When validating your new idea to the market, educate your customers so they can put your solution in a new context. This paradigm shift for the customer may not come easy and they may not immediately understand the value of your solution—especially if you can’t put it in context for them. Being able to put your solution in context for your customer and users is the key for validating the solution meets their needs and is easy to use. Develop a low-fidelity prototype like a paper prototype or wireframes. Review these prototypes to ensure that the customers’ and users’ needs are met. Validate that the general workflow navigation, information grouping, information hierarchy, terminology, labels, and general interactions are correct. Don’t be concerned with visual design at this point—in fact, the prototype should be void of all color, fonts, icons, graphics, etc. to keep the focus on the workflow and information design.
Validate where various customers’ workflow and content overlap and differ, and start thinking about the right design solution to support the differences in their workflow and content. For web-based solutions, it is as simple as leveraging login ID to drive customization. For example, IF company A THEN this screen, label, etc. IF company B THEN this. If it’s a desktop experience, then you may want to create an Admin area where each key customer can select the difference that fits their own needs.
Validate the UI prototypes and customer and user needs with Engineering. Involve Engineering as early as possible in the product lifecycle. When possible, share early research and design direction with the technology architects and engineers. The early prototypes are an excellent tool to provide to Engineering as the best technical solution. Many times, the engineers know of future components or pieces of technology that can reduce or eliminate the need of a component or screen— enhancing the ease of use of the workflow.
This blog series is based on the article Easy to Use for Whom: Defining the Customer and User Experience for Enterprise Software