User Experience (UX) Design

Hanny Yeung, UX & Product Lead at MAKE Studios,
Sam Horman, Service Designer at MAKE Studios,
Jenny Lim, Service Designer at MAKE Studios

Delighting Your Users

User experience (UX) design is about surprising your users in a positive way, as participants of Hong Kong Design Centre’s Unleash! Summer School Design Thinking 101 series UX Design e-Workshop heard. Facilitator Hanny Yeung, UX and Product Lead at MAKE Studios, explained that UX design is not only applicable to apps and websites; it is also concerned with gaining a deep understanding of users and delighting them by solving a problem – one they might not even recognise.

Everyone is a UX Designer

Before designing a product or solution, UX designers need to understand their users’ worlds, observed facilitator Sam Horman, Service Designer at MAKE Studios. To help participants achieve this mindset, they were asked to form pairs and describe a time they prepared a surprise for someone.

In fact, participants had gone through the steps that UX designers take when creating products and solutions through the exercise. The first step is close observation; UX designers take people through a typical day, asking them relevant questions in a process known as contextual inquiry. When planning a surprise for someone, it is also a good idea to ask his or her friends what they might like. In UX design, this is similar to the process of competitive analysis, where designers identify major competitors and research their products. For instance, surprise planners may look online for gift ideas – a form of secondary research and also a budget-friendly way for UX designers to look for ideas and data. But they should also identify what not to give someone; in UX design this is known as feature prioritisation. Finally, it is worth talking directly to the gift recipient – or user – to gain a direct understanding of what they want. In UX design this is done through a user interview to get qualitative information from existing and potential users. “Everyone has been a UX designer in their lives”, said Hanny. “It is just a matter of applying the process of empathy and understanding in a professional way.”

Enforcing Empathy

UX teams use an empathy map at the start of a project to help them better understand their users. Participants learnt about the time at the Miss Universe 2015 pageant when the host accidentally announced the wrong winner from the card he had been given. They were asked to create an empathy map of what the host might have been seeing, saying, doing and hearing when he made the announcement; they were then asked to redesign the card to minimise the chance of the same mistake happening again. For example, the card could be black rather than white to decrease reflection under the bright stage lights. Sam added that it is important not to jump at a solution but to understand the problem first. “If you take a step back and put yourself in the users’ shoes, you can come up with a new solution based entirely around what they are trying to do, not what we are trying to fix,” he said.

The Research Journey

To help participants with the process of understanding the customer, they were shown a UX research methodology matrix. On the left-hand side is generative research –understanding who users are and how they operate. Hanny explained that generative research is done at the start, when UX teams need to define who they are designing for and in what context. The empathy map is used at this stage. On the right-hand side is evaluative research – what the designers actually have, whether it is just a sketch or an actual product. At the base of the vertical axis is attitudinal research – talking to people to see what they say, think and feel, with behavioural research – observing people to see what they actually do – at the top. “Behavioural research is always better than attitudinal research, but it requires more time and budget to execute,” said Hanny. UX design teams usually start at the bottom left of the matrix and gradually move up and right as they develop their product or service as their budgets allow.

Establishing Why

When design teams progress to the top right of the matrix, they should consider usability testing where users are observed and asked ‘why’ questions to understand their needs, preferences and pain points. Sam added that designers should go through this process with a minimum of eight users before thinking about what changes to make.

Another key part of the research process is contextual enquiry, where a UX designer shadows someone throughout their day and asks questions to understand their needs and frustrations. Other research methods include user feedback, whereby UX designers ask customers what they like and don’t like about a product; eye tracking, which monitors which parts of a website users focus on; and A/B testing, which involves changing a product in a subtle way to see if it leads to a different customer outcome. Whichever research methods are chosen, it is crucial to get out of the office to talk to people.

Always Surprise

Hanny closed the workshop by concluding UX: “If there is one word to describe UX design, it is ‘surprise’”. The job of a UX team is to challenge internal assumptions and then surprise other stakeholders with their new data. In turn, the solutions created should surprise their users. “The word ‘surprise’ is the only thing you need to remember”.