UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 677 May 23, 2011

Capturing What You’re Not Implementing

The UX process is usually a creative, exploratory process as you and your fellow project team members go through several activities to further understand the problem at hand and work towards potential solutions. When iterating through the process, a variety of artifacts are typically created. As ideas and concepts are eliminated from a project, don’t discard those ideas or the related artifacts; archive them instead. By archiving the various artifacts of each project, the ideas and concepts generated throughout the life of the project are not discarded and lost. The ideas can be retained and potentially reevaluated for use in future projects or as a starting point for further ideation in future projects.

Early in a project, you and your team may start to exchange concepts through dry-erase board sketches and paper sketches. Capture those ideas and retain them as digital artifacts by taking digital pictures of the board sketches and making scans of the paper sketches. This also applies to any other artifact generated throughout the entire process that is not originally in a digital format.

Most organizations have a method for documenting the UX specifications for a project. These documentation methods usually focus on what is to be included in the project. As you and your team continue to iterate on the specifications through the life of the project, some ideas will be removed. For example, an entire use-case description might be determined to not be significant enough to be accounted for in the project, so the concepts related to that use-case are “scoped out” of the project. However, don’t discard the related artifacts that have been already generated. Those ideas, though not implemented in the current project, could be a viable solution for another future project.

Although, what is included can be equally as important as what has been considered and determine to not be included in the project. This documentation can be useful, perhaps as an appendix to the UX specifications, to highlight decisions made during the UX process with a brief description as to why it was not included in the project. If someone later asks why a design was made in a particular manner, you will have documentation to reference regarding the other concepts considered and the reasoning behind the decision made.

An excellent tool for archiving these artifacts is a wiki. Most wikis maintain a change log for content, and also have tagging and searching capabilities. Each artifact can be associated with the specific project within the wiki as well as tagged with common terminology across all projects. Digital scans of sketches and other documents can be tagged with, for example, the project name as well as a “scoped-out” tag (certainly other tags could be created as well). These tags can then be used in searches within the wiki. This archiving process effectively generates a Knowledge Management Repository of both concepts used in projects and concepts eliminated from projects.

From the lens of Knowledge Management, this method of capturing what has and hasn’t been implemented offers an organization the ability to collect the ideas, concepts, and knowledge of their employees into an organized format.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Frank Garofalo is a user experience architect with a background in web development, graphic design, and interactive multimedia. Frank has a passion for producing a quality experience for the user by combining creative designs and functional development to achieve a balance of information architecture. You can connect with Frank at www.frankgarofalo.com or on Twitter @fgarofalo.

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Comments

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Very good point. From my personal experience it can be beneficial to have notes of past decisions - so you don't need to rethink everything from scratch when you are heading forward.

The only disadvantage is that writing documentation often isn't much fun and so not is carried out as a perpetual activity.

However, collaborative tools such as myBalsamiq (http://balsamiq.com/products/mockups/mybalsamiq) might help making the documentation of UI/UX decision processes more compelling and thus more likely to actually take place.

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I see knowledge management as a huge problem when it comes to organizations. Do you have recommendations on specific wiki tools that have been helpful in managing, archiving, and organizing the assets around what your current product is, and what you plan to build?