Research and Design: Reflection and Learning with the City of Surrey

Research and Design: Reflection and Learning with the City of Surrey

By: Mimi Tsai
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My co-op at the City of Surrey as a UX web designer was exciting and rewarding. It focused on improving the user experience of digital services and creating new digital solutions for existing city services. The idea is simple: we designed online services that are user centered and fulfills the needs of the city and its citizens.

Importance of user research in UX design

What kept me motivated every day is that my design represented the City and would be used by hundreds and thousands of people, or even more. It’s was not another school project, every design decision I made needed to be carefully considered. While designing for school projects, there was always a lack of user feedback. I would often ask myself: Does the solution I am designing to meet the needs of the target audience? Have I considered every aspect of my task at hand? It wasn’t until my previous co-op as a UX researcher, which brought me to understand the importance of user testing.  While working with the City of Surrey, I was able to further explore this domain.

As one of my starter projects, I had the opportunity to conduct surveys at local libraries and recreation centers to gather citizen feedback. Talking to survey participants helped me understand their needs and questions for the city. One major takeaway from this project was that the language used on the city website was sometimes confusing. One challenge I encountered here was to balance the needs of the city to get a message across, yet in a way that was easily understood by citizens.

With that being said, I saw first hand while doing co-op how UX design and UX research go hand in hand. A well-designed digital product requires a lot of user research in order to understand the needs of the audience. As a UX designer, I need to constantly stand at the user’s point of view and reflect on my design decisions. Conducting surveys and interviewing real people really helped me consider a lot of aspects to incorporate into my work. At the same time, I was able to constantly reflect on my designs and propose ideas with more confidence.  

 

 From design student to UX designer

My experience working at the City of Surrey was unique compared to previous work positions. There are approximately 5000+ city employees, and with the growing usage of the internet, there are plenty of opportunities for UX design. I could work with many internal business units to help provide a better digital user experience for example. With the guidance from my team and other colleagues, I grew a lot as a UX designer.  My soft skills such as communication and time management flourished alongside my UX designer skills.  

When I started university as a design student in SIAT, I was unsure about my decision and how everything would play out in the future. There were many moments of self-doubt where I wondered if I was on the right path. After exploring different career paths, now I realize that there is no such a thing as a “right path”. I have taken on many work positions outside of UX, such as being a teacher. I found that exploring different career opportunities helped me understand my strengths and gave me a clearer vision of what I wish to achieve in the future. After I realized I was very passionate about UX, I was confident my decision to become a UX designer was a good one. Though my future path is still uncertain, I am very grateful for all the opportunities and knowledge I have gained through co-op and hope to continue to do what I believe in as a UX designer.  

 


 

Beyond the Article 

Posted on March 22, 2019