#Information #Architecture (IA) is not another name for #User #Experience (UX)

IA is not another name for UX

User experience (UX) and Information Architecture (IA) are very different and have separate skill sets, processes and outputs.

I often talk to people who add IA on the their CV as if it’s some simple skill;

IA is actually more complex and difficult than UX

IA is also hundreds of years old as an activity while UX is less than twenty in it’s current form.

  • Information architecture is involved in the classification and structure of information.
  • User experience is involved in; defining who the audience is, what they can do, how they can do it and matching the aspiration of the content provider with the desires of the audience.

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#User #Experience #UX #Process

Process thinking in User Experience (UX)

The first step in user experience needs to be the recognition that every problem is different and will require a separate solution. Because if they are not, then every business is the same which they are clearly not.

In effect there is no quick fix or single standard method but rather there is an armoury of methods each with associated risks, limitations and plus points. Anyone offering a standardise method without flexibility should be asked to leave as they about to cost you a fortune.

Karl Smith User Experience Research Testing 200711

Offering user experience services is a bit like dungeons and dragons in that you role your 12 sided dice and hope the business does not throw some trolls at you.

I have worked with very well known agencies who are unable to get their clients to understand the importance of user experience – research, testing and solutions as they focus on the solutions component without proper understanding that it is only one part of a three stage process. The reason that clients give for not paying for research and testing is the assumption that user experience people a such great experts that they can do their job in total isolation from the business and the end users.Maybe ‘Super User Experience Person’ does exist but I doubt it, most importantly users change over time, in what they want and mean by their actions.

Some process steps for user experience

This process list is based on personal experience and is open to reduction or extension based upon just how savvy the client is and how much they really want to be successful rather than just being seen to be doing something.

Understand the problem (concurrent with 2.)

  1. Do research
  2. Analyse research
  3. Get validation of what has been discovered by Target Users and Stakeholders

Define the audience (actors) this is the detail level the Target Users

  1. Create personas a tool used by the entire project team BA’s, PM’s and Developers to be acquainted with who will use the systemResearch persona types, activities, attitudes etc.
  2. Define critical tasks Research tasks ecosystem and review engagement strategy
  3. Define key pathways Main pathway
  4. Alternative pathways
  5. Failure pathways

Compose concepts

  1. Create buy-in with Stakeholders

Set the tone of voice

  1. Type of language
  2. Level of formality
  3. Use of jargon, brand identity or subject specific words
  4. Content style
  5. Meta standards
  6. Content object model
  7. SEO if web based

Wireframes

  1. Selection of type & method
  2. Wireframe Concepts
  3. User testing of Wireframe Concepts
  4. Wireframe sketches

Client sign off

Wireframe prototypes

  1. User testing of Wireframe prototypes

Client review

Wireframe & Visual design integration (prior to this point the use of high fidelity images are counter productive)

Functional specification & analytics specification

  1. Instruct development
  2. Usability Test plan
  3. Accessibility Test plan
  4. Functional & Content Test plan

Testing with participant screening document

  1. Review testing results
  2. Modify labels, interactions & structure in line with findings

Done, until …..

Check interactions based upon analytics and more user testing

Offer enhancements to clients

Some people will look at this list and think it takes years, depending on the project complexity it can take days or weeks for simple web or mobile applications and only months on complex software systems.

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#Digital #banking #structure

Digital banking structure

I have worked with a number of banks and financial services companies mainly in user experience and team management, I have also been involved in the development of new business models. I keep being asked to provide structure information for various clients so feel it simpler to make the enclosed structural diagram available here as it may also help digital agencies and new start-ups understand the relationship between various roles.

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#UX #Requirements gathering #structure #determines #success

Requirements gathering structure determines success

The Requirement Starting Point is Critical

It is an understood factor in travel that if the journey starts even half a degree wrong then the final destination will be considerably different from where the person intended to be, this is for many why there is a make do culture when working with technology requirements.

Requirement Types

Unfortunately bad requirements gathering can seriously derail a project before it really begins.

There are several types of requirements gathering research that are carried out as separate work streams.

1. Market requirements

Includes competitor analysis and proof of concept.

2. Business requirements

Includes business stakeholder perceptions and business KPI’s.

3. Technology requirements

often described as non functional requirements, including existing capabilities (hardware, software and skill base) and comparable technologies.

4. User Experience requirements

behaviour research, KPI’s, perception research and interpretation for the specific project domain.

Requirement Gathering

One of the key things to understand is that the structure and implementation of requirements gathering in each type is different even if some methods may appear the same, their interpretation and output are not. Additionally in HCD (human centered design) the method of interpretation and output are user centric rather than business centric, I find user stories a very helpful output method as it maintains user goals in a structured format that can be reused in the development process.

Case study 1

In a recent project the client requested assistance in setting up the requirements gathering process, they were intending on having groups of people from the same department together. One of the key things to understand in structuring research is the possible points at which the data can be skewed and therefore become less valid. It is human nature in a group for people to temper what is said if senior staff is present.

Instead of running the requirements gathering along department lines it was defined by UCD stakeholder roles;

  • Senior managers (strategic high level thinkers)
  • Managers (project capability thinkers)
  • Production (detailed problem solving thinkers)
  • External users (frustrated users with wide subject based experience)
  • External consultants (cutting edge thinkers with wide subject based experience) as a design panel

There was also screening documents for participant selection for each role in order to assist in defining effectual research methods. Participants were sent an overview prior to sessions so that they would understand what was going to happen at very general level. In parallel an external agency was commissioned to research market requirements in the same domain and in a comparable domain. A technology audit was also carried out to support the technology requirements component.

Case study 2

In another project where the client was intending the project to effect change in multiple countries and markets requirements gathering research was conducted in several countries. The United Kingdom was used as a baseline country with adaptations defined through in person and remote research for Eastern Europe, Western Europe, USA, South America and South East Asia.

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