UX & UI from the ground up: My experience

**I just found this old blog entry that I never posted, and I honestly don't know why I didn't do it sooner. I've been updating my portfolio after completing a semester of my Masters in Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern University and so I'll be blogging a little bit more now. Here's the original entry:**

 

I haven't posted new projects or written in a long time, partly because I have been working with a Costa Rican startup focused on digital services, and because of the nature of my work I am bound by a confidentiality agreement that prevents me from revealing any images of the services we're designing and developing. However, really want to talk about the processes of implementing User Experience (and also User Interface) design from the ground up in a very flexible environment such as the one of a startup. 

The process of addressing UX issues when there is literally no previous work done clearly calls for a different strategy than the usual redesign job. Few of us rarely have the golden opportunity to plan, control, conduct research, prototype, evaluate and create without having to comply with old practices or legacy guidelines. This also comes at the cost of a notoriously higher responsibility to our users and our clients, and inherently comes with a bit more of trial and error from our part.

 Part of the project roadmap and its stages.

Part of the project roadmap and its stages.

1. Laying down a Project Roadmap:

The first step in this process is to create a project roadmap that you can follow throughout the months of R+D. I created our based on a mix of the Lean UX book by Jeff Gothelf, the UX Project Checklist by Andrea Soverini and the Usability Cookbook by Franklin Hernández. The truth is that there are many different methodologies and rarely only one right answer as to how to address UX and UI problems. Moreover, the context will be different for each of you and for every project; in my case, this startup benefited from a Lean approach and a lot of researching and planning. I believe the principles for creating the project roadmap are the following:

1. Ask the team and yourself what the biggest needs of the project are. Do we know enough about the competition already? Are we terribly lacking in user feedback? What type of user research should we conduct first? How soon must we deploy? What can we do with the budget we have?

 

2. Now that you have an overview of the context, the project requirements and its limitations, create stages and add steps on every stage. These stages will most likely need to be completed sequentially (i.e. you can't create good user stories without proper interviews and ethnographic research). The stages should be written down on a board and marked completed. Make sure you see that list change every week. There is a basic sequence to these stages:

2. Set deadlines and meet them:

If you miss a deadline, understand why and strive to fix whatever went wrong. Chronically missing deadlines is a symptom of a much larger issue: either you lack structure, the roadmap is wrong or your teammates are lacking.

 

3. Document as you go:

don't wait until you're finished because then you'll never do it, and this is a problem because you need to...

 

4. Look back at your documentation:

Make sure your current decisions are still aligned with your previous conclusions. From the time you conduct your first interviews, to the time you evaluate high fidelity interfaces with test users, a good amount of weeks (or even months) will have passed by. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the original objectives and this will lead you astray. Your documentation is your best friend.

 

Bonus: Have fun and make sure you are happy with the work you're doing:

If you're not happy, then ask yourself if you could improve the quality of your work by adding more structure to it, and never forget to have fun. Analyzing research data can be cumbersome and repetitive, but remember your role as an experience designer can have a positive impact on user's lives and that enjoying what you do will always lead to better results for your team.