HCDE 210 — User Research
User Research Process
The first and crucial step in the human-centered design process is the investigation stage with user research. Before any sketches, wireframes, or ideation, it is important to understand the target users needs by conducting user research. This week, I focused on the observation aspect of user research by passively observing passenger practices on a bus. I used the P-cubed strategy standing for people, practice, place, and who is doing what where. I looked for all types of observable practices, noting personal reactions([OR]) separately from practices.
I jotted down any notable passenger practices in my yellow journal while sitting on a middle seat in the bus. Using the P-cubed strategy helped organize my notes into a user-focused practice in a specific environment. After 45 minutes of observing in the bus, I jotted down five pages of different observable practices. My top three chosen practices were: new passengers paying to enter the bus, passengers signaling to get off the bus, and an older woman asking the bus driver for directions. I identified these three practices because they were the most notable people practices that I found were specific to the environment of a bus.
Having a focus on the users observable practices avoids incorrect assumptions on users needs. Observable practices are specific evidence of users practices when interacting in a specific environment.
Reflection on observable practices
These observations raised a design challenge in better informing passengers on current route. This is a call to action for further user research on how passengers could benefit from more information on current routine and destination.
The hardest part about jotting notes was stopping to check that I was not jotting reflexive notes. Emotional bias can affect the reliability of data by making incorrect inferences on a users actions. One valuable aspect of the P-cubed approach brings a focus on the users directly observable practices, not of my own perspective on a users actions.
User research opened my eyes to a new perspective of observing my surroundings. After learning about the process of observation in user research, I found myself analyzing all kinds of design decisions in the world around me. This new perspective is exciting and inspires me to learn more about the user research process. Many UX designers emphasize user research and understanding users, finally I have a better understanding of why this process is so important. Understanding user’s needs is a crucial first step in designing a product.
Applying User Research to a future in UX Design
The gripe that I’ve learned from many UX designers is that UX work is not just about a nice visual product. Rather, it is about understanding a user’s needs and designing to best fit their needs in a delightful manner.
For me, I compare user research like the base of a “Human-centered design” tree. User research is concerned with understanding user behavior, needs, and motivations. Without a strong understanding of these aspects, it is difficult to support their practices through design.
Before practicing human-centered design sprint practices, I was solid on going for a career in UX Design. However, I’m glad I got to experience what it is like to be a UX researcher. Understanding human psychology and motivations is extremely interesting to me; this knowledge will be crucial in future projects that are user-focused. I now know that the first step in designing any project; whether it be an app, website, fitbit, I will need to have a strong understanding of user’s needs through user research before making any design solutions.