UXD & ME

What is UX?

User Experience (UX) Design is not a new field; however, its acceptance and popularity as a discipline have in recent decades become more widespread due to the global rise in the use of software and accompanying digital experiences. The term “User Experience” was coined by Don Norman at Apple in the 1990s, and since then, its rising importance has been the subject of countless papers, books, and presentations. The field has its roots in the study of ergonomics, which investigates the role the working environment plays in people’s efficiency, and in broad terms “user experience” applies to all aspects of a person’s experience with a digital product or service (Moore and Arar, 2018).

As the number of digital outlets we make use of continues to rise, the field has broadened to encompass every digital touch point imaginable. Think of the experience people have using an ATM, making a video call, or operating a self-service checkout till. All of these experiences have been designed with the goal of producing a more intuitive and natural experience for the user. In the effort to make our digital experiences as “human” as possible, the role of language and conversation cannot be overstated. Now that technology has advanced to the point where it can interpret and even participate in more natural-language-based interactions, there is an increasing need for the experience of a human conversing with a computational system to be architected and designed (Moore and Arar, 2018).

According to Stull (2018), the umbrella term “user experience” covers several broad activities, and the number is only increasing as the UX field continues to rapidly evolve. The field already includes aspects of cultural anthropology, human-computer interaction, engineering, journalism, psychology, and graphic design (many of which are terms that are not generally well understood by the public either). UX activities typically fall into one of two categories: the first is user experience design (UXD); the second is user experience research (UXR).

User experience design involves the design of a thing. That thing may be digital or physical and may be a product or service, or just a part of a product or service. For example, someone might design a web application to manage a nail salon or design an iPhone app to file complaints about wayward manicurists (Stull, 2018). Ultimately, the goal of UXD is to ensure that the final product or service meets the criteria of being useful to the user while being easy and pleasant to use or interact with. The user will then be encouraged to continue using the product or service. In business, this is expressed through increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

User experience research is the investigative process that underlies UXD. It is used to uncover the precise needs of, and problems encountered by, the target users. It ensures that the design process remains focused on the real-world context and experience of the users. UXR includes primary research (i.e., the discovery of original data), such as interviewing nail salon customers. In addition, it encompasses secondary, third-party research (i.e., reviews of previously discovered data), such as reading reports about customer behaviour within the health and beauty sector (Stull, 2018). In addition, it can take the form of qualitative research, which is best used to explore users’ desires and motivations, and quantitative research, which is best used in a later stage of the design process to test the product and uncover areas for improvement.

Much of what a UX professional does during her or his workday is dependent upon the mix of UXD and UXR required. Some firms have dedicated design and research roles, although many positions are often a combination of the two (Stull, 2018).

About my Major project

The main scope of my major project is to research and redesign the website of St Mary’s Church, by focusing on the need for a responsive web design, expanding the website’s content functionality, and generally improving the user journey.

The Outcome

An all-new responsive website design which offers increased ease-of-use for website users.

Research

Tools I plan to use: Secondary Research: Competitive Analysis, Personas, Interviews and Contextual Inquiry


Background

The current church website is outdated. The website design has not been updated in so long that it looks like something from the 90’s – yet here we are in 2022, and other churches all have fancy new websites. The current website is also challenging to navigate, with all information listed on a single page, requiring the user to scroll and search to find the information they are looking for. To satisfy my personal interest, I want to freshen up the website and add more features to it.

Competitive Analysis

I have reviewed a few websites of other churches and their functionalities to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their websites, to get a more specific I have reviewed a few websites of other churches and their functionalities to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these websites and to get a more specific sense of what the local church websites are like and how they present their missions.

Personas

Based on my research of the behavioural patterns and characteristics of church website users, I will be able to create rough sketch personas of typical users. These will help me bring focus to my interviews and contextual inquiry questions, which will give me a starting point for testing my hypotheses and assumptions regarding the goals, needs, and frustrations of church website users.

Interviews and Contextual Inquiry

At this stage of the UXR process, I will be conducting qualitative research in the form of one-on-one interviews with typical website users and contextual inquiry. Based on the personas I have constructed and a review of the relevant literature, I will develop a list of suitable questions to structure my interviews and contextual inquiry. The following website includes example questions that I will adapt for use in my interviews.

Synthesis + Defining

Tools I plan to use: Empathy Map, Persona, Point of View + How Might We Statements, Brainstorming


Research Synthesis

Using the findings from my interviews and contextual inquiries, I will then create an empathy map to synthesise and visualise the information gathered during my research. I will look for similarities, patterns, and contrasts in the data in order to obtain relevant insights from my observations that will allow me to move towards identifying potential user needs.

Defining the Design Problem

After establishing the user personas, I will proceed to translate my insights about the needs of the users into defined Point of View statements. Then, I will craft a set of “How Might We” questions to guide my design.

Brainstorming + Ideation

Using sticky notes of my “How Might We” questions, I will brainstorm to generate as many ideas as possible. I will group them by theme and relationship and then come up with solutions for each specific problem, in this case by gathering a list of ideas to answer the “How Might We” questions. I will generate lots of ideas as quickly as possible, in order to create a large number of options which I will then review, sort out, and refine. ​

Project Strategy​

Tools I plan to use: Project Goals Mapping, Product Roadmap, Site Map


Comparing Business and User Goals

Moving on to the next stage of defining the product, I will map the ways in which the goals of the church, the goals of the user, and technical considerations overlap. I will combine the priorities and goals of St. Mary’s Church, as established through discussions with relevant stakeholders, with data on the goals of website users, as concluded from the analysis of my primary research data, to articulate the overlap between user and business goals. ​ ​

With the project goals in focus, I will then create a product roadmap, in which the features will be presented in order of priority in terms of development, investment, and importance in meeting church and user goals. The users’ needs and priorities will be used to focus the exercise. The roadmap will include proposed metrics for measurement so that the impact and effectiveness of each of the features can be analysed.

Site Map

Informed by the features and their priorities, as outlined in my product roadmap, I will next create a site map showing the proposed information architecture, which will be organised based on the hierarchy of content, for the new St. Mary’s Church website. 

Interaction Design

Tools I plan to use: User Task and User Flow Maps, Sketching, Mid Fidelity Wireframe, Prototype


User Task and User Flow Maps

With the site map in place, the next step will be to move towards prototyping. I will create a user flow based on some simple use cases for the users. Mapping out the user’s journey from start to completion will help me think through each step of the process and user experience to make sure the organisation of the pages flows in a logical, smooth way.

Sketching and Wireframe

For each of the user flows I map out, I will then sketch corresponding wireframes. These will help me to think through the interface structure to ensure that my design is logical and easy to use. I will reference the UI requirements and site map to make sure I include the priority elements for each page, and in addition I will conduct a brief search for design patterns to reference.

Working from my wireframes, I will use Sketch software to start creating a set of responsive screens. This set of wireframes will show the site pages that a user might encounter on their user journey. The frames will be developed with the goal of being able to quickly translate them into a prototype, so that I can begin testing my design early in the process. Early testing will save time and effort by showing me which parts of the design do not work effectively for the user and should therefore be adapted or finetuned.

Usability Test

Tools I plan to use: Testing Plan and Script, Affinity Map


Usability Test

The usability test will help me identify problems, show me where the website can be improved, and give me further information on the users’ preferences so that I can ensure an optimal design. I will develop a usability testing plan to outline my test objectives, goals and procedures. I will ask a few participants to click through the prototype, and I will observe and take notes as they navigate the site.

I will note my observations and data from the usability test results on (virtual) sticky notes, and then organise them according to the themes, patterns, and trends I identify. Finally, I will create an affinity map as a way of interpreting, prioritising, and visualising my findings.

UI Design + Iteration

Tools I plan to use: Mood-board, Style-tile, UI Kit


Visual Direction

​​ I will look for ways to expand and improve upon the visual design of the current live website. First, I will create a list of attributes to help me articulate the site, and I will develop a mood-board around them.

I will then refine and develop the direction for the visual design, creating a new Church logo and style-tile to show how the colour palette, typefaces, branding, icons, and imagery will be applied across the design of the new site.

UI Kit

Finally, I will create a UI Kit that brings together all the design elements of the website to serve as a reference and resource guide for anyone working on the site. By following this guide, anyone updating the website in future will be able to ensure the continuing consistency of styles and elements across the site.

Next Steps

With more time, I would like to add more items and images to the website, iterate, and possibly perform another round of usability testing to check whether the modifications I made after the initial round of usability testing were effective. Designing for the user experience involves rather more factors than simply the usability of the product. Usability testing and collecting feedback from users help the designer to create a product that accomplishes users’ goals and makes the user experience a pleasant one.


References:

Stull, E. (2018). UX fundamentals for non-UX professionals : user experience principles for managers, writers, designers, and developers. Berkeley, California: Apress, New York.

Moore, R.J. and Arar, R. (2018). Conversational UX Design: An Introduction. Human–Computer Interaction Series, pp.1–16.

Dam, R.F. and Siang, T.Y. (n.d.). Personas – A Simple Introduction. [online] The Interaction Design Foundation. Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/personas-why-and-how-you-should-use-them/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].‌

ChurchTrain. (2018). Redesigning your church website – where to start?! [online] Available at: https://www.churchtrain.uk/blog/church-website-redesign/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].

MEG FEREIDOONI. (n.d.). Lord and Villa. [online] Available at: http://www.megfereidooni.com/lord-and-villa.html [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].‌

Gibbons, S. (2018). Empathy Mapping: The First Step in Design Thinking. [online] Nielsen Norman Group. Available at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/empathy-mapping/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].

‌Experience, W.L. in R.-B.U. (2021). Using “How Might We” Questions to Ideate on the Right Problems. [online] Nielsen Norman Group. Available at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-might-we-questions/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].

‌Frauke Seewald – UX Designer & Consultant. (2020). Product Roadmap for UX Designers. [online] Available at: https://www.fraukeseewald.com/product-roadmap-for-ux-designers/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022].

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