Analysis, Architecture, Design, Research, and … Strategy

Here’s a compilation of some of the roles that UX encompasses.  I’ve grouped them approximately by the current UX-related jobtitles, as I see them echoed in the job market:

  • Business Analyst (Market Researcher)
  • Information Architect (Taxonomy, Semantics, Structure)
  • Designer (Wireframer, Prototyper)
  • Usability Researcher* (Lab testing, QA, Acceptance)

I’ve grouped the usability-related tasks by stages

4 ‘standard’ stages of SDLC (Systems Development, LifeCycle): Discover/Define, Design, Develop, Deploy:



This role is often labeled as “researcher”, though it is focused primarily on market research.  In the good/bad old days (before UX) this information-gathering role was fulfilled by a Business Analyst (BA).  A good BA always had some UX-ish tendencies.


  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Content Inventory / Prioritization
  • Understand the Audience
  • Paths & Consequences

SDLC tasks : Discover



The earliest title for a Usability Practitioner was often “information architect” (IA) – and the role was defined broadly to include design, as well as documentation. “Capturing knowledge’ (documentation) is a challenge across the process.  I include it with IA because the architect is charged to organize and define the information. It’s where you capture what you know in order to establish the basis for a self-aware, courteous, intelligent system.

Information Architect,Organizer, Librarian

  • Client Needs Assessment
  • Structural Overview
  • Workflow
  • Organization, taxonomy, terminology
  • Design Specifications
  • Shared Data Elements

SDLC tasks : Define



Let’s face it, there are lots of expectations on the “design” role – because this is where we expect to see solutions.  Every team hurries towards design.  A big challenge in Usability now is to temper that headlong (often foolishly agile) dash towards a finished product with decent research/analysis and robust research/testing.

UI Designer, Interaction Modeler

  • Sitemap
  • Templates & CSS
  • Site Model
  • Wireframes
  • Branding, Icons

SDLC tasks : Design



This is the reality check, when our  design and market assumptions are put to the test.  I include it as part of the continuum of user support.

Usability Tester, Documenter, Help

  • QA, product testing, usability lab
  • Help, FAQ’s, Tutorials
  • Marketing & Publishing
  • Design Workshop
  • Maintenance tools
  • Rollout

SDLC tasks : Deploy


… and finally, PROCESS

Usability Strategy

The other Usability-related job role which has emerged recently is that of someone who deals with UX in “the big picture”.  This indicates the emergence of the Usability practice as a critical aspect of an organization’s maturity model.

How do you make UX work

  • in the Design of products & services
  • within the Team structure
  • as a critical aspect of the Enterprise

This is a continuum.

At the more granular level (in Design, in Team dynamics), the how-do-you-make-UX-work challenge is called “process”.

When we talk about it at the Enterprise level, we tend to call it “strategy“.

At basis, UX strategy is predicated on our understanding that – in a self-service interactive environment

Usability is the Competitive Edge.”

Promote the Craft


This is closely related to “strategy”, but I believe that it deserves its own topic. As usability emerges, grows in importance, and becomes implicit, usability consciousness and knowledge must be pollinated across the enterprise .

Promotion, Education, Evangelism

  • Advocacy within the organization
  • Client-facing presentation
  • Education of team members (particularly tech-side)
  • Mentoring

Infrastructure … How it All fits Together

Though rarely addressed in SDLC, these tools are essential to the success of the entire process.  In that sense, infrastructure is a strategic assumption.  Much of the task infrastructure is predicated on our information architecture.

  • Best Practices
  • Resource Center (re-usable components)
  • Standards (s.a. accessibility)
  • Cross-channel integration

Process + Deliverables = Infrastructure

the TakeAway

In the bad old days, we had a bunch of unaddressed needs that were in search of job descriptions.  Eventually, they were  grouped together as something called “user experience” For a while there was the unrealistic expectation that one person – the UX Unicorn – would deal with all of it.  Currently we find ourselves re-defining our segmented UX roles … and they actually reorganize themselves along traditional SDLC developmental lines. (There’s also some internecine bickering about which of them are really UX – but that’s another thread).  And UX now has a seat at the organizational table:  We’re finally talking about it in strategic terms.

The UX practice is not only involved at all stages of the process, it is now recognized as the guiding spirit of the entire process.

* “Researcher” is a popular UX label these days (i.e. It’s a little overused).  We should be clear about what we mean by “research“.

the Mirror

A while back I created a UX self-Evaluation questionnaire. It’s sort of based on this article. Please check out the article and then try the survey (It’s only 10 questions) at

As you look these over, you may disagree with my groupings.This is both likely and realistic:  Individual UX Practitioners each have a unique collection of skills – most of which are hybrid.  There’s a lot of overlap.  And there’s occasional redundancy among the stages of the process.

Aside: I see Agile as a tactical improvement on classic Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC).  It acknowledges the same fundamental process, but optimizes for collaboration, iterative integration, and rapid turnaround.

Please try the UX Self-Evaluation Survey (It’s only 10 questions) 

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