UX deliverables that are relevant, timely, and targeted
Factors determining how much effort goes into creating UX deliverables.
Picture yourself in your 2nd grade Science classroom, it’s 15min before the end of the day and the teacher asks the class to draw planet Earth.
A circle and some horizontal squiggly lines are drawn by your first classmate within a minute. After a few minutes, another classmate is ready: they drew a similar circle and lines to the first but also colored some blue and green areas. After about ten minutes, most students start to hand over their drawings: they now have similar continent shapes, shaded beige for sandy regions, and white for poles.
The bell rings! 😣
You are staring at your half-finished drawing… as you hand it to your teacher, you realize it doesn’t look like planet Earth at all.
This happens to UX designers as well. The main difference is that designers would extend their working hours and pause something else to be able to finish.
Ultimately, the problem is not the task, but what you take into account to accomplish it. In the case of UX designers (and second graders who draw), it is simply a matter of our message and its Fidelity. This article explains what fidelity is, as well as how multiple factors affect the amount of fidelity needed in UX Deliverables.
Those with a UX designer role often have a broad range of responsibilities: from designing prototypes to collaborating with subject-matter experts or carrying out qualitative usability tests.
The Nielsen Norman Group defines the role of a UX Designer as shown above (full article here). This “broad range of responsibilities” of UX Designers varies per person and by company, but one thing remains constant: their primary responsibility is to collaborate and communicate ideas with others. It is here where UX Deliverables/models become handy.
A UX model can be created in a number of ways, from a quick pen & paper sketch to a detailed pixel-perfect design. There will be differences in the look and form of personas, wireframes, prototypes, and user journey maps depending on the effort and time invested. Differences in the final result based on the effort are called FIDELITY.
A UX model that conveys more information takes longer to produce but can be easier to understand. Something that takes less time to make has a lower degree of fidelity and is more difficult for others to understand. So it works both ways.
Work smarter, not harder
It is likely that all your colleagues will understand you perfectly if you break your back and create every single model with high fidelity, though eventually, you will run out of time (remember: 24 hours per day!) or burn out due to the high pressure. On the other hand, you are likely to get misunderstood if you create all models in low fidelity.
To maintain both your time and job, it is important to strike the right balance when it comes to effort and fidelity. Depending on the situation, how can you find the sweet spot?
The following four factors affect how you decide upon the fidelity of your models:
- How far? — Distance from the audience. How far apart are you from your audience?
- When? — Time when the model will be delivered. When is the person receiving the model?
- Who? — Identify who you are presenting your model to — Who receives the model?
- Who else? — The extent to which the model will be shared? Who else receives the model?
Fidelity Factor 1: How far?
During the pre-Covid era, if you wanted to talk to someone about any topic at work, you would usually visit their desk or schedule a face-to-face meeting. In today’s world, most of our work is done online. Many companies see this as a problem since collaboration tends to get more challenging the farther apart people are.
It is easier to understand in-person conversations due to body language, tone of voice, and gestures. This presents a disadvantage to remote working and requires higher fidelity when presenting models remotely.
As distance increases, fidelity must increase as well.
Tips for this factor
- Make every effort to meet in person whenever possible
- Prepare beforehand to cover all topics with your model since you won’t have the opportunity to ask spontaneous questions in-person
- Video on remote meetings when possible allows for gestures to be seen by the audience
- If you are showing your model on a remote meeting, choose a location with a good internet connection and low background noise, so that calls can be made uninterrupted and sound can be heard clearly
Fidelity Factor 2: When?
There are three types of possible times in which models can be communicated: sync, async, or a mix of both.
By having a back-and-forth conversation, you are able to share and discuss a lot of information simultaneously. You can use conversation to resolve any gaps in understanding between you and your audience. Misunderstandings lead to questions that can be answered right away. Models require less fidelity since you have the opportunity to verbally explain any information gap in the design.
Examples of this type are face-to-face chats, video or audio calls, and in-person workshops.
In this case, there is a delay in the communication loop. The longer it takes between messages, the more challenging it is to answer follow-up questions or resolve misunderstandings. Misunderstandings lead to questions that take time to be answered. Models require higher fidelity since you want to ensure the minimum amount of information gaps in the design.
Examples of this type are email threads that take up to several days to be answered and the comments section on wiki pages that require additional processing to be reviewed.
Mix of both
In this case, the rhythm of the information interchange varies depending on the attention provided by each end of the conversation. Models vary in the required amount of fidelity depending on the attention of the audience. The most common example of this is a messaging chat where both parties leave and return.
As time gap in communication increases, fidelity must increase as well.
Tips for this factor
- Make every effort to sync whenever possible. Be careful though, since regular meetings with no additional value tend to lower audience involvement. Adjust the rhythm of syncs to the amount of new information you can bring to models.
- Prepare beforehand for possible questions with your model since you won’t have the opportunity to ask spontaneous questions in-person
- Take Screenshots or photos of scribbles over having to write everything
- Audio or video recordings help get more information out with less effort
Fidelity Factor 3: Who?
Four audiences can evaluate a model: you, your team, your organization, and your users.
A sticky note with a scribble and 4 words can be considered a model that is enough for you to follow. There is no doubt that this scenario is low fidelity. Nevertheless, don’t get fall on the When? factor and forget what the scribble was about a few weeks later, give your future self a chance.
Colleagues with whom you share common understandings. Whether it’s about UX or the domain you’re working on. Because you are usually in contact with them, they understand the context in which your models are derived.
Due to less frequent collaboration, their understanding of the subject can become limited. Raise the fidelity of your models when communicating with colleagues outside your inner circle.
When you explain every detail and context of your model to the user, they will be able to relate your model to their goals.
For UX Designers working in consulting, depending on the relationship you have established with your client: they can be positioned close to the Team or further away closer to the Users.
The audience with whom you collaborate the least requires higher fidelity from your models
Tips for this factor
- Maintain a close relationship with your client by collaborating as much as possible and have a bigger shared understanding
- Engage as many people on the project in the UX process as possible in order to extend the reach of the shared understanding and expand the team
- Define your audience clearly so you can gauge your work’s fidelity
- One model can provide multiple messages, be precise about the message you want to share. The further away from you, the more precise you need to be to avoid people focusing on the wrong things.
Fidelity Factor 4: Who else?
Does your direct audience share your models with others? Do other audiences, as well as the target audience, will have access to this model? When deciding on the fidelity of your model, you should keep these two questions in mind since they provide insight into the reach of your model.
Usually, it happens when you send a model to a colleague and they forward it to a superior. Similarly, you can publish a model to a wiki and tag a colleague, but everyone at the company has access to it.
As reach increases, fidelity must increase as well
Tips for this factor
- Record yourself or the meeting where you explain the model and add the link of the recording to the model before you share it
- If possible provide an accompanying text and contact information if any questions arise
- Highlight a disclaimer like: “Work in progress”, “Draft” or “In Review”
- After the project has reached a certain level of maturity, public sharing is encouraged; however, the fidelity will have to be higher.
Work smarter, not harder. Think of: how far? when? who? who else? is going to see your model before you jump into a Figma file and start designing the Sixteenth Chappel of User Journeys.
Rule of thumb 👍: The further you are to whoever will see your UX model, the more fidelity it will need.