Emerging a User Experience Strategy: people, pencils and post-its

user stories workshop

Emerging a User Experience Strategy: people, pencils and post-its is the title of the presentation @michellegilmore and I will be giving at UX Australia at the end of August. The conference is happening for the first time this year and there is an excellent range of speakers. The event will be a much appreciated addition to Australia’s calendar of UX and HCI events. A brief outline of our presentation is provided below based on our submission.

Michelle and I will be talking about the process of emerging a User Experience Strategy (or getting from fluffy to something). The approach we’ll be sharing emphasises collaborative and light-weight design methods (people, pencils and post-its). Drawing on a recent case study we’ll highlight experiences and techniques evolved over a number of projects and influenced by IxD and agile development methods.

The motivation for the presentation is a desire to capture, describe and make available for discussion aspects of the re-framing and translating that takes place as part of the process of developing a project-level User Experience Strategy.  Early project information and documentation often takes an organisational or technical perspective in describing the future system. A UX strategy on the other hand takes as its start point the perspective of those who will use the system. For the purposes of this presentation we define the development of a UX strategy as the process through which project information (e.g scope, project objectives, business requirements, user research, content analysis, comparative analysis, brand information) are critically translated and interpreted into a description of the future system from the perspective of the user experience.

The outcome is an agreement in principle to the objectives, the opportunities, the constraints, the scope (scale) and key principles of the design. It privileges the intended user experience whilst appropriately taking into account the various interests of the project such as business, brand, content and technology.

In the approach we’ll be sharing, the process starts by taking existing project information and translating it into relevant user stories. User stories are valuable for a number of reasons. They are versatile and accessible to all stakeholders. They become a common form of language across the design and client team and they can be prioritised as a way of making design decisions in relation to the user experience.

In our process groups of user stories are used to expose themes and activities that provide an initial (loose) structure. Prioritised user stories are then formed into key scenarios and  mapped out to expose the core user pathways, which are then iteratively refined. The structure of the system is allowed to emerge through this process of mapping the user experience and priorities for content and functionality fall out along the way. This can be challenging for members of the design team otherwise used to defining such aspects upfront (or top-down). Similarly various methods are needed to promote collaboration, trust and visibility of project process to the client throughout the process.

In our presentation we’ll be highlighting:

  • How user stories are generated and then themed
  • The process of prioritising user stories with clients to identify key complex scenarios
  • How we collaboratively map the priority scenarios out and expose the core user pathways
  • How these processes inform information architecture and user interface designs and
  • Our choice of rapid and collaborative tools (e.g post – its, and pencils)
  • Communicating the process to the client

The work upon which this presentation draws was completed on behalf of Digital Eskimo, a social design agency in Sydney whose Considered Design methodology makes embracing these methods and approaches possible. Our wonderful client was UNSW and we worked with other great team members from Zumio and Redrollers. Our presentation wouldn’t be possible without their generous committment to sharing the design experience and process, a big thank you to them and to the generous participants that gave their time to this project  (still in production).


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