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The User Experience Brief



Presentation by John Yesko at the 2011 Information Architecture Summit (IA Summit) entitled: "The User Experience Brief: The What and Why Before the How." ...

Presentation by John Yesko at the 2011 Information Architecture Summit (IA Summit) entitled: "The User Experience Brief: The What and Why Before the How."

We IAs spend a lot of time discussing the “core” documents in information architecture—wireframes, site maps, prototypes. But we often jump into these very tactical, design-oriented deliverables too hastily.

The user experience brief takes on a more strategic role. Early in the project, it’s our vehicle to summarize what we know so far, particularly requirements and research results. More importantly though, it lays the foundation for the UX design approach, with the goals of gathering consensus and identifying sticking points early on. The user experience brief illuminates the organizing principles—user experience fundamentals to be followed and referenced throughout the project.

We’ll talk about the value of this early-project document, its role in shaping the user experience approach, how its composed, and its limitations. We’ll look at a number of great visual examples too. Introduced the right way and at the right time, the UX brief can be an invaluable stake in the ground with clients and internal stakeholders.



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    The User Experience Brief The User Experience Brief Presentation Transcript

    • The User Experience Brief
      John Yesko
      IA Summit 2011
    • About me
      Now: Director of User Experience at Walgreens
      Information Architect / UX Designer
      Web Designer
      Medical Illustrator
    • User Experience at
    • User Experience at
      UX group
      Organized by lines of business
      13 UX designers
      Information architecture
      Interaction design
      User research
      Just announced deal to acquire Drugstore.com
      60K more products
      3M loyal customers
      Several strong URLs/brands
      Looking for experienced UX help in Chicago!
      And small agencies
    • Basics
    • What is the UX brief?
      Early-stage strategic approach document with two primary goals:
      Summarizes what we know so far = output of Discovery process
      Sets up how we intend to attack the project
    • Who is it for?
      Clients (external)
      Business owners and executives (internal)
      “Downstream” team
    • Where does it fit?
      Delivery to Creative and Technical
      Business Requirements Document
      User Experience Team
      UX Business Insight
      UX Brief
      Implementation / Product Assignment
      UX Business Insight
      User Flows *
      User Flows and Wireframes: Conceptual
      Wireframes: Detailed / Annotated
      Input from Stakeholders
      User Research
      User Research
      *Your process may vary
    • Why do we use it?
      To get a head start on building consensus
      To discover any early “red flags”
      As a touch point to reference later (CYA)
    • Composition of the Brief
    • What’s in the UX brief?
      “Master” content outline includes:
      Project overview
      User experience inputs
      Organizing principles
      Issues and risks
      Tailored to the particular project
      Varies in length depending on needs (and audience’s attention span)
      Often doesn’t include every possible element
    • User Experience Inputs
    • User experience inputs—what we know
      Insights from:
      User research
      User experience / heuristic
    • Inputs
      Analytics insights
      Survey results
      Other metrics
      Customer satisfaction
      On-site behavior
    • Inputs
      User research insights
      Usability tests
      Card sorting
      “I can’t find where to refill my prescription.”
      “Let me finish my primary task first—then I’m OK with being upsold.”
      “No additional features - the Home page is so crowded now that I want to give up now rather than slog through the ads and options for what I'm after…”
      “[Expletive] just ordered a calender on walgreens.com and it was literally the hardest thing I've ever done in awhile, [expletive] that.”
    • Inputs
      Personas and scenarios
      May be developed specifically for larger / longer-term projects
      Existing “approved” personas can be referenced where applicable
      Scenarios may reflect requirements and preview functionality
    • Inputs
      Competitive insights
      Best practices
      Opportunities to fill a missing need
      Emerging standards, e.g., common functionality or taxonomy
    • Inputs
      Stakeholder insights
      Goals and challenges from those sponsoring the project
      Consensus, or alliances on controversial topics
      “We have a great story to tell. We need rich case studies to show what we’ve done in the past.”
      “Booking appointments online is great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we can get them into the shop right away when they show up.”
      “When a potential customer sends an email inquiry through the site, it typically gets shuffled around to five or six people. We don’t have any way to track whether it’s been followed up.”
    • Inputs
      User experience / heuristic insights
      Observations from the UX team
      May be hypotheses, not yet proven by user research (or unprovable)
      Potentially confusing category labels
      Inefficient global navigation
    • Inputs
      Stupid elevator buttons
    • Organizing Principles
    • What are organizing principles?
      Loosely interpreted:
      Fundamentals and strategies we will observe while designing
      Major areas of UX focus
      High-level design approach
      Range from general to specific
      Generic UX guidelines
      Project-specific design ideas
    • What are organizing principles?
      May include other “deliverables”:
      Concept map
      User flow
      High-level wireframes
      Suggestions of look and feel (e.g., mood boards)
    • What are organizing principles?
      Examples from several diverse projects…
    • Examples
      Really means…
      There will be several influences, but we’re ultimately making the decision.
      Leverage multiple inputs to taxonomy design
      Industry Standards
      Internal Business Insight
      User Experience Team Analysis
      User Research
    • Examples
      Really means…
      We care most about what customers think of our higher-level taxonomy. Once we get down to the deeper levels, we need the internal team to make decisions—because it’s harder to test (and it’s a lot of work.)
      Leverage multiple inputs to taxonomy design
      The inputs will have different levels of influence at various levels of the taxonomy.
      User Research
      Internal Insight
      Industry Standards
      Tier 1
      Tier 2
      Tier 3
      Tier 4
    • Examples
      Really means…
      If we can’t figure this out pretty soon, it will be hard to proceed with the UX design at all. We’ll give you our opinions, but it’s primarily a business decision that we don’t have authority to make.
      Establish the online relationship among the three brands
    • Examples
      Really means…
      There are parts of the site that we’re not going to touch—but others that we need access to and cooperation on.
      Position the holiday content as free-standing, but with key hooks into permanent site features
    • Examples
      Really means…
      Just what is says—this one is more about a design philosophy.
      Treat the product as the core, and organize the site around it
    • Examples
      Really means…
      We’re getting rid of all this crap that you all fight over, but users don’t care about.
      Eliminate underused or poor-performing content
      Low usage; poor content
      Low usage; poor labeling
      May be consolidated
      Low usage; especially frames 2-5
      Low usage; redundant
    • Examples
      Really means…
      You came to us for a re-design of your site, and we’re doing that. But your main call-to-action is that users should contact you to establish a relationship. If you screw that up, it doesn’t matter how good the site is.
      By the way, we don’t do CRM systems—this isn’t an upsell.
      Develop a lead management / CRM solution
    • Examples
      Really means…
      This is a multi-channel experience (even though we’re only working on one channel). If we promise something on the Web that the in-store experience doesn’t follow through on, both are screwed.
      Adapt store operations to integrate with eCommerce
    • Examples
      Really means…
      There’s a real “cool factor” with your work, but your 100x100 pixel graphics aren’t cutting it.
      Also we have a bunch of visual designers with hipster glasses who get tired of combing through stock photo sites.
      Leverage the rich visual nature of the company’s work
    • Examples
      Really means…
      This kind of shopping is still new to a lot of people. If they don’t understand the overall concept, it won’t matter how usable the site is.
      Introduce customers to the concept of buying online, not just buying from us
      Make an appointment at one of our certified installers
      Go in for your installation appointment, and you’re done!
      We ship your tires to the installer
      Choose your tires
      Check out online
    • Examples
      Really means…
      We’re going to expand the use of dynamic menus.
      Expand the use of dynamic menus
      Fly-out menus can empower more direct user navigation to deeper content and functionality
      Accessibility and mobile device limitations need to be considered
      Refill Prescriptions
      Transfer Prescriptions
      New Prescriptions
      Express Refills In-Store
      Chat With a Pharmacist
      Automatic Refills
    • Considerations
    • Risks and limitations
      May quickly become out-of-date as details are fleshed out
      Approach evolves as design details are worked out
      Treat as a “snapshot” in time
      Can create a perception of added time that could be spent designing
      Although it probably saves time in the long run
      Stakeholders may not understand what they’re agreeing to
      Can be too abstract for some to provide meaningful feedback
      May not engage until they’re seeing design treatments
    • Wrap up
      Helps survey the situation
      Who has strong opinions? How much weight do we need to give them?
      What factions are going to clash?
      What important issues may have been missed?
      Encourages collaboration early (or at least healthy discussion)
      Can save time defending solutions later
      Winning over key allies can smooth the road
      Builds credibility for UX
      Demonstrates that a lot goes into the design process
      Positions us as strategic thinkers and experience planners, not order-takers
    • Thank You
      John Yesko