The usability engineering lifecycle is well documented [46; 78; 86; 124], and although different authors use different terminology to describe it, there is a general consensus on the lifecycle’s base concepts and methodologies. While the usability engineering lifecycle focuses on the behavioral level of experience, the user experience engineering lifecycle described below expands that narrow focus to include the visceral and sociocultural levels. The UXE lifecycle is iterative and can be integrated with various software and product development processes including object-oriented software engineering, agile software development, and product lifecycle management. It consists of five main phases:

  • Business objectives for UXE. Define the business or organizational objectives for the UXE effort.
  • User research. Collect targeted data on users (prospective or actual), their tasks, and their environment through observation and discussion.
  • UX requirement analysis. Define product and UX requirements for areas where business objectives and user research overlap.
  • UX design. Develop a series of increasing detailed models or prototypes (conceptual, architectural, interactive, aesthetic), iteratively evaluating and redesigning each type before going on to the next.
  • UX evaluation. Evaluate and test models and prototypes to generate new design ideas and to determine whether UX requirements have been met.

Each phase has their own work products that capture knowledge generated in that phase and help designers apply the knowledge both in the next phase and in other projects. Effective UXE requires all five lifecycle phases; however, the methods and resource allocation within each phase can vary greatly and be scaled up or down depending on budget, project schedule, business priorities, etc. Keep this in mind as we expand on each of the five phases below.

Phase 1: Business Objectives for UXE

Most organizations are in business to make money, not to make great user experiences. Even non-profit associations have organizational objectives that extend beyond providing great user experiences. Therefore, it is important to define the business or organizational objectives that are driving the UXE effort; this way your organization’s investment in UXE can yield worthwhile return. Some examples of objectives include:

  • An e-commerce Web site wants to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.
  • A medical device manufacturer wants to mitigate legal risks and meet FDA human factor requirements.
  • A contact center wants to increase first-call resolution rates and cross-selling opportunities.
  • A mobile phone manufacturer wants to break into the lucrative teen market by designing a messaging system that fits their social world.

Refining general statements like “increase sales” or “decrease costs” into specific objectives similar to those described above is the first step in a successful UXE effort. The next step is understanding the user through user research.

Work products: UXE business objective statement, a short document that defines the business objectives for the UXE effort.

CContents, User Experience Engineering (UXE) Essentials Series