Assignment Phase 1: Research

You will be designing and prototyping the interface for a new feature for the application your team has been assigned. In order to effectively design this interface you will need to research the existing interface, and research the goals, expectations and experiences of beginner and intermediate users.

Step 1:You will begin your process by learning the interface inside and out and practicing a think-aloud user test with yourselves in the roles of facilitator and subject. This will provide you with a chance to get a feel for the new user experience of a beginner while rehearsing the a think-aloud test in a low-risk environment.

Start by having one member of your team, who will later take on the role of test facilitator, go through the entire app in detail on their own, screencapping everything as you go and making note of the existing on-boarding, account signup process, major screens and features for both the mobile and web application.

  • Primary purpose of the application
  • Key application features
  • Interface design patterns (how the visuals work: forms, layouts, colours, icons... etc)
  • Interaction patterns (how they move us through: clicks, taps, scrolls, swipes... etc)
  • Intended users

You will then use your second member as an initial beginner research subject and conduct a practice think-aloud user test.

Before you conduct your practice test, take some time to watch the following Usability Demo video from Steve Krug. While watching the video make note of what he is saying and doing as a test facilitator and the types of questions and responses are present.

Create your own testing script and planned questions and based on the example above and take your team-mate through the test in the role of beginner user.

  • Consider:
  • What did you find out from your initial research and practice user-test?
  • What are some common tasks and activities?
  • What were some initial pain-points, frustrations or issues encountered?
  • How were those issues overcome?

Step 2 - Real Beginner and Intermediate Users:

Having determined the likely intended users for this application, locate 2-3 intended users and conduct think aloud tests with each of them which can help you see the users moving through common tasks or activities in the application.

If at all possible try to ensure at least one of these users is an intermediate user of the application. If you are unable to locate an intermediate user then you will need to work all of your research subjects across the next 2 weeks to have them continue using the app and conduct additional research.

In addition to the think-aloud test, conduct a short interview with your subjects that investigates their background with the tasks, skills and activities related to the application and attempts to build an understanding of their goals and needs within the context of the app and the activities it supports.

The exact format and script of the interview is up to you and your team but don't stay too up on the surface of the issue. Dig down and ask why

Throughout the tests and interviews make note of relevant user goals, issues, frustrations, positive experiences, needs, errors and other information that you can use to inform your future design interventions.

  • Consider:
  • What did you find out from your initial research and practice user-test?
  • What were the user's needs and goals in using the system?
  • Were there any key skills or experience that the interface required or that allowed the user to better use the system?
  • What are some common tasks and activities?
  • What were some pain-points, frustrations, fears, or issues encountered?
  • How were those issues overcome?
  • Were any issues impossible to overcome?

Step 3 - Stakeholder and Designer GoalsThe goals and capabilities of our users are a major driver of the design direction but they are not the only influencer. It is important to remember that your user is not the designer and your own skill, knowledge and integrity remain a controlling influence on the final outcome.

Thus it is important that you as a designer or member of a design team have personal integrity and a clearly defined set of goals and values that shape the work you do. The following talk by Mike Monteiro is a good starting point for remembering the importance of that integrity and I encourage you all to watch it before you begin your own design work.

A final influencer to remember is the stakeholder. Whether its a small business hiring you for freelance work, or a large company like SAP or Strava who have hired you to design for them, your stakeholder has goals of their own (goals that do not always line up with the goals of your user). You must make sure you are aware of your stakeholders goals when you are designing so that you can work to ensure they and your user do not come into conflict. And if a stakeholders goals are too far out of line with their users, consider your own integrity and role in reconciling the disconnect.

Continue to Phase 2 - Synthesis...