Source: Google Image
User Interfaces Are “Visualized Requirements”
It is usually said that it is possible to cook bad food from good ingredients but it is not possible to cook good food from bad ingredients. That is a good metaphor in this case even with excellent visual designers and front-end developers, high quality user interfaces cannot be released with poor requirements. So well-defined requirements can be supposed by applying suitable and effective methods and techniques in the stage of gathering and documenting requirements (that will be in other coming posts; if you are interested, you should looking for business analysis techniques and requirement management tips).
Creating fancy user interfaces cannot ensure the success of products because the ultimate objective is to build user interfaces best meeting requirements. Hence, it is highly recommended that we should focus more on outcomes (values) rather than outputs (deliverables). It seems like a popular said “doing the right thing is always more important than doing the thing right”. User interfaces are also requirements in visualized form, so in order to reach the objective, both business analysts and UX designers should well understand requirements.
5 main types of requirements
- Business Requirements: refers to why clients (customer, business units) needed a new product or an enhancement on the existing ones. A clear definition of business requirements is really important for project’s success and other types of requirements are then defined in alignment. UX designers are strongly advised to start design process by reading and understanding documents of business requirements. So please remember “if the first button in a shirt is put wrong, then every button will be wrong”.
- User Requirements: what user needs the product should meet.
- Functional Requirements: what functionality the product should include to meet user requirements.
- Non-functional Requirements and Business Rules: how the product should work in terms of non-functional requirements and business rules.
- Non-functional requirements: refer to quality attributes such as usability, performance, privacy and security.
- Business rules: usually like conditions, constraints and formulas determining how requirements will be handled by the user and the product.
- System Requirements: technically how the product will function.
Human-centered design philosophy
This philosophy is achieved by applying user-centered analysis and design approach.
Identify User Profiles
Let’s forget “designing for everybody” idea, it is infeasible and product’s user interfaces only need to be good fit for its users. Thus it’d better to conduct profile of target user groups based on various user characteristics such as age, gender, education, computer use comfort level, smart phone comfort level, social media comfort level and business background. User profiles can be collected through requirements-gathering meetings, interview or observation.
Human beings tend to judge things based on emotional capabilities, which makes emotional design be important in user-centricity. While using a product, users first create a mental model toward that product and that model guides them throughout their whole experience with the product. That is why user interface designs should focus on users’ mental model.
A popular method to define mental models is persona known as representative imaginary characters. A persona description should include a name, photo, demographic info and a scenario section. Do you still remember that the idea of “designing for everybody” does not work; hence, you should limit the number of personas at three. This is a tool supporting to create personas https://xtensio.com/user-persona
Define User Requirements (Use Cases)
User requirements are the next thing should be collected. A traditional approach is asking “Which features should the new product have?” may lead to a huge number of changes requests. There is a more user-centric analysis called use case technique that answers the above questions in another way by finding the answer for these 3 questions: Who are the actors? –> What are the goals (use cases) of actors in using the product? –> How will the actors interact with the product to achieve their goals? Detail of this technique will be in other coming posts about business analysis techniques.
Other next steps including Interaction Design, Informative Architecture, Interface Design, Usability Testing and Visual Design will be mentioned in other posts that discuss more detail about UX Design and Usability.
Usability Testing Techniques
Like other non-functional requirements, usability needs tested too and it should be a must-have activity rather than a nice-to-have ones in many projects. Unlike other testing types, the usability of an incomplete product can be tested by its prototype to early defect detection.
Two main types of usability testing is logging and eye-tracking tools. Eye-tracking tools will track and record users’ eye movements to analyze where users mostly focus on the interfaces and in what order. While logging tools record users’ face, voices and interactions on the screens at the same time. These tools allow to measure key usability metrics like: how long users spent on each task, how many users could complete the given tasks, how many times the help menus were used, etc.
Additionally, other approaches can be applied such as interview and focus group sessions with real users is a method helping to collect users’ thoughts and feelings. While crowdsourcing allows many remote users conducting tests; however, its main disadvantage is limited demographic structure because those users are mostly students and home workers who have much free time. Last but not least is customer journey mapping effectively visualizing and evaluating end-to-end experience of customers at different touch points. In the other words, customers’ experience, emotions and satisfaction level at each part of the journey can be visualized on the map.
Yayici, E. (2014) UX design and usability mentor book: With best practice business analysis and user interface design tips and techniques. United States: Emrah Yayici.