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A process in UX is everything, UX without a process is nothing

Łukasz Kowalski
Łukasz Kowalski
Nov 23, 2019
6 min read
A process in UX is everything, UX without a process is nothing

The ability to select correct phases and tools in a UX process, as well as arranging them in proper order, constitutes a significantly important skill. It may seem obvious, but UX designers very often put insufficient attention to it. When working on the most demanding digital projects, in Poland and all over the world, I understood that the moment of building and explaining the process to the client constitutes the most crucial stage of each undertaking. In this text, I will try to explain my view on the essence of an individual approach to each process.


A mistake at the stage of designing a process have much more severe consequences than any error made in the design or code. Why is designing a process a challenging task? Because each project is different and always consists in a number of multi-layered variables: deadline, budget, significance for the organization, client’s awareness, technology, availability of qualitative and quantitative data, organization strategy, market competition, etc. There isn’t, and cannot be one perfect process. A perfect (literature example) process would only happen in the case of no project limitations.


It is precisely a large number of significant variables which results in that each process should be different and best adjusted to the partner’s business needs. The UX process should consist of a number of large phases consisting of various methods and tools, optimal and carefully adjusted to the project’s requirements. Designing a process often take from a few to even more than a dozen hours. And more precisely, in most cases, I reserve the right to apply changes in the process until finishing the discovery phase. Additional information and sources of knowledge, which may change a designer’s manner of thinking about the process, appear especially during precisely this phase. Most often the case concerns selecting other workshop methods and leaving out certain — previously planned — tasks which turn out to be unnecessary or inefficient in light of new information.

UX process

Despite the fact that I believe in a flexible approach to a process, I also think that as UX designers we should always start with communicating and explaining a literary process to the client. Educating business partners is partially our responsibility. By doing it, we begin to create the foundations of long-term cooperation, which in my opinion should be the goal of each UX designer.

Without an educated partner, it is tough to work in the most efficient model, meaning an evolutionary model based on qualitative and quantitative data.

ux evolutionary model

I believe that working in a data-driven process, in which KFC works regarding e-commerce, constitutes one of the most developing and engaging things I came across as a UX designer.

UX data-driven model

Designing a process is not everything

Properly designing a process constitutes just the beginning of the path. There are a number of things that have to be remembered

01.

The process has to be completely clear for the client.

Even the best thought-through and designed process won’t give the desired effect if the people we are supposed to execute it with won’t completely understand it. Each element of the process must be comprehensively explained and described. Phase after phase, tool after tool, effect after effect.

  • Why do we want to use specific tools and not other ones?
  • Why do we want to carry out certain actions in a given order, and not arranged in a different way?
  • Why do we need so much time for each phase of the project?
  • Why do we have to meet 10 and not 5 times?
  • Why do we need so many people for research?
  • etc.

The client should thoroughly understand this process, and the best situation is when our business partner has the impression that he or she could design such a process! — “It’s so logical”. Achieving such an effect requires a well-prepared cause-and-effect sequence and a lot of time devoted to presenting the process. However, from my experience, the time dedicated to explaining the process to a client constitutes one of the best investments in the course of the project.

02.

The client must not only accept it but also participate in it.

Complex and demanding projects, in comparison to those which are easier, are often characterized by the fact that as designers we do not have industry knowledge. Each well-designed process must include workshop elements during which we will gain the necessary knowledge from stakeholders in a systematized manner. Most things can be learned during a talk, but only workshop work allows minimizing the number of missed information. The process will not always go as we plan. In my career, the biggest project problems, especially concerning large projects, most often resulted from the lack of commitment on behalf of the people making decisions from the very start of the project. Encourage people making decisions to carry out workshops. Without them, projects extend and lose their value!

03.

Only the client’s complete commitment to the process leads to the project’s success.

Our business partner is not only an expert in his or her field but also the person without whom the project won’t reach its end. A doctor may write a prescription but the patient has to abide by the recommendations, otherwise, the treatment won’t be successful. Constant and frequent communication, as well as engaging the client in the process, both constitute a recipe for success. The number of details which we are going to miss in our daily work may be tremendous. Even the most diligently handled processes won’t last in the case of a lack of commitment.

  • Technical limitations and possibilities
  • Missing content
  • Changing business decisions
  • Lack of the client’s coherent vision
  • Lack of determined business goals (KPI)

UX process versus the responsibility and risk

Currently, most companies are aware of the importance of UX and why it is worth to devote a lot of attention to it. Managers of large companies don’t have to be convinced about the profitability of investing in UX. Of course, this does not mean that companies understand precisely in what way to approach designing user experiences. The growing popularity of UX results in that a lot is often placed in the hands of people responsible for the user experience. Design teams often decide about the future of the entire company or product.

It is not a mistake, but it is essential so that all parties are entirely aware of it. Our work relates to great responsibility, and that is why I believe that one of our priorities should be the maximum reduction of risk associated with executing a project.

Large and important projects are always related to risk. We made a mistake, something does not work, nobody uses the solution, we’ve spent a lot of money and generally speaking we have nothing to show for it. Risk has to be managed. The UX process should be designed in such a way so that the risk is minimized. The primary and best tool for limiting the number of uncertainties consists in the discovery phase.

The discovery phase constitutes the base, foundation, and cornerstone of each project.

Properly planning and carrying out this phase allows, to a large degree, to limit the number of uncertainties, which has a proportional impact on the risk. The discovery phase stands for stitching up holes in the knowledge concerning the user and surrounding of the project or product. Special attention to this phase should be put in the case of highly innovative projects.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” ― Benjamin Franklin

Each process of the discovery phase should be worked out up to the smallest detail, best even up to the date and team of a given workshop.

UX discovery phase

Summary

There is no perfect way to design the discovery phase. Designing this phase consists of profoundly understanding the client’s situation and business needs and then selecting the best tools for their execution. I very often take advantage of the “Design a better business” book which includes many propositions of workshop frameworks.

  • Carrying out a meeting for clarifying business goals/brief before we start designing the process of delivering the solution
  • Understanding, writing down, and communicating risks related to the project
  • Precisely defining and communicating gaps in qualitative and quantitative data, and then preparing the process of acquiring missing data
  • Precise and detailed planning of the discovery phases
  • Direct and frequent contact with people making decisions
  • Learn on the mistakes of others: https://www.hownottolaunch.com/

 

Łukasz Kowalski
Łukasz Kowalski
Nov 23, 2019
6 min read

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