Welcome to User Designs

User Designs provides a full range of user experience and design services, which can be combined to create a project plan customized to your specific needs. We also offer any of our services a la carte, so you can integrate us with your own project team or work through larger projects step by step.

Our Services

Needs Analysis

A Needs Analysis is a key first step for projects that consist of several services. It is also useful as a stand alone service. If you're not ready to commit to a large project, but want recommendations about how to go about improving your product or service, a Needs Analysis is an excellent way to prioritize what needs to be done, or to clarify budget and timeline requirements to project stakeholders.

The Needs Analysis clarifies objectives and challenges, clearly stating goals and recommended steps. During this task, we begin to determine possible design innovation points, identify development challenges, document current or future product requirements, and establish constraints that might afffect a project. To help determine these things, we gather information about business objectives, product and the project requirements, user profiles, and known issues regarding constraints and opportunities for product design. We also review and analyze existing data, such as current designs, demos, and functional prototypes, and conduct in-person and remote meetings with project team members and stakeholders to discuss and/or determine high-level issues, such as project priorities, business/marketing objectives, target audience, user feedback and pain points.

We then take that information and apply our knowledge of the user experience design project cycle to make prioritized short and long term recommendations about what steps you should take to improve your product or service, and how to go about taking those steps.

Heuristic Evaluation

A Heuristic Evaluation is an in-depth analysis conducted by a usability specialist to evaluate the extent to which a tool follows established web conventions and principles, known as heuristics. The heuristic evaluation provides actionable short and long term recommendations for improving your product or service. This is excellent as a stand alone project or as a service conducted early in the project cycle.

Following close review of every aspect of the user interface - including navigation, interaction behavior, information visualization, and overall visual design - the Heuristic Evaluation process concludes with a detailed final report or presentation of expert findings. The report provides detailed identification, categorization, and prioritization of usability problems based upon severity, together with targeted recommendations for improvement and/or resolution of said issues.

Usability Heuristics used by User Designs have been adapted from those defined by Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, Bruce Tognazzini, and a variety of industry expert sources.

Conceptual Design

Conceptual Design initiates the process of translating requirements into an actual user interface, by focusing on representing and validating user tasks, core functionality, content, and business rules through rapid and iterative creation, review, and modification of visual artifacts organized from a user's perspective. Examples of Conceptual Design artifacts are black and white schematics or wireframes, sitemaps, task flow/workflow diagrams.

The process results in an outline of the user interface that demonstrates and organizes patterns in display of content, navigational and interactive elements that may be further developed and refined in later design phases. Specific activities can include some or all of the following, as appropriate:

  • Design of conceptual forms based on user experience, stakeholder research, and previous evaluations.
  • Iterative design, review, and modification of wireframes - representing key screens and interactions within a website or application - per client, stakeholder, and/or user feedback.
  • Iterative design, review, and modification of task flows, information architecture diagrams, navigational schemes, and/or other artifacts intended to clarify role-based tasks and global architecture.

Competitive Analysis

The goals of competitive analysis are multifold:

  • To define the scope and nature of the industry and gain an understanding of strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors within the market;
  • To identify areas where needs of the target audience needs are currently not being met, highlight opportunities for innovation, and to recognize growing and future competitive threats.
  • To utilize this information to develop an informed and strategic approach to development and release of a new product, geared towards achieving product differentiation and competitive edge.

Our web-focused Competitive Analysis begins with research into 3 - 5 major competitors in the market, evaluating target audience(s) served, product content, features, and functionality, marketing strategy, and overall quality of design and usability.

Research is then synthesized into a brief report identifying common trends, standards, and features in this market, gaps and potential opportunities for market innovation.

Based upon our findings, we provide recommendations for key features to be prioritized for initial release - and those to consider for later development cycles. When included as part of the Needs Analysis task, Competitive Analysis report findings are reviewed with the Client in conjunction with the Needs Analysis.

User Testing

User Testing is the practice of observing and analyzing the behavior of users as they move through the process of executing tasks. The intent is to expose, identify, and resolve potential usability problems prior to a product's release.

We can handle as many or as few aspects of testing as you wish: Analyzing client objectives; identifying and recruiting target users; identifying appropriate usage scenarios; preparing testable prototypes; developing tests that relate directly to the basic components of user-interface design; and delivering short and long term recommendations that include specific ways to improve user-interface design to increase usability and overall product satisfaction.

We utilize a variety of testing techniques, including:

  • Traditional: Script-based user testing.
  • User-led usability tests: Instead of following a pre-set script of actions, users determine what tasks they will undertake, providing both usability analysis and also information about the ways users value and naturally approach your product or service.
  • Rapid prototyping user validation: This approach combines user feedback with agile programming in iterative cycles to quickly assess and test user-interface changes. In early phases of a project, rapid prototypes are used to clarify user requirements or options. An initial prototype is developed and then changed rapidly and frequently as user input is gathered. The input is reviewed, requirements refined, changes implemented and then retested immediately. The results determine the degree to which improvements were made.

User Research

Interaction with your users, or target users, offers invaluable insight into what your audience really wants or does. Instead of guessing or assuming you know what users want, open lines of communication and explore what your users actually say or do. We offer several User Research services:

  • Contextual Inquiry/Ethnographic Research: We visit potential users in the contexts in which they will use your product - in their offices, home, cars, social gatherings, etc. - to directly observe their needs, goals, habits, and the niches in their lives that your product or service fills.
  • One-on-One Interviews: Private interviews offer insight into users' opinions, ideas, and thoughts. User Designs also conducts "Man on the Street" interviews, buttonholing passers by to generate first reactions and assess what users really think.
  • Focus Groups: Participants are encouraged to offer their opinions and to develop their ideas through conversation. The interaction and development of opinions throughout the session provides information about what changes and affects perceptions, and about what ideas maintain strength and constancy when challenged and explored.
  • Surveys: This method allows us to reach large numbers of users and cull trends from a relatively large data set.

Visual Design

Visual Design provides focus on Branding and overall look and feel of an application or website, and traditionally follows the Conceptual Design task. After screens and interactions have been conceived of at a high level, Visual Design provides final definition of visual language and hierarchy, color palette, fonts, symbols and icons, screen templates and other interface elements. Depending on the nature of the project, Visual Design often includes review and discussion of existing styleguides, web design and Branding material and other related resources provided by the Client. From this, a set of high-level Visual Design Concepts are created, each representing a distinct and unique aesthetic that can be applied to the tool.

Design Concepts can be refined and iterated upon. Once the Client has approved a single Design Concept, it is then applied and extended to key screens. The final Visual Design deliverable is a set of high fidelity, full-color, accurate representations of the final tool's look and feel, including any icons, symbols, and imagery, as needed.

Task- and Work-Flow

Good design maps tasks to user goals. We assess the manual and mental activities needed at each step to create information organization and navigation that follows users' natural workflow. As part of this service, User Designs often creates and refines Personas to help clarify user types and the task prioritization and frequency of performance for different types of users. We may also conduct Card Sorting, a User Centered Design exercise that promotes participatory, collaborate design with users and subject matter experts.

Documentation and Training

Project documentation focuses on the development of a high level user manual that provides orientation to the site and explains some of the site's key concepts as well as the path users should take to execute central tasks. Additionally, three hour-long training sessions will be developed. The first will focus on orienting sales and marketing to the navigation and features of the new site with emphasis placed on highlighting the most useful and "wow factor" elements. The second will provide system administration training on the management of the CMS system and the website in general. The third will train staff and other business side users in how to use the content management system to upload or update content, or perform any other necessary tasks involving site content.