IF

like me, you have realized that your user is the key to every project you have ever worked on or will ever complete let me give you some tips on how you can get started with the most important first step, Research.

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WHAT IS UX RESEARCH

UX (user experience) research is the investigation of users and their requirements.  You mainly focus on the end user but you also need to keep business goals in mind. This research will add context and insight into the process of designing.

UX research employs a variety of techniques, tools, and methodologies to reach conclusions.  It helps you determine facts, and uncover problems.  Revealing valuable information which should determine deliverables and your overall design.

NO UX EXPERIENCE

If you have no experience I say the best way to start is to jump right in.  I think of all the aspects I faced as a noob the hardest was testing.

You can get some experience doing this by asking friends to participate.  Moderate mock user test sessions.  This way you can get some hands on experience with moderating.  Observing user behavior and asking the right questions. (More on that below)

But there are also plenty of things you can do where you don’t need external help (well other than Google).  Start digging in to some user research and generating User Personas.  Check out other companies that are in the same industry. See what their sites do well (and not so well).  Research indirect competitors and try to find untapped opportunities for your client.

You will make mistakes, and that’s normal when you’re getting started, plus it’s how you learn what not to do next time.  The great thing about research is that you test your hypothesis and if you’re assumptions were incorrect you just learned something and you can adjust accordingly.

Just remember that it’s best that these mistakes happen when there is a low level of pressure (even though the ones that happen in high pressure situations stay with me for life! and are never repeated)

How to Interview

STAKEHOLDER INTERVIEWS

So crutial and you will regret it if you don’t get on the same page with your client.

My initial step always is to meet with my stakeholder.  I usually send them a copy of my initial project questionnaire so I can get a general feel for the scope of the project and also hear what they think the project will consist of.

This also allows for a face-to-face so I can read body language and hopefully suss out problems they might not want to address so early in the process or don’t even realize they have.

DESIGN WITH A PLAN

This was a project killer for me when I first started out.  My early clients didn’t give much feedback on the initial project/design ideas I had.  I was given instructions like “Make me a website for my music” or “I have a site I just need to make it better”.

So away I went diving into design and development knowing the fundamentals a site needed and what content to include.  But almost every time I would present an 80% completed site I would get feedback like “I want it to look like ….” or “It would look better with …..”.

Now, if I had known what I know now I could have handled this in a way that was proactive instead of reactive.  Also, now when I have a client say this I can review with them the signed off wire frames and always reference back to the user profiles that I created.

I use the personas as a gentle reminder that although it is their site, we always need to keep the end user in mind and what they need to achieve while using the product.

Questions???

AVOID LEADING QUESTIONS

I think this one has been the hardest for me to overcome.  In the other industries I’ve worked in you are supposed to lead the customer to the conclusion you want by your questions.

UX is the total opposite (unless you want tainted data and really that just means having to start all over again)

USER TESTING

When it would finally be time for face to face testing I could almost feel my test subjects wanting to give the “right” answer even though I would tell them there is no right or wrong response.  I feel that sometimes when you say that people still think that you are trying to trick them.

My next tactic was to stand behind them and observe how they interacted with the site.  This also caused issues since they were constantly turning around to look at me hoping for some kind of facial feedback if they were doing the right thing.

My newest plan has been to resort to heat maps  after a new version deployment.  This way (with my musician based websites) I can get direct feedback from users with them just using the sites.

Helpful Resources

Sarah is an awesome resource for all things UX.  I first came across her when I was completing my Design certification at Skillcrush.  She gave an awesome Master Class lecture on Prototyping.  This is a great starting point if you are unsure how to pose your questions.

This is also another great resource I came across to help you learn terminology,  user research methods and UX techniques.