The way I structure a product development is almost always like shown above. It has 6 distinct phases, which can take longer depending on a product or brand complexity.
Defining a strategy
The strategy reinforces a UX project and shapes the ultimate goals of the project. The goal of this phase is to clearly define what the organization aims to achieve with the product, how the product success is to be calculated, and what priority this product should have in the whole product spectrum.
Research & Analysis
Many advocates of 'Lean UX' movement often skip this phase in order to save time and resources for the project. Throughout my professional experience, I have found that this phase is often critically underestimated and ultimately leads to poor and uninformed design decisions in later phases. That is why I like to allocate enough time and resources for research. Obviously, complex projects will require more significant user and competitor research tasks, but some small startup websites may skip many research activities other than general analysis.
Ideation & Design
Paper, pen, a big wall and open thinking lead the way in this phase which is This phase is highly collaborative and iterative. Building on the user feedback established in previous phases, the premise of the Design phase is to materialize ideas in low fidelity wireframes and prototypes. Having them in low-fidelity is intentional — it is to delay any conversation relating to graphic identity, branding or visual details and instead focus on functionality.
Tools of the trade: paper, pen, post-its, a big blank wall, fellow teammates, and later, Balsamiq Mockups.
Production & Prototyping
This is were a high-def version of the product is being built. This is to prepare the prototype for testing key assumptions we made in the process so far. Also, this is where the team maps out the content required by the product, from copy to images and video and social network content. Being on the same page with other departments and being in line with the brand is absolutely critical.
Tools of the trade: Sketch (or Photoshop & Illustrator), InVision, Flinto, Principle.
Users are the single most powerful asset we have for creating successful, enjoyable and satisfying user experiences. User workshops, used at the start of a project for research, or now, for getting feedback — well-managed user workshops provide a rich and vital source of qualitative data. Should this be unavailable or we need to test users from different geographical markets, I use a wide array of remote testing tools.
Tools of the trade: InVision, ScreenFlow, Usertesting.com.
Build & Deploy
This is where my role shifts from creating and validating ideas (or leading the design team) to collaborating with developers to guide and champion the vision into reality. Content and digital assets are prepared so that developers can utilize them, in a way that makes it clear where they fit and how they need to behave.
Tools of the trade: Zeplin for developer handoff, OneNote for keeping track what is finalized.
Analyze & Iterate
The flood of ready-made metrics available, it's important to identify key metrics that allow us to monitor a product's journey toward (or away) from it's KPIs. Building in capacity to gather custom project-relative metrics is also important, this can be built in with custom code, or plugged in via 3rd-party services. The results from this beta release will define the outcome from each iteration and it can, and mostly, will end in another iteration of the process to adjust the product accordingly.
Sure, but how is this user centered?
It seems a bit waterfall-ish!
All these phases of the UX process have a considerable level of overlay — there’s a lot of back-and-forth. As we learn more about the problem being solved, the audience, the stakeholders and the constraints, it may be necessary to revisit some of the research undertaken, get additional user feedback, or try out new ideas. And I've already mentioned that this process is highly iterative and often takes multiple iterations to get all the metrics right for our KPIs.