Stage 2: Developing the concepts and building the workflow

Once you understand the product requirements and user goals, you can focus on designing an application that meets these requirements and goals. In stage two, start defining the content and creating a workflow that meets user goals. The workflow identifies how and when users see information. In this stage, your focus is on identifying the sequence of steps and any associated dependencies. You might be tempted to focus on the details of the features and the capabilities of the application. Instead, stay focused on user goals.

Consider using low fidelity prototypes such as paper sketches that are quick to create and can be revised easily. Sketches help you visualize how users progress through tasks and help you identify task loops and dead ends. At this stage, the workflow does not require all of the details for every scenario. You can create higher fidelity prototypes such as software based prototypes as the design progresses.

Design outputs

You can create the following design outputs to help you explore concepts and build the workflow:

  • information architecture diagrams
  • wireframes of major tasks
  • prototypes

User research methods

User research methods typically involve meeting with users one-on-one or in very small groups. You can use the following types of user research methods to help you build the workflow:

User research method

Purpose

fit/gap analysis

This type of analysis identifies how well the design outputs match user perspectives of the workflow and allows you to identify and address unmet expectations.

card sorting

This type of research method helps you understand how users categorize information. This research is useful when you have a lot of information or options to group and prioritize.

walkthrough of major tasks

This type of research method demonstrates where the workflow breaks down. Use this information to make decisions about the order, sequence, and priority of tasks.

Evaluating the workflow provides information to help you close the gap between your understanding of the workflow and your users' understanding of the workflow. As you iterate the design, the gaps get smaller. If there are technical or design limitations, try to address the gaps by using clear terminology, inline help, prompts, or visual cues.

Best practice: Developing the concepts and building the workflow

Consider the following questions:

  • What concepts need to be communicated between users and the application? Choose specific nouns and verbs to describe each concept.
  • What does the application need to do and what do users need to do? Consider the tradeoffs. If the cognitive load is too high for users, the application might be too difficult to use. For example, avoid forcing the user to remember too many things or making them open other screens to find the information that they need.
  • What data is required to perform each task?
  • What are the relationships between tasks? If a task depends on the completion of another task, then you might want to restrict users to completing tasks in a particular order.

Consider the following:

  • Define the major navigational pathways, staying focused on the user goals. Make navigation easy and provide cues so that users always know where they are. Help users achieve their goals easily by allowing them to complete primary tasks from the first screen of the application. Take advantage of the conventions of the Escape key and the Menu key.
  • Consider how you can integrate your application with other applications such as the phone, BlackBerry® Maps, camera, or contacts. For example, if users click a contact in the application, retrieve the contact details from the Contacts application.
  • Decide what screen appears when users close the application.
Identify the importance of the following features to your users. These features represent some of the ways that users can interact with the application to achieve their goals:

Feature

Example

typing text

If users need to type a lot in the application, make sure that you focus on layout to make the typing experience smooth and efficient.

viewing text

If users need to view a lot of text, make sure that users can scroll through the text efficiently and move to the top and bottom of the screen easily.

viewing images

Determine the best way to display images to users to meet their goals. For example, if users need to browse through a related set of images such as featured items or a photo album, use thumbnail images in a carousel view.

receiving notifications

Determine how the application notifies users and how often the application notifies users.

personalizing the application

Identify the ways that users want to personalize the application. For example, allow users to change their profile photo easily in social networking applications.

secure personal information and data

If there are security risks associated with specific content, provide prompts to users.

searching the application

Identify the content that has value to users. Determine where the content resides and provide search capabilities.

purchasing items

Make it easy for users to purchase items.

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Stay focused on user goals. Recognize that tasks might change but user goals are not likely to change.
  • If possible, sketch multiple workflows for the same task. If users don't understand a particular element of a task, then you have another option to show them.
  • Evaluate all of the tasks from end to end. Users often experience issues in the steps between tasks.
  • Present your ideas to other designers to uncover any show-stopping issues or major design flaws. Then present your ideas to some representative users. Even if you only approach a few users, observe, listen, and talk to them. Ask them what they think and why. You might be surprised by their response.

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