User Research Process Blog:

1.What, Why, and How I Did:

  • What I did:

Last week’s studio was designed to let out team conducting a user research by observing people’s practices. During the past week, I conducted a user research on a bus from UW’s west campus to Northgate Mall. I took a sketchbook with me in order to document the practices on the bus. During the research, I observed people carefully and sketched some of the most interesting practices. For example, I sketched the basic scene of how people with a wheelchair getting on the bus. I also wrote some short sentences on the sketchbook to describe the practices.

The first page of my note
  • Why I did the user research:

User research, especially the observation method, can help designers to understand how users interact with the objects and thus find the weakness of the design. There were also multiple reasons for me to choose conducting a user research on a bus. First of all, the bus is a crowded place. In general, the more people I can observe, the greater the chance I can find design weakness to improve it. In addition, a bus is a place that designers usually do not pay attention to. Since the public bus system has existed for many decades, designers think it is mature and do not need to be changed. However, there is no perfect design in the world and I can actually find many problems in the buy system. Last but not least, as an important commute option, many people still take bus everyday. In this case, the user research on a bus is meaningful to improve people’s lives.

The observation practice our team did during the studio
  • How I did the user research:

I did the user research through different types of notes. For example, I sketched some simple scenes and wrote some sentences in the notebook. During the observation, I also changed my position several times in order to observe different practices. For example, I first sat at the front of the bus and observed how people loading and unloading their bikes, how people with disabilities got on the bus, how people bought tickets using cash, etc. Then I moved to the back of the bus sitting at the higher level to observe people. I also kept the four “P” — people, place, practice, and potential in mind in order to conduct the observation in a logical way.

2.Reflection About What I Did:

The process as a whole was really interesting for me. I observed people in a single place for a long time. With the four “P” in mind, I tried to understand the pain points existed in those practices and thought about how to improve them.

I like the project because it helped me to really focused on something I experienced every day but did not pay attention to it through a broadly defined activity. For example, I use buses as the major transportation option, but I had never thought about doing a user research about it. This project inspired me to improve design in our daily life. In addition, through the observation, I learned a fact that people take personal space seriously. If it was possible, they always found a seat that away from each other. The project remind me that designers should consider their products in terms of psychology and make the product fitting human nature.

3.Future Outlook:

I think the observation method for user research is useful for the accessible design industry, specially design for people with disabilities. Since most designers are normal people, they sometimes cannot experience the true needs for people with disabilities. For example, smartphones company can use such observation method to improve the accessible design for blind people. They can observe how blind people complete certain practices on smartphones. Through observations, designers can find problems and pain points that normal people would never encounter. Designers can also observe the most frequent practices blind people would do on smartphones and try to design customized features for blind people for those apps.