Using Analog UX Strategy Tools

November 21, 2022

When you’re participating in large stakeholder meetings, using analog UX strategy tools can often be a helpful and fun means of clarifying and working through a product, problem, user goals, or business goals. In this article, I’ll explain some benefits of using analog tools during large meetings and workshops, as well as how to encourage people’s participation and develop a shared understanding among everyone who is involved.

Discovering Analog Tools

From concept to execution, using hands-on tools throughout the UX design process can improve collaboration, communication, and the organization of your ideas in ways that digital tools cannot. For example, when kicking off a project, using simple sticky notes to post your ideas on a wall can offer huge benefits. In his book Change by Design, Tim Brown, CEO of the design and innovation company IDEO, recommends using sticky notes because they allow a group of people to agree on solutions when many possibilities exist. People bring their unique knowledge and expertise to the table, and using sticky notes lets you organize large amounts of information concisely, while keeping a meeting fun and interesting.

Champion Advertisement
Continue Reading…

According to Tim Brown, such simple, manual tools can be helpful in structuring your ideas. Sticky notes, flipboards, and notebooks are unstructured. You can write anything you want on them, then move them around your meeting room. They’re great for quick ideation. People can write down or draw their ideas and share them with the group.

Your personal toolkit is what you bring to each design challenge. Your team can use both digital and analog tools—such UXD Cards, canvasses, checklists, and mapping tools—to stimulate your thinking and prompt answers to questions when you get stuck during the UX strategy and design process.

Teams can also benefit from deploying a structured analog tool that provides concise, directional information on the what, why, and how of your activities and lets you sustain fast-paced ideation and express your ideas in an understandable, inclusive way.

With hundreds of methods, activities, and techniques you could deploy in solving any given design challenge, the goal of using analog tools is twofold:

  1. Encouraging creative outputs early during a project
  2. Creating rigor around your processes

Journey Mapping Using Analog Tools

When trying to identify business and user needs, you and your stakeholders must understand the user’s entire workflow, brainstorm solutions to problems, and gain consensus on which ideas and requirements to explore further. You’ll end up with a lot of information that combines storytelling and visualization, highlighting a perfect example of when to use analog tools.

Overview and Problem

Let’s consider an example: a large insurance company wants to redesign their Web site completely. The current site is outdated and analytics are showing a huge drop-off rate on the Contact Us page. There is currently no way to request a quote or purchase insurance online.

Business Goals

The business goals are to increase the number of online quotes by 50%, increase insurance-package sales by 10%, allow the selling of insurance packages online, and update the site’s branding. The company have a large budget and want to accomplish their goals within six months.

Necessary Resources

  • whiteboard and whiteboard marker pens
  • sticky notes
  • markers
  • index cards
  • existing personas
  • existing scenarios

Choosing Your Target Users and Figuring Out Their Goals

Mapping the user journey begins with understanding the customer—who they are and what their goals are. Sarah Gibbons of Nielson Norman Group believes UX stories are a powerful way of developing a shared understanding of the customer:

“When used to their full potential, UX stories create a shared vocabulary, add to the organizational memory, focus the team on a common goal, ignite the audience’s imagination, and persuade stakeholders—ultimately leading to buy-in.”

Focus on high-value personas or stories that the design team has already chosen because they align best with the goals of the business.

  1. Talk about these personas and their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Have the team write down the goals and expectations of these people on sticky notes and add them to your whiteboard.

Mapping Out the User Journey

Keeping a particular user in mind, start from the beginning and map out the user’s journey. In our example, the user journey is the timeline that begins when a potential customer first visits the company’s home page and ends with their purchasing insurance. However, feel free to get creative with this format. Megan Grocki, writing for UX Mastery, says that your map “doesn’t have to be a standard, left-to-right timeline. It could be circular or helical. It could be one large map or an interactive, clickable piece with embedded video. There are no templates, and there are infinite possibilities.” Follow this process to create a user-journey map:

  1. Discuss the various phases the user goes through from start to end, write them down on cards, and tape them on the wall, in order based on the consensus of your team.
  2. Brainstorm the user’s touchpoints with the organization: any action, interaction, and what the user is doing. Use one color of sticky note for what the user needs to do today and a different color for your ideas regarding touchpoints you could implement in the future.
  3. Ask the team to identify the user’s emotional highs and lows during each phase, write them on sticky notes, and place them along the timeline.

Figures 1 and 2 show examples of journey maps.

Figure 1—Journey map
Journey map
Figure 2—Customer journey map
Customer journey map

Identifying Opportunities and Ownership

However, just understanding the users, their stories, feelings, and touchpoints is not enough. The team needs to identify opportunities for areas of improvement, as well as the business goals with which these opportunities align. The Nielsen Norman Group emphasizes that identifying opportunities and ownership is “crucial for transforming journey maps from a visualization of a narrative into an action plan for implementing change and optimizing experiences. With no opportunities identified, the journey map is not actionable. Without ownership specified, there is no accountability for change.”

  1. Ask each person to brainstorm up to 20 ideas and post them on the board.
  2. Reorganize the ideas into groupings of similar things such as business goals, phases of the timeline, or by team ownership such as Marketing or Design.
  3. Reorganize the ideas again, creating a list of ideas from high-priority to low-priority ideas.

Figure 3 depicts the results of this process.

Figure 3—Capturing your ideas on a whiteboard
Capturing your ideas on a whiteboard

Completing Your Journey Using Analog Tools

Once you’ve completed the user’s journey map, share it with the whole company—especially with stakeholders who were not part of the process of creating it. While it is tempting to digitize your journey maps, you can share your map by creating it on either a movable canvas board or sheets of paper that you can hang in an open space in your office.

You might think that you can use analog tools only during meetings or at the beginning of a UX project. However, in reality, you can use analog tools throughout your entire design process. Consider creating personas by cutting up magazines and pasting together personas on large sheets of paper, sketching your initial wireframes on a paper notepad, conducting usability testing on paper prototypes, or organizing usability-test results through affinity diagramming. The next time you are searching for a tool, it could end up being the pencil right beside you. 

Senior Product Designer at MYER

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Anton StoutAnton has been an experience design and innovation lead, co-founder, product owner, and MBA lecturer for 3.5 years. As an entrepreneur, he has also worked in international marketing, corporate strategy, strategic management, and new-venture creation in Poland and Germany. When not on assignment, he spends his time supporting the development of Clue Group, which provides UXDCards® for UX designers, SXDCards® for Service Designers, and Methodloop. The company’s products and services have graced the hallways of Google, Apple, eBay, IBM, Amazon, and Lloyds Bank to name just a few industry leaders. Anton also frequently writes on topics relating to User Experience.  Read More

Other Articles on UX Strategy

New on UXmatters