Tackling UX with Fresh Tilled Soil

By Allie Rocovich

Last week, three designers from Fresh Tilled Soil, a human-centered User Interface and User Experience design studio, came to talk user experience with us. In an interactive workshop, we got to ‘play designer’ and think about solving a real life problem that designers Michael Connors, Hamy Pham, and Kat Garcia (a Scout alum!) worked on in their studio. The designers emphasized the importance of focusing on the emotions, pain points, and desires of the end user when approaching a design problem, and introduced us to two design strategies that they often use: empathy mapping and experience mapping.

Empathy Maps are where we think about a user’s emotions. According to SolutionsIQ, empathy maps are used to distinguish what a user thinks, feels, hears, sees, says, and does, when they are experiencing something. The goal of an empathy map is to empathize with the user by understanding the user’s pain, and figuring out exactly what the user is looking to gain.

Fresh Tilled Soil was asked to develop an app where pet owners can access information about their pet insurance, find out how to treat their sick pet, and receive a reimbursement. Currently, the pet insurance company has a call center where pet owners can call to talk to an employee about their pets’ issues, but this app is aiming to replace the call center so that users can personally access information at the touch of a button. In the workshop, we set out to use our new empathy mapping skills to solve this problem.

The designers introduced us to our user: Jayne. Jayne is a dog owner with pet insurance, and her dog was just injured.

In our empathy map, we tracked the emotions and thoughts that we imagined Jayne experiencing in order to fully empathize with her. The goal is to put ourselves in Jayne’s shoes in order to understand how we can build an experience that will solve her problem in the most seamless way possible.

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After completing our own empathy maps, we started our experience map. According to Touchpoint dashboard, an experience map visually identifies and organizes every encounter a customer has (or could have) with your company and brand. These interactions are commonly referred to as “touchpoints.” Creating a map is one of the best methods for understanding how customers interact with your company and uncovers opportunities for where and how you can improve a customer’s experience.

In our case, our experience map showed every step that Jayne took to help her dog and receive reimbursement. The experience map depicts Jayne’s experience dealing with her problem in order to develop the most seamless way to solve it.

An experience map is organized by “dimensions,” — the categories of information that we must consider in order to build a great experience. On the x-axis, we put “before,” “begin,” “during,” and “after,” to pinpoint the time frame for when she will be doing which actions in the app. On the y-axis, we labeled our dimensions. Two of the dimensions we used were Jayne’s feelings and Jayne’s pain points. As we moved through out experience map, we noted how her feelings and pain points will change throughout her journey in our app.

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Once we finished experience mapping, we talked with the members of Fresh Tilled Soil about our dimensions and the difficulties we had with thinking through exactly what Jayne’s experience would be, both in dealing with her injured dog and using the app. When my group tried to experience map, our greatest difficulty was understanding Jayne’s exact situation. When building an empathy map, we need to know exactly what information the user already has, exactly the thing that the user needs to accomplish, and we need to use that information to find the best way to solve that problem.

It’s important to remember that there are multiple users in any situation, so while it’s useful to think about how Jayne would interact with this app, we must also be mindful of the fact that there are going to be users with different needs. Fresh Tilled Soil goes through many empathy and experience maps while figuring out how best to design an app for a multitude of users.

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Michael said, “UX designers play different roles. Sometimes you’re a therapist, confidant, trusted advisor, bad cop. UX designers are more and more at the center of the storm. They can facilitate conversations, they know what’s going on system-wide; they are at the center of the universe. They get the people together and get people talking about the maps and make them look at it to work together. [We’re always] learning about new industries, thinking on our feet. You need to pull those things out of the client — that is your job. Whatever way you can communicate and get those experience maps, that’s what you have to do.”

We loved having Fresh Tilled Soil come and walk us through their daily task of empathetically understanding human needs and user experience. To check out our pipeline of events for the rest of the semester, check out our Events page.