Designing experiences for the whole product

Design is about exploration and assumptions for me. Whether that means exploring assumptions or making assumptions to explore new design ideas, the act of design (and the design process) involves both.  This is what I love about design. At every step of the design process there is something new to learn about the territory or your personal perspective.

In real life, my design process is fluid: it can easily adapt to existing paradigms and adjust to fit the situation at hand.  I have worked in a variety of development environments (e.g., agile, dual-track agile, waterfall) and learned how user experience design adapts to each style.

My ideal design process consists of several stages:

  1. Project definition.  Let’s get all of those assumptions, ideas, and goals out in the open and agree on the project’s priorities, timeline, and goals.
  2. Research. For projects that focused on exploring concepts and ideas, research is usually the next stage. What do we know? What don’t we know?  What are the risks if our assumptions are wrong?
  3. Ideation.  For well defined and more concrete projects ideation is the next step.  How might we solve this problem? What different ways could we mitigate existing issues?
  4. Test it!  Depending how many cycles the design has gone through, it needs to be tested.  When a project is just beginning this might be validating feature ideas and when the design is more concrete let’s test a prototype.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.

Regardless of the process, I rely on my growing collection of design & research tools to understand users’ needs and validate solutions.

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Below is a sample of the tools I currently use:

Design Tools
Stakeholder Interviews
Personas & Scenarios
Comparative Analysis
Design Briefs
Object Oriented User Experience
Wire Framing
Lo-Fi Prototyping
Medium-Fi Prototyping
A/B Testing
Card Sorting
Sketching (timed exercises 8 up)
Group brainstorming
Laying out and organizing what I know

Research tools
Guerilla User Testing
Usability Testing
Card sorting and variations of this test
5 second tests
Prioritization exercises
Unmoderated Usability Testing
Heuristic Evaluation
Contextual Inquiry
Survey Design
Journey Mapping
Empathy Mapping
Secondary research

Axure RP Pro
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe InDesign