A Practical Guide to Information Architecture
Simple steps to create better information architecture in your own projects, large and small.
A comprehensive collection of UX techniques available for use on UX projects.
Mix and match these UX techniques to create a UX process best suited to the project at hand. We’ll be updating this page regularly with additional content, links and tutorials about how to apply these techniques.
Are we missing a UX technique? Perhaps you’d like to write a tutorial or case study about one of these techniques? Get in touch!
Looking for an online course that teaches how to use these techniques? View our big list of UX courses.
Japanese translation of this page by Shu Wakasa.
|Technique||What It Is||When To Use It||How To Use It|
|Competitor Analysis||Performing an audit/review of competing websites and apps; conducting user testing of competing sites; writing a report that summarises the competitive landscape.||Strategy, Research||Downloading, signing up for, purchasing, and using products that compete with yours is only part of the process; conducting user testing sessions on these products will also yield valuable insights. Check out the Inc. article How To Conduct Competitive Research for more tips.|
|Heuristic Review||Evaluating a website or app and documenting usability flaws and other areas for improvement.||Research, Analysis||A good method for determining how usable a site or app is entails working through a checklist, such as the one from uxforthemasses.com, and relies upon the practitioner being sufficiently experienced to judge whether something is usable or not.|
|User Testing||Sitting users in front of your website or app and asking them to perform tasks, and to think out loud while doing so.||Research, Analysis, Design, Production||Read about how to run a user testing session even if you're a complete novice.
Also be sure to check out Steve Krug's short book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy for a comprehensive guide on how to plan for, schedule and conduct usability tests.
|Unmoderated Remote Usability Test||URUT is similar to in-person usability testing however participants complete tasks in their own environment without a facilitator present. The tasks are pre-determined and are presented to the participant via an online testing platform.||Research, Analysis, Design, Production||Chris Gray's article How to Run an Unmoderated Remote Usability Test outlines the process and includes an animated video to walk you through it.|
|Use Cases||A use case is a list of steps that define the interactions between a user and a system. Use cases, especially when used as requirements for software development, are often constructed in UML, with defined actors and roles.||Analysis||Darren Levy's article, Use Case Examples—13 Killer Tips, written for Business Analysts and Software Engineers, is a good introduction to creating use cases.|
|Storyboards||A storyboard is a tool inspired by the filmmaking industry, where a visual sequence of events is used to capture a user’s interactions with a product. Depending on the audience, it may be an extremely rough sketch, purely for crystallizing your own ideas. |
Sometimes it can be useful to create a slightly more polished version of this—a comic—to communicate this sequence of events to key stakeholders in order to achieve buy-in for a concept.
|Analysis||Check out Matt's comic strip, A Day In The Life Of A UX Designer, as an example of capturing daily tasks in a comic-strip format.
We'll definitely be publishing more information on how to create storyboards and comics on uxmastery.com soon!
|Affinity Diagramming||A business technique for identifying and grouping patterns within unrelated data.||Analysis||The items to be analysed are recorded onto cards or post-it notes. They are then arranged into logical groups.|
|Personas||A persona is a fictitious identity that reflects one of the user groups for who you are designing.||Analysis||
Creating personas for your project involves morphing qualitative and quantitative data from analytics, surveys, interviews, user testing sessions, and other research activities into a handful of representative “typical” users. These personas are assigned names, photographs, motivations, goals, and a believable backstory that is rooted in the backgrounds of real people using your website or app. Read the process Matt followed for this activity at SitePoint or take a look at Gregg Bernsteinn's short animated video.
|Scenarios||A scenario is a narrative describing “a day in the life of” one of your personas, and probably includes how your website or app fits into their lives.||Analysis||Writing a scenario is as simple and complex as documenting the tasks that a user performs when using your product (not the how).
Jacqueline Wechsler's introductory article, Using Scenarios, is a good starting point. Neil Turner's Step by Step Guide to Scenario Mapping is a must-read.
|Mental Models||A mental model diagram is a fishbone or horizon diagram where the top towers represent individuals' motivations, emotions, and stories related to their experience in achieving a particular goal, regardless of the tools they use. The top part of the diagram is person-focused, not solution-focused. The bottom towers of the diagram represent the features of your organization's offerings, aligned beneath the appropriate upper towers that they support the best. You can see where your organization's design and business requirements support people's goals well and where they need improvement. The diagram as a whole is generative, not evaluative, helping your organization realize weaknesses and gaps in the way you support people and adapt existing products, services, or processes to particular behavioral audiences or situations.||Analysis||How it works: stories collected from essays, web, empathic interviews, etc. are collected, combed for relevant actions, emotions, and philosophies and grouped in mental spaces. Requirements gap analysis is then conducted by slotting requirements into the mental spaces and seeing how they align with what users have said.
Advantages include an in-depth understanding of gaps between individual's perceptions and motivations vs. business and design requirements. Since they are unstructured and open ended interviews, the likelihood of the results being skewed by stakeholders is minimal, which leads to a more accurate understanding of what will benefit and be well-received by the users. There's some flexibility in data collection--it can come from blogs, Twitter, diary entries (see Diary Studies), etc. as long as it is the voice of the individual and not being generated by highly directed questions (courtesy Mike Oren, PhD).
Indi Young describes the process in her book of the same name.
|Experience Map||An experience map, or customer journey map, is an extended version of a mental model. Rather than looking at one moment in time for a single user, an experience map is an holistic, visual representation of your users’ interactions with your organisation when zoomed right out. |
Because many organisations and the projects within them are large and complex, an experience map is usually captured on a large canvas—a necessarily big poster that you can zoom in or out of to explore the details.
Luke's article, UX Marks The Spot: Mapping The User Experience discusses what experience maps are, and why they're useful.
Megan's article, How To Create A Customer Journey Map (complete with accompanying whiteboard animation) will then give you step-by-step instructions on how to create your own.
|Card Sorting||Card sorting is a technique where users are asked to generate a folksonomy, or information hierarchy, which can then form the basis of an information architecture or website navigation menu.||Analysis||Check out Donna Spencer's book on Card Sorting for comprehensive coverage of the topic.|