By Stewart McCoy

A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making (Book Review)

Web design has become a diversified field over the past 10 years. Whether you are working freelance, for a consultancy, on in-house, as the Web has become more integral to core business plans, Web teams have grown and become more specialized. The role of user experience (UX) designer has become more prominent in recent years, and some people still have difficulty getting their head around the discipline. UX as it relates to the Web is about creating useful and usable Web sites and applications, according to Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler, coauthors of A Project Guide to UX Design

The authors have taken a very pragmatic approach to defining UX, positioning it within the Web design industry as they explain the details of UX project processes and deliverables. Unger is a member of the board of directors for the Information Architecture Institute and recent addition to the team at Happy Cog, a premiere Web design consultancy. Chandler is design director for the interactive agency Manifest Digital and an active leader within the Interaction Design Association.

In a way, the authors’ book is a milestone for UX. It’s the first to take a look at UX as a unique discipline and field of practice. Unger and Chandler not only define, differentiate, and position UX within the Web industry, but also explain in brief the different roles a UX designer and other team members might play during the course of a project—roles such as information architect, interaction designer, user researcher, brand strategist, visual designer, and content strategist.

The selling point of this book is that it is for UX designers in the field or in the making. Unger and Chandler offer up their industry insight and provide you with communication strategies to develop successful engagement strategies, cross-team communication, stakeholder communication, project proposals, and project launches. Not only will they help you develop your vocabulary and your understanding of UX in the context of the current Web industry, but they provide you with the tools to get you started as a successful professional or help you refine your project methodology.

The text itself is very well structured and edited, and each chapter is concise and on topic. You can read the book through front to back cover in about two three-hour sittings, or read each chapter by topic, which you will often do as you are redefining yourself as a UX professional. Topics addressed include

  • Solidifying project objectives
  • Defining business requirements
  • Conducting user research
  • Developing personas
  • Understanding search engine optimization and the technology behind Web business
  • Transitioning from design to development
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Usability testing
  • Addressing post-launch concerns

The chapters on site maps and task flows and on wireframes and annotations are particularly helpful, as you will see how leading industry professionals handle these project deliverables. The book includes detailed visual examples that break down these deliverables into manageable components and clearly explains the purpose and process of each. In the chapter that addresses site maps, you will learn what a sitemap is, how it fits into the context of a project, the tools used to develop site maps, the key elements of a site map, and common mistakes and best practices for producing site maps.

Unger and Chandler remind us that UX is iterative. Each project should be the springboard for another project. You evaluate your research data and then can draft another proposal detailing recommendations on how a project can be improved upon. User experience is about improving peoples’ interactions and perceptions of a product, system, or service, and there is always room for improvement.

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