The user experience (UX) in developing systems is usually never overlooked, but it is often given too fast of a run through. While many insurance IT shops may be rushed to get new software out the door, it could all be for naught if the UX is not adequately addressed.

UX is more than just a pretty interface. It’s about the total experience a user has with the application – navigating, interacting, and gaining satisfactory responses. A solid UX will go a long way to boosting end-user productivity, as well as their willingness to even use the system. Extended to customer, it ensures that customers have a positive experience with the company. In fact, the application may be the only point of contact a customer has with an insurer.

Testing applications with potential users is one part of the solution, the other is to have a well-documented process that gets you there. In their new online book, The Guide to UX Design Process & Documentation, Chris Bank and Jerry Cao look at the seven key elements that go into documenting and designing a super-charged UX:

1) Brainstorm: “During the initial phase of product definition, you’re brainstorming the product and how to execute on the project at the highest level with all necessary stakeholders,” Bank and Cao write. “This might result in project kickoff plan, a lean canvas, and a bunch of really early concept maps and mockups of what you’re looking to build.”

2) Research: “Refine assumptions and fills in the blanks,” say Bank and Cao. “It’s good to build out competitive and market analyses and conduct customer surveys. If you have an existing product, reviewing analytics, heuristics, content, product context, and user tests are also quite helpful.”

3) Analyze: At this stage, “the product marketing data collected so far provides the foundation for personas, experience maps, and requirements documents such as prioritized feature spreadsheets and user-task matrices,” Bank and Cao observe. “The product definition, product priorities, and product plan has been defined and are ready for more formal design deliverables. Sketches and diagrams are also likely constantly being generated throughout this time.”

4) Design: “From this output, scenarios, concept maps, and mockups may be created, leading into the design phase,” say Bank and Cao. “Common documentation includes sketches, wireframes, prototypes, task-flow diagrams, and design specifications. For example, competitive analysis and personas created during research and analysis feed into the mockups, concept maps, and scenarios. In turn, these pieces influence intermediate and advanced deliverables such as wireframes, storyboards, and detailed mockups.”

5) Implement: Then it all comes together. “During implementation, code and design assets are assembled to create a product that follows the product design specifications.”

6) Launch, and prepare the next release: Finally, the application is ready to be released into the wild. After this happens, “feedback data such as support tickets, bug reports, and other analytics continue to drive product refinement through subsequent iterations, and upgrades,” say Bank and Cao.

7) Measure: The phrase “you cannot manage what you cannot measure” could be adapted to UX to read “you cannot design what you cannot measure.” Once the application is in production, “data should be continually generated and monitored in the form of analytics and reports to ensure continued success,” Bank and Cao note, adding that “continual, data-driven product improvement is achieved through measuring and iterating the offering in production, using performance dashboards and analytics.”

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