Updates from the past two months

A lot has happened in the past few weeks. In the beginning of October, I was on vacation so lost a couple weeks of productivity. November has been pretty active. I have taken a hiatus on my app idea for group travel and have been focusing on a couple other things: 

UX apprenticeship: I started a UX apprenticeship with our UX team at Deloitte Digital. I am working on developing hands-on skills with an internal project to manage the studio inventory. I am in the midst of user research. I am taking an online course on usability testing hosted on Udemy. The instructor is David Travis. I will continue to blog about my experience on here. 

Startup Weekend DC: I went to a 54 hour startup weekend to test my initial skills in UX and see if I could hack building a business over night. Turns out it was a great experience. I joined a team after someone made a compelling pitch. I soon start sketching out wireframes and was the person on point for developing our wireframes in Balsamiq. Then we hit the streets and tested our idea and our design with real users. Our developer was busy at work making a prototype all weekend, minus any sleep for him. We actually won the competition and had 48 hours to develop a pitch video for the Global Startup Battle. I will reveal more details in the next couple weeks. It was a whirlwind and I think I am still catching up on sleep but I highly recommend this experience for any budding entrepreneurs.

Sketching

I haven't drawn in years and my handwriting is atrocious. Paper, whiteboards, graph paper, nothing saves my handwriting. 

So, sketching was a bit daunting. I didn't really know where to start. I looked through blogs and blogs for some tips on getting started. or how to do this at all. I came across an article from Smashing Magazine on the messy art of UX sketching. Some quick tips: start by sketching random lines as a warm up on a scrap sheet of paper, use your entire arm/shoulder, rotate the page, start with a basic sketch and then go back and add more lines.

Sketching is about learning. It's a brainstorming exercise. They give new insights. For example, originally I thought I wanted to add some sort of coordination piece to my app - similar to Doodle but more integrated in the travel booking experience. After designing the booking tab, I wasn't sure if the coordination part would be too cluttered or useful.

From another Smashing Magazine article:

“Pictures can represent complex concepts and summarize vast sets of information in ways that are easy for us to see and understand, they are useful for clarifying and resolving problems of all sorts.”

Personas

As defined by the Designing for a Digital Age book, personas are archetypes that describe the various goals and observed behavior patterns among our potential users and customers. 

One of my user personas is the primary group trip planner. You can read more about the objective of my project in my Portfolio section of this website. I interviewed and observed my good friend, Christina, who takes over 10 group trips a year, most of which she is the person who plans the destination, shares potential logistics (airfare, train options, accommodations etc.) with her fellow travelers, researches activities, and comes up with itineraries.

The interview focused on finding her travel booking pain points and priorities. Example questions included:

  • What things do you usually do first, and why? 
  • What do you put off as long as you can and why?
  • What frustrates you most about the group travel booking process?
  • What product/tool do you use most often for travel booking? 

I also had her navigate through a competitor mobile app, which could be a potential competitor to my idea down the line, to see what she liked about it and what she didn't.

Her persona came together based on her behavioral and demographic variables. I captured her demographics, travel planning and book preferences (which included tools used and device preferences), core dimensions of her personality (tech savvy-ness, time sensitivities, motivation), her workarounds (what she currently does instead of using an app that I would create), her frustrations, her goals, her key values, and the environment she frequently operates in. My goal is to create a couple other personas and create a customer journey map before I start sketching and prototyping. The journey continues...

 

Surveys and Interviews

In an effort to have my mock project be user-centered, I designed a survey. Yesterday, I sent out that survey to around 15 participants and received 11 responses so far. I wanted to have a combination of both quantitative and qualitative user research. Quantitative analytics shows you where users are struggling while qualitative research will help you work on the reasons to best solve those issues.

The first step is to understand who my users truly are and what pain points they are facing. I will use quantitative data to figure out what my product idea should focus on and then use qualitative research to talk through that product idea with representative users.

I have two in-depth interviews scheduled for this week and have been working on an interview guide. I have been referencing the Designing for the Digital Age book as well as listening to a series of UX Design Techniques courses on Lynda.

Step 1 - Customer Council

I finished "Inspired" by Marty Cagan over the long Labor Day weekend flights. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for a "fast-read-sit-on-the-shelf for-future-reference" book. One thing that stuck out to me and where I decided to start my project is establishing a Customer Council. In his chapter titled "Charter User Programs," Cagan explains that this group of people will help you gain deep insight into target customers and be able to have great reference customers at launch.

Step 1, in the book (Designing for the Digital Age) I am also referencing throughout this process, is user research. For my mock project, I started to recruit a group of users all from my target group. These are also my friends, a loyal (and very biased) customer group that I can count on to willingly answer a survey, delve deep into my questions, and give me honest feedback on my eventual prototypes.

Design research is primarily qualitative through individual interviews and observations so I will eventually do conduct more qualitative research but for now, I am going to start with a survey to further help me diagnose the problem I am trying to solve and start the process of designing a more in-depth interview and direct observation.

So, I emailed said friends last night and gave them a slight idea of what I was hoping to use them for: 1) their participation in a user survey, 2) periodic feedback on one of my ideas. Cagan recommended a solid group of around 6. Thankfully, I received around 14 users opting into this crazy, not really defined at all, ride of mine.

Next up..developing a survey for this Customer Council. 

First Post - Starting to Learn UX

Whether it is networking with UXers, attending classes, listening to podcasts, this blog will walk you through my trials and tribulations in building skills in UX.  Full disclosure: what you see on this website will be UX projects that I have done myself, not for a client.  I am not an experienced user experience designer.

I am starting from ground zero. My day job has taught me how to conduct interviews, build solid relationships, and design fancy PowerPoint slides but my newfound interest in all things digital has landed me into user experience.  

I have started off by attending classes at General Assembly: 1) Mobile Development for Nonprogrammers, Product Management 101, and User Experience Bootcamp. General Assembly is a great concept - learning practical skills for a career in digital. However, there aren't enough minutes in each class to fully grasp all the concepts. But it is a start. 

The first book I have started to read so far is "Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love" by Marty Cagan. Marty is a partner at Silicon Valley Product Group and has experience working at major tech companies (eBay, HP) in product. It's been easy to fly through so far and gives high-level definitions of product management versus what people outside of project think it actually is. More to come once I finish this book. 

On deck to read is "Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Center Products and Services", a recommendation from a colleague in my firm's digital practice. He said this was the book he referenced when he was learning UX on the job so let's see if it can teach me a thing or two.

My plan is to grasp a baseline understanding of UX and then apply the concepts and approach to a project.