UX Services from A-Z
Business Analysis is the act of understanding and documenting a business's processes and needs in order to write adequate requirements for product development. There are numerous activities once can engage in to gather the requirements: industry research, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, shadowing, and contextual inquiry. All of these, to one degree or another, can help the analyst to understand the business processes and workflows. Once these are understood, detailed use cases can be written. Use Cases are an excellent source from which to derive the product requirements.
Heuristic, or Expert Review
In a nutshell, "Heuristics" means, been there, done that, know what works and what doesn't. A heuristic or expert review is the critical analysis of an existing product to determine short-comings in the design in regards to usability. The product's design is measured against known standards and practices. These short-comings are ranked in terms of negative impact on the user's experience. Where necessary, recommendations are made for remediation.
Structuring the content of a web site or electronic product into sensible groups or segments and devising user-friendly navagation around that content is the role of the information architect. It is essential that the product or application workflow matches the needs of the user. Balancing the depth and breadth of your site's or product's content heirarchy is a real art, and a good information architect can do that.
Interface or Interaction Design
The look and feel, the actual buttons, links, etc. are all details of the user's interaction. But another huge part of the interation is the actual workflow a user takes to complete a task. Time and time again, users have bailed out of poorly designed applications and if that application is your shopping cart, then that means lost revenue.
In order to test a design before investing the time and effort into actual development is best done with a prototype. There are numerous types of prototypes, from simple paper prototypes through more detailed "hi-fidelity" mockups where user-interaction is simulated in the actual user's environment.
Good designers can get a product 90 percent of the way "there," but one can never know what makes a design a success or a failure without adequate user testing. Putting actual users in front of the product and observing their behavior in test scenarios is the only way to truly divine what remediation or redesign needs to take place.
Wireframing is just one activity in information architecture or interface and interaction design. This is the process of creating skeletal layouts of the product to communicate the foundational design ideas to users, business stakeholders,and developers. Wireframes are a great way to capture requirements in an agile development methodology, however, some stakeholders may find it difficult to fill in or imagine the finer details. More detailed mock-ups may be required in those cases.