Throughout my seven weeks in my Principles of User Experience graduate class I have learned so much and taken away such important information that I find myself wondering how I could have considered myself a designer without this class. Perhaps that was a bit dramatic but I definitely consider myself a better designer after having taken this class. (And at this point do you really expect anything other than ~dramatics~ from me?) In all seriousness because I learned so much and did such great work with this class I created a mini portfolio of my work. I’ll also go through each module in the class and explain what I did and what I learned in the module because not everybody can take a graduate class and this way you’ll get the Spark Notes of what I learned.
The first module we started the semester with was called Design Thinking Overview. Design Thinking includes the steps empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. We put our design thinking understanding to the test for the assignment featured in this module, which was to pair up with a partner and help redesign the gift giving experience. The twist was that we would not be redesigning the experience for ourselves but instead redesigning the last gift giving experience our partner had. Using design thinking I interviewed, interviewed again, wrote down a list of needs and insights, defined the problem in a problem statement, sketched ideas, reflected and created a prototype. In the end after using design thinking I created a dice that my partner could use to help choose a gift for the people she cares about.
The following module was title User Psychology. I found this module particularly interesting because I always had an interest in psychology and why people think the way that they do. This module explained how every product or services is supposed to provide a feeling because your needs were or were not being met. I learned that every product or services is supposed to provide a feeling because your needs were or were not being met. The assignment for this module was to compare two websites and determine your feelings around those websites in regards to if they were or were not meeting my needs and wants. I chose to compare Netflix and Hulu and found that for Netflix I felt engrossed, valued and stimulated because my need for creativity, understanding and competence are being met. Meanwhile for Hulu I felt lethargic, annoyed and frustrated because my need for clarity, choice and beauty are not being met. This module was interesting overall because it made me consider the core needs all my designs should be meeting.
The next module focused on utilizing empathy throughout the design process. I found this module to be incredible important as empathy is really the only way to connect with and understand your audience’s wants and needs. The assignment that followed this module was very interesting as we were told to watch an episode of Undercover Boss and consider the different experiences that different users can all have in the same company. I created empathy maps to better understand the feelings of the employees, Katy, for example, is a grandmother working to put her grandson through college. Kathy would have loved to retire years ago but due to support her grandson and helping her recently fallen ill husband, she must work every day. Kathy holds a lot of responsibility on the floor and is seen as having perfect technique. Based off of that I created an empathy map to better understand Kathy’s motivations.
In Module Four, also called Creating Comprehensive Personas, we learned about creating personas and how helpful they can be in design thinking when you need to keep your audience in mind. A persona is a way to visualize the average users of your product, it’s a way to depict the type of person that would interact with you. The assignment in this module was to create two fake personas and determine how their quotes, demographics, goals, current behaviors, motivation vs ability, environment and influencers all make up a persona’s identity. My persona can be seen below.
Module Five is Problem Definition and I personally believe that this module could have been better suited towards the beginning of the class, maybe replacing module two and then bumping everything back up a week. I just believe this module to be so important to user experience, since we learned how to craft effective Problem Statements and Point of View Statements across real-world (Undercover Boss episode) and technological examples (app UX). Learning about problem and p.o.v statements and learning how to apply the X has a problem with Y because Z formula to problems you encounter is an invaluable skill. This module has has comparing three different Apps and seeing positive, negative and constructive reviews in each of them and writing problem statements for them. I added an image of one of these comments below.
Module six aka ideation methods was probably the most fun out of all the modules. In this module we were encourage to come up with whacky solutions to problems in the form of how might we statements. My how might we statement was as follows, “How might we make it easier to help people solve basic problem with their cars (change a tire, jump start, add air, etc)?” From there I listed all the elements in realizing you have a problem with your car and all the elements of going on vacation and combined the two together to create solutions. The solutions I came up with include (Auto Shop + Drink) when your car is in for service the Auto Shop will offer you a complimentary drink while you wait. (Reading the Car Manual + Sight Seeing) Looking up your car’s make and model online will take you to instructional videos about how to handle basic problems step by step. (Paranoia + Go To The Beach) Instead of a loud ding that plays when your dashboard lights up with an issue, beach sounds will play to keep you calm. And (Auto Shop + Shopping) Auto Shops will have a place attached to it where you can shop for things or eat, since you can’t go anywhere while your car is being worked on. Below are some sketches of some of these ideas. As I said I really liked this module because it let my creativity run free while at the same time teaching me a great ideation technique.
For the last module we were tasking with learning about and creating a journey map. A journey map is a map that depicts the steps you take to either purchase something, get somewhere or experience an event. It’s a descriptive way to learn about the emotions and thoughts of users through each step in a process that can be extremely beneficial to companies and designers. I created a journey map of the process of giving a birthday gift. I Learned about how mapping out a process can reveal details in a user’s steps or in a user’s emotional state that previously wouldn’t have been considered. I also realized that journey maps are a compilation of all previously learned elements in user experience and design thinking. Journey maps helped me consider different angles and ideas that I would have overlooked before.
When I say that I learned a lot from this class I’m not trying to schmooze, I really mean that I took so much away that I know I’m going to carry with me throughout my future career as a designer. I know that I have a better grasp on what it means to be a designer with the user in mind. Even today at my internship I can’t make a decision without considering how it’s going to impact the user. If I learned one thing I learned that design isn’t about what you like it’s what other people are going to like.
PDF version of experience Copy of Copy of Libby Cardone