Tuesday, July 24, 2007

User Assistance Walkthroughs: Helping Best Practices Emerge

The use and benefits of walkthroughs ...

"In my previous job as a UX designer, I learned the value of collaborative design walkthroughs. During walkthroughs, the UX designer would step through a user scenario—using the wireframes or mid-fidelity prototypes—with a cross-disciplinary team comprising product management, other UX designers, business analysts, developers, product testers, and technical communicators. The motivation for doing these walkthroughs was to reduce the amount of churn around product requirements that was occurring during coding and testing. No matter how well-written a requirement or use case was, it wasn’t until stakeholders could interact with a design within a tangible context that the full implications of a requirement or its lack of sufficient specificity became evident.

Beyond the benefit of clarifying requirements and gaining agreement among the team that a design met the requirements, I have found that walkthroughs have a deeper, even more valuable impact as a social mechanism for creating and distributing organizational knowledge. Walkthroughs

• let designers share the rationale for design decisions they make
• identify common design approaches—across designers and even across design teams
• enable the development of consistent methods
• subject design approaches to collective scrutiny, honing them into best practices
• get organizational buy-in for those best practices

My current focus on user assistance as a component of the user experience has reinforced my respect for the walkthrough as an essential design activity—this time for information designers and information developers. Although the lessons I’ve learned from doing UX design walkthroughs apply to user assistance, user assistance has some unique requirements and dynamics that warrant this article’s special focus."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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