Today’s excellent question comes from Greg Soper, one of the 7,229 students taking my User Experience Design Fundamentals Course on Udemy.

Q: Can you give me examples of the best format or method for different UX deliverables? I.e. user scenarios, user stories, site maps, etc. I guess what I’m looking for is a “making your very first site-map” kind of thing.

A: Hi Greg — that’s a really good question. And the answer, which you may or may not like, is that there are multiple methods to create these kinds of UX deliverable documents…and I use them all!

Reason for that is because every client is different, and the combination of people in the room at any given point who need to consume this stuff is different. Which means that while one or two folks may easily, completely understand one site map format, two or three more will have no idea what they’re looking at. And here’s the important part: they won’t say anything. They won’t tell you they have no idea what this stuff means, what it represents or how it informs the work you’re all doing together.

So the way you combat that is by making sure you have more than one way to present the deliverable, and you take some steps to qualify the approach and the format long before you have to deliver it.

For example, nearly every meeting I have with a client at the outset of the project involves me writing on a whiteboard as we talk. I do that for two reasons:

  1. It lets them know I understand what they’re telling me, and
  2. It allows me to make sure they understand what I’m telling them.

So if I give them a hypothetical site map, for example, where the site is going to be split into audience channels, I have the opportunity to say “Is this what you mean?” and point to something like this:

Whiteboard site map example from a preliminary meeting

The response that comes back will usually tell me if they get it or not. If they get it, then my site map looks like this drawing, with real labels. If they don’t, I try it another way and ask the same question. So while on one hand I’m gathering the stuff I feel like I need to know, I’m also trying to get a sense of how best to deliver information back to them in a format they’ll understand.

With regard to actual formats, here are some actual UX deliverables (PDF) you can check out to see the variance in presentation I’m talking about. The PDF contains the following examples, any of which could be used to communicate the structure and IA of a website, enterprise system or app:

  1. Site Map, Version 1. Basic boxes-and-arrows with designation for primary, secondary, tertiary & quaternary screens.
  2. Site Map, Version 2. Similar to the first, but different iconography and orientation – both of which mattered greatly to this client.
  3. Hub-and-Spoke Diagram. Essentially a site map, but also communicating the nature of interaction. Apps work like this.

So again, you could easily use any of these three formats to communicate the same group of content, functionality, interactivity and organization. The format’s only requirement is that the people on the receiving end understand what they’re looking at and share your understanding of what it means and what it represents.

Hope you find all of that helpful – GIVE GOOD UX!

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