A Project Guide to UX Design

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Quick Summary

An academic look at UX design which covers all the complex foundational aspects and applies them to project planning and execution.


Title
A Project Guide to UX Design
Author
Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler
Rating
The Review

A Project Guide to UX Design

This user experience book is a heavyweight hitter you should read

For those of us who are looking for something which has a bit more to chew on, A Project Guide to UX Design, by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler, is going to help you satiate that appetite.

It paints in broad, far-reaching strokes and rather than focusing on in-depth technical detail, it covers the basics and essentials of every aspect of user experience projects from conception to completion and beyond.

Because it is so comprehensive, this book is great for a number of different types of people. Firstly, it’s a brilliant introduction to the field of user experience design. It’s recommended for college students who want to supplement their in-class learning with a look at how the professional, collaborative world works. It’s a great tool to help user experience interns and recent graduates get a leg up in their field. Complete with an entire chapter on proposal creation, pricing, ownership and rights, it’s even a good resource for budding freelancers who need to know how to improve their business. But it’s not just an introduction. For current industry professionals and web design agencies, this book is packed with information to deepen your understanding of the field of user experience, and for project leaders, it’s filled with insights on how to improve collaboration in your teams and perfect project practices.

This book will guide you through a core understanding of what user experience is (curious, passionate, and empathetic!), the outlining and planning of a UX project, identifying approaches and objectives, business essentials for success in project management, the transition from project definition to project design using design principles, site maps and task flows, wireframes and annotations, prototyping, design testing with users, the development stage, and follow-up. Touching all the bases, it covers everything from e-commerce and e-learning design to social networking and mobile design. It even covers peripheral concerns like how to conduct successful meetings, understand the company culture of your client, and references countless online resources and UX groups for further information.

Previously, I wrote about The Elements of User Experience and received a few requests for recommendations on “what is next” afterwards since that reference book is so basic and targeted towards beginners and laymen who need foundational knowledge and don’t want to get tripped up with some of the more complex intermediate and advanced concepts which real UX work can involve. This book is my intermediate recommendation.

Don't forget the tangible

Don’t forget the tangible

Just a heads up: it is not easy fireside reading

This is not a “skim through it in three hours” type of book. It takes its time, and really tries to explain the ins and outs of what UX design is and how to apply it to a project which is underway. There is the necessary foundation and grounding section, followed by the nitty gritty explanations of how to integrate a UX system of thought into your workflow.

It is hard going sometimes and it is an incredibly rewarding and fascinating read. Take your time, make notes if you have to. I spent weeks reading the book in spurts and allowing each new section to really sink in. I found these intervals valuable and they allowed me to attack the new subjects at hand with fervor.

It’s corporate gold, Jerry!

The view that the book lays out is a very academic one and made me think of my experiences with the corporate world and their very strict and structured take on UX design.

  1. Define business goals
  2. Research the hell out of every angle you can think of
  3. Interview the key stakeholders
  4. Define your personas
  5. Wireframe the hell out of it and prototype it till you bleed
  6. Yadda yadda yadda

Basically, they are trying to give you a master class on how it should be done so that when the time comes you can do that or pick and choose the parts of the process which works for you. As someone who has done the process dozens of times, I sometimes found it tedious to read through a section because I realized that it simply wasn’t something that I’d ever do (again) or that it was “academic nonsense” there to fill a checkbox, but really a waste of my precious time. That being said, in my re-read through for this review, it occurred to me that perhaps that mental chatter and pushback is me rejecting parts of the process which are necessary but that I personally don’t like. It’s hard to say and I’m glad that the whole process is laid out in this book for all to see.

Mobile lyfe 4 evah. No really, we're stuck doing UX for mobile.

Mobile lyfe 4 evah. No really, we’re stuck doing UX for mobile.

The Journey for great UX design goes on and on

One of the most valuable parts of the book are its frequent asides which reference other books and online resources. Having them interspersed within the material makes for lousy reference, but does make you stop and take a look then and there which helps strengthen concepts as they are being presented. It can be frustrating at times because it feels like the ever-growing body of knowledge before doesn’t seem to end, but well, it doesn’t really and the earlier you build up a resistance to it, the better off you’ll be. Take what you can, internalize what you must, and move on.

Summary

This new revision brings the book up to date in the modern mobile centric world we live in. The newly updated second edition is even more useful, and now includes the most recent and relevant changes in UX processes that are necessary for our world on the move. They’ve added a chapter on mobile design, almost as prevalent as web design, lean UX (a user-centered, economical approach), a comparison of different types of research (now including remote research), and a more extensive section on the elements and principles of design.

The Project Guide’s wide-ranging, conceptual approach to user experience really invokes the underlying purposes of UX and promotes comprehension of the field as a whole rather than superficial memorization of technical details. It’s sure to be an essential in the library of anyone interested or already making a living in UX design.

It touches on all aspects of the process thoroughly although often dryly. I highly recommend it as a read-once through and refer-to-often type of book for any studio or freelance UX practitioner.

The good

  • Great for beginners and intermediates
  • Well structured and allows you to learn how things should really be done

The bad

  • Can sometimes be a bit obtuse.

The ugly

  • No appendix for the references. Ugh.
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A Project Guide to UX Design

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