Part 02: Design Process

In this chapter, you will learn about key ingredients of good design, the various roles involved in the design process, how each role contributes to product quality and user experience and Highlights of the design process that creates a great user experience.

Key Topics of good user design

In this lecture you will understand some of the key ingredients that make up good design. We will look at what makes interface easy, hard or natural. Let`s start with an everyday Business analytics example like creating Dashboards and do ad-hoc Analysis with Tableau Software. I do not want to say that Tableau is THE Software for building Dashboards, but the Software was designed totally different compared to a lot of other Business intelligence Software on the market. When you have a look at the picture, you see a screenshot of Tableau. On the left hand side dimenions and measures. In the center, you see the visualization with boxes for filters, marks and columns and rows. On the right hand side, you see the “Show Me” box with visualization recommendations.

The new design Approach of Tableau Software compared to a lot of other vendor software is that you easily create charts and tables and can place the objects on a dashboard in seconds. While other software shows ways how to manipulate charts with CSS code, or creating reports in an author mode, Tableau just visualizes the data. The user is happy because he works with a tool and can solve his problem (insights into data) very fast.

Tableau - New Design Approach

Tableau – New Design Approach

To summarize, this software redesign gives us a couple of important lessons. For starters if we simply ask people what they want we might miss important opportunities. Second the real value in going out in the field and gathering behavioral measures as opposed to just asking people. The third is that when you go out into the field bring along a prototype because that’ll change the interaction. And the fourth is that the world is full of people who tinkering in their garage. And that when the stars align we can bring together these diverse talents to offer a new exciting user experience for the world.

With Tableau Software, like all user interfaces, there are two fundamental questions that we want to ask. First is that when I encounter a measuring cup or a new computer software or anything else, I need to figure out what is it that I can do. Then after I do that – fill the liquid, try to print the document,retrieve something from the internet – then I need to figure out what is it that happened and so the interface is teaching me how do I know. People obviously behave differently depending and how they think the world works. In our minds we build these mental representations. Often the representations in our minds are using analogies that come from experience. Our mental models often aren’t right, they’re almost never complete.

The goal for a designer is to be able to beacon what the model of “How I do” is, what the model of “How I know” is. A challenge as things get more sophisticated is that as designers we often are or, at least over the design process, become experts with that technology. We’ve built these richer mental representations. And we expect that the user’s representations are going to be like ours. But as you know they often aren’t. And this mismatch, when what’s in my head is wrong, that mismatch can lead to slow performance, to errors, and to Frustration.

Various roles contribute to user experience

Who is responsible for the great User Experience? User Experience is not the sole responsibility of a single department, namely the Design Department. In ideal situations we would have designers working closely with developers, project managers, product owners among others towards a common goal. Even though this types of collaborations are growing there are some exceptions. Let’s face it: it’s not easy. At the end of the day we do operate in our verticals, in our professional lines. With design development, databases, IT, product management and other departments. The common misconception, that the user experience is the responsibility of a sole and one department called “Design”, is something all of us need to overcome. Users Experience is everyone’s responsibility. Even the departments that are furthest removed from traditional user design.

For example, let’s take the IT-department, responsible for delivering business intelligence applicationssuch as dashboards. Even they will have User Experience requirements. Of course! What might their User Experience requirements include? Well, it might be to assure, that their dashboards are functional and online 100 % of the time and of course that they are able to process vast amounts of data at high speed. And as we get closer and closer to the core designers, and here I mean User Experience designers, the responsibility for User Experience simply becomes greater. So in a nutshell, whoever you might be, if you are in a direct contact with customers or if customers or clients-to-be are using something that you had a part in building, than – yes, you too are responsible for creating a great user experience.

Details of the design process

Let’stake a look at the process itself. What does it really take to get from design to development? So let’s talk a little bit more in detail about the design-led development process. The individual phases change depending on new products, improved products or even small product enhancements.

But in general, you would have an understand phase, where you’ll try what find out what do your users need, you would have an ideation phase, where you think about the new User Experience, you would have a conceptual design phase where you begin with very high level wireframes and designs, and then you have a production design phase where you create detail interaction design, visual design and other detail such as copy.

So, let’s talk about some of these phases. Why does user research matter? Without gaining empathy and a thorough understanding of your prospective end users, you will not be able to determine what your user needs nor what delights him or her. From the user research we can then derive personas, their needs, and motivations and goals.  For example you can think about your BI stakeholders. To understand their Needs better, you observe them in the context of an average work day in your company.

In the next phase you begin ideating about ideas that would fit your user’s needs. So, typically we do this with brainstorming and storyboarding. Why do storyboards matter? Storyboards are a great way to outline the journey the user will take to reach his or her goal. It will also give you a clear idea of where opportunities for software applications exist. And it will help you to think through the end-to-end experience the user will have from discovering the application to obtaining help and support.

In the conceptual design phase first of all you want to create your use cases – which ones matter and which ones don’t matter in this first release. Use cases are the bridge between user needs, design and development. A good use case articulates the goals a user is trying to achieve and the steps he or she will take to get there. For example, the user’s goal might be to book a flight. One step he might take is to search for a flight. Another important artifact that comes out the conceptual design phase are wireframes. Wireframes serve a lot of different purposes at the design process. They outline the overall layout of the application. For example, here you specify where common interactions such as “Save” or “Print” are located. They also layout where fields on the screen are. For example, “First name – Last name”. And wireframes specify interactions such as “Approve” or “Reject”.

The next phase is the production design. So, one artifact you produce here is the visual design. The visual design articulates the mood and the tone of the application. Visual design is very much about color, fonts, icons and yes, also white space on the screen, the heights and widths of individual objects. It often gives the emotional reaction to the application such as “playful” or “corporate”. Most importantly though, it aids the readability of the application and calls out sections the user’s attention should be drown to. One other essential design artefact is copy. Copy describes an onscreen text in human understandable ways. What a field is called is hugely 2 important to the user experience of an application. Copy might include the name of the application, a glossary of terms, user assistance such as “Help”, text of buttons and field labels.

Now that you have a better understanding of the roles involved in the design-driven development process as well as the process itself, how do you know your design is really good? You will find out more about that in the next week.


About Tobias Riedner
Tobias Riedner foundet in 2015. He works and worked as innovator, consultant, analyst and educator in the fields of business intelligence and data warehousing. He learned a lot from the best consultants, managers und educators in the past and shares his knowledge worldwide. He works for a steady growing traditional company which is a leader in industry 4.0.