Wireframes, flow diagrams, personas, card sorts, content strategy documents, etc. All of these things are important to design, and designers need some combination of them to synthesize their user research and communicate what they’re doing with the other members of the team.
But too often these deliverables are the last line of contact for designers. Too often these deliverables are what designers prepare and then hand off to implementors. Then they shuffle off to create more deliverables and the cycle is repeated.
In the end deliverables are merely artifacts of the design process. They are not the final design, they are not the artifact of experience. The end user never interacts with them…they interact with the product or service that is actually delivered.
That’s the difference: deliverables are divorced from delivery.
Thus, the task of a UX designer, in order to stay true to our calling, doesn’t stop at any deliverable. Even if our “job” is to create wireframes, we cannot be satisfied with passing off wireframes to other team members. If we are truly concerned with the experience of the people who use our product/service, we will infiltrate their world…we will demand to know the quality of their experience.
Many UX designers are judged on the quality of their deliverables. This is necessary to a point, we must make sure each step is faithfully executed. But to truly be a user experience designer, we must have a longer scope. We can’t stop at deliverables. We must extend through delivery.
Deliverables are diminishing in importance. Sketches, super important to early design synthesis, have fleeting value. They are valuable for a very short period of time. Design, implement, iterate, move on. Record the learning, but don’t judge the sketch, judge the resulting experience.
So, if you’re not involved in the day to day feedback loop of your user’s experience, make sure you get involved. Ask about your feedback channels: support emails, call-center requests, twitter mentions, all of it. Do regular surveys and user testing. Investigate. Demand data. If you don’t, you’re just creating deliverables and missing the forest for the trees.
Experience, in the end, cannot be captured in a deliverable.