6 Steps for Translating User Research into an Exceptional User Experience Design

How do you translate knowledge gained from research into an experience design that exceeds user expectations? Six steps can help smooth the path between research and design.

Journey-driven transformation is a powerful, end-to-end approach for creating exceptional customer experiences that drive revenue, profitability, and sustainable competitive advantage. A critical first step in the approach is customer-centered digital strategy. This phase includes rigorous qualitative and quantitative research to help ensure that experiences map to needs across touch-points, channels, and devices. But how do you translate knowledge from research into an experience design that exceeds user expectations? Six steps can help smooth the path between research during the discovery phase and creating wireframes during the design phase.

Six steps between research and design:

1. Create and prioritize personas. 

Personas are powerful tools for distilling and visualizing your research findings. Strong personas communicate important information across multiple dimensions—empowering you to design new experiences that truly meet the needs of each user. A well-crafted persona should go beyond basic personality traits and demographics to include behavioral insights and other variables (see my post 5 signs you are creating personas that won’t be effective for more advice on creating personas). Prioritizing personas narrows the scope, ensuring that the most important personas benefit the most. Ongoing collaboration with others on the project team—e.g., business, user experience, visual design, content, and technology professionals—is critically important to ensure diverse perspectives and general alignment around the vision.

2. Write scenarios and task flows. 

Once you create initial personas, it’s helpful to write out scenarios and document task flows. This process enables you to layer in additional background and context around user preferences and actions and clarify steps in the journey. Scenarios are really ‘stories’ that provide context around user tasks. Telling the story from the user’s point of view helps teams understand what each user is going through, while considering tasks from multiple perspectives. A task flow can be a simple diagram of user tasks, with color commentary and insightful questions at each point along the continuum.
Scenarios and task flows are particularly helpful when research is limited or non-existent, or when others did the work. It’s helpful to conduct research with target customers before beginning design work, but this is not always feasible. Start by gathering relevant research and creating a team that includes a researcher, product manager, and other subject matter experts who are knowledgeable about users and the broader initiative. From here, craft your scenarios and task flows, and be sure to conduct usability testing on designs.

3. Map the user journey. 

Each user journey is a collection of tasks and scenarios, with integrated insights from qualitative research and quantitative metrics. User journeys can include scenarios that provide broader context, or that summarize actions and behaviors. User journeys are especially helpful for designing experiences that require multiple steps, more than one visit to an app or website, or that take place across multiple touchpoints over time.
User journeys complement personas by arming the project team with a succinct visualization of the user’s perspective. During one recent engagement with a top bank, mapping the journey of the home buying and mortgage process highlighted the need for consistency across different devices and features. This would allow users to easily pick up where they left off (see my post How to use journey maps to design digital experiences).

4. Gather inspiration. 

Once there is a solid understanding of the user’s needs, you are ready to move to design. Whether your competitive analysis is formal or less structured, considering what others are thinking and working on can help focus design discussions, brainstorming sessions, or design thinking workshops. Consider the innovative ways others are solving problems and gather various design patterns that might be applicable. Don’t omit experiences that have little to do with what you are working on, as seemingly unrelated work can help spark new ideas or metaphors that will inspire designs. The most impactful inspiration can come from real-world ideas. For instance, during a recent redesign of a movie and TV streaming website, we turned to the old-school TV remote control to inspire the design of filters to help find content of interest to users. Examples of useful sites for ideas and examples include webbyawards.com, dribble.com, and UI-patterns.com.  

5. Create a site map or screen flows. 

Designing the overall flow of content and features helps illuminate the big picture of an aspirational design. As business and technical constraints and other details can bog projects down, it’s important to keep the user’s goals in mind throughout the process. For content- or feature-heavy sites and applications, or for those that require marketing messaging, it can be helpful to create a strategy diagram to prioritize the content and features on your pages. A strategy diagram is simply a concept of the page with placeholders for different content and features. Refer back to your personas, journeys or scenarios to help create the flow through the application, placing steps in the order users expect, and using their language as labels for navigation.

6. Create interaction concepts. 

Here is where it all comes together and you infuse the knowledge of your users directly into your design! Pre-emptively answer user questions on each relevant page or step in the process. Use their language to guide them through each step. Ensure users can easily accomplish the tasks they came to your app or website to achieve without friction. Select design patterns and interaction metaphors to create concepts. Sketch, review, revise! This can be done in a collaborative design-thinking workshop, or on your own.  Start sketching on paper to work through some of your ideas or go straight to your favorite wireframing or drawing tool, like Sketch or Axure. Most clients want multiple concepts to choose from, so it’s important to work through many ideas to end up with at least two different ideas that solve the problem. Solicit feedback from stakeholders, other designers, or even better, test the concepts with real users. Usually, concepts are revised multiple times to meet the goals and requirements of both the business and users. Now you are on track to create the best user experience possible based on learnings from those who will actually use it.

I would love to hear about your design process as well as tips and tricks you use to move from research to great design. Follow me: Twitter @katrinabb

How do you translate knowledge gained from research into an experience design that exceeds user expectations? Six steps can help smooth the path between research during the discovery phase and creating wireframes during the design phase.

Journey-driven transformation is a powerful, end-to-end approach for creating exceptional customer experiences that drive revenue, profitability, and sustainable competitive advantage. A critical first step in the approach is customer-centered digital strategy. This phase includes rigorous qualitative and quantitative research to help ensure that experiences map to needs across touchpoints, channels, and devices. But how do you translate knowledge gained from research into an experience design that exceeds user expectations? Six steps can help smooth the path between research during the discovery phase and creating wireframes during the design phase.

Six steps between research and design:

1. Create and prioritize personas. 

Personas are powerful tools for distilling and visualizing your research findings. Strong personas communicate important information across multiple dimensions—empowering you to design new experiences that truly meet the needs of each user. A well-crafted persona should go beyond basic personality traits and demographics to include behavioral insights and other variables (see my post 5 signs you are creating personas that won’t be effective for more advice on creating personas). Prioritizing personas narrows the scope, ensuring that the most important personas benefit the most. Ongoing collaboration with others on the project team—e.g., business, user experience, visual design, content, and technology professionals—is critically important to ensure diverse perspectives and general alignment around the vision.

2. Write scenarios and task flows. 

Once you create initial personas, it’s helpful to write out scenarios and document task flows. This process enables you to layer in additional background and context around user preferences and actions and clarify steps in the journey. Scenarios are really ‘stories’ that provide context around user tasks. Telling the story from the user’s point of view helps teams understand what each user is going through, while considering tasks from multiple perspectives. A task flow can be a simple diagram of user tasks, with color commentary and insightful questions at each point along the continuum
Scenarios and task flows are particularly helpful when research is limited or non-existent, or when others did the work. It’s helpful to conduct research with target customers before beginning design work, but this is not always feasible. Start by gathering relevant research and creating a team that includes a researcher, product manager, and other subject matter experts who are knowledgeable about users and the broader initiative. From here, craft your scenarios and task flows, and be sure to conduct usability testing on designs.

3. Map the user journey. 

Each user journey is a collection of tasks and scenarios, with integrated insights from qualitative research and quantitative metrics. User journeys can include scenarios that provide broader context, or that summarize actions and behaviors. User journeys are especially helpful for designing experiences that require multiple steps, more than one visit to an app or website, or that take place across multiple touchpoints over time.
User journeys complement personas by arming the project team with a succinct visualization of the user’s perspective. During one recent engagement with a top bank, mapping the journey of the home buying and mortgage process highlighted the need for consistency across different devices and features. This would allow users to easily pick up where they left off (see my post How to use journey maps to design digital experiences).

4. Gather inspiration. 

Once there is a solid understanding of the user’s needs, you are ready to move to design. Whether your competitive analysis is formal or less structured, considering what others are thinking and working on can help focus design discussions, brainstorming sessions, or design thinking workshops. Consider the innovative ways others are solving problems and gather various design patterns that might be applicable. Don’t omit experiences that have little to do with what you are working on, as seemingly unrelated work can help spark new ideas or metaphors that will inspire designs. The most impactful inspiration can come from real-world ideas. For instance, during a recent redesign of a movie and TV streaming website, we turned to the old-school TV remote control to inspire the design of filters to help find content of interest to users. Examples of useful sites for ideas and examples include webbyawards.com, dribble.com, and UI-patterns.com.

5. Create a site map or screen flows. 

Designing the overall flow of content and features helps illuminate the big picture of an aspirational design. As business and technical constraints and other details can bog projects down, it’s important to keep the user’s goals in mind throughout the process. For content- or feature-heavy sites and applications, or for those that require marketing messaging, it can be helpful to create a strategy diagram to prioritize the content and features on your pages. A strategy diagram is simply a concept of the page with placeholders for different content and features. Refer back to your personas, journeys or scenarios to help create the flow through the application, placing steps in the order users expect, and using their language as labels for navigation.

6. Create interaction concepts. 

Here is where it all comes together and you infuse the knowledge of your users directly into your design! Pre-emptively answer user questions on each relevant page or step in the process. Use their language to guide them through each step. Ensure users can easily accomplish the tasks they came to your app or website to achieve without friction. Select design patterns and interaction metaphors to create concepts. Sketch, review, revise! This can be done in a collaborative design-thinking workshop, or on your own.  Start sketching on paper to work through some of your ideas or go straight to your favorite wireframing or drawing tool, like Sketch or Axure. Most clients want multiple concepts to choose from, so it’s important to work through many ideas to end up with at least two different ideas that solve the problem. Solicit feedback from stakeholders, other designers, or even better, test the concepts with real users. Usually, concepts are revised multiple times to meet the goals and requirements of both the business and users. Now you are on track to create the best user experience possible based on learnings from those who will actually use it.

I would love to hear about your design process as well as tips and tricks you use to move from research to great design. Follow me: Twitter @katrinabb

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2018-08-09T13:51:22+00:00