Adventures Into User Research With The Public
October 3, 2019

Today’s blog is all about my first adventures into UX involving members of the public. No big deal, right?

UX and Me

I have been fascinated by User Experience for about 3 years in an academic environment through Foundation Degree modules called ‘Web App Development’ and ‘Multimedia Design’, then into University where I was introduced to the term ‘UX’.

First things first, for those of you who don’t know, UX/UI is a useful bridge to connect us and our clients (and more importantly, their clients) so that we can understand the real needs and requirements of their users. In short, it provides us with invaluable insights into how to develop a custom solution, App or website.

I’ve been using UX in one way or another for quite some time, working with Front End Development and building websites in my spare time. As part of that process I quiz my client (friends and family) on what content they want, how they want it displayed, and challenge them with questions like ‘do you really need a search bar on a blog for a family pet?’. But working with living breathing, authentic customers of one of Ireland’s most successful enterprises was an opportunity I was delighted to tackle.

As a placement student I considered myself extremely lucky to be asked along to the User Research sessions for our client. The gig was to test user’s perception and working experience of our primary B2C website, to determine which user journeys were working and which needed some TLC. Even with a 6am start I was buzzing on our journey to Dublin city centre.

Controlling The Fun

We met our client at one of Dublin’s finest Georgian hotels and began setting up the necessary technology and recording software across two function rooms.

This allowed us to conduct two separate experiences that would have high integrity and reliability. If the invited users had been sharing the same room with more than one instructor reading session scripts and giving task prompts the user experiences recorded could be skewed. For example, one user may overhear how the other was struggling with a similar task and be distracted, or worse yet, make the same mistakes by overhearing the other user verbalise what they were doing. While learning the the user is struggling with finding the desired information is a hugely valuable insight, it’s vital they are not influenced during the session by the instructor or other users.

The users were invited into each Workshop where we read a script which explained the workshop, the process for completing tasks and information as to why we were conducting the workshop and how we value all input from the User. This was key as I learned this was a control measure, ensuring each participant was prepped in the same way, providing for an identical testing set up and experience. Each user received the same information and instruction ensuring the reliability of feedback.

Process Process Process

We worked with 8 users in total throughout the day, each in a 45 minute session where they aimed to complete seven core tasks relating to high priority actions on the website. The tasks were chosen according to what was determined at an earlier workshop, as the objectives or actions a particular user persona wants to make on the site. We recorded written notes based on our observations of the users while they completed the tasks, and utilised on-screen recording software to record the users faces as well as verbal frustrations and delights (with their permission) to ensure we could capture the most from their experience. The software also documented where they clicked and which menus they activated. All in all, giving us a well-rounded view of how the user interacted with the site and what they thought of it.

Once each user had completed the core tasks if there was spare time we worked through an additional set. With the workshop set out in this fashion, we ensured the gathering of controlled feedback for the most important persona behaviours and objectives, but also had the opportunity to gather ‘bonus’ information. After all, every user is different with varying levels of digital literacy so some of them flew through the initial tasks with plenty of time to spare.

Final Thoughts

The day ran smoothly, and we were able to get the maximum amount of information from each user with no overrun. I was extremely impressed with how professional the Workshop ran. Each user was brought into their session on time, the workshop was conducted in a controlled environment, the Users were cooperative and provided us with great feedback for our notes.

After learning about information gathering techniques and conducting user observations throughout my academic career to being a be part of an actual UX workshop with real users of an existing system, I feel readier than ever to embark on user-centred design and development. This experience has been so eye opening and encouraging, solidifying my resolve to follow a UX career path. I can’t wait for the next one!

Sarah Taylor

Bob Beck

Placement Student
UX Enthusiast

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