Do you ever think UX designers are all about sketching out where a button should appear on a web page? I used to be in that particular camp, right up until I became a part of the M.A Web Design course here at University of Greenwich.
When family and friends asked me about what I will learn as a UXD student, I often went with the ‘I design how websites work’ statement. To be honest, that turned out to be an incomplete definition and it understated my learning of UXD as a suite of skill. Just in the same way that plumbers don’t just fix blocked toilets, or being an electrician is far more technical than just changing light bulbs, UXD surely was misunderstood by me. This mentality perfectly set me up for the learnings I was about to have in the User Experience Design workshops undertaken by Steph Troeth and Chris How.
To put my learnings and into perspective, this quote captures an initial impression to me of how UXD operates:
“User experience design is about studying the user behaviour and understanding user motivations with the goal of designing amazing digital experiences” – Adi
In this article I aim to breakdown my learning of the subject of UXD and how I plan on integrating all of that into the Major Project I am tasked to work on.
Chapter I : Major Project Context
Before I dive into the implementation of UXD learnings, it is important to give a brief to my project.
I am planning to bring to life a website that is to be an absolute and simple solution to discovering India. The website will aim to bring forth the places in India less known about and much less travelled to. It is to act like a window to India for those who actively plan to visit, as well as the curious souls who just want to learn something new. The website aims to act as a resource as well as a guide, while maintaining a distinct user experience in terms of design and the usability.
- The website is to help users make aware of the places in India that are likely not publicized and marketed enough, especially on the travel websites.
- The website is to help users plan an itinerary to optimize their logistics for the trip, while also aiming the users to vaguely understand the Indian geography with the assistance of an interactive map, by giving distinct designs to different parts of the county.
- Down the line, the website is to help Indians from different regions to plan their journey, which I intend to do by making the website accessible by having regional languages support according to requirements.
Chapter II : User Experience Research
Now that I have established a context to my project, I should be able to demonstrate the research tasks that are to be involved with it.
It is to note that UX Research is an essential part of my project as the success of the website sorely depends on how easily users can navigate and learn about places of interest in India, and if the user experience of the website can retain the user for a prolonged duration keeping them curious.
For someone new to research, initially it was difficult to establish a path for research on this particular subject. It is important to have clear research goals and objectives to start with. I had laid down the path to achieve a complete understanding of the plan as put in the image below. A copy of this plan can be downloaded as PDF here:
By creating a problem statement, I can ensure that I am on the right path about who I’m designing for, the problem I plan to help users with, and why it’s important. It is a way to explain the problems users need my UX design to solve and why.
For my project, I have put down the statements from three fitting groups of potential users. Let’s call them Escapists, Learners and Planners.
Below, I have put down the problem statements as identified, the PDF of which can be downloaded here:
‘How Might We’ Statements
A great learning from Chris How’s workshop was the HMW or ‘How Might We’ research method that can help define the goals & objectives for the major project. The method opens up fresh ideas and helps find user areas of interest. Here is the compilation of the HMW statements based on the problem statement that had already been established. Image can be found below and the PDF file can be downloaded here:
User Personas / Identifying Target Users
This phase will include decuding the target user group, which I have kept very much open-ended. Here are the few which I have broadly put into:
- Escapists – These are the group of the people which are always on the go. They tend to be active, love outdoors and seek adventure. They are open to discovery and exploration. All of the travellers and travel-seekers to India can be put into this category.
- Learners- These are the group of people who seek out destination and activity information in massive amount. They are lovers of history, geography, culture and are receptive to interesting, unusual information. All of the people around the world interested in Indian culture, history, and tourism can be put into this category.
- Planners – These are the group of people who take pleasure in the process of planning a trip and are not afraid to scrap an entire plan if things don’t seem quite right to them. They might spend more time planning activities and travel experiences and will not execute it until they are 100% satisfied with their effort. This is the reason they have high expectations.
- Others – My website will be working as a mascot to encourage people around the world to be educated about India as a whole, while trying to eliminate prejudices and create an intruige about the rich culture in the country. Hence, it is essential to not leave others out, even if they are not actively searching for India.
Based on this identification of target users, here is the PDF of User Personas I have been able to compile that can be seen and downloaded below:
Research Methods / Data Collection
While there were many types of Research Methods I was made familiar with during the workshops, I have decided to pick a range of those methods to assist in the UXD of my project. To make sure I will get the best of the data I collect during my research, I am planning have a mix of Qualitative and Quantitative based methods to better understand the user requirements focusing on how users think and behave.
- The Qualitative research methods I plan to use will include having Interviews to have personalized results as well as to collect data in groups in form of Participatory Design research to be able to structure a better design and note the pain points at an individual level.
- The Quantitative research methods I intend on using will include surveys via Google Forms (intercept and email surveys) which is an attitudinal form of research giving more context about how users think. I will also conduct True Intent Studies down the line. A true intent study is a type of survey in which I will intercept a live visitor and ask them questions once they are done browsing my wireframes or hi-fidelity prototypes. This is a behavorial form of research giving more context about how users behave.
Based on the problem statements and the target users in the process, I will be able to create an empathy map that is going to help in a collaborative visualization to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. It will externalize knowledge about users in order to:
- Create an understanding of user needs
- Aid in decision making
Now based on my learning of the topic, it is understood that Empathy Mapping can be captured for one particular user, as much as it can be used to reflect an aggregation of multiple users.
For this project I intend on using the Multiple-Users Empathy Map, that I have carved out using pen-paper. The PDF of which can be seen and downloaded below:
It is worth noting that the whole purpose of creating empathy maps is to understand what drives user behaviour. It also helps in discovering weaknesses in the research.
“Upgrade your User, not your Product. Don’t build a better camera, build better photographers” – Kathy Sierra
Chapter III : Value Proposition & Testing
As for someone who uses and compares products on day-to-day bases, it is important to understand the value your own product imparts. It is important that the users understand the value my product or the website. In order to do that it is essential that I draw out a value proposition as a statement that clearly defines the benefits and offerings of my website.
A value proposition must be short, clear, and straight to the point. In order to generate a competitive value proposition, it is important to ask these questions:
- What is my brand offering?
- What sets my brand apart from the competitors in the market?
During Steph’s workshop, we were able to conduct a similar study where we can list down the exclusive benefits and offerings of our product. I have taken inspirations from that learning and I believe that my website for the project fills in a need and there is a requirement specific to the website’s contribution.
Upon my own research, I have been able to compile a set of ideas that can be encapsulated as a value proposition down the line. The image of the said ideas can be seen and the PDF can be downloaded below:
As that can be seen through my brainstorming, I have come up with a few ideas that will formulate my value proposition. The whole reason of me choosing this project at hand was to creating something different from what is out there.
The problem is that a lot of the travel guide websites out there have a monetory incentive behind showing a user what they show. It is almost impossible to find a similar website with no monetory incentive providing an overall clean experience to the end user.
Hence, a good proposition can be drawn out from the website.
“The competitors have created a product for the country, and I plan to create a mascot” – Adi
Feedback and User Testing
I believe it is very important to maintain a healthy feedback loop in any project. In order to achieve that I plan on having a back-and-forth communication with my friends, family, classmates and other peers having them to test my website and perform basic tasks. All of the feedback can be put together and the pain points can be sorted further to help re-design certain aspects of the product.
As I got to learn during Steph’s workshop, Usability Testing plays a vital role in any research. The major takeaway were the 5 components of Usability:
- Learnability – How easy was it to complete basic tasks?
- Efficiency – Once learning the design, how quickly and efficiently were you able to complete the tasks?
- Memorability – How quickly can you re-establish proficiency using website after a prolonged time?
- Errors – What and how many errors did you make while performing the tasks?
- Satisfaction – How pleasant was it to use the design?
Having these question answered from multiple sources will help me establish a re-design plan and re-think a few ideas from scratch. Now I intend to do this in form of in-person interviews as well as remotely based on the circumstances. Usability testing is definitely a major part since it projects how the user goes around the product and their opinions based on that.
It is important to point out now that I will take ethics into consideration and make sure the well-being of the participants is of utmost priority.
One of the major points I highlighted in the value proposition ideas was the fact that most of the websites that deal with travel in India are not accessible, which not only makes the web design non-inclusive but also severly cuts on the the number of users the product could reach out to.
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee
It is important for the design of the website to be able to be used by as many users as possible, which includes those who have a disability. I intend on using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which will help me make the website more and more accessible.
A feedback loop on the specific aspect of accessibilty of my web design will also help in the overall process of achieving the goals.
The learning from UXD workshops certainly help me get an insight to the possibilities of what I can achieve with my project idea. There is certainly a huge room for changes and I would like to keep it that way, since it is always good to be flexible with plans.
In conclusion, I am excited to undertake my first major project with a User Experience Design approach. The topic is vast, and that is exactly why it offers a lot of choices to cater to the requirements and needs of the user. It is important to make sure that the final product is good, relevant, easy for the end users, and that it accomplishes the purpose it serves.
- https://maze.co/guides/ux-research/ux-research-methods/ – UX Research Methods
- https://marvelapp.com/blog/introduction-user-experience-design/ – Introduction to User Experience Design
- https://www.uxpin.com/studio/blog/design-process-ux/ – Design Process UX
- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-starter-personas-tourism-travel-content-marketing-miranda-miller – Reference for Personas in Travel Content Marketing
- https://www.nngroup.com/articles/empathy-mapping/ – Empathy Mapping
- https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/creating-a-value-proposition – Creating a Value Proposition