User Research

This week we focused on user research and how that helps in the designing solutions, as well as identifying problems. We started by some exciting on-field work. My group and I were sent to the Husky Union Building for an assignment to jot down our observations of the site using the p-cubed heuristic practice: people, places and practices.
We were there for about 7–8 minutes observing the long queues, students walking in drenched in rain, people on their phone, students studying, complaining about the rain, etc. We then chose three of the most intriguing practices and then presented the most important one according to us, out of three to the class, ours being: 25 people standing in a queue at Starbucks. We then devised a plan showcasing how we could improve our practices and process and get better data to obtain an efficient solution.

Team discussing our observations from the HUB.

We decided to include data analysts, designers, Starbucks manager and advertisers in our process and also came to the conclusion that we needed more data in different times of the day, like right after classes or during class, and different days of the week, like weekends. 
This practice really helped me understand how important it is to know the real issues worth solving which would help out more people, and the best way to collect real data.

First page of my sketches

WHAT
This weeks project was to visit a site of your own choice, make observations concerning commuting, in terms of walking, bus, cars, cycling etc and then, jot them down in my sketchbook as text or sketches. I chose to do conduct my observations at the intersection of 15th & 42nd in front of Parrington Lawns. I did this as it was the road between campus buildings and University Avenue, therefore it meant a good amount of human traffic, hence more observations. It was also at an intersection and a bus stop, which meant more observations concerning commuting in particular. I found a lot of things like there were all kinds of people, all races, ages, sexes walking, cycling, driving or taking the bus alone, in groups and in couples. Not only humans, I came across two dogs as well. This was a very diverse set of observations in all. I think I understood the city’s diversity a little better. What surprised me was a car which broke the red traffic light. Although there wasn’t any presence of a pedestrian/vehicle crossing the road, it did shock me a bit.
After this, I used these observations to choose three of, what I thought were most important, observations: 1) People brought out their wallets or cards before entering the bus. 2) Cars which didn’t follow the traffic light. 3) Cars waited for the signal to turn green without the presence of any pedestrians. I felt like this included a very obvious and not surprising practice (1st), one that was shocking (2nd) and an intriguing practice (3rd). 
I chose the 3rd one as my ‘chosen’ practice to work on for a design solution as it interested me the most. I felt like we could come up with a solution that would mean cars halt, effectively lose out on time and fuel, only when it is necessary. I decided to include data analysts, traffic control experts, IT experts and community planners to collect data across time, days and particular data concerning the amount of fuel/time lost on average per car per year.

SO WHAT
This activity really helped me understand what my first step should be when looking for a solution, or even identifying a problem. It should be user research. It helps you understand the particular issues, types of problems real people are facing. It also helped you see it in real time and understand it in its natural habitat.
I may prefer my design, ideation and interaction activities more than this, but I understand how extremely helpful this would be for any and every design process in the future.

NOW WHAT
Like I said, in the future, for any project, in my workplace or even at home, my firsts step to finding a solution would be user research. Design and technology is nothing but solving and meeting our user’s needs every single time and what better way to do so than completely understanding their issues by observations and then incorporating solutions for those in your design? That is why I think this project will be very helpful to me in every future endeavor, whether I’m designing to solve a usability issue in laptops or looking for ways to make veterinary hospitals more hospitable.
This activity answered one of the hardest questions: what is my first step?

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