At its root, UX design is about telling stories. You can think of a story as how information is passed to a user as they move through an interface, but also how the user currently behaves, and how they could behave in the future. Storytelling is where research transitions into design.
Image from www.kstoolkit.org – Source unknown
In my last blog, I talked about finding empathy with users through observation. The information collected during those sessions becomes a diagram of the existing workflow. Once we have a diagram of an existing workflow, we can then simplify it into our ideal new workflow. The old workflow tells the existing story of the users day and the simplified workflow tells the new story.
That is how the story is created; but, how do you actually tell that story to the client? The new workflow may look very foreign to them, especially if you’ve automated some of their daily tasks. You have to show them how it will work.
This is the first area in which actual design comes into play. The simplified workflows gives you a series of actions which to design against. You can take this story, and design a “strawman” wireframe, the purpose of which is to surface interaction patterns that may occur. Once you know what the user needs to do and what the interface needs to display, you can back up, and iterate as many different design options as possible. A few will likely surface as contenders for validating with the client.
What you are driving toward at this point is a “framework”. The framework is the overall interaction model that will persist throughout the application. A good framework will allow the stakeholders to understand at a high level how the system will work, and how their lives will be better for it. It tells the story for you, but does so before too much effort has been spent. Thus if the design needs to be adjusted, its less painful to do so. Validating at this stage also helps build buy-in and excitement from stakeholders.
The transition from research to design is critical to a project’s success. Designing to tell a story of how the user’s life will improve dives buy-in, and makes detailed design a lot easier, and faster.