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.|
|Analytics Review||Analysing web or mobile usage data, and making subsequent recommendations.||Strategy, Research||All analytics packages provide key reports, such as most frequently visited pages, visitor demographics, bounce rate and more.
We'll be adding instructional content about interpreting web analytics soon, but in the mean time this article is a good place to start. Brian Clifton's book on the topic also comes recommended.
|Stakeholder Interviews||Conversations with the key contacts in the client organisation funding, selling, or driving the product.||Strategy, Research||Steve Baty's article, Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders is worth a read as it contains lots of tips gleaned from experience.|
|Contextual Enquiry||Interviewing users in the location that they use the website/app, to understand their tasks and challenges.||Research||Read Contextual Enquiry - A Primer by Gerry Gaffney for a rough guide to planning for, scheduling, conducting a contextual enquiry.|
|Surveys||Crafting an online survey, primarily to solicit feedback from current (or potential) users.||Research||
Creating a survey is easy; creating a good survey that asks questions in an unbiased way is not. An effective survey can be a formidable tool for user research.
Watch Chris Gray's short animated video, Better User Research Through Surveys, to learn how to build an effective survey that collects the most valuable information from your users.
|Content Audit||Reviewing and cataloguing a clientâs existing repository of content.||Research||
Donna Spencer's beginner's article, complete with animated video, is a good place to start. She also has a template for creating a content inventory that is available for download.
|Diary Study||Asking users to record their experiences and thoughts about a product or task in a journal over a set period of time.||Research||Conducting a diary study is really as simple as providing users with a diary and a timeframe, as well as guidelines about what (and what not) to record.
Read Andrew Maier's article, Jumpstart Design Research With A Diary Study for more details.
|User Interviews||User interviews are a key activity for understanding the tasks and motivations of the user group for whom you are designing. Interviews may be formally scheduled, or just informal chats (for instance, in a suitable location that your target demographic are present).||Research||Interviewing someone takes practice. Read how to how to improve your interview skills for tips on getting better.|
|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 Examplesâ13 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 userâs 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 thisâa comicâto 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 âtypicalâ 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 âa day in the life ofâ 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 a wholistic, 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.
|Collaborative Design||Inviting input from users, stakeholders, and other project members.||Design||Provide all participants with some paper and a pen, and have them complete exercises such as drawing wireframes, or writing on printouts of screens that they like or don't like. Read Jason Furnell's Facilitating Collaborative Design Workshops article for more.|
|Workflow Diagram||A workflow diagram (or activity diagram) is a graphical representation of activities and actions conducted by users of a system.||Design||Traditional workflow diagrams created by Business Analysts would comprise strict UML notation.
Interested in writing about workflow diagrams for uxmastery.com? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us now!
|Sitemap||A sitemap is a complete list of all pages available on a website.||Design||Creating a sitemap is a useful task at the beginning of the design process, as it can be used to shape which screens to wireframe.
Interested in writing for uxmastery.com about creating sitemaps? We'd love to hear from you!
|Wireframe||A wireframe is a rough guide for the layout of a website or app. A prototype is similar in that while far from being a polished product in terms of visuals or functionality, it gives an indication of the direction that the product is heading. âMockupsâ is the term I use for wireframes that have been created in high fidelity, but for some people these three terms are interchangeable.||Design||Static wireframes can be created with pen and paper, but these days the software available for creating interactive wireframes makes the task quick and easy to do. Watch this space for a tutorial on this topic.|
|Paper Prototype||Paper prototyping is the process of creating rough, often hand-sketched, drawings of a user interface, and using them in a usability test to gather feedback. Participants point to locations on the page that they would click, and screens are manually presented to the user based on the interactions they indicate.||Design||Watch this YouTube video of a user testing session using a paper prototype.|
|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.|
|Mood Board||A mood board is a collage, either physical or digital, which is intended to communicate the visual style a direction is heading (or should be heading). Stakeholders may use a mood board to provide a visual designer with the atmosphere they would like their site to convey and the colour palette to explore.||Design||Paul Wyatt's list of tips for creating a mood board is a good place to start. Interested in writing something about mood boards for uxmastery.com? Get in touch!|
|A/B Testing||Good for testing new or experimental features before releasing them to all customers.||Design,Research||Give one version of a page or feature to some customers; give another to the rest. Measure the performance of each to see which was more successful.|
|Beta Launch||Releasing a closed beta release of your product involves allowing only a select group of users to use the software and provide feedback before it becomes available to the wider public.||Design, Production||Joel Spolsky's article, Top Twelve Tips For Running A Beta Test is a great place to start.|
|business Case||A concise statement or document that facilitates business decisions by outlining relevant facts about market potential, idea validation, financials, risks, and links to business goals.||Focus||Useful at any point in a productÕs development when you need to make decisions for or against investment of resources in a idea, or compare and evaluate product development opportunities.|
|Competitive Analysis||An activity that involves listing direct rivals and evaluating their strengths, weaknesses and activity in the marketplace in comparison to your own.||Ideate, Explore||Good for making better decisions during the strategic product planning phase. It ensures you're ready to respond to any gaps or weaknesses in the market to gain a larger share.|
|Decision Matrix||A table or spreadsheet that lists various options and then tallies scores for each against range of weighted factors and characteristics. The highest scoring option indicates the best choice.||Ideate, Explore, Focus, Define, Prepare||Good when you need to identify and justify 'the one' from several seemingly close options while balancing multiple factors.|
|Design Sprints||A process for answering critical business decisions using design thinking methods, generally conducted over a one-week period. It brings together a collaborative and interdisciplinary team to rapidly define, prototype and test new ideas with customers.||Immerse, Define, Build||Useful when beginning development of a product, or adding new features to one. The framework helps gain clear data more quickly than waiting to actually launch a minimal product.|
|F-A-B Statement||An F-A-B Statement neatly connects a Feature, what it does (Advantage) and how its value Benefits the customer. This helps you clarify why a product or service is the most effective answer to customer needs.||Define, Prepare, Launch||Useful when crafting statements that need to be ÔfabulouslyÕ persuasive, especially during product definition, when giving presentations, or when writing marketing or sales copy.|
|Kanban||Kanban (Ôsignal cardÕ) is a lean method for visualising the progress of items through a workflow, often on a shared board with sticky notes placed in appropriate columns and lanes to show item status.||Build||When balancing resource demand with available capacity this is a useful set of principles for limiting work in progress, identing bottlenecks and empowering teams & participants to self-manage.|
|Metrics Analysis||Interpreting patterns and meaningful insights within data to understand behaviour, activities and performance, in order to inform future experiments.||Explore, Immerse, Define||Good for establishing benchmarks and tracking performance during improvements; i.e. AARRR (Pirate) metrics can be analysed to understand where and why conversions are underperforming.|
|Product Roadmap||A flexible, high-level chart or diagram that maps out the vision and direction of your product offering over time, including how it evolves to deliver value to customers.||Define, Build, Prepare, Launch||Useful when you need be to clear about what the product plan is, to demonstrate what youÕre working on, to plan future resources, or to engage stakeholders and get their buy-in.|
|Product Scorecard||A snapshot document recording data for specific indicators about how well your product is performing across various important financial, customer, process and people metrics.||Ideate, Define, Build||Good for consolidating and socialising information from multiple sources, allowing you to see Ôthe big pictureÕ and ensure product management efforts are aligned with business strategy.|
|Release Plan||A type of agile project plan derived from a product roadmap. It graphs how an individual project or major release is developed, usually by tracking burndown rate against a forecast.||Build, Launch||Good for tracking your progress from sprint to sprint and anticipating if backlog items can be delivered on time and within budget.|
|Requirement Weighting Model||A type of decision matrix that removes politics and guesswork from finding a balance between the importance to customers and the cost & technical difficulty of development.||Focus, Immerse, Define||Establishing the relative importance of chunks of functionality lets you sequence product development to provide the greatest value sooner and at a lower cost.|
|Stakeholder Mapping||A method for understanding stakeholders, often conducted as a 2x2 grid with axes for power/influence vs interest, or as a Venn diagram containing sets for power, legitimacy and urgency.||Ideate, Focus||By mapping the relationships and dynamics of stakeholders you can discern who your supporters and opponents are, their needs, relative importance, and the best ways to approach them.|
|SWOT Analysis||A structured planning method for evaluating helpful and harmful elements internally and externally to a venture, using sections for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.||Ideate, Explore, Focus||Iden fying SWOTs will either help inform later steps in venture planning, or highlight issues that may force decision makers to select a different objective and attempt the analysis again.|
|User Stories||An informal, natural-language description of features in a software system, often captured on an index card or sticky note, and generally written by (or from the perspective of) an end user or customer.||Immerse, Define, Build||Useful during planning activities to spark the conversations necessary for defining and deciding product features, especially prior to organising them into a product backlog.|
|Value Proposition Mapping||An activity derived from the Business Model Canvas that describes the features, benefits and experience of a product against the wants, needs and fears of a customer.||Ideate, Explore, Define, Prepare||Very useful as a quick and dirty method for checking and articulating the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it (product-market fit).|
|Voice of the Customer||A detailed set of customer wants and needs organised into a hierarchy and prioritised in relative terms of importance & satisfaction with current alternatives. The information is sourced directly from interviews and enquiries conducted with customers.||Explore, Immerse||Useful at the start of a new product, process or service design initiative to better understand the customer, and as the key input for defining and setting detailed specifications.|