A Study in User Experience Design

Task: Design an App based on a user’s needs

Skills: Ethnographic Interviews, Affinity Diagrams, Defining Design Principles, User Flows, Sketching and Rapid Prototyping

Timeline: Three Days

Designer: Shannon Sajkowski

Defining the User

What is the Problem?

Malcolm just moved from Washington DC to Chicago. Now, he lives far away from his family and close friends. He is not able to call and keep in touch with them as often as he wants to.

Who is the User?

The user of this app would be anyone who wants to maintain long distance relationships.

Gathering Research

Why Ethnographic Interviews?

Ethnographic interviews bring a lot of value to the process of User Experience Design. This type of open ended questioning allows the interviewee to share stories to get to the “why” of a behavior.

Who was interviewed?

A total of three people were interviewed, two male and one female. They all had vary degrees of success in maintaining their relationships.

Discovering Insights

Why affinity diagrams?

Affinity diagrams are a tool used to collect ideas. The key to making them work is to write specific details on post it notes. Avoid general statements. Post it notes make it easy to move things around and change the groups.

Affinity Diagram

What insights were discovered?

  1. Everyone stated their biggest obstacle to reaching out to friends was remembering to message them. Their lives are busy and days can go by before they realized they had not spoken to someone.
  2. The interviewees would only remember to reach out to someone when an event triggered them. This could be a birthday or a family event. It could also be seeing something, like a car their friend used to drive.
  3. The further the distance between them, the more they wanted an intimate way to communicate. They all said they were more interested in a making a phone call or facetiming them versus just sending a text or liking a post on Facebook.
  4. Lastly, these relationships are important to them. Communicating with these people gives them fulfillment.

— — — — — — THE DESIGN PRINCIPLES — — — — — —

The app should have a way to prompt users to make phone calls or Facetime.

The app should allow for intimate communication for a deeper connection.

The app should make them feel close to their friends who they do not see every day.

Executing Ideas

Why Create a User Flow?

User flows should the journey a user takes while interacting with an app. This helps to discover what screens you need and what those screens should say. It also helps show what order things should appear in. In this case, my flow started out all over the place. Realizing simplification was needed allowed for more focus on what was the most important feature of this app.

User Flow

Why Draw Sketches?

Sketching a very cheap and effective way to communicate ideas. This early in the process, it can be more beneficial to simple create sketches rather than design in some software. This way, if changes are being made, it does not cost anything and is as simple as erasing a line. It is important to remember image hierarchy when sketching. This allows for the person viewing the sketch (and yourself) to have a better understanding of what is important on the page.

How Did the Design Change During This Stage?

A lot of changes were made during this process. While mapping out the user flow, it was immediate evident that there were too many functionalities going into the app. By making some sketches and showing those screens to the interviewees, they were able to tell me what were the most important features on the app. Also, as illustrated in the sketches below, the app changed from being a messenger app to tracking their phone calls. Through testing the sketches on user’s, the app became what they were looking for.


Creating a Prototype

Why Design a Prototype?

Prototypes allow for early testing. Testing early and often can help save money in future developments of the app. Testing paper prototypes are especially easy to execute and can provide a lot of information about the user’s experience.

What is Important in Prototypes?

Information architecture and image hierarchy need to be explicitly clear. This allows for the user to understand what buttons to push and what is important to look at on the screen.

Reach Out Prototype

Learning from the Experience

What Did I learn?

The short answer… a lot! User Experience is a process, and it does not happen overnight. The key to the process are discovering insights and creating design principles based on the user. I am not designing for myself, I am designing for a specific person with a specific problem. I must design confidently but hold my ideas lightly. Making changes will happen, no matter how great I think the design is.

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