Cone Trees

The User Experience (UX) Process

Status: Work in progress (what is this?)

Working over the past 8 years in user experience, I have noticed the lack of truly descriptive process diagrams for the generic UX process. Either the stages are serial and non-iterative, which is not actually anywhere near true (since stages overlap with each other), or they are shown as serial with some iterative stages (but then they fail to show the overlap in stages). The diagram below is the Cone Trees UX process and it is based upon the reality of how UX stages work. I will be updating the details below from time to time since this is work in progress. Feel free to share.

Whichever way you look at it, be it waterfall or agile, the User Experience (UX) process can be broken down into the following distinct phases:

  1. Planning
  2. Research
  3. Analysis & Synthesis
  4. Defintion
  5. Design
  6. Validation

Stage 1- Planning

Primary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
UX planning:
UX activities to be mutually agreed upon with with project team leads so these activities are reflected as part of the project management plan and project schedule
UX lead, User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project manager, Project team member leads UX plan
Secondary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Noting down UX lessons learned UX lead,User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project team members UX lessons learned document (draft, may or may not necessarily for sharing at this stage)

Stage 2: Research
Stage 3: Analysis & synthesis
Stage 4: Definition
Stage 5: Design
Stage 6: Validation

Stage 2- Research

Primary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Project kickoff meeting User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project team members, web analytics lead Kickoff meeting report
Secondary research of all available useful data sources such as:
  1. Knowledge audit report
  2. Customer feedback
  3. Customer service data
  4. MI data
  5. BI data
  6. Web analytics data
  7. Search logs data
  8. Content audit or inventory
User researcher, Information architect Web analytics lead, MI lead, BI lead, KM lead Findings included in Research report
Stakeholder workshops User researcher Business analyst (BA) Findings included in Research report
Desirability elicitation User researcher None Findings included in Research report
Studying existing systems and evaluating their UX performance User researcher, Information architect, Usability analyst Web analytics lead, MI lead, BI lead, KM lead Current system UX performance report, can also be included in Research report
Low fidelity prototypes (paper prototyping)

User researcher

  Images of paper prototypes can be shared in the appendix of the Research report
User testing (formative usability testing) User researcher   Findings included in Research report
User interviews User researcher   Findings included in Research report

Contextual inquiry

User researcher   Findings included in Research report

Site visit or Field study

User researcher   Findings included in Research report

User survey

User researcher IT Infrastructure lead Findings included in Research report

Focus groups

User researcher   Findings included in Research report

Task analysis (using Heirarchial task analysis (HTA), GOMS (Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selection rules), Cognitive task analysis (CTA), Activity Theory)

User researcher   Findings included in Research report

Requirements meetings

User researcher Business analyst, Business process analyst Business requirements document

Card sorting

User researcher   High level site map included in research report
Domain UX best practices analysis User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist   Best practices slide deck, , relevant information included in Research report
Competitor analysis User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist   Competitor analysis slide deck, relevant information included in Research report
Secondary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Attending meetings: Internal project meetings, task level meetings, business lead update meetings, steering committee meetings User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project manager, Business analyst, technical lead  
Noting down UX lessons learned User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project team members UX lessons learned document (draft, may or may not necessarily for sharing at this stage)

Stage 1: Planning
Stage 3: Analysis & synthesis
Stage 4: Definition
Stage 5: Design
Stage 6: Validation

Stage 3- Data analysis & synthesis

Deliverables

The following can be included within or be linked to as a part of the research report, which is the main deliverable out of the research and data analysis & synthesis phases.

  1. Best practices presentation
  2. Competitior analysis report
  3. Stakeholder workshop report
  4. User interview findings and insights
  5. Contextual inquiry findings and insights
  6. Content audit or content inventory findings and insights
  7. Task analysis report
  8. Rought cut/ high level Information Architecuture (IA)
Primary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Related deliverables
Affinity diagramming User researcher   Images of affinity diagramming wall artefacts can be used as necessary in main sections or appendix of the report
Brainstorming User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Data architect, Business analyst  
Reframing User researcher Business analyst Does not need to be included in research report
Insight combination User researcher Business analyst Does not need to be included in research report
Card sorting User researcher, Information architect   High level site map can be included in the Research report
Reverse card sorting User researcher, Information architect   High level site map can be included in the Research report
Concept modelling User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Data architect, Business analyst Concept models can be included in the research report
Flow diagramming User researcher Business analyst Flow diagrams models may be included in the research report
Mental model diagramming User researcher Business analyst Mental model diagrams models may be included in the research report
Ecosystem mapping or forced semantic zoom User researcher Business analyst Should be included in research report
Customer journey mapping or forced temporal zoom User researcher Business analyst
Research report preparation User researcher   Research report
Secondary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Attending meetings: Internal project meetings, task level meetings, business lead update meetings, steering committee meetings User researcher    
Noting down UX lessons learned User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project team members UX lessons learned document (draft, may or may not necessarily for sharing at this stage)
Collaborate on Business requirements document preparation User researcher   Business requirements document

Next page: Details on primary and secondary UX activities, UX roles, collaborators and deliverables for the ‘Definition’ UX phase.

Stage 1: Planning
Stage 2: Research
Stage 4: Definition
Stage 5: Design
Stage 6: Validation

Stage 4- Definition

Activities

  1. Card sorting
  2. Reverse card sorting
  3. Site mapping
  4. Scenarios of use or Use cases

Deliverables

  1. Information architecture report
    1. Information architecture
      1. Site map
      2. Metadata collections & controlled vocabularies
Primary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Affinity diagramming User researcher   Images of affinity diagramming wall artefacts can be used as necessary in main sections or appendix of the report
Brainstorming User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Data architect, Business analyst
Card sorting User researcher, Information architec   High level site map can be included in the Research report
Reverse card sorting User researcher, Information architec   High level site map can be included in the Research report
Concept modelling User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Data architect, Business analyst Concept models can be included in the research report
Wizard of Oz User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist   Video of wizard of oz demonstration
Research report preparation User researcher   Research report
Secondary UX activities UX roles Collaborators Deliverables
Attending meetings: Internal project meetings, task level meetings, business lead update meetings, steering committee meetings User researcher    
Noting down UX lessons learned User researcher, Information architect, Interaction designer, Usability analyst, Content strategist Project team members UX lessons learned document (draft, may or may not necessarily for sharing at this stage)
Collaborate on Business requirements document preparation User researcher   Business requirements document

Stage 1: Planning
Stage 2: Research
Stage 3: Analysis & synthesis
Stage 5: Design
Stage 6: Validation

Stage 5- Design

Activities

  1. Parallel design
    1. High fidelity/ interactive prototyping/ wireframes
  2. User testing

Deliverables

  1. Design report
    1. Annotated high fidelity/ interactive prototypes/ wireframes
    2. Visual designs/ mockups
    3. User testing findings and recommendations
    4. IA report
  2. User interface (UI) design patterns
  3. Style guide

Stage 1: Planning
Stage 2: Research
Stage 3: Analysis & synthesis
Stage 4: Definition
Stage 6: Validation

Stage 6- Validation

Activities

  1. UI testing
  2. User testing report
  3. Rapid prototyping

Deliverables

  1. Updated design report
    1. Updated annotated high fidelity/ interactive prototypes/ wireframes
    2. Updated visual designs/ mockups
  2. Updated user interface (UI) design patterns
  3. Updated style guide

Stage 1: Planning
Stage 2: Research
Stage 3: Analysis & synthesis
Stage 4: Definition
Stage 5: Design