How User Experience Documentation Can Get You a Better Product


Part 2: User Experience Documentation

Continuing our series on using information architecture (IA), user experience (UX), and user interface (UI) documentation to increase product quality and process efficiencies, I’ll be providing an overview of some of the user experience documentation tactics that we use at Elevated Third. If you haven’t read Part 1 on information architecture, you can find it here. User Experience as a service is provided throughout multiple stages of a project, the documentation, however can be started as early as the discovery phases at the same time as content strategy. A good starting point is to perform a competitive analysis.

Competitive Analysis/Audit

A competitive analysis can be helpful when understanding best practices for a specific market or site type. Depending on the level of competition within a market’s subject matter we can begin to define certain elements, features, insider terminologies, resources and tools by which to design for. This type of study can provide a foundation for the rationale behind which portions of a project we will attempt to innovate, and which will conform to standards to fulfill user expectations and accustomed experiences.

Users are actively searching the web and comparing products and services to find the option that works best for them. Being unaware of competitive standards and failing to meet user expectations can be the difference between gaining and losing customers.

Persona Profiles

Persona profiles help us understand the types of people who will be using our products or services as well as how and why they are using them. These profiles are about people and can be tricky because without dedicated research, it can be easy to fall into assumptions about the user as well as making broad statements, which may not contribute to the overall success of the project. Knowing who to design for and why is crucial when increasing conversions.

Check out this article for some do’s and don’ts pointers on persona profiles

User Types/Roles

User types/roles are defined for any site or app in which a user must obtain an account to use the digital product or service. Depending on the complexity of the site or app there can be various user types with varying permissions and access rights. Outlining these requirements assures that your intended users are having their needs fulfilled as well as increasing the efficiency of the development process by providing prep materials.

Lets create a hypothetical scenario in which we would be creating a tablet web application for a pastry company with an existing tech-savvy client group. Based on our discovery research we know that our client and customers are already using an outdated website to make and deliver orders, but need a more efficient way of updating their catalog, placing, and tracking the delivery of orders made. From this we can deduce that we will be designing for three primary user types: the owner, delivery driver, and the customer.

Each of these three user types will also have different needs in order to fulfill their role along the process. We would then outline the key requirements for each user type as follows: 

Owner must be able to: 

  • Add new items to a catalog.
  • Remove old items from a catalog.
  • Create seasonal catalogs.
  • Adjust pricing of existing items.
  • Check status of pending delivery orders.

Delivery driver must be able to:

  • View complete list of items to be delivered as well as time and location for the day.
  • Mark items as delivered.
  • Mark items as undeliverable with comments.
  • Access customer contact information for delivery if needed.

Customer must be able to:

  • Browse items in a catalog and compare similar products.
  • Customize desired product based on predefined features.
  • Set time and date for delivery.
  • Cancel order if needed.
  • Place order as a gift.

Use Cases

Use cases build off of user types/roles in that they identify specific user tasks through a template of: I am a ___________, and I need to ____________. Defining these high priority tasks transitions into user-flow diagrams as well as influencing the design of call-to-action elements on pages and site structure. Use cases are used to test process to ensure that your overall goals are being met. It can be very easy to lose track of KPI’s and dedicate valuable resources on non-crucial features, use cases help keep a project on track.

Some examples would be:

I am a new user and I need to create an account.

I am a team lead and I need to create new members.

I am a sales manager and I need to upload a presentation.


User-flows help identify a lot of required elements that are often overlooked such as triggered emails, pages with multiple states, various if, else scenarios, as well as the interactions between varying user types. One common challenge between designer and developer team dynamics is that wireframes can make a lot of assumptions about how a user moves from screen to screen especially for key tasks. Diagramming key user-flows first can fill in these gaps getting your product to you sooner.

Below is an example for a user-flow diagram when accessing the My Account page on an ecommerce site:

In this example we begin see multiple scenarios based on whether a user logged in, not logged in, registered or not registered, if they forgot their password, as well as any emails that would be triggered throughout the process.

Completing user experience documentation in the beginning stages of your project provides a road map for your production team as well as putting user needs first. What this does is provide added value to your user-base by providing a positive overall experience and strengthening brand loyalty. For your production team this documentation can increase efficiencies saving your time and money.