When it comes to UX, don’t be afraid to start small

800 449 Paul Cook

Intro

For businesses considering implementing a UX Design approach for the first time, it’s easy to do some online research and emerge convinced that things are about to get complicated. But this doesn’t have to be the case, and a large scale, multi-phase project plan often isn’t the best approach, certainly for businesses new to user experience design. Instead, there is a strong case for starting small, keeping it lean, and seeing how things play out.

Here’s how we’d suggest keeping things small at each stage of the design process.

Define the problem

A clear idea of the problem you’re trying to solve is the foundation of any successful UX project. And you shouldn’t need a UX agency to tell you what your problem is. So summon your organisational knowledge and boil it down to a short, focussed problem statement. Here are a few tips:

– Keep it short (one sentence or two)

– Use language that a 12 year old could understand (complicated words and technical terms are often ways of hiding a poorly defined problem statement) 

– Do a test – ask someone to read your problem statement and explain your problem back to you.

Research

Avoid the urge to rush out and conduct interviews and focus groups, and begin with secondary research. It’s unlikely your problem is unique, and chances are someone will have looked into it and created a report, so dig around and see what you can find, and read everything that’s relevant (if it’s behind a paywall make a call on whether it’s worth it). Then fill in any gaps with targeted primary research. This way you may end up interviewing 10 people rather than 100, and you’ll have a much clearer idea about how to approach those conversations to get what you need.

Ideation

You’re looking for input from people with a broad range of skill sets and perspectives. So don’t just stick to subject matter experts or ‘creatives’. Open things up to the wider team, pull people in from other areas, and run a simple brainstorming session to generate ideas that solve your problem. Do this internally to start with, host it yourself, and see what you get back.

Concept design

This is the step that often throws people. It’s about bringing your ideas to life so that you can test them with people and collect feedback. Focus on creating ‘something’ that communicates what the idea is and how it might work – the idea should speak for itself without you having to explain it to people. To begin with, this often takes the form of rough sketches. If it’s a digital product or website, a few simple drawings might show the sequence of steps or screens, and a rough overview of what to expect at each stage. It shouldn’t look neat and polished because the objective of concept design is to convey a sense of the idea, not visualise the finished product. 

Test & learn

Put simply, this involves taking the outputs from concept design, showing them to people, and collecting feedback. The aim is to generate insight that will help answer whether your ideas successfully address your problem. Here are some useful tips to make sure things run smoothly: 

– Don’t just ask people what they think – create a few simple tasks for them to do and observe how they get on.

– Create a scoring system, some way of measuring the level of success or failure. It could be as simple as the level of difficulty they experienced in completing the tasks. 

– Quantify the results – it’s much easier to generate insight if you have scores that correspond to what people did. You’ll be able to tell whether certain ideas were better or worse than others, and identify particular tasks people struggled with.

Iterate

Essentially this involves turning insight into action and developing your concept based on what you learned. You should know from testing what worked particularly well or badly. Maybe you can discount some ideas completely and focus all your efforts on a single concept. Whatever the results, the aim Is to continually develop and refine the concept, conduct further rounds of testing, and validate the improvements.

Conclusion

If you’ve come this far, you’ve essentially conducted a small scale user centred design project. By starting with a problem, and taking it through the stages of ideation, concept design, testing and iteration, you’ve probably come close to identifying what the best solution is. And at this point it’s about executing your idea. This might involve engaging specialist design and technical resource like UX & Development teams. If you have access to these skills internally – great – if not, there are plenty of agencies out there who are willing to help.

Whether you use an in-house team or reach out to an external agency, by starting small and conducting some of the early UX work yourself, you’ll be in a much better position to brief the experts and make sure you get value for money.