Process

Multipotentialite, Polymath, Renaissance Person? Perhaps. I have many varied interests that I love to cultivate over extended periods of time.

Sometimes these interest are born as hobbies explorations, research, like when I was vagan for six month. Sometime I transforms these activities into jobs like when I was a professional photographer for two years, or when I transfomred my drones activity into a business. I think being multipotentialite gave me several distinct abilities including:

  • Idea synthesis, combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection.
  • Rapid learning, going hard learning everything from scratch and observing everything I can get my hands on. I am used to being a beginner, less afraid of trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zones.
  • Adaptability, morphing into whatever I need to be in any given situation. From designer to director, business manager to teacher, researcher to developer.
ResearchAnalysisDesignCommunication
Analytics Review
Description Analysing web or mobile usage data, and making subsequent recommendations
Comments The ability to review analytics remotely assumes that you do, in fact, have access to the data. If the site is an intranet, for instance, this is likely to be a hurdle unless you can get access via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or similar.
Tools Google Analytics (web); AppAnnie (mobile); more analytics tools…
Online Surveys
Description Crafting an online survey, primarily to solicit feedback from current (or potential) users.
Comments The majority of surveys I’ve created in the past have been sent to individuals that I haven’t met in person, so there shouldn’t be any logistical hurdles to creating and delivering a survey remotely.
Tools SurveyMonkey, Wufoo; more surveying tools…
Competitor Analysis
Description Performing an audit/review of competing websites and apps; conducting user testing of competing sites; writing a report that summarises the competitive landscape.
Comments If the competitors are websites, then there’s no reason for you to be on site to review them.
Tools Silverback; Screenflow; Camtasia Studio; Microsoft Word; Google Docs
Heuristic Evaluation (Expert Review)
Description Evaluating a website or app and documenting usability flaws and other areas for improvement.
Comments Most usability evaluations of websites that I’ve performed have been done remotely. 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. Another common task is a literature review, which falls into the same bucket.
Tools Google Spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel
Content Audit
Description Reviewing and cataloguing a client’s existing repository of content
Comments Performing a remote content audit assumes that all of the content within scope is already online—if there are offline processes that should be included in the scope of your project, then you’re probably going to have to be on site, talking to staff, in order to understand them.
Tools Google Spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel
Contextual Inquiry
Description Interviewing users in the location that they use the website/app, to understand their tasks and challenges
Comments This is a contentious inclusion, and is only really an option if the site you’re working on has a global audience. If that’s the case, then depending on where you’re based there’s a good chance you can find some users local to you. However, if the users are isolated to a specific geographic location, or you live and work from a remote location, then it might be possible to conduct a series of interviews via telephone or Skype. In general, successful contextual inquiry needs to happen in person, but if the project allows for it then you may be able to utilize technology to bridge the communication gap.
Tools Sound recorder; Pen and paper for note taking
Usability Testing
Description Sitting users in front of your website or app and asking them to perform tasks, and to think out loud while doing so.
Comments Usability testing is generally something that works best in-person. That said, remote user testing services such as Loop11 and usertesting.com have a place, if utilised appropriately. The big downside of performing remote user testing is that the session is not guided. If the participant hits a hurdle and can’t recover, you can’t jump in and help them out. It may be possible to overcome this by conducting the session using screen-sharing software, but I haven’t tried this personally.
Tools Silverback; Screenflow; Camtasia Studio; Skype; more testing tools for web and mobile …
Personas (User Profiles)
Description 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.
Comments Assuming you have all of the data necessary, there’s no reason why your personas can’t be created remotely. It certainly helps to have met and built an in-person relationship with real people, but in essence this task is an exercise in informed creative writing.
Tools Microsoft Word, Google Docs
Scenarios (User Stories)
Description 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.
Comments Like creating a persona, an accurate scenario requires that you have the right information upon which to base your narrative. Assuming you do, the actual process of describing how each persona feels as they complete tasks throughout their day is as straightforward as pulling together the data that you’ve accumulated into a sequence of events. You may need to validate some of the tasks in your story with the users who contributed to your research, but that can hopefully be completed over the phone or by email, as compared to conducting additional interviews.
Tools Microsoft Word, Google Docs
Mental Models
Description A mental model is a visual depiction of a scenario. Pioneered by Indi Young, it utilises a timeline to depict events in a user’s life, and incorporates an additional dimension in the features that your website or app possesses that speak to each of these events.
Comments As with personas and scenarios, a mental model is a document, and it relies upon informed research. If you’ve got the data you need, you don’t need to be sitting on-site to create it.
Tools Google Spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop
Experience Maps
Description An experience map is an extended version of a mental model. Rather than looking at one subset of 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.
Comments As with other deliverables, if you’ve got the data you need, you don’t need to be sitting on-site to create this document.
Tools Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
Storyboards & Comics
Description 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.
Comments There’s no reason for you to be on-site when creating your sketch, except perhaps to validate the ideas depicted with users and stakeholders. If you can perform this validation over the telephone or email, then go for it.
Tools Pen & paper, Wacom Bamboo tablet, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
Wireframes, Prototypes & Mockups
Description 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. “Mockups” is the term I use for wireframes that have been created in high fidelity, but for some people these three terms are interchangeable.
Comments As with the other deliverables mentioned here, the task of creating the deliverable is easy enough to perform remotely, assuming you have all of the necessary data to inform the deliverable. The key is to ensure that you establish that user feedback loop as your wireframes evolve. Whether that happens by showing people your wireframes in person, or having them review them remotely, is up to you.
Tools Balsamiq Mockups, Axure, Hotgloo, HTML/CSS, more wireframing and prototyping tools…
Presentations
Description The obvious tool to use when presenting your research findings.
Comments If you’re presenting using slides, as with in-person presentations, be clear who will be attending the presentation, send follow-ups to lock in the time and technology being used, and test it beforehand. And don’t be late—there’s nothing that says “unprofessional” more than dialling in late. In my experience, the more important the presentation, the more important it is for you to present it in person.
Tools Google Calendar, Skype, GoToMeeting, freeconferencecall.com
Reports
Description A document containing the details of your research findings.
Comments While I like to keep my projects as lean as possible and avoid unnecessary documentation, reports have their place in certain situations. If you’re walking a client through a report over the phone or Skype, be sure to send it through well in advance, to give them the opportunity to look over it before the meeting.
Tools Google Calendar, Skype, GoToMeeting, freeconferencecall.com