Design

How we approach UX @ MichiganLabs

July 29, 2019
How we approach UX @ MichiganLabs

At Michi¬≠gan Soft¬≠ware Labs, we focus on build¬≠ing supe¬≠ri¬≠or user expe¬≠ri¬≠ences (UX) for our clients and their cus¬≠tomers. While there are count¬≠less ways to define the UX design process, this one stands out: ‚Äč‚ÄúDesign is the process design teams use to cre¬≠ate prod¬≠ucts that pro¬≠vide mean¬≠ing¬≠ful and rel¬≠e¬≠vant expe¬≠ri¬≠ences to users.‚ÄĚ This all-encom¬≠pass¬≠ing process includes every¬≠thing from brand¬≠ing and usabil¬≠i¬≠ty to acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty and function.

To break the UX process down fur¬≠ther, there are three basic P‚Äôs to keep in mind: Peo¬≠ple, Prod¬≠uct, and Process. Let‚Äôs start with the first.

The Prod­uct

For a prod¬≠uct to suc¬≠ceed, it needs to be attrac¬≠tive and easy to use. We avoid a ‚Äč‚Äúbeau¬≠ty for beauty‚Äôs sake‚ÄĚ design men¬≠tal¬≠i¬≠ty in favor of sim¬≠plic¬≠i¬≠ty and sub¬≠stance and sim¬≠plic¬≠i¬≠ty. To get there, we believe the UX and soft¬≠ware devel¬≠op¬≠ment process¬≠es should almost always go hand in hand.

At Michi¬≠gan¬≠Labs this means:

  • Under¬≠stand¬≠ing our clients‚Äô pri¬≠or¬≠i¬≠ties first
  • Solic¬≠it¬≠ing user feedback
  • Design¬≠ing in a man¬≠ner that opti¬≠mizes the soft¬≠ware imple¬≠men¬≠ta¬≠tion process
  • Employ¬≠ing, and often exceed¬≠ing, UX design standards
  • Sup¬≠port¬≠ing and help¬≠ing clients under¬≠stand how the prod¬≠uct will evolve over time

The Process

There‚Äôs no sub¬≠sti¬≠tute for a but¬≠toned-up UX design process. At Michi¬≠gan¬≠Labs, we fol¬≠low these steps:

  • Once we under¬≠stand what suc¬≠cess looks like for the prod¬≠uct owner(s), we write user sto¬≠ries and/‚Äčor gath¬≠er design requirements
  • Cre¬≠ate wire¬≠frames or low-fideli¬≠ty designs, if needed
  • Seek user-feed¬≠back at all stages
  • Begin the high-fideli¬≠ty design process
  • Fol¬≠low an iter¬≠a¬≠tive, Agile process to get ongo¬≠ing feed¬≠back from users and prod¬≠uct owners
  • Make updates based on user and devel¬≠op¬≠er feedback

Note that design isn‚Äôt sim¬≠ply ‚Äč‚Äúhand¬≠ed off‚ÄĚ to the devel¬≠op¬≠ment team‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČit is a liv¬≠ing, con¬≠tin¬≠u¬≠al process of updat¬≠ing. While design is a means to an end prod¬≠uct, it‚Äôs doesn‚Äôt nec¬≠es¬≠sar¬≠i¬≠ly mir¬≠ror the final prod¬≠uct. Rather, it offers a use¬≠ful path.

To bet¬≠ter under¬≠stand that path, here are 6 Lean UX process stages we tend to follow:

  • Solve prob¬≠lems togeth¬≠er: Ensure every mem¬≠ber of your team is present dur¬≠ing brain¬≠storm¬≠ing for new projects. 
  • Give your teams prob¬≠lems to solve, not solu¬≠tions to imple¬≠ment. The out¬≠come will be a far more effi¬≠cient and pro¬≠duc¬≠tive team cre¬≠at¬≠ing high¬≠er qual¬≠i¬≠ty prod¬≠ucts and experiences. 
  • Sketch: Intro¬≠duce the team to sketch¬≠ing in order to help them visu¬≠al¬≠ize their ideas and come to a consensus. 
  • Pro¬≠to¬≠type: Get to a prod¬≠uct expe¬≠ri¬≠ence as quick¬≠ly as pos¬≠si¬≠ble. Use pro¬≠to¬≠types of vary¬≠ing fideli¬≠ties to get a sense of what your product‚Äôs expe¬≠ri¬≠ence will be and val¬≠i¬≠date that with cus¬≠tomers to ensure you‚Äôre head¬≠ed down the right path. 
  • Pair your devel¬≠op¬≠ers and design¬≠ers: Have devel¬≠op¬≠ers and design¬≠ers pair up to cre¬≠ate the user inter¬≠faces. Each will learn from the oth¬≠er and build the trust nec¬≠es¬≠sary for greater team col¬≠lab¬≠o¬≠ra¬≠tion and productivity. 
  • Cre¬≠ate a style guide: Cod¬≠i¬≠fy your design ele¬≠ments in pat¬≠tern libraries and code repos¬≠i¬≠to¬≠ries so cre¬≠at¬≠ing new pages and work¬≠flows in your prod¬≠uct is as easy as pick¬≠ing the pieces from the style guide. It also allows the team to quick¬≠ly piece togeth¬≠er expe¬≠ri¬≠ences for pro¬≠to¬≠types and empow¬≠ers your devel¬≠op¬≠ers to build inter¬≠faces with¬≠out con¬≠stant review with the UX designer.

The Peo­ple

The process and final prod¬≠uct are only as good as the peo¬≠ple work¬≠ing on it. To max¬≠i¬≠mize results, we define the design and deliv¬≠ery lead roles a bit dif¬≠fer¬≠ent¬≠ly than oth¬≠er companies:

  • A UX design¬≠er pairs with a deliv¬≠ery lead on every project 
  • The deliv¬≠ery lead works close¬≠ly with the prod¬≠uct owner(s) and soft¬≠ware devel¬≠op¬≠ers, while the UX design¬≠er offers tech¬≠ni¬≠cal support
  • The UX design¬≠er uses research to under¬≠stand the user and the prob¬≠lem to be solved. This includes client strat¬≠e¬≠gy sessions.
  • The UX design¬≠er also stew¬≠ards the design process. This means using appro¬≠pri¬≠ate fonts, brand¬≠ing ele¬≠ments, col¬≠ors, acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty, and more.

Con­tin­u­al­ly learning

A strong UX process is high­ly adapt­able, nev­er rigid. Agile and iter­a­tive in nature, it is capa­ble of new learn­ings and cre­ative solu­tions not only between, but also with­in, each project we under­take. The end result is design that is usable, acces­si­ble, and attractive.

For more UX think¬≠ing from our team, check out this acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty post by Iulia Rontu.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
Co-founder & Managing Partner

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