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Given that everyone has their own "nitch" or style for developing new products/applications,

I was wondering if there is an ideal cycle that most ux professionals like to follow?

This could be controversial in given exactly what product is being developed, but there are so many tools and powerful resources for designers to use, I sometimes feel "lost" in which is the most ideal way.

For example:

User stories > Flow Charts > Site Map (IA) > Wire Frames > Prototype > test > Reiterate

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You need to specify what new products you are referring to. Designing a new car is very different to designing software. –  JohnGB Nov 27 '12 at 17:30
    
Completely agree, though intentionally left out what type of product for the sole reason of understanding if some people may take different approaches or use the same methods with different tools. –  Kyle Mirro Nov 27 '12 at 18:20
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I think that's a pretty standard way to do it, but don't serve the process if the process gets in the way of progress. I will never commit to a final deliverable (e.g., site map) before everything is done; IMHO, efficient UX work is never as neat as a waterfall-type project plan would indicate.

My own process is more like the curly line on a Hostess Cupcake (R.I.P.) than a straight line:

  • I can rarely complete a helpful flow chart without designing an IA
  • Since my IA might depend on the content that lives on a given page template, I should probably start blocking out my wires
  • How will this IA and the labels I apply to it sit with users? I should probably test it.

I would also add that a critical part of my process is going back and forth between production fidelity levels: sketches to pixels and back.

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