Tasks,  User Experience Design

UX and Me

Introduction

The module User Experience Design as really broadened my mind and I can appreciate just how much time and effort goes behind the layout and functions of any web page. I came into this module feeling very naive about user experience design despite the fact I am extremely interested in the field and I was thinking of taking it on as a career. To my surprise there was a lot more depth into the subject than I anticipated but I am pleasantly surprised by this and I feel very informed after the classes. 

In Steph and Chris’s classes we covered a range of techniques used in user experience research and design. I formed an understanding of the important interconnection between the two when producing a successful user centred journey.

I plan to utilise my newly acquired knowledge in user experience for my major project.

User Experience Research with Steph Troeth

In Steph Troeth’s class User experience research we explored a variety of techniques that can be used to collect information and data about users or potential users. Steph described user research as a processes that “seeks to understand people’s relationship to products and services in real contexts.” To achieve this, we should explore the different possible needs a user may have when approaching our website. Additionally, we should also study the “behaviours, motivation, triggers and barriers” the user may experience and what may cause them to make certain decisions.

The first technique we explored is how to capture a users needs through user needs statements, also known as user story: 

As a { user role / persona } I need to { do what I need to do } In order to { accomplish goal }.

Additionally, capturing the users needs can be conducted through job stories: 

When { situation or context } I want to { do what } So that I can { have an outcome (why) }.

This technique enables us to picture different kinds of users and clearly Identify what they need in-order for us to ensure our websites provides them.

A quick summery of my major project is that it is an informative website all about small plants for small spaces. My target audience are people aged in their teens or older, due to the fact that owning plants requires a degree of responsibility and access to materials. My project is primarily aimed at people living in London who own a small space, such as student halls or small apartments. My hope is to help them identify plants most appropriate to their accommodation and budget that they can take care of and use to spruce up their home.

To relate this to my major project, which I will go in more detail about in the last section, an example of a user story for my website would be:

As a student, I need to buy small, affordable items, in order to fit them in my student halls. Here we can identify that the student user has a budget and a limited amount of space, therefore, buying a small, cheap plant for their small living space would be an ideal and achievable way for them to spice up their halls.

Steph then introduced us to the idea of implementing the double diamond. This is a process that describes how research isn’t linear and often we will go a back and repeat steps when creating new ideas or to tackle any challenges and confirm any assumptions that may arise. The double diamond begins on one side through exploring the problem by discovering and defining, then, on the other side, we are framing the solution by developing and delivering it. One these steps have been thoroughly explored and repeated, the next step would be to monitor and optimise.

This technique is a great way for me to insure that I take the time to conduct my major project research in depth and testing to make sure my user experience ends up being easy and enjoyable.

Steph emphasised the idea that “research and design work in tandem”. Like a wave, every couple steps in research comes a couple steps in design. For specifically, we begin research with our assumptions and hypothesis, then proceed to question. After these steps comes the design of prototyping which leads to validating our process.

“Good design is hypothesis and evidence-driven.”

Steph Troeth

We explored how to utilise research objectives. Steph defined them as a way to “state a clear goal for what you are looking to achieve.. for you and your team to align on research outcomes” as well as “help you determine the appropriate methodology.” Some examples of different types of research objects were close-ended, semi-opened ended and open-ended and exploratory.

After this, Steph introduced the Research Canvas. This template is extremely helpful as it breaks down each research steps and get in-depth and clear outline of the research journey.

It presents as follows:

Research context, research objectives, assumptions, hypotheses, existing evidence, target audience and methodology.

There is a huge range of different research methods and it is important to consider which ones will help me collect the right data for my major project. She presented a spectrum of research methods, starting with formative and generative, which is usually more beneficial at the beginning of the research period that consists of open-ended research such as ethnographies, diary studies, jobs-to-be-done, “contextual enquiry” and interviews. In the semi-open ended methods such as card sorting, “listing labs”, focus groups, surveys, tree testing and heuristic evaluation are found going further along the spectrum. Finally, at the other end of the spectrum and often better used for when the product is in its prototype stage or is being finalised, consists of summative evaluative research methods that are close-ended. This includes usability testing, multivariate testing and A/B testing and remote testing tools.

When looking into research for my project, I’ve decided to start by collecting potential user data through open-ended methods such as Interviews, semi-open ended such as card sorting, concept testing, surveys, tree testing and finally close ended such as usability testing.

Next, Steph compared the different modalities such as qualitative vs quantitative, behaviour vs attitudinal, moderated vs unmoderated, in person vs remote and 1-1 vs group sessions. These methods are critical ways of collecting and analysis data, as each method can result in a different outcome even if the material being sampled is the same. Additionally, some of these methods may be more beneficial than others.

Qualitative data can be used to describe “qualities or characteristics” (Macalester, 2011) through data that is “non-statistical and is typically unstructured or semi-structured” (Pickell, 2021). This can be collected often through open-ended research methods such as “questionnaires, interviews, or observation, and frequently appears in narrative form” (Macalester, 2011) that is categorised “based on properties, attributes, labels, and other identifiers” (Pickell, 2021) to “ask the question “why”” (Pickell, 2021).

Quantitative data is “measured using numbers and values” (Pickell, 2021) making it “a more suitable candidate for data analysis” (Pickell, 2021). This is due to it being more “statistical and … typically structured in nature” (Pickell, 2021) as it uses more “concise and close-ended” (Pickell, 2021) research methods. It is “used when a researcher is trying to quantify a problem, or address the “what” or “how many” aspects of a research question, followed by conclusive information” (Macalester, 2011). Some examples of this method includes a “questionnaire which includes a ratings scale or a thermometer to collect weather data” (Macalester, 2011).

For my research, I plan to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to compare and contract the results in order to gain a greater insight in my research. An example of a piece of qualitative research I will conduct is an interviews with current houseplant owners about their plants. An example of a piece of quantitative research I will also conduct would be surveys that consist of statical questions such as how much money would you spend on a houseplant or how many plants do you think you can sustain in your household.

When looking at behaviour and attitudinal research methods, I am learning towards conducting more attitudinal methods as I do not necessarily have the facilities or ability to conduct some behaviour studies such as eye tracking, but also because I am more focused on how the users feel and think about my website. This is why I plan to do more attitudinal research as I am able to investigate what it is my user may want or need from my website and their emotions and motivations during their journey. This is so that I am able to learn and adapt to their responses which will help me to improve the user experience journey.

User Experience Design with Chris How

In Chris How’s classes on user experience design he defines it as follows:

“User-centred Design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process.

UCD calls for involving users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques so as to create highly usable and accessible products for them.”

There are three key factors to designing a solution, where the intersection between Business (viability) User (desirability) and Technology (feasibility) results and sculpts a good quality design.

Through Analysis and Synthesis, Chris presented us four ways that we can use to show and visualise the research that has been conducted. These are personas, job statements, user journey maps and empathy maps. He states that it’s important that during this we to look for pain points that users may find challenging with for example, time, cost, difficulty levels of something or the frequency of doing something and not just the positive outcomes.

Chris describes personas as a “cast of characters who represent the different types of behaviour and attitudes that you saw in your research interviews”. This enables to get a better scope on who we are designing our product or service for and to highlight the key audience members that we are targeting to design for. Each character would include a more detailed sheet that highlights the different behaviours of the characters, the types of ways they went about finding their goal, such as which devices, the types of information they were looking for. Additionally, it presents their goals and needs or the characters when they came to the websites and the pains and concerns that the designs needed to overcome in order to be used for these characters.

Chris describes job statements as “a structured way to express the desired outcomes for the audience you are designing for” and “look at the product in terms of the job the user wants to get done by using that product or service”. It is important to note that they “don’t dictate the solution that you’re going to design but they do tell you the outcome that is needed from the design”. The template is as follows:

(Situation) When… (motivation) I want to… (expected outcome) so I can…

This is much like the job stories we covered in Steph’s classes.

Optimizley (2021) defines user journey maps, or customer journey maps, as “a diagram that visually illustrates the user flow through your site, starting with initial contact or discovery, and continuing through the process of engagement into long-term loyalty and advocacy” (Optimizley, 2021). They consist of two axes from left to right that represent time or sequence and from top to bottom they list out the attributes of interest. Chris states that this method is beneficial for presenting research about “a product or service that requires people to go through a sequence of actives either in one go or over several visits to each that end goal”. An emotion line is included to highlight the delight and pain points that the user experiences during the process. This way makes it easier to visualise opportunities for improvements.

Gibbsons (2018) defines empathy maps as “a collaborative visualization used to articulate what we know about a particular type of user… It externalizes knowledge about users in order to 1) create a shared understanding of user needs, and 2) aid in decision making” (Gibbsons, 2018). Chris elaborates that it is a “pen portrait to keep your user at the centre of mind when you’re designing”. Empathy maps help start with the GOALS where we explore WHO we are empathising with and what do they NEED TO DO. Then we work our way through the questions of what do they SEE? What do they SAY? What do they DO? What do they HEAR? After these are completed we dive into the users head and consider and answer what do they THINK and FEEL? What are their PAINS and GAINS?

I plan to use all four methods to present my research in a detailed and easy to follow manner. This will make it easier for me to identify the delights and pain points through the user’s process.

Conclusion

Attending Steph and Chris’s classes on user experience research and design, has broadened my knowledge about utilising the harmony of research and design to sculpt a practical user-centered design. I can apply the various techniques of data collection and research presentation that I have learned in this class to my major project. I feel confident that these tools will facilitate my project progression, as well as providing me with foundational techniques I can carry forward to future design work. 

Bibliography

Gibbons, S. (2018) Empathy Mapping: The First Step in Design Thinking. Available from: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/empathy-mapping/

Gray, D. (2017) Updated Empathy Map Canvas. Available from: https://medium.com/the-xplane-collection/updated-empathy-map-canvas-46df22df3c8a

Macalester Library (2011) Data Module #1: What is Research Data?. Available from: https://libguides.macalester.edu/c.php?g=527786&p=3608639

Optimizely (2021) User journey map. Available from: https://www.optimizely.com/optimization-glossary/user-journey-map/

Pickell, D (2021) Qualitative vs Quantitative Data – What’s the Difference?. Available from: https://www.g2.com/articles/qualitative-vs-quantitative-data

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