Design artifacts are the tangible bi-products produced during the course of a project. These artifacts can help clarify the problem at hand, define or describe the intended solution to be built or help visualize the customer or customer experience. I believe that design artifacts are extremely useful during the entire design and development process; not just because they typically inform the next steps but because they tend to facilitate clearer communication and alignment across cross-functional teams and more clearly convey decisions that could be misinterpreted if left to conversation alone.
Business Model Canvases
A business model canvas is a great way to quickly describe, design and define all of required parts of an innovate new business. It is a great tool to help understand a business model in a straightforward, structured way. Creating a Business modal canvas can help define the customers you serve, what value propositions are offered through what channels, and how the company makes money.
A Business requirements document (BRD) is a written document that outlines and describes all the required aspects for a product or project. It is developed to create alignment between cross functional business teams and to allow people to understand what a product should do. A PRD should, however, generally avoid anticipating or defining how the product will do it in order to later allow designers and engineers to explore, test and apply their expertise to create the optimal solution.
A persona represents a group of users who share a unique set of attributes. Personas are typically developed from user research and reflect user goals, needs and interests. Design personas tend to focus on user goals, current behavior, and pain points and are used for developing products. Marketing personas tend to focus on demographic information, buying motivations and preferences and media habits. Sometimes these personas can overlap but typically its better to keep them separate so that the key insight doesn’t get diluted or miss interpreted.
Journey Map & Empathy Maps
These artifacts tend to be technology agnostic and in some way, tell the story of the customer’s experience from start to finish. They can give an overview of the entire experience or focus on a particular part of the story. What they always do is illustrate key steps and interactions that the customer has in order to achieve a goal. If this document is a written example of a user’s journey I call those User Scenarios. If they are visual and illustrate the tasks taken to complete a process then I refer to those as Task Flows and if they incorporate the user’s feelings, motivations and questions for each touchpoint I call those “Empathy Maps.
An experience map is a visual model of an experience that showcases the hierarchy and architecture of the experience and how a website’s content is connected and can potentially be navigated. Depending on the experience these can go by other names such as a site map, application map or decision map.
Wireframes are low fidelity designs that illustrate the information architecture of a screen and are used to explore different way information, content and features are incorporated into the design of the page. This is where different information hierarchies and feature prioritizations and interaction models are explored and global and semi global design patterns are established and applied to various pages.
Taxonomies are the classification and categorization of information and content. Multiple taxonomies can exist for the same content within an application or experience if different user groups seek or categorize the information id different ways. Card sorting and reverse card sorting exercises are great research methods to help ensure taxonomies reflect the mental models of actual users.
Usecases are similar to Journey maps except instead of being technology agnostic, they showcase a very specific path or sequence of screens a user can take within an application or experience. Because an experience usually have an infinite number of possible usecases, I typically create a set of “Primary Usecases” that help illustrate the paths most frequently taken or are most critical for completing a task. This extra set of artifacts helps ensure extra attention is given to these areas of the experience.
In the eyes of a user, good UX typically goes unnoticed, however visual design is always noticed and therefor perhaps the most influential aspect of the design process. A good design system can help guide users in how to navigate an experience or persuade them to explore other aspects of it. It can use colors and imagery that convey familiarity and relevancy and connect with them on an emotional level. And if done well a visual design system can help convey an aspect of trust in the product at large. I refer to this as a P.E.T. (Persuasion, Emotion and Trust) visual design system.
I use various types of prototypes to evaluate and test various aspects of concepts, processes and designs. Depending on what I am testing for I will use prototypes with various levels of fidelity or detail to simulate the experience enough to not distract a user from understanding how to interact with or use the product but also develop it so that the test requires as little development effort as possible. This type of rapid prototyping can take shape as printed paper screens, interactive wireframes, interactive visual designs and sometimes even fully downloadable applications.
Measurement Frameworks and Metrics
A measurement framework is a plan that connects top-line business goals to key performance indicators (KPIs) for the business, which in-turn are directly impacted by product usage metrics. A measurement frame work can help provide insight and a strategy for further improving and optimizing the digital experience while informing the broader digital marketing strategy by understanding which digital channels most effectively drive key conversion and KPIs.