“People ignore design that ignores people.”
UXD – Learn,Unlearn,Relearn
What if car’s had square tyres and circular bodies, jackets had zippers on the rear and an e-commerce website doesn’t have an option for purchase? Everything from a needle to aircraft is an exceptional piece of design crafted with excellence and perseverance. Design is like carving a statue from stone, but the statue should be the one the user needs and not the one the designer thinks the user needs. So, how do we understand and analyse which statue the user needs? Understanding the user and his needs is elemental in building any product.
As Don Norman say’s, “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” To provide a good user experience on a product, the product should be able to deliver what the user needs. The user needs can be identified through well-defined user research. Well-defined and in-depth research can always enlighten the designer to create exemplary products. If the product is able to engage, enhance and deliver the user needs, the design is considered exquisite. Any design masterpiece we witness has gone through multiple phases of research, prototyping, designing, testing and iterations before attaining its final form.
A designer never designs user experience , he designs for user experience– Nick Babich, Adobe
User Experience Design or UXD is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. UXD is user-centred and always prioritises user needs. As Frank Chimero say’s “People ignore design that ignores people.” The design should be user centred and focused on aligning with the user expectations. The more the design is aligned towards user expectations, the richer the user experience will be. So, to understand what the user expects from the product, we need to understand who the user is and what his needs are. User Research becomes vital when it comes to understanding the user and his needs.
User Experience or UX research is learning what end users of a system or product need and want, and then employing those insights to enhance the design process for the product or service. Research from an early stage will help the designer get more visibility into the product and target audience. It also helps in taking the right decisions in the initial stages, thereby saving time and budget. A UX researcher analyzes and studies user interactions, behaviours, and emotions to help build user-centred designs. There are various UX research methods for understanding the user and his needs. The methods can be classified into dimensions based on their characteristics and modus vivendi. Some of the most commonly used methods can be classified into 3 dimensions –
Quantitative or Qualitative
Behavioural or Attitudinal
Context of use
Quantitative user research focuses on collecting unbiased, numerical data indirectly from the user through different types of testing methods. It answers the questions of “how many, how much, and how often?”. Qualitative research on the other hand focuses on collecting data directly from the user through interviews, usability testing etc. and answering the questions of “Why, and how to fix?”. Behavioural research studies “what people do”, while Attitudinal focuses on “what people say”. The context of use observes how the user is using the product during the research. There are a large number of research methods that help the researcher understand the user and his needs. There are more dimensions than these like open and close ended etc. Some of the methods are part of more than one dimension, which increases the scope and vicinity of the research. Some of the most commonly used methods are usability testing, interviews, focus groups, surveys, competitive audits etc.
UXD > ME > Major Project
UX design has always amused me. I had always dreamt of building a product that can change the life of people. Travelling is one of my favourite hobbies. I decided why don’t I build something for people like me. I started talking to my colleagues about it and found that my manager spent a fortune on his last Kerala trip. He chose one of the leading international travel agency. I decided why don’t I start from my home town. From the knowledge I acquired and going to acquire through reading, learning and failures. I decided to build a Travel website for the people. A travel website is not a unique business idea and it never will be. So what makes my website unique, it is going to feature top five local travel agents in South Kerala,India. My website will be content-driven. The website will help the tourist to explore the place in a minimal budget. There will be portfolio’s of the agents displayed on the website. A method to contact the agent will be provided in the website.
For building a successful product, an efficient and strategic design process should be adopted. The process should carry the concept from idea till execution and feedback. The Double Diamond is a model created by the UK’s Design Council which describes a process for making successful products. It describes taking time to understand a domain, picking the right problem to solve, and then exploring potential ideas in that space. This should prove that the product is solving real problems for users and that the implementation of the product works for users. The first diamond represents the Research Phase and the second diamond represents Design Phase. The Research phase focuses on exploring an issue more broadly or deeply (divergent thinking – where many ideas are created) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking – where ideas are reduced and refined to the best idea). The research phase priortises on understanding the user. The design phase priortises on empathizing with the user and creating the user desired product.
DISCOVER – Research helps in understanding the user and the product. The user needs, wants and behaviours are identified through various research methods. User emotions, behaviours, pain points etc. are analyzed and identified.
DEFINE – The data accumulated through the research are used to analyze and define the problem and solution. The problem and goal is defined. High priority and most relevant ideas are defined and priortised. The user needs and pain points identified through research are defined and solutions are made.
DESIGN – The design phase starts with sketching, wireframes, low-fidelity prototypes to high fidelity final designs. The design is done with user needs in mind. The designer should keep in mind the user needs and pain-points while designing. The final designs are then forwarded for evaluvation.
DELIVER – This phase focuses on delivering the design to the user and evaluvating the design through user feedbacks. Priority is given for successfull elimination of user pain points, achieveing user needs etc. The primary aim of the phase is to refine the design as much as possible.
Starting from scratch, I want to have a deeper understanding on the target users, objectives, context, problems and goals. An unbiased and in-depth research is adequate for understanding these. There are various research methods for understanding these. But it’s important to understand where to use what. I have to understand and create a problem and goal statement to make sure my research is always fixated in the right direction. Understanding the problem I’m trying to solve and goal I’m trying to achieve is crucial. Without a deep understanding on this, the product will be directionless from the beginning. I will start the research with creating a research canvas. A research canvas consist of the research context, its objectives, assumptions, hypotheses, existing evidence, target audience and the methodology. The research canvas will help me stay focussed on the priorities and goals.
To understand the research context, I need to understand the purpose of doing the research and the impact I hope to achieve from the research. The objective should be what I need to learn from the research. Assumptions about what I think I know and hypotheses on what I think will happen are also important. Since my website is content-driven, I’ll have to check for persisting market research, analytics, journals etc. Selecting the appropriate target audience for the research is crucial for getting accurate feedback. Once I select my preferred target audience, I’m going to enter the vital part of the research, ie, methodology. A design research methodology is an approach and a set of supporting methods and guidelines to be used as a framework for doing design research. Since my website is content driven, I’m going to start with an offline interview. The interview will consist of a few closed-end questions in the beginning, then a few semi-open and will end with open-ended questions. I believe starting the interview with closed-end questions will help the user to feel comfortable and at an ease of mind when moving forward. The interview will be focused on gaining knowledge about the user’s needs and priorities while using the website. I will conduct remote-comparative usability testing to analyse the current competitors and how the user interacts with the current websites. It will help me in getting a better understanding of the user needs in the earlier phase itself. Even though Remote testing doesn’t go as deep into a participant’s reasoning, it allows me to test large numbers of people in different geographical areas using fewer resources. This will help me gather information and details for the Discover phase. It will also help me in moving to the next stage of the design process.
In the Define phase, the data acquired is analysed to create empathy maps, user personas, user journey maps, competitive audits, and understanding the gaps and opportunities for improvement etc. The user pain points and priorities are pointed out to make the design phase user centred and effective. The techniques should be well understood to provide accurate information for the design phase. The methods are –
Empathy maps – Empathizing with the user is pivotal in understanding the user’s needs and priorities. Empathy is understanding the emotions of the user. The researcher should be able to put himself in the shoes of the user. An empathy map is a collaborative visualization used to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. It externalizes knowledge about users to create a shared understanding of user needs and aid in decision-making.
User Personas – User personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. Usually, a persona includes behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and background information, as well as the environment in which a persona operates. It helps the designer in understanding the user pain points, frustrations, behaviours and goals.
Competitive Audits – A competitive audit allows you to track your competitors, understand their approach, and figure out what your product might be missing out on. The aim is to discover what works for other companies in your industry and incorporate those strategies for your brand to gain a competitive edge. it will also help in understanding the possible gaps in the current industry, which you can incorporate in your product to get an upper hand.
These are the 3 methods I will be using for my Define phase to understand the user needs, goals, motivations and analyse the gaps and opportunities. The data accumulated is used to find the problem, goals and solutions. Now, I’ll be moving to the next stage of the design process, ie, the design phase.
The Design should be user-centred and prioritised user needs. User-centred design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on users and their requirements throughout the process. And three factors go into User-centered design – Business (viability), User (desirability) and Technology (feasibility). The intersection of these factors is where great design happens. The product should be viable for business, desirable for the user and technologically feasible. Design squiggle is one way of thinking about design, The journey of researching, uncovering insights, generating creative concepts, iteration of prototypes and eventually concluding in one single designed solution. It is intended to convey the feeling of the journey. Beginning on the left with mess and uncertainty and ending on the right with a single point of focus: the design.
The design should also align with the 5 visual design principles to create an engaging and user-centred design experience. The design should have the 4C’s of designing – Consistency, Continuity, Context, and Complementary and the 5E’s – Effectiveness, Efficiency, Engagement, Error Tolerance, and Ease of Learning. There are different phases in design, they are –
Ideation – Ideation is a Creative process of developing, and generating new ideas. In the process of a design thinking process, we do this once we have finished our research and explained the problem. Usually, This is in the form of a how-might-we statement. Sketching is a great way to put ideas and thoughts on paper. Whether it’s for a group or individual, it allows you to share thoughts on various topics. You can share thoughts on anything from strategy to design to user flows and it’s also a great way to collaborate with others. Some of the other ideation techniques are mind mapping, storyboarding, brainstorming etc. The SCAMPER method helps you generate ideas for new products and services by encouraging you to ask seven different types of questions, which will help you understand how you can innovate and improve existing products, services, problems and ideas. SCAMPER stands for –
- Substitute: Focuses on the parts in the product, service or solution that can be replaced with another
- Combine: Tends to analyze the possibility of merging two ideas, stages of the process or product in one single more efficient output.
- Adapt: Refers to a brainstorming discussion that aims to adjust a product or service for a better output.
- Modify: Changing the process in a way that brings more innovative capabilities or solves problems.
- Put to another use: Refers to changing the process in a way that unleashes more innovative capabilities or solves problems
- Eliminate: Identify the parts of the process that can be eliminated to improve the process product or service.
- Reverse: Explore the innovative potential when changing the order of the process in the production line.
This is a sequence of tasks and actions that helps refine ideas and solutions. it’s important to apply this technique from time to time to make sure that the service continues to match the user’s needs.
Wireframes – A wireframe is concerned with the interface’s structural elements, without focusing on the interactions. We can say that every wireframe is a prototype, but not every prototype is a wireframe. Wireframing is a practice used by UX designers which allows them to define and plan the information hierarchy of their design for a website, app, or product.
Prototyping – Prototyping is a process where designers implement ideas into tangible forms that are from paper to digital. Designers develop these prototypes in different fidelity to express design concepts and to test them on users. With this process we can clarify and confirm the designs, so the brand can finalize and launch the right products. There are two categories of prototypes: low fidelity and high fidelity. Lo-fi prototypes are budget-friendly, less time-consuming, flexible and easy to iterate. You can build a lo-fi prototype even with pen and paper. Whereas hi-fi prototypes are final designs. They are highly functional and interactive. They are used in the next phase for testing. Prototypes are focussed on user interactions and design elements responsible for user experience.
This phase focuses on delivering the design to the user and evaluating the design through user feedback. Successful elimination of user pain points, achieving user needs etc. are given priority. The primary aim of the phase is to refine the design as much as possible. The final designs are delivered to the user for analysing the user interaction and evaluation of how the user interacts. Testing is a process of gathering information regarding the usability and overall user experience from users during the design process. There are many ways like card sorting, surveys, interviews, and observation through which this can do. This process allows for to improvement of the final product and helps the user in being a part of the decision-making process through usability studies and testing. User testing sessions with people who represent our target audience are very important. It can be moderated/unmoderated usability testing, focus groups, beta testing, A/B testing etc.
Usability testing – is the process of evaluating a product or service by putting it through its paces with real-world consumers. The purpose is to discover any usability issues, collect qualitative and quantitative data, and establish the level of satisfaction with the product among users.
A/B testing – (also known as split testing or bucket testing) is a technique for comparing two versions of a website or app to see which performs better. We can use this method of testing to understand what the user likes and dislike in different versions
Surveys – are an excellent way to collect quantitative and qualitative data from real-world users. To gain customer feedback on specific aspects, UX designers can ask open-ended questions like “What component of the product do you dislike?”. It’s the best method to get direct user feedback and fix the mistakes that the user finds in the proposed design.
Analytics – Quantitative data from an analytics tool (clicks, navigation time, search queries, bouncing rate, and so on) can be quite useful in determining how users engage with the website.
These are some of the most used testing methods for analysing the user experience and interaction. The results are analysed and evaluated. Testing and evaluation are mandatory for the product, as it helps the designer in understanding how effectively he has achieved the goal and solution. Once the feedback is implemented in the right way. The product will be ready for the wider target audience. I’m planning to imply the testing methods on my major project to get valuable target audience feedback.
The knowledge and data I’m going to gain from the research will be utilised to build a product that can solve the user’s pain points, and problems, and provide enhanced user experience, and solutions. The lectures by Chris and Steph have helped me widen my horizon in the field of UXD. The website will be stitched as per the guidelines taught by Chris and Steph. As the research starts, I’ll learn more, iterate and build solutions for the user. I’ll try to understand and learn more about the user through the research phase following Steph’s guidelines and strategies, this will help me design an engaging and fruitful user experience as mentored by Chris. There is a lot to learn and I’m sure, I’ll be learning from all stages of my project.
Lecture on UXD by Chris and UXR by Steph
Ux design and research