A couple of weeks back, I launched UX Assist — An iOS app that provides workflows for designers driven by UX activities. It’s the first app of its kind that has grouped UX activities into 12 unique workflows based on the kind of product you’re working on, namely, an optimum viable product, minimum viable product, client-based product and a data-driven product. I will be discussing more about these product types later in the article. 🤓
The app gives you activity based recommendations for each product type and assists you in making your own workflow according to your business and product requirements. Moreover, you get access to over 100 UX cards with bite-sized information about each activity.
Today, I’m really excited to tell you about the making of UX Assist. It’s a bit lengthy article. So, don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee! 😃
In May 2015, I started thinking about a tool that can help designers streamline their design process along with providing them tips and guidance related to various UX activities. The thought came from my personal experience in designing websites and products for over 8 years. Designers think all the time — in transit, sitting in a coffee shop, at work or while simply relaxing in front of TV. It made sense to give a tool that can be used offline so as to get them started with their thought process and also assists them in their UX design lifecycle. However, I was not sure what that tool would be — a mobile app, a web app or a desktop app? Also, will designers use such a tool?And how would they like to use it? It was time to test my ideas and hypotheses through user research.
As part of my secondary research, I started digging into reports, papers, articles and conference videos to understand how designers work and the design processes they follow for their products. A report by NN/g revealed that 75% designers perform 16+ UX activities while 50% perform 25+ UX activities. All these activities are related to user research, information architecture, interaction design, visual design and testing. Another survey conducted by Leah Buley indicated that partial implementation and lack of understanding of UX design process accounted for 49% of problems that prevent companies from having a greater impact of UX on their products.
Secondary research revealed that designers usually have a full-plate of UX activities to perform and that its not always easy to fully go through them in the entire UX design lifecycle. However, this only painted half the picture. It was important to speak with designers first-hand so as to have a better understanding of the whole scenario. As part of primary research, I interviewed designers from product companies and design agencies. Most of the opinions resonated with the findings of secondary research. For a team of less than 3 designers, it was tough to follow through various UX activities, especially those related to user research and usability testing. A significant finding was related to implementation of user research activities in different companies. Less than 10% of product companies did qualitative primary research like ethnography, interviews or diary studies while 45% of them did quantitative research in the form of surveys. A majority of them relied on secondary research. Speaking of design agencies, most of them did not do any kind of user research due to strict time and budget constraints. Design process also varied between agencies and product companies. Fast and furious in the former while more agile in the latter.
Designers also conveyed that they were not looking for a new desktop tool to plan their design process. They wanted something that can be used anywhere and assists them in their process along with integrating it in their existing planning tools like Trello and Asana.
I also conducted a survey to have a quantitative understanding of various UX activities carried out by designers.
I gathered the following key insights from my research of about 3 months:
- Design processes are tough to follow due to various constraints but can be very rewarding when done effectively.
- Design processes vary according to product type, nature of business and time, resource and budget constraints.
- Designers are already working with multiple tools in their projects. A supplemental tool is always preferred over a new tool.
- Most designers are always looking forward to learn something new in their field.
The Core framework
Based on my research, I decided to distribute various UX activities into four product types — Optimum Viable Product, Minimum Viable Product, Client-based product and Data-driven product.
So, what do they mean?
Optimum Viable Product (OVP)- You need an OVP when you’re dealing with a well-established market that has multiple competitors. For example, if you’re venturing into food-tech market, you’ll want your app to be an OVP rather than a MVP. That’s because you’re entering a competitive market and users already have some set expectations with food delivery apps. You need to ship a product that provides the most optimal experience to the user.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — We all have heard about MVP, right? You build a MVP when you’re working on an innovative product with limited time, customer data, money and people resources. It makes sense to first test the product with your intended audience and then build upon it based on customer feedback.
Client-based product — As the name suggests, it’s suitable for design agencies dealing with clients for designing digital products.
Data-driven product — If you’ve a product with an established customer base, you should go for a data-driven product to further enhance it.
Every product type was given a different set of UX activities depending on the medium (Mobile, Web or Multi-platform).
It was understood that designers want something that can be used anywhere. Hence, I decided to make a mobile app that works completely offline. Numerous books, articles and papers were also referred to make UX cards for the app. I think more designers should refer the excellent papers available at SIGCHI and SIGDOC. If you’re a UX researcher, you will find this an invaluable resource for your projects.
I also jotted down guiding principles and anti-principles for the app. Guiding principles are the fundamental beliefs that drive the product whereas anti-principles are against the product vision. They help you focus on the product and prevent any feature creeps.
By now, I had the core framework and a good understanding of what the tool will be and how it will work. It was time for visual design!
I started sketching out wireframes and kept iterating on them based on the feedback from my designer friends. The idea was to make the interface as simple and intuitive as possible.
The flow was pretty straight-forward:
Some variations of the workflow layout were also made in-accordance with Apple’s Human Interface Guideline.
Finally, I decided to go ahead with the table cell scroll layout as it felt more intuitive and less complex than the collection layout.
One of the challenges was deciding the right combination of colors for the app. I tried a few schemes based on traditional color theory. The biggest help came from the book “Interaction of Colors” by Joseph Albers. The interactive version of the book (available on iPad) lets you play with different color plates so that you can make better decisions related to color mixtures, intensity, intervals and transformation. I highly recommend this book (both print and digital) to anyone who is interested in color theory and wants to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals.
Post visual design, I decided to make a quick prototype for the app in Framer. An interactive prototype greatly helps you in deciding on screen transitions, subtle animations and the overall look and feel of the app. The prototype went through a couple of iterations based on the feedback from my fellow designers. Following are very early prototypes made in Framer. They’re a little buggy but were a good starting point to visualize interactions in the app:
Product type selection prototype. Code — https://github.com/aditgupta/uxassist-framer/blob/master/product-selection
Prototype Link 1 — http://share.framerjs.com/cv4msjp6x1o1/
An early prototype for medium selection screen. Code — https://github.com/aditgupta/uxassist-framer/blob/master/medium_selection
Prototype Link 2 — http://share.framerjs.com/ip3bxds5z9d1/
With the prototype ready, it was time to fire up Xcode and get the app ready for the world!
It took me close to 6 months for completing the app (3 months research + 3 months of design and development). The app is under continual development and will be updated with new content and features frequently. You should expect more workflows and integration with Trello in upcoming versions. The app was not only fun to make but was also a great learning experience for me. It’s really satisfying and rewarding to understand the hard work that designers put in to make a product. I am now looking forward to talk with even more designers to understand their process and their thoughts about UX design. If you’re interested to have a good talk about UX design, feel free to drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .