UX guidelines and frameworks for interdisciplinary teams.
THE STARTING POINT
As UX Supervisor, one of my mandates is to continuously improve the overall standing of UX within the studio. I was thinking, apart from trainings, presentations and workshops, how can I do that? Also, what exactly needs the most urgent improvement and which groups of people would benefit from this the most? All of them, obviously, but idealism aside, there had to be a way to determine the status quo.
Luckily, during my training in London by the Nielsen Norman Group, I had the chance to meet Kara Pernice, the Senior Vice President at the NN/g. In one of her presentations, she talked about the eight stages of UX maturity a corporation can reach, starting from the total ignorance towards user needs to the ultimately user-needs driven corporal strategy... and all the steps of UX-evolution that come between that.
And the coolest thing about it was, there was even a way how to find out on which stage a company is and also how to support it in order to reach the next step of this UX maturity.
THE STARTING POINT
UX is a interdisciplinary field and in order to ensure a proper user-centered design as a pillar within development, it has to become an integral part of the process from the very beginning on. But especially in the gaming industry, it is still a novel concept, even though there has been quite the hype the last few years. While UX became quite trendy, it still has troubles being addressed consistently with all necessary parties on board.
Since I work on studio-level, providing UX services to multiple project in various development stages, I decided to create something like a UX Bible (yes, not only artists should get to have their Art Bible), that should offer clarity about UX, UCD and iterative processes for development teams.
THE CHALLENGE... WHERE TO START?
Despite the nice theory, it was not easy to decide on how to approach the issue. What parts of general UX/UCD knowledge should be part of the scope, which departments, how much of accessibility, ergonomics or cognitive neuroscience would be beneficial? Also, where to position UX within the overall development?
Last but not least, I defined several touch-points that I regard as important to address in order to achieve a successful integration of UX within the project. So the departments that should actively contribute to overall UX were producing, as they managed the whole development and decided processes, budget, planning and infrastructure. They had to be onboard to ensure iterative processes, prototyping and early user testing. Obviously, departments like Design, Art, Coding and Audio were vital, but also Quality Assurance, Localization and Marketing were to be considered. And each department required a different approach to UX and a different way of communication.
DEFINING THE SCOPE
To balance the high-level information of UX and HCI and also address specific project-related use-cases, I decided to break down the book into three sections. First, the "General" section would provide overview about UX/HCI and its methodologies, explaining the importance and benefits to design with users on our minds. The next section "Process" would focus on processes, tools and workflows, as well, as addressing department-specific issues. The third part would deal with interaction design and tackle project-specific issues, usability and accessibility of their core-features. This last section was set up to be adapted for each project and its individual needs, while the first two served as frameworks to establish a continuous and seamless UX process during the whole development.
Apart from this, defining the iterative process that is crucial for a successful UCD process with all necessary prototyping, evaluating and testing was a challenging step. For this, I set together with some producers and managers and we tried to figure out, how we can ensure that with all the research, iterating and testing, we still kept deadlines and delivered measurable results for production milestones.
THE RESULT & TAKE-AWAYS
175 pages and several months of work later, the first version of the UX Bible was done and the resonance has been quite positive. While admittedly, the third section about project-specific issues was received the best by the developers - which was not so much of a surprise - the other sections were useful as well. Especially when introducing new UX topics to the team, I could always refer to one or the other chapter in the document, they could read up by themselves, without having to explain everything from scratch at each feature-meeting. Also, the bible turned out to do a great job, serving as a handover from UX designs to UI artists and provide essential guidelines on how to continue to polish the visual components, without changing the usability of the function.
As next steps, I plan on revising the content of the UX Bible and its structure, as some topics and chapters seem to be too long or detailed and could be merged in one. Also, I will focus on making it even more spot-on and create several very slimmed-down versions that can be accessed individually, addressing specific, but recurring UX issues during production, so developers won't need to scroll through 175 pages, in order to find the one thing of interest, but rather can access any information relevant to them in a minimum of time.