Communicating Design describes 10 different essential design documents, from wireframes and site maps to usability test reports and personas. Although there are many more than 10 kinds of documents out there, the book focuses on the essentials, the ones user experience professionals get asked to produce on nearly every project.
There is one chapter for each deliverable, and every chapter is structured the same way, consisting of four parts: At-A-Glance, Creating, Presenting, and In Context. The At-A-Glance section provides an overview of the document. This is to help people who haven’t made one get a sense of what it is. The Creating section describes the contents of the document, and strategies to ensure your document is complete and accurate. The Presenting section offers strategies for using the documents with clients and team members. Finally, the In Context section looks at how the document fits into the overall project, relating to other deliverables and some food for thought on how the document might change in the future.
There are three key features to the book:
It’s process-agnostic. It’s not another design methodology book. The market is flooded with these as it is, and frankly, who uses the exact same methodology twice? What remains constant throughout every process is the outputs. You may use different methods, but at the end of the day, you still need to produce a site map (or whatever). Communicating Design is a book that people can use without having to think too much about how to adapt it for their own needs.
It’s tool-agnostic. This is not a how-to book for Visio or any other product. Books about applications can have a short shelf-life. Communicating Design is a resource that people can use for a long time. Whatever tool you use, you’ll find useful advice in here about how to structure the deliverable, and what kinds of information to include.
It’s flexible. To make it as flexible as possible, the book describes the contents of each deliverable as a series of three layers. The first layer is the essential information–it’s the stuff that makes the document what it is. For example, with site maps the first layer elements are shapes representing sections of the site, and lines connecting them. If you have these, you have a site map. Layers two and three describe other elements that you can use to embellish or add further contextual information. This approach gives designers the flexibility to create documents that suit their situations. Unlike process books, which tend to be very prescriptive, the approach in Communicating Design makes it easy to adapt the documents to individual circumstances.