I love this quote and I frequently use it when introducing the UX and UI design processes to new customers and to internal design and development teams when we start up a new project.
Too many times the design and development teams want to build something in a way they are familiar with or personally enjoy or want to force that latest new thing into an experience. But they forget these products are not being built for them. They may use the product when it’s completed, but they are not the User while its being built.
I began adopting the UX and UI design strategies and Information Architecture methodologies into my visual design solutions in 2002 when I started working as a Graphic Designer for a defense contractor designing online training products and website interfaces for Government and Defense customers. The structure of the UX and UI design processes fascinated me because they actually define the framework for the visual design phase when done correctly. As a Graphic Designer, I adhered to the “function follows form” ideology but now I blend the disciplined approach of UX/UI processes with the open-ended possibilities of visual design solutions to more effectively define a roadmap for a variety of creative and user-centered design challenges.
CASE STUDY ONE: Remote Tour Guide
The Project: Develop an app for use in remote areas of Pennsylvania state parks where no internet connectivity is available for the purpose of supplementing educational experiences at static kiosks along trails by utilizing mobile devices.
The Problem: Visitor experiences on remote mountain trails are limited to static visuals posted to outdoor kiosks. These visuals are susceptible to fading and deterioration and also require staff to visit each kiosk to post new content which includes a considerable cost for materials and time. Lastly, a need to bring in younger visitors to the parks is important to their longevity and finding a way to integrate mobile device technology is a great way to accomplish this goal.
The Solution: Build a product that integrates QR code technology and GPS location services to launch enhanced educational experiences including augmented reality, translucent overlays, video, or static content. Using QR and GPS technology allows visitors to launch these experiences without internet service. They simply download the app prior to their visit or at the visitors center before they start their tour to ensure they have the most recent content.
I started with quick sketches to show basic flow of the anticipated User interaction with the app and began to develop ideas for the menu items and other features that may be desired. These features were also outlined in what would become a features backlog document. This document allowed us to determine the sequence of features to build in each development phase based on priority and build cost.
Once the basic flow was outlined, I began to visualize specific design elements and think about complex menu options such as offering multiple experiences launched from a single scan at a kiosk. Rudimentary UI layouts and function placement were also starting to form.
Now the flow begins to become refined and specific UI elements are chosen for the first development cycle. We also see where the handoff occurs between the proprietary app product and the customer's version of the product. This is important because it helps us start to understand who owns which portion of this product and where appropriate branding needs to reside.
The Result: This project is still under development but interest has been generated with other agencies such as the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and also local businesses interested in sponsoring portions of the product to support their business and help fund product development.