Class #2, Week #4 – Planning A Design Assessment

This week I got crafty and made some low-fi paper prototype materials for next week’s second round of user research interviews. I’ve done prototype research with electronic mock-ups but never hand sketched and cardboard cut outs. It was a fun craft project almost.

I made the mocked up screens with paper and pencil then printed several copies and mounted them on card board.  I’ll have the little screens that pop-up as secondary materials. What a fun, cool way to do it.  We’ll see how it goes next week during the sessions.

Here is what they look like.  Stay tuned for more about how the sessions go. And let me know if you want to be one of the users I interview.  Need to interview Monday or Tuesday next week though (first week of Aug).

main screens

main screens




Class #2, Week #3 – Imagining and Critiquing Design Solutions

This week we built on last week by building a workflow of using reminders and then added wire frames to illustrate our suggested feedback and features from our user research sessions.  Here is mine. Our peers will be critiquing it, we’ll see what feedback I get from that. What do you think? Leave me a comment below.


Getting and giving critiques can be challenging.  I actually appreciate it because I want to know if I have done something wrong, if there are better ways to do something, or if something doesn’t make sense.  And I hope others would want to know the same when I give them a critique.  That said, it is really all in the delivery.  Everyone likes to hear the positive stuff that they have done well too and that should also be part of any critique.  Then get into the suggestions for improvement after that.  And ALWAYS give a suggestion and use examples so the receiver understands the suggestions.  And be fair and concrete, avoid subjective statements like to “it’s unclear”. Instead explain what seems unclear and why (“the paragraph of text has run on sentences making the topic unclear”).

Worst criticism I received was on things that were not even in my control.  But I thanks for the feedback anyways and said I’d forward it on.  The best critique was on a website redesign which I got critique from user experience “experts”, of which at the time I was not.  They gave specifics I had done well and commented that I had a natural talent. That was GREAT to hear!

Stay tuned for next week’s post. Thanks for following along on my journey.


Class #2, Week #2 – Conduct User Research and Create Shared Vision

This week’s assignment was to start implementing the work in last week’s proposal.  Specifically to conduct user research on target users, understand their wants and needs, and creating design tenets to reflect findings.  There were several deliverables this week. What an action packed, hands-on, get right into real work assignment.

  1. Identify four people (thank you friends who helped)
  2. Create a research protocol that includes a product concept description, questions to interview to understand users wants and needs related to the product.
  3. Running the research sessions, taking notes, using consent forms and moderator’s scripts.
  4. Writing a report on the approach and findings that includes information about the users, the approach, analysis, findings and recommendations.  It also should include a common persona and design tenets to help guide design of the product.

Here is a sample of the gathered data, with names hidden to protect identities. data

Here is a sample of the what the user data told me:

  • Everyone
    • uses a combination of tools and system to track reminders
    • have both personal and work-related reminders
      • some like to mix them together
      • some like to keep they separate
      • all of them have a need to access them both simultaneously, even if still separate, and have a hard time doing so
  • Most everyone uses Google Calendar and Outlook as well as a generic paper-based system too (e.g., Post Its, lists on paper, physical journals)
  • Everyone had a challenge that was not related to technology or systems — to just remember to track reminders at all
  • It varied among users as far as the amount of detail or how they want to and keep reminders
    • some wanted only titles
    • others wanted more metadata
    • some wanted just a to-do list
    • others wanted just a calendar (date driven to-do tasks)
    • others wanted both
  • Only one user had a Macintosh/iOS computer but several had iPhones (iOS). Though everyone had access to a PC computer.
  • A few users had Android phones (not iPhone/iOS)
  • While everyone had a hard time remembering tasks thus their need to track and be reminded about them, it was mixed as to if users wanted to manually review to be reminded versus having an automated pop-up reminder.   They felt it could be distracting or annoying to get lots of reminders, especially when a task wasn’t ready to be worked and had to keep “snoozing” reminders.  However, it was equally frustrating to have to keep looking at the entire list to see what wasn’t done – often things at the top of the list got more attention and some lower down might even be ignored.
  • Only one person mentioned using voice (AI e.g., Siri, Alexa, Cortana) to manage reminders, though they  were aware of it–just hadn’t tried it themselves.
  • Only a few other “apps” were mention outside of Outlook and Google Calendar and they were: Fitness Pal, Things, and an un-named grocery list app.
  • The biggest take away was that everyone preferred simpler over added fancy features.  They all said that it has to be quick and easy otherwise, features won’t be used and if they are it’s harder to use the data in the lists (what’s being reminded in the first place).  So usability should be high with less focus on fancy and numerous features (a few main design tenets).

Stay tuned for more next week. Upcoming activities include: Hand-sketched workflows and screen wire frames, test plan, design materials, recorded research sessions, and a final written report for stakeholders.  Class #2 is entirely devoted to this project.


Week #1, Class #2 – The Project Proposal

This week’s post comes to you from San Francisco. The kids and I are on vacation visiting my dad.  What a great time–hard to focus on class.  This week’s reading and assignments was on project proposals and deliverable items related to UXD.  Many of the things in the reading, I already do at work e.g., outline roles, hold stakeholder meetings, choosing the right deliverable items etc.

There were two very helpful sections in the reading though.  One was on comparisons of research methods (i.e., quantitative measurement of detailed tasks, surveys, focus groups, usability testing, individual interviews, direct observation, and interview plus observation) and then outlined what they were good for and then contrasted what they were NOT good for.

Another helpful read was a “cheat sheet” of sorts, that outlined summary of various stakeholder questions you could ask.  For example, you could ask sales stakeholders, “Why do customers buy a product like this one and what this one over a competitors?” This might help you understand what differentiates their product from another’s.  Or you could ask a support team member, “What problems do you see most often?” That might give you insight into current features that don’t work well for users and what to improve on. (Questions from Designing for the Digital Age by Goodwin).

Homework this week is to creating a project proposal for the work that we’ll be doing for the next six weeks of this class. We will be imagining we working with a fictitious software company to redesign a Reminder/To-do app.  The company wants to hire us for user research and design to help them figure out what users to focus on, what problems they need to solve, and how to solve them. Should be a fun six weeks. Stay tuned….


san franHere I am on the waterfront headed towards Pier 39.