The old processes used to develop digital solutions have begun to evolve. The days are numbered for development processes that focus exclusively on function, leaving form for another day. In their place, new processes have emerged. Processes that synthesize form and function by first understanding the needs and behaviors of the users who will be interacting with the system. Softrams is on the leading edge of companies implementing these processes, with our comprehensive approach called Human Experience Design (HX). HX is the overarching term for how Softrams approaches the development of our digital solutions. Softrams believes that providing a good Human Experience involves a combination of User Experience development processes, and Service Design processes.
A great system isn’t simply composed of a collection of useful functions and pleasing designs. It needs to exist as a unified whole. In order to achieve a unified system, it’s critical to properly Discover the system. Defining the system allows all future work to exist within a context, giving greater meaning to every button and widget. When starting a project, Softrams HX ensures the following key elements are Discoverd:
Identify the overall purpose of the system. Is your system intended to educate? All decisions should be driven from a desire to teach! Is your system selling a product? All decisions should be aimed at getting your product off the shelves!
Identify all user types who will access your system. Who uses your system will tell you a lot about how you need to design and develop. Defining clear user types helps to ensure your final product meets everybody’s needs.
Identify scope. Sometimes it’s a great idea to entirely abandon an old system and start from scratch. Sometimes it’s best to make smaller, more incremental changes to a system. Discover the degree of changes expected.
After defining the parameters of the system, Softrams HX ensures that decisions are driven by hard data. Speculating about the needs of a user often misses the mark so instead, Softrams HX gathers data through the following avenues to ensure there’s no guesswork when it comes to what our users need:
High Level Data: Surveys are a great way to gather a lot of data very quickly. This data tends to be high-level, and gives the Explorer a more general sense of who the users are and what their behavior is like.
Fine Level Data: User interviews provide the opportunity to get to know a user. Interaction during these interviews help illuminate pain points and discover user “work-arounds”. Always try to have individual interviews to ease pressure on the user and ensure you get genuine feedback.
Compiling the Data: Using the data gathered from the above methods, Softrams creates User Personas, User Stories, and User Flows. Understanding some details about representative users, such as their education and priorities, helps create empathy for the user when designing and developing the system.
Once Softrams HX knows how the system should fit together and how it should function, it’s time to start thinking about the design elements. High-speed iterations are critical at this point in the design process. Having lots of options available allows us to compare and contrast elements quickly, leading to a unified design in less time.
Sketching: Low-fidelity, hand-drawn sketches allow our designers to get all of their ideas out on the table quickly.
Wireframing: Create a series of screens that are very low fidelity, intended solely to map out the path an individual would take through the system.
Visual representation of User Flows: The User Flows identified during the Explore phase now have representative screens that illustrate the path a user takes through a system.
Now that low-fidelity designs have been explored and an approach has been agreed upon, it’s time to start filling in the details. High-fidelity designs breathe life into the wireframes, adding elements and colors to the rough sketches made earlier.
Establish a Style Guide: Now that it’s time to create high-fidelity designs, it’s important to carefully document the decisions being made. UI elements should be consistent across the system, so defining a Style Guide is an important step in establishing that consistency.
Add Interactions to the Wireframes: To have a testable prototype, users need to be able to click on UI elements to navigate to new parts of the system. In prototyping, this is done by “linking” wireframes together, allowing a user to explore the interface.
Testable Prototype: With the links added to the wireframes, and high-fidelity screens fully fleshed out, we’re now able to use the prototype for Evaluate.
Testing a prototype with users is essential to ensure that there haven’t been any critical missteps that will impede use of the system once fully developed. At this stage, expect some push back, as users will often be wary of a new system. This is especially true for complex systems that have required users to learn and adapt over time.
Usability Testing: A variety of testing methods can be used to draw out feedback from the user, but regardless of the method, it’s usually best to perform this testing in low-key, individualized settings. You never want the user to feel like they’re the ones being critiqued, so ensure there’s as little pressure on the user as possible.
Feedback: Usability Testing should provide valuable feedback about what is and isn’t working in the newly designed system. This feedback should be compiled and synthesized into the appropriate step of this playbook. If the user feels the flow isn’t accurate for what the user needs to complete their job, go back to the Explore phase and re-examine the work-flows. If the user doesn’t like some colors, go back to the prototyping phase and tinker with color combinations.
The Softrams HX Playbook is a helpful guide to follow when tackling a project, but always keep in mind that plans rarely survive contact with the real world. It’s important to be flexible and to be willing to go back and reassess past plays if you find you’re running into problems. Of course, if you think this Playbook could be used to address your businesses next big project, feel free to reach out and learn about how you can partner with Softrams! Our experienced HX staff will take this method, and tailor it to your needs. Send us an email below!
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