It’s easy to become overwhelmed by a product design project — and it’s common for people to give up before they start, often because their budget is smaller than they think it should be, or because they have a shaky grasp of the problem they’re trying to solve.
But the idea that all projects need to go big upfront is a misconception. Sometimes, the most appropriate way to find your way is with a bit of UX exploration.
Our UX Starter Packs
That’s why we offer these three “starter packs” to meet clients where they are. In addition to making product design more accessible, each approach — IxD Audit/Expert Review, Targeted Design Sprint to Prototype, and User “Road Trip” Journey Map — puts user experience (UX) at the heart of the process.
User experience is what ultimately makes or breaks a product.
#1: The IxD Audit / Expert Review: A Fresh Pair of Eyes
When someone is looking to improve a product but isn’t sure how to go about doing so, an Interaction Design (IxD) Audit — or Expert Design Review — can help.
An IxD audit helps when it’s apparent an element of the product is off, but no one can put their finger on exactly what’s wrong. For instance, analytics might show users aren’t getting through key processes. Or data might suggest users aren’t engaging with a key feature. Perhaps the product has received criticism, and it’s not clear how to go about addressing it. In such cases, this is a quick way to uncover pain points and brainstorm solutions.
An IxD audit helps when it’s apparent an element of the product is off, but no one can put their finger on exactly what’s wrong.
In an audit, IxD experts walk through a product experience from the user’s perspective, noting issues and opportunities for improvement. Experts put themselves in users’ shoes but keep their IxD hats on so they can analyze key touchpoints such as the out-of-the-box experience, user onboarding, log-in, and key interactions.
Heuristic evaluation, a scientific approach to IxD that uses a checklist of best practices for user interfaces, is one methodology that provides structure for these expert reviews. Another is the cognitive walkthrough, a way to evaluate interactions using a very task-based perspective.
IxD audits are also great tools for narrowing the focus of user testing. User testing is expensive and time-intensive so having an idea upfront of what to test leads to better usability tests and yields better feedback.
Is the IxD Audit / Expert Review the right solution for you? Contact us.
#2: The Design Sprint: Test the Waters
In a design sprint, a reasonable chunk of time — usually around two weeks — is spent working through a problem, designing around it, and exploring solutions. This could be a specific problem or a few small problems. Maybe there’s a problem space to explore. The process can help generate new ideas or reframe the entire problem. It’s a way to sit with a concept and think of different ways to approach it.
Targeted design sprints yield a more mature idea of the problem space, possible solutions, what to do next, and an idea of how big the final product needs to be.
Targeted design sprints are useful for gaining an understanding of the user, space, and problem to be solved; generating rough initial concepts for review and feedback; and refining concepts to generate testable, clickable prototypes. They yield a more mature idea of the problem space, possible solutions, what to do next, and an idea of how big the final product needs to be.
Most important, the targeted design sprint is a way to test the waters before fully diving into the product design process.
Think you’re ready to test the waters with a Design Sprint? Let’s talk.
#3: User “Road Trip” Journey Map: Opportunities and Problems Revealed
Traditional journey-mapping generates a visual or graphic representation of the user’s relationship with a product from start to finish. Journey mapping is a great tool, but it involves a lot of research, inquiry, and observation, all of which require significant time and funding. Fortunately, there’s another solution — and it’s roughly the size of a weekend road trip.
Literally, that is. When we take this approach, we end up spending a day or two in a workshop with internal stakeholders to understand and sketch out the basic user journey. Key issues and opportunities are visualized along the path.
A User “Road Trip” Journey Map provides a preliminary roadmap without too much commitment or cost.
While this solution isn’t as detailed or accurate as a full journey map, it’s a good way to get started and to begin to see how elements of the product will come together. It provides a preliminary roadmap without too much commitment or cost and provides some hypotheses as to things that might be working well and things that might be breaking down. This can be an eye-opening exercise that reveals where opportunities and problems lie.
Curious to know what a preliminary roadmap might reveal about your opportunities and challenges? Contact us.
The Value of Starting with UX
Focusing on user experience at the beginning of the product design process — no matter how simple or complex that process may be — optimizes the final product’s user experience. In today’s marketplace, customer reviews and referrals have more influence on sales than advertising. A product needs to perform as intended, but overall ease-of-use and customer satisfaction will determine how successful it is.
No matter the product — it can be a simple connected consumer product or a complex diagnostic medical device — and no matter the level of progress that’s been made on its development, one of these three approaches is guaranteed to get the wheels turning and provide a sense of where to go next.
Have a project that needs kickstarting with a UX Starter Pack? Let’s talk about it.