In my time working with digital media I have developed a quite a fascination with User Experience. It can be a word that is often banded around in meetings but never truly adhered to (the product teams may already think they know what a user wants). UX can instead look at user needs, instead of wants. For example here is a how UX could come into play on the design brief for an online restaurant.

Your brief is to design a website for an online restaurant. “Great,” you say – “what sort of food do they serve?” – “A bit of everything”. “Ok” – cue large pictures of delicious food, a prominent “order now” button, topped off with the ability to save your orders for next time you’re hungry. Sounds reasonable so far as long as we nail the branding. However, if we ask how its’s users operate the site we’ll discover they aren’t hungry when they order the food, and will likely never eat the food – despite ordering hundreds of pounds worth of food there each month.

So how do we design a restaurant site for people that don’t get hungry, and don’t eat the food?

The answer lies with understanding the users. To do this, it’s vital to generate user personas. Here is a very brief example of how users of this site may behave:

Name: Sharon McKenzie
Job title: PA to the MD at a large construction company
Age: 34

Job responsibilities
Sharon keeps the MD informed about everything going on in the office, including scheduling meetings and keeping his diary in check. When there are larger meetings and conferences to organise Sharon will arrange for food to be delivered to the meeting. This can often be at short notice, and she will also need to be aware of any allergies her delegates may suffer from.

So if we now go back to our restaurant brief, it will need to behave very differently to how we assumed before.
This is a hugely simplified example, but this approach can pay huge dividends in the design scoping process.