What is Communication?
Communication: “The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.” Source Wikipedia
Often we have come across a situation where, as a designer, we worked on a project, but the final result resulted in a deviated outcome. The final result has gaps in terms of meeting end user requirements or it’s not as per the stakeholders had envisioned.
How is it possible that the final outcome is not as per the Stakeholders and End-Users?
Well there can be many factors associated with it, but out of those there is one factor which we, as designers, often may make mistakes and that is ‘COMMUNICATION’.
Communication, what we normally understand, is ‘Written and Oral’ communication because that’s what we usually do in our day to day life and it is 7% of our total communication, rest 93% constitutes other form of communication which actually support the written and oral communication. Primarily communication has three components vis. Verbal, Non-verbal and Visual. Refer below diagram for more details:
Fitments of ‘Communication’ in the UX Process
If we take a step back and critically look into the entire process of UX journey in a project then we can find out where things would go wrong and how the final outcome will have skewed results.
In a typical UX process roadmap we usually start with:
If we look into the UX process, define phase is the most critical part where lot of ambiguities are sidelined by way of mutual meetings/written documents and understandings, sets the course for the whole project and brings the clarity towards getting the right results.
It is this phase where a UX designer needs to be more focused and alert and should pay his/her due diligence towards capturing the right requirements from the End-Users and Stakeholders.
The other stages design/develop/test & iterate are also important from the perspective where the design artifacts are finalized and shared with the development team, after development the product passes on to Test & Iteration phase.
So now the big dollar question is where and how the designer has to pay attention, as part of communication?
If we look into the UX process from communication perspective then the priority to focus onto type of communication will be:
1. Non-Verbal Communication: The interaction of the UX designer in a project happens with the stakeholders, end-users and different teams for:
-Focused Group Interviews and Discussions
-Internal Team Meetings
-End User Testing
These interactions are mainly face 2 face interactions and provides ~90% of insights to the UX designer by way of observing the end-user’s reactions, body expressions, voice tones.
As these activities provide in-depth ‘Observations’ so one should always resort to making Notes, Audio recordings, Video Recordings, Still images so that he/she can refer to them in the future.
If a UX designer has to solely depend on the written documents, especially on User Insights and requirements, then the insight gained (by UX designer) is dependent on the ‘interpretation, understanding and perception or how well detailed documents are prepared.
2. Visual Communication: Its is the next important form of communication for a UX designer. For effective documentation of the project, Visual communication forms the basis. From the visual communication perspective wireframes/images/icons help in communicating well to Stakeholders / development team. Apart from this visual diagrams/task flows/process flows etc. become integral part during the entire project execution.
As a UX designer one should always prepare well-articulated artifacts which:
– are easy to understand and can be easily interpreted by all the team members / stakeholders / end-users
-contains well laid out imagery (wherever applicable)
-well designed style guides/icons/wireframes/visual design guideline etc.
-support written documents/communication with proper images/icons
3. Verbal Communication: This type of communication is only successful if it is very well supported by top two types of communication but it is as important as the above two. Oral communication is always supported by the non-verbal communication in the form of expressions/gestures/voice tones etc. and written communication is mostly complimented/supported by the visual communication.
For a UX designer, it is imperative to better communicate orally or in writing while making presentation / documentation / workshops / discussions, etc., so that the people sitting on the receiving end can have clear understanding and there is no margin for ambiguities.
All the three components of Communication are interlinked and support each other. Lack of any of one form may lead to flat/misleading/diluted communication or in other words ‘in-effective’. Communication, for UX designer is not new and each one of us practicing it in every stage of UX design process. For UXD, the focus needs to shift on the deliberate effort to look into the each aspect of communication and its impact on the project course. He/she should always explore new/existing ways for a project success.
On the hind sight, it is not entirely onto the UX designer to make the best use of communication in the project; it should be the practice of each member of the team to remove any ambiguities and should apply the best practices deliberately for the achievement of a successful project.