Connecting the dots and bringing insights together to create a complete story is what motivates me throughout the day. Understanding and empathy are my greatest tools as a designer. Being able to put myself in other peoples' shoes allows me to create great experiences that are user centered and useful.
It's important to address user needs on all levels, from explicit to latent. Research provides the data to answer the WHY? questions behind user behavior, and explore solutions people wouldn't think to ask for.
Learning about users where they are and what context they use a product is crucial in user centered design. A lab is great, but is a controlled environment. Life is chaotic. As researchers, we must embrace that chaos and provide clarity and understanding of what the user needs, and how they will be better off with what we're designing.
Making sense of data is tough, grueling, and can drive you crazy. I'm a glutton for punishment because I really enjoy it. Sift, refine, organize, and explore. When I think there's nothing to be found, I'm only half way through. In the end, great analysis frameworks ground the findings to reveal patterns and opportunities that seem so obvious you can't understand why no one's acted on them.
When synthesizing research findings, it helps to have tools that the client and design teams can reference down the road. Personas are one of the many tools used to get everyone on the same page and peak into the behaviors of real users.
Defining the right problems to solve; deciding which way to go. Strategy is a combination of business goals and user needs that combine to create great products and experiences.
Research often uncovers many opportunities, usually too many to implement. Creating a roadmap with client goals and technical feasibility allows the project to progress while prioritizing next steps.
What happens when your research is too good and you're left with dozens of new features and concepts? The process of choosing what new products you should NOT attempt is a crucial strategy in keeping your brand on point and your development team focused.
Evaluating concepts based on business goals and near and far term impact can be the difference between a good product and an exceptional product.
Workflows & Wireframes
Creating a great user experience requires understanding and planning. Workflows are both analytical and exploratory tools that allow us to understand a process and find opportunities for improvement. Wireframes provide the blueprint for the application which can be designed before going into costly development.
Process maps allow the project team to understand how a person, piece of information, or an entire process happens over time. It's important to see how an action starts and where it is affected down the line. This helps identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.
Mapping a user's journey throughout an entire experience is both an analytical and generative tool. It allows designers and clients to see the process from end to end, identifying pain points and opportunities. And during concept generation it provides a template for exploration beyond the main customer touchpoints.
Wireframes are the blueprint of a site or application. They provide structure and guidance for the design and development process and also allow you to test early concepts with real users.
You wouldn't buy a house that was built without a blueprint would you?
Graphics & Illustrations
I'm no Photoshop or Illustrator guru, but I can hold my own with a bézier pen. I grew up drawing in class and even have a minor in Studio Art. Illustrating ideas is important to designers and researchers so we can communicate ideas, to our clients and end users.
Visualize and show how an activity is completed. Tell a story with more than just words.
Make ideas tangible by showing what could be. It's difficult for people to react to a concept without something in front of them. Or worse, people may agree on something when they think it will look like something completely different. Illustrations help get everyone on the same page and build upon each other.
Graphics have the ability to take complex topic and information and break it down into easy to understand pieces. Story, flow, and building upon past ideas can explain everything from research insights to how a user onboards to a new application.
Sketches aren't about drawing skills and fine art, they're about communication and visual thinking. Some may be rough, back of the napkin or whiteboard, others may be polished in Illustrator. The point isn't to impress people with drawing but to communicate ideas.
Sketching is an important part of my work because I don't mind if it's not pretty, as long as you understand what I'm trying to say.
Pen & Paper
If nothing else, just grabbing a pen or Sharpie and using them to think through a problem isn't just a way to make your ideas concrete, it's also pretty fun and better than staring at a screen all day.
Using diagrams to show the relationships between entities and users is a great way to sketch out a concept or initial workflow.
Whiteboarding is an extremely important part of the process because it allows for quick thinking and communicating thoughts with teammates. Whiteboards are also such a temporary medium that no one gets attached to their own design. Erasing, editing, and re-drawing are easy which makes it great for iterating.
Prototyping is the best way to see how people will actually use a product. The prototypes don't have to be polished, and many times it's best that they aren't. The important thing is to get feedback early and often, and successful prototype testing can help discover questions your team never thought of asking.
A dynamic, clickable prototype can provide great insights on a current design direction, or it can be used as a way to carry a conversation during generative research. Even just demoing a concept can help get team members and project stakeholders aligned.
Paper & Sketches
Paper prototyping allows you to iterate quickly, but it also gets the participants involved. With paper, people find it easier to tell if they don't like a concept of how they would change it. And it's an easy way to get participants sketching their own concepts and ideas.