September 18, 2013

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Result of improper implementation of UX methodology in projects

In the last few years, User Experience (UX) design methodology has been effectively introduced to IT industries in order to design highly acceptable products among large user groups. Before that, most projects failed to succeed in the market due to the absence of a proper UX design methodology.

The reason behind the failure of most projects was the absence of UX design methodology

Requirement - Laundry list of features
The process used to start with a certain requirement, for example having an application/portal for desktop, mobile or both. UI designers were assigned to the project once the kick-off meeting was done. The project information was provided by the PM (for internal project) or the Client (for external project).

Competitors - get the best of all their features
Competitors were studied for sure, but mostly to get an idea about their best features and the way the information should be placed in the project. Therefore, there were fewer chances to follow the user’s expectations from the product’s own information.

Information Architecture - Haphazardly assembled all the features in one package, like a jigsaw puzzle/maze.
Subsequently, the information architecture was designed. Due to this poor strategy at a very early stage, the list of information, features, and services arbitrarily accumulated. Lack of prioritization results in a confused navigation structure.

Screen Design - Based on the PM’s whims and fancies.

The screen design concept generally was derived from an existing template in the market.

Visual Design - Recycled from branding guidelines from print media, and thus, was not suitable for the digital space/internet.

VD too was influenced by the PM’s likes and dislikes (sometimes his friends and relatives, too).

Typically, the color palette is taken from company’s existing website(s). Designers might follow the uniformity and consistency of UI elements throughout the application per the company’s brand guidelines to relate closely to the company’s brand identity. Consequently, that increases the chances for the project losing its own identity.

No Usability Testing
No such process was followed to recruit an actual user for the product assessment through a usability test due to time and budget constraints. As a result, the project head, designers and developers believe the user’s mental model is aligned with theirs.  Consequently, the wireframe never gets finalized throughout the process and conflicts with the visual design and development concept.

Iteration

The team came up with a hi-fidelity prototype. The project goes to the next higher level for approval once the first cut is ready. Then, the requests keep coming related to various topics such as changes in color palette, content, number of modules, etc. That affects the navigational structure, i.e. a project starts deciding on a horizontal persistent navigation with 3 to 4 number of modules. Later it ends up converting to a vertical tree structure due to an inconceivable increase in the number of modules.

All of this resulted in what kind of UX? - Shabby / Messy / Confusing / Frustrating / Incoherent / Unintuitive / User needs to adapt their needs and goals to the system.

Product fails - it is only now that the project stakeholders realize the product does not match the users’ needs. But it is too late to change anything. This often results in scrapping the project and starting from scratch, dumping all the money, time and effort that was invested in this product down the drain.

How to overcome

To overcome the absence of (UX) design methodology, the steps below should be followed:

  • Gather information about the project
  • Create a design strategy
  • Understand the user’s conceptual model
  • Create a profile and persona
  • Derive the user experience model by deciding on the scenario and task analysis, primary noun architecture, information architecture
  • Detailed design
  • Check with navigation, presentation, content, interaction, screen elements and prototyping
  • Conduct a usability test
  • Run an accessibility test

The iteration of the above-mentioned steps is important to improve the usability of product. This can be called the User Centered Design Lifecycle.

User Centered Design Lifecycle

A clearly defined User Centered Design Life Cycle which is well-integrated into the development process reduces development costs and improves the final product. Keeping a clear focus on the user during every step of the development process -- from initial research to requirements analysis, concept, and visual design -- ensures that the users' expectations and needs are fulfilled. The best results are achieved in software projects when usability and user experience are seen as the basis for the complete software development lifecycle.

It is almost always more cost efficient to create something optimally from the start than to try to optimize it later on. Changes made after development has ended typically cost 100 times more than equivalent changes made during the concept and design phases.

Usability
User Research > User Profiling > Task Analysis > Information Architecture > Prototyping > Usability Testing

Graphic Design
Concept Generation > Layout > Product Identity > Icons & other UI elements > Splash Screens & Style Guide

Front-end Programming
Flash | Flex / AIR | XHTML/CSS/JavaScript | Silverlight | HTML 5

Content Creation
Instructional Design | Technical Writing


User-centered analysis QR

It is faster and cheaper to change the design based on user (and stakeholder) input before initiating the development phase.To download a brochure on end user computing service,register here.

References

http://usability.gov/guidelines/index.html
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/21/designing-style-guidelines-for-brands-and-websites/
http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/#multimedia-alt-textdef