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Over the next several posts I will discuss the process we follow. While its different than design thinking, its also very similar.  We use the following process:

Plan -> Analyze -> Design -> Build -> Test -> Validate


Here we define what the scope of the project is.  What are the goals of the project?  What is the timeline?  What are the expected deliverables?  Many times during this phase we here the phrase "We need a better user experience for our customers".  This is a very vast and vague statement; do you want a better user experience online placing orders?  Receiving support online?  Viewing an online catalog?  In order to be successful you need to narrow down the goals of the projects.  Let's look at that original statement "We need a better user experience for our customers", why do you need a better user experience?  Are you losing customers to a competitor?  Do you need a better experience to facilitate more orders?  To have less errors?  More productivity?  Asking these why questions will help you get to the real goal of the project. 


Here we gather data in regards to our design problem.  We can use a variety of techniques to help us gather insights and analyze user behavior before we start to design.  Here is a list of some of the techniques we use:

Ethnography - we study the user in their natural environment and try to capture social meaning and ordinary activities.  Go to the user! You can learn a lot by being in their environment is it noisy? cluttered? friendly? stressful?

Contextual Inquiry - we think of a contextual inquiry as an internship with your user.  You want to go sit down with them and understand there day to day life.  Which processes do they use, which tools, and why do they do the things they do.  Just remember keeping asking 'why' questions can lead to a frustrated subject, sometimes its better to play that apprenticeship role and ask them to teach you how to do something.

Persona Creation - personas are a fictional representation of a user group based off of quantitative and qualitative research about an user group.  If you have multiple target user groups you should have a persona to represent each group.  Give them a name, i.e. 'Bob Smith'  Give them a bio!  Personas should be used throughout the process as a reference.  When working thru a design go back to your persona and think how would 'Bob' use this.  I have even heard of some companies making baseball cards of their various personas.

Along with the techniques mentioned above you can use user surveys, site analytics, and focus groups.  Just remember the goal in this stage is not to design a solution but to gather data on your user and their needs and wants.

Stay tuned for part 3 where we will discuss Design, more specifically low, medium, and high fidelity prototypes.

Part 1

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