6 Steps of User Experience Part 1
User Experience is a topic I have covered in other blogs but I recently read the book “The Elements of User Experience” by Jesse James Garrett and found out that I was really only scratching the surface. Garrett breaks down the overall process of designing for user experience into 6 pieces that flow together. Using these 6 checkpoints can ensure you are designing a complete easy to use and simple website without missing steps or creating complicated loopholes for the developer. In this post I will break down the first 3 steps.
Step 1: Strategy
This step is all about asking questions. Who is our end user? What is the point of the site? These questions can be answered in broad strokes so you have a vision and direction for your design.
Garrett suggests making a set of personas to represent every different type of user who is likely to use your site. As the project moves forward you can refer back to these personas and ask yourself is the persona “Elizabeth” (who is 65 and may not have much technical knowledge) going to feel confused by this?
Another important part of this stage is to set measurable goals for the project. These overall goals will keep the project on track and keep it from getting caught up in unimportant features or racing past its deadline.
Step 2: Scope
Step 2 is all about identifying all of the needs of the site. Garret breaks this part into two sides: functional specifications and content specifications. In this stage it is important to catalog all of the pieces needed in the project. Gathering all of this information can give you a clearer idea of time and cost and can help to bulk up or trim down certain areas as necessary.
The function specifications of a project are simply what will a user DO when they come to your site? Are they filling out forms? Clicking through images? Purchasing something? All of these functions need to be mapped out clearly before moving forward because these moving parts can substantially effect the layers that will be built on top of it. Spending a little extra time in this stage can save a lot of redo and fix work in later stages of the project.
The content requirements seem much simpler but can be a vital part of the experience. In this portion of step 2 it is important to identify all of the content that is needed and to figure out what wording is the clearest to the end user. For example, In your function set you have listed that there will be a contact form. Will you add a snippet of content to go along with that form for clarification or does it stand alone and you assume every user will instinctively know what to do? You can look back at your personas and see hmm… I think Elizabeth would benefit from some content here.
Step 3: Structure
Now that you have a breakdown of everything included in the site from step 2 you can begin to think about how the system works with the user. The key to this step is learning how the user thinks and works. In his book, Garrett references a test they administered that gave people a set of cards with information and pictures. The subject were asked to arrange the cards with no further instruction. This exercise gave them insight on how people group information.
In this step it’s important to recognize the main goals and most important functions of the site. Building a site so that the easiest thing to do is the most common action is vital so that the majority of users are satisfied. On the other hand you can’t ignore the outliers. Though they may not be as important there are still users who may want to use the other functions of the site so hiding them completely is hindering a (small) section of users. The trick to this step is to balance the main functions with some of the secondary functions.
One key thing to keep in mind in the step is convention. Although you may want to make something groundbreaking and new, a user approaches a site with built in knowledge and if that knowledge doesn’t serve them in your site they will get frustrated. If you are going to break away from convention you must double your effort to make the site clear cut and easy to follow to avoid alienating users.
To learn about the last 3 steps to designing for user experience look out for the next post!
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