User Experience Design and Me – How I plan to make my major project website user-centred

Long before I even started this having any interest in web design and planning, I have always wondered why some objects and websites looked a certain way and others looked different. For instance, I always wondered why a tricycle had three wheels while a motorcycle had two wheels and then a car had four wheels. I usually thought of what could happen if a car had two wheels or a motorcycle had four or six wheels. Just recently after a couple of classes on design and research, I found out that most of these decisions have already been made “the standard” through a series of rigorous research processes. Most of these research processes made the “user” the focus of decisions made. They were trying to create designs that were easy to use and required little or no instructions by the manufacturers before the user figures out how to use the product or service.

What is UX Design

So, coming to think of it now that everything makes more sense to me, I feel like there are a set of rules and processes designers and researchers take in order to come up with these decisions that make products and services easier to use. In my own words, I consider these processes and principles “User Experience Design”.

User Experience Design is a collection of methods applied to the process of designing interactive experiences. (Beare, P., Allanwood, G. 2014).  In other words, If the user is not satisfied with the design, the entire design has failed notwithstanding how beautiful the design looks. This means that the main aim of even making the design is to make it more useable by the user. Products and services that offer low user experience or fail to maintain or exceed the expectations of the user, will gradually be replaced by products or services with improved designs.  This is usually seen in our society. Users tend not to be loyal to a particular product or service as they usually move towards products with better usability. Therefore, it is very paramount to continue to improve products and services to always meet the users need.

According to Donald Norman, it’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun and yes, beauty to people’s lives. Now the big question is this “How do designers know what the users what”?  Ideally, even before studying UX Design and the processes involved, if you want to know what someone wants, you just ask the person. So, I feel like the designers just need to ask the users the features they will like in products and services. But as humans with unlimited wants, we tend not to even know what we want until we see it. So, this makes the entire process very complex as designers keep trying to discover what the users will need in order to make their products and services more useable.

What is UX Research

In order to discover what exactly the users want in our products and services, designers use different methods to, directly and indirectly, get this information from existing and prospective users. These methods used by the designers can be said to be User Experience Research.

User-experience research methods are very important in producing data and insights, at every stage in the design process, different UX methods can keep product-development efforts on the right track, in agreement with true user needs and not imaginary ones. (Susan Farrell. 2017). The most vital question that usually comes up during user-experience research has always been “at what point should I do user research on my project” and “what UX methods should I make use of in my project”?

For me, I feel the most important thing would be flexibility. That means not having a rigid order of activities, but starting somewhere and learning more and more as I progress in the project. This will basically mean to discover what the users might possibly want by using different UX research methods like field study, diary study and user interview then exploring the results using more insightful methods like competitive analysis, design review, persona building or journey mapping. After this step, I will go on to test the explored data using methods like qualitative usability testing (this can either be in-person or remote) or accessibility evaluation. After this, I will now keep listening to my target audience using surveys and analytics reviews from third-party apps like Google Analytics.

As we are no longer in the world of one-size-fits-all, every project will require unique processes and research methods. So, for my major project which involves creating a website for teaching Nigerians how to code, I will use the following UX Research methods.

UX Research Methods for Nkuzicode – My Major Project

There is an extensive range of user experience research methods available, ranging from highly-rated methods such as lab-based usability tests to those that have been just recently developed, such as unmoderated online UX assessments. While it’s not possible to use all the available methods on my major project, it will benefit from multiple research methods and from combining insights. The major question remains “what to do and when is the best time to do that”.

The double diamond design model has been around since it was officially invented by The British Design Council in 2005. (Gustafsson, Daniel, 2019) The double diamond method was produced as “a simple graphical way of describing the design process.”. (Design Council, 2019) it consists of four stages starting from an original idea and ending with the delivery of a product or service (Design Council, 2007). Although the double diamond shape is meant to be common throughout all projects the design council suggest that it be reformed to fit each individual project’s needs and characteristics. Each stage integrates iterative loops in which exploration and testing can occur (Design Council, Desk study, 2007). The four phases of the Double Diamond design process are: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver (Design Council, 2007).

Discovery:

This method will involve the initial activities I will engage in to discover my target audience needs. It will be open-ended and involve talking to them and asking a lot of questions about my project. I will make sure most of the questions remain ambiguous so that I don’t give the answers away.  It will be on the left side of the double diamond.

Interviews:

I intend to carry out a guerrilla interview online. This will involve creating an online form and sharing it online forums where my target audience will likely be found. My target audience includes:

  1. Computer Science Undergraduates in Nigerian Universities.
  2. Nigerian Teenagers who have interest in coding.
  3. Mid aged people who are already in other careers looking to switch to coding.

The focus of Nkuzicode – my major project, is to teach Nigerians how to create websites in a way they will easily understand. This involves breaking it down to the basics as well as having a learning path that the target audience can follow through. Most importantly, the website will be free of charge and come with a written transcript so that users in the rural parts of Nigeria with poor internet connections can also find this solution usual. The discovery phase of my UX research will help validate the problems by analysing the answers received from the questionnaire. Most of the questions that will be contained in this user interview will probe the users about the difficulties they have had using the existing online coding course websites thereby stating and validating the problem.

Definition:

I intend to review and refine the answers gotten from the initial user interview to create user persona and journey maps. Let’s assume my interview goes as planned and I get prospective users from each of the user groups I mentioned earlier, that means I can have the following user personas:

  • John, 22 – A 200 level computer science student in University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. He has been thought how to code using a paper and pen. He knows most of coding terminologies but has no practical knowledge because he has never tried to code in real life. He is eager to understand the practical aspect of web design but doesn’t know how or where to begin.
  • Sandra, 15 – Just finished secondary school and planning to start college. She has been trying her hands on a couple of online coding schools but most of the in-depth learning materials are only for premium members. She doesn’t have funds to pay for the premium materials as she is only doing this for fun.
  • Amaka, 37 – Has been a banker for 7 years now. She wants to switch to tech. She has been watching YouTube videos online, but most of them are not organized as there is no learning path. Most of the examples are not very relatable because Amaka has lived in Nigeria all her life and doesn’t understand most of the design concepts used in other countries.

Using the above-generated user personas, I will go ahead to design user journeys for each of these user groups. For instance, John will most likely visit and skip most of the introductory videos because he already understands the introductory concepts. Meanwhile, Sandra starts from the beginning of the website and looks through everything without skipping. This is probably because she is very inquisitive and wants to learn everything about web design and coding. Amaka on the other hand follows the routine slowly and carefully because she wants to switch to tech and has no prior knowledge which means she needs to grasp all the concepts.

Development:

At this stage, I intend to further develop the User Personas and Journey Maps to include more diverse users. I intend to achieve this through qualitative usability testing. This will be achieved by creating a user group, then allowing them to use a beta version of the website. Then ask them a couple of questions in other to further improve the website. I also intend to track usability over time using tools like Google Analytics. I will be able to discover where most of my users are coming from as well as the device that they mostly use in assessing the website. I will also carry out A/B testing to find out which version of the tutorials is viewed most by the users (videos or written transcript) this will enable me to decide which version to display first. In as much as all the phases of user-centred design are important, to some extent this phase holds more importance because most of the final design decisions will be taken at this stage.

Delivery:

This will be the final stage in the user experience design. This is when the website will be launched and monitored. At this point, I intend to pay attention to user sentiments and recruit more people for further research. The research method that will be applied at this stage will also be analytics review and well usability bug reviews. These involve getting user feedback on the go. I will use the form on the contact page of the website to get user feedback. I also plan to engage my target audience by creating a social community around the users as well as social media. Social Media is going to be the major means of marketing. Before new features are added to the website, I also intend to have a beta testing group that will be willing to try it out first. Surveys will also come in very handy at this stage. I will embed a user survey on the website so that existing users can fill it out.

Conclusion

The importance of user experience research and design cannot be overemphasised. When I started off this project, I made most of the decisions personally because I was once like the target audience, but by engaging in these user research methods, I have come to understand that users have varying needs which need to be met. Hopefully, these methods will enable me to understand my target audience and their needs more so that I can create a more robust solution that will appeal to most of my target audience.

Furthermore, I have come to understand all the processes involved in user research are equally important. In as much as some processes seem to be more important than others, they all come together to help create a user-centred solution.

Reference

Beare, P., Allanwood, G. (2014). Basics Interactive Design: User Experience Design: Creating Designs Users Really Love. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Academic.

Susan Farrell. (2017). UX Research Cheat Sheet. Available at:[Accessed 13 Jan. 2022].

Gustafsson, Daniel. (2019).”Analysing the Double diamond design process through research & implementation.” Available at: [Accessed 13 Jan. 2022].

Design Council UK, (2007). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands

A Study of the design process [Accessed 13 Jan. 2022].

Design Council UK, (2019). The Double Diamond: 15 years on. Available at: [Accessed 13 Jan. 2022].

Design Council UK, (2019). The Double Diamond: A universally accepted depiction of the design process. Available at: [Accessed 13 Jan. 2022].

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