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Interaction Design Process

Design Process Diagram

Everyone has their own methods, and theories to accomplish certain task. It is not all that uncommon that I run across a team of developers who not only don't have process they often resist it. Funny thing is this resistance always comes back to them later.

The first question to ask is why we need process? - The second question to ask is what order should task be completed in? Third is to ask yourself are you wiling to build a good foundation to build a better product?

I am a stickler for process for many reasons. Once it helps bring sanity to my own chaos, second it gives me an organized manor for getting the necessary information out of other people, third it creates a dependable method for other people to communicate their ideas to me.

Process and task order are also extremely important for Interaction Designing.

Why does software fail?

Many companies often either completely ignore interaction design all together or they often place it in the wrong order in the production process. When companies do either of these they end up with a very difficult to understand program, features that are never or seldom utalized and ultimately frustrated users. Not only that, but many of the developers feel a sense of frsutration as they are often blammed for the problems with user interaction, and they are often frustrated because they built the foundation in a way that didn't allow them to see the longer and bigger goals of the software.

So what is the right method?

For many companies it is changing the order in which they work on a release. Design (specifically interaction design) needs to be at the forefront of the process. Why? Because the most inexpensive use of developement time can be reviewing prototypes. Even marketing people and project managers should be working directly with the Interaction designer(s). Part of writing the feature requirements needs to include the interaction designer.

  1. The initial role of the interaction designer is to determine what are the primary goals for end user(s)?
  2. Second is determining what the feature set will be based on task number one.
    *Often many companies have marketing personal or PM's (project Managers) create a feature list without asking the users what their goals are. Some of the better ones will aks users what features they are interested in but fail to ask or to understand what are the goals the user is trying to accomplish. A feature list should not be created until goals are established.
  3. The next step is to create and prioritize the feature list based on these factors:
    1. Goals of the user
    2. Marketing requirements (ultimately you need to sell these features)
    3. Development constraints
    4. Time, labor and financial contstraints

    Since this step obviously needs feedback from other departments it is important to keep these meetings brief. It is also important that the staff that are included in these meetings are able to approach these topics with an open mind and understand that this is a preliminary meeting to gather information.
  4. Once the initial feature list is created it is time to write up feature specs
  5. Working side by side with the project manager (and sometimes the CTO) create initial mockups. *It may take one or two rounds of mockups to help satisfy the requirements.
  6. Once initial mockups are complete these mockups will be used to gather additional feedback. The developers will look at them to determine development constrants and assist in determining labor budgeting and additional or alterations to the IT infrastructure.
  7. Around the same time it is also important to return to the users and present the mockups to get initial feedback.
    *It is important to lead these feedback gathering sessions with goal specific questions, meaning that rather than asking the user if they can figure out the application on their own, you direct them to a given task to accomplish one of the goals established in the first step.

  8. Based on feedback from the developers and based on feedback from users, I refine the mockups. It is usually in this step that I also start adding more interface details, and including more detailed interaction to result steps.
  9. The revisions are then discussed again and ultimately signed off on. Once signed off on, this is when developement should begin.
    *Why is it so important to wait until this step to
  10. This third step is meet together to briefly discuss the ideas with developers. If this step is implemented poorly what you end up with is a bunchof naysayers due to deadline pressures rather than

Even the most technically savey, text heavy book benefits from visual aids. As a result what you get is frustrated users who are constantly asking why. Interaction Design to be sucessful needs to be one of the first if not the first stage of production. Why is this? The proper process is key to making sure your efforts are well rewarded for your business