Friday 03| 2|01
User Centered Design Thoughts
Just finished reading Lou Rosenfeld's interview with Christina Wodtke. She shares her evolution into IA and her thoughts on user centered IA. I mention this because I have been interviewing for jobs all over the bay area and most of the firms want to know what my User Centered Design Process is. I think this is something that every interaction designer, web designer and information architect should think about - even write down. It is more than slapping in usability testing on the end of a product cycle. I have had to crystallize and articulate my process to many people and it has made me think about how I actually practice this process. I have also become more aware of when we have to cut corners and compress timelines and in most cases user testing suffers. So here are my thoughts on the whole process:
- Understand your user - do competitive testing, survey your current users, test your current site, do field research in your user's environment and ask questions, study your user logs and paths of what they are doing. More is never enough.
- Rapid prototype - work through scenarios and tasks and then create prototypes. These can be paper. Our group was very fond of color pencils and post it notes. Post it notes come is so many sizes and shapes - they easily mimic the modularity of web based information chunks.
- Test - testing at this phase can help you uncover large issues with interaction paths and expectations of what is in certain areas. Navigation schemas can be tested with rough prototypes, as can nomenclature.
- Iterate - make changes. If you do paper testing, you can make some changes after a couple of users and refine the process as you go.
- Test again
- Iterate - you get the picture. This can be a never ending loop and can scare some people. It doesn't have to be and is much better at uncovering real issues than finding out later after your development team has spent weeks coding. At this point - after multiple iterations - someone needs to stop the process and move on. Paper can move to wireframes and these can be tested as well.
- Focus groups and market research surveys can get large amounts of data and info on things like color preferences and nomenclature as well and can be done with more finished mockups
- Move the wireframing into visual design.
- Develop functioning prototypes. If you did early homework and testing, you can probably move to development. If you didn't do much early testing, a round of tests with users should be done to walk through the interaction and navigation.
- Iterate - see a pattern here?
- Develop the site - move into production, make changes based on the data collected earlier. Data based decisions are always easier to defend than subjective ones.
- Test - this last phase should be done while in QA rather than after launch. This is a last chance to fix any minor or unclear things in this release cylce. But as we all know, sites are never done and you will get the chance to change things again later.
- Launch and watch the Help and user logs. Collect customer feedback and use it to inform the next round of changes