Let’s look at each of these phases and discuss how to integrate UX design activities and artifacts into them.
Defining Product Requirements
Although requirements definition occurs at the start of most product development processes, it is often the last phase UX professionals successfully infiltrate. Indeed, if you are helping define requirements, you are at Jakob Nielsen’s Stage 7 on his eight-stage usability maturity model. Yet this phase is key to user-centered design, and it is where UX professionals can often add the greatest value.
There are four significant influencers of requirements, as shown in Figure 2:
- market opportunities
- technology opportunities
- user needs
Market opportunities are features and functionality customers have indicated they would be willing to pay for. They do not necessarily reflect user input. In fact, such requirements frequently do not come from actual users, but instead, from meetings with their managers. Therefore, they tend to focus on high-level business needs. They describe what a product needs to accomplish, not how it does it. As a consequence, there is not as great a role for UX professionals to play as market opportunities influencers as there is for them as user needs influencers, which I’ll discuss shortly.
Compliance with Section 508 accessibility requirements or other types of external forces, as well as internal forces such as corporate standards or a need for globalization also drive requirements definition. UX personnel can add value here, because of their specialized knowledge about accessibility and their familiarity with corporate guidelines and design patterns.