Depending on the make-up of the team, UX designers play various roles. In my past 16 years of experience, I have gained experience in the following:
A great tool to help inform design decisions. These tests can be done quickly and offer solid results.
Talking to your users about more than just features provides an enormous amount of information that helps inform persona development as well and specific features.
Quantitative data helps the team decide where to focus their efforts. Understanding what your users are saying vs what they are doing can lead to interesting insights.
It would be great if requirements could just be picked up, but most of the time a hunt and gather approach is needed. It’s important to understand the personalities of the various stakeholders to plan a strategy of interviews and facilitated sessions.
Personas and scenarios are important tools to understand who the product or feature is indented for. Personas help keep the entire team focus on a specific type of user and avoid the elastic persona, where each member redefines who they are talking about. Together with scenarios, the team can agree on goals then move on to more detail tasks. In the absence of these two tools, teams tend to swirl around and fail to converge on solutions.
Any one interface should have one primary persona. Multiple primary personas leads to an unfocused and confusing interface for both personas.
Secondary personas play an important role on the page, but not at the costs of the primary’s. Their features might be a little further down the page or lighter in visual weight.
Tertiary personas are accounted for, but their features may be layered back behind a pop-up or linked page.
Team members that populate the site with content or provide support are also affected by features and their redesigns. These personas also have to be accounted for as they lead to a monetary impact for the business.
Once the proper information had been gathered user flow diagrams, sketches and wireframes/prototypes are started. Each is intended to communicate quickly without getting into unnecessary overhead costs. I am particularly fond of prototypes as the help communicate ideas with minimal translation. Unlike many other design disciplines, these prototypes are to scale and in the actual material.I strive to produce many variations in a minimal amount of time as it’s easier to cut ideas than select ideas that were not give a chance.
Once the flow and general structure has been decided, details need to be hashed out. Edge case states need to be accounted for and well documented. Collaboration with visual design is important to maintain the design intent at all stages. Transition animations can be tuned to communicate but not annoy.
And finally the Form & Behavior Specification is an art form to itself. It has to be detailed enough to guide developers and delineate for QA, yet at the same time it has to be light enough to be read. I prefer to communicate in person whenever possible, but documenting hard requirements is usually needed. As with most everything else, the approach has to be tailored to work with the given team culture.
Once the entire project has be researched, tested, refined and defined, the Agile design process starts. There are always unknowns that come up, both limitations and opportunities. It is important to stay connected through these phase in order to adjust as needed without loosing the design intent and all the research that was done in the previous stages.
I push to be active in during the requirements management writing and prioritizing. As bugs come up and scope cut hits, it’s important to stay flexible but mindful of the impact to the user. At the end of the day, user experience designers are the advocate for the user.