Developing prototypes and reviewing them with target customers and users is key to designing easy-to-use solutions. You must spend some time validating workflow, navigation, information grouping, information hierarchy, terminology, labels, and interactions to ensure they meet the needs of the market and your users. Your understanding of various customers’ needs, users’ workflows, and content overlaps and differences determines your design direction.
Early in the product development lifecycle, share user research that reveals both customer and user needs, as well as your UX design solutions with the technology architects and engineers on your product team. Confirm the feasibility of your user interface prototypes with Engineering as early as possible to enable them to provide the best technical solution. Many times, engineers know of components or pieces of technology that can reduce or eliminate the need to develop a new component or screen—enhancing a workflow’s ease of use.
Develop low-fidelity prototypes such as paper prototypes or wireframes to facilitate content layout. Their focus should be on a product’s information architecture and information design—determining the correct labels, content groupings, hierarchies, and navigation. These early, rapid prototypes should be devoid of graphics and color to narrow the focus to information design.
Once you’ve completed the information design, add visual elements such as color, fonts, icons, buttons, and other graphic elements, creating medium-fidelity prototypes to explore your solution’s interaction design. “Interaction Design defines the behavior of how your customers and users interact with your solution. Interaction design is focused on making products more useful, usable, and desirable.” [Designing Technology for People]
Work with your customers and users and conduct reviews of your prototypes to obtain their feedback. If you are in a mature market, with a longer product release cycle, you can wash, rinse, and repeat as necessary. But if you need to move quickly through your development cycle, do as much as you can to facilitate development, and do as much as you can in parallel for the next release.
There is always a next release, and you have the opportunity to learn things now that you can apply to later releases.
This blog series is based on the article Winning in the Marketplace: How Much User Experience Effort Does It Take?