As a UX professional, I feel my main job is to be an advocate for the user. Similar to a wait-person at a restaurant or a talented ski instructor, one must be constantly mindful of the needs of their client. When in college I waited tables and discovered that I needed to adjust my behavior to that of the occupants of my table. Sometimes I would take on the role of a hostess, and guide people through the menu, and entertain them as if they were guests in my home. Other times I needed to be like an invisible genie who filled their needs with little or no interruption of their experience. Similarly as a ski instructor I am constantly adjusting my behavior to what is most appropriate for optimal learning in the unpredictable mountain environment.
Being attuned to what is appropriate to the users of an app, product, service or website is how one delivers an optimal experience.
I found that while writing about prospective users I was able to virtually climb into their world – similar to how a novelist must feel when being absorbed in the life of a fictional character. With personas/scenarios and user stories I am able to access what I know about people in my life and apply it to prospective users of the site or application that I am working on.
The lion’s share of this task is to distill the message down to it’s essence. Nearly every client has an over-abundance of content, and it’s my job to help them prioritize the information and organize it so that it’s easily accessible within the site.
People don’t want to read web sites, they want to scan. So information is “chunked” in a way that allows the users to get an upper level view of the content, and if interest exists they are given the ability to drill down, and learn more.
On a mobile device it’s even more important to prioritize so that the top task or bit of information is introduced first.
In these times of mobile phones and tablet devices it is imperative to design responsive sites that serve up key information first on a phone – with navigation that is subtle and small. As opposed to the navigation being more prominent on a desktop environment. This and other considerations are of utmost importance when the market share of mobile and tablet devices is skyrocketing and sales of desktops have reached a plateau.
A prototype can be a deck of index cards or a fully functioning skeleton of a site. The trick is to portray just enough of the experience for the stakeholder to understand the behaviors of a site or a function – nothing more, nothing less.
The most fascinating book I’ve read on this subject is “Sketching User Experiences” by Bill Buxton.
Design • test • iterate. A web site or mobile experience is a fluid entity. User testing in the beginning can ensure that the right design is being implemented. Testing throughout the life cycle of an experience keeps it fresh and relevant.