evolved as the project evolved, so the high fidelity mockup is usually just about setting the colour schemes and general look and feel. This is done using Photoshop. With the recent growth in Responsive design, this form of mocking is not always as efficient and I use it only for the basic design and move then onto the prototype which is responsive.

5. Prototype

dia_mae_site_FINAL

Very often due to time constraints and in instance where I already know enough of the concept I might be forced to forgo the high fidelity mockup and move directly into a working prototype.

InvisionApp: A great product that gives me the possibility of creating clickable prototypes from my mockups. I try to use InvisionApp whenever i can on personal projects, but unfortunately don’t have many occasions with my current company due to time constraints.

Bootstrap: I’ve come to rely on bootstrap in recent years as it a quick and simple way to code a working prototype that is both responsive and can give shareholders a correct idea of the experience the final product will present. Thanks to bootstrap i have been able to experiment more and more with responsive layouts and finally can have very interesting interactions with minimal coding knowledge.

6. Going Live

When the time for the project to go live finally comes around, I often feel very proud of what I am putting out there. Unfortunately right after the site goes live, i begin to find flaws in the design, interactions or overall experience. However for me the product is never truly finished so I will keep updating the product.

I also might begin a new group of tests to verify whether the product is converting and reaching the required goals, if not I try to find where it might be having problems and find a way of correcting that issue.

A/B Testing: I have done some simple tests of this kind, but only as a quick experiment and have yet to create an opportunity i can learn from, but i hope to in the very near future.

7. Results

To date, I have generally managed to always reach the goals required and better the general user experience. Whenever the outcome was not favorable at first, I tried finding a solution to turn around the situation and most of the time that has been possible, except when there are technical limitations, time constraints or budget limitations. Even then I try and always find a solution where hopefully the user feels fulfilled and the business revenue keeps growing, even if it does mean more work for the team behind the curtain.

The results can be seen in the fact that our team has grown to 5 strong (including me) and we have more work than we have time to do. The investment in digital has grown as a result of the collaboration between various teams both online and offline.

I have also learnt to take all criticism positively, seeing it as a way to constantly keep growing and learning. My team has learnt to question things that might seem obvious at first and that collaboration is key to any team’s success.

Conclusion

Many colleagues refer to me as the UX guy at the office and like to bounce ideas off of me. UX has become my passion and I’ve come to enjoy sitting down and figuring out solutions to problems, getting various colleagues and teammates together for a brainstorming session that results in new ideas or even just analyzing the data to see where we’ve done a good job.

I also like to get the rest of the teams thinking about UX concepts and I think I’m getting through to most!

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