When it comes to user experience design and the realities of running an agency, process is important. Client involvement early and often can cute down on wasted hours. For the last few months we’ve adopted a process known as Lean UX. Our version is a bit modified, as documentation is required for accurate project estimation and planning.
We start by reviewing the client’s requirements. If the client does not have requirements, we work with them to draft a product requirements document (PRD). This becomes our touchstone for the rest of the project. We estimate the build, timeline and develop product phases based on the PRD.
Once a basic feature set is defined, we work on wireframing. We break out wireframes into user types, and walk through the desired experience page by page, feature by feature. We setup weekly meetings with our client, 30 minutes to 1 hour, to discuss features and flow. For example, one day we might discuss a consumer signup process, or the steps to edit one’s profile on a networking service.
This first step is known as validation. We validate our ideas with the client, make edits and validate again. If we run up against a sticking point, we involve more stakeholders, or team members to gain consensus. Often, its impossible to decide on the absolute best flow. We tend to come up with a few solutions and run them by the real people who matter: users.
Testing our solutions with users has taken many forms depending on timeline and budget. Sometimes we have the luxury of setting up formal user studies using tools like Loop11. Other times we only have enough hours to run a quick A/B test or Click Test on Zurb’s Verify App. We’ve even been known to put up links on a sub-directory of the site and ask our friends via chat to give opinions. This is a far cry from lab testing, but it can still offer valuable insights.
The key with Lean UX is to make wireframes lo-fidelity instead of pixel perfect. Spend time talking with the client and users early in the process to remove unforeseen pitfalls.
Once we have wireframes completed and approved, we move on to brand identity, visual design and the build. Testing early and often allows everyone involved to feel more confident in the final direction.