fffunction User Research - Week 1

Written by: James Dexter On: 22 Sep 2015 In: User experience

Around a year ago fffunction came to Falmouth Uni and did a couple of workshops around user experience and prototyping. This was really my first formal introduction in to the world of user experience - I instantly recognised that this was a specialist area that I really wanted to delve into.

This came down to a couple of factors for me. First off was I have an ability to empathise with people. I can listen to peoples needs, try to understand their viewpoints and put myself in their shoes. The second was that I want to design and build products that help people. And really I saw this as a great way to do this.

So I studied graphic design, but throughout my final year I began to get more interested in user experience. I became more and more interested in what could be done with digital. I started teaching myself HTML & CSS and I learnt how to build (albeit basic) websites, as well as get to grips with a bit of Wordpress.

In August I got a much anticipated e-mail from Dan asking if I wanted to come on board with fffunction to do an internship for a month. The brief for me was to do some user research and UX design on the fffunction site. Which will (hopefully) lead to some interesting insights and some visual representations of my research for the team.

So with a bit of the origin story out of the way, lets dig into week 1 of my fffunction internship.

Monday, the start of my internship, was a day of preparing for the user interviews that I was going to undertake. I explored around the issue and started to put together a guideline for my interviews to uncover some insights into what people needed from the fffunction site. The first interview that I did probably wasn’t the finest of user research interviews ever conducted, but the second one was miles better. And after the third day of user research I had some really interesting insights from the users. I was starting to put together a picture of their needs.

So I was in at the deep end, there is certainly a knack to conducting this research. It’s important to be objective, not to lead people to the answers that you want and let them talk to you about what they want. After all this is about uncovering the needs of others. Luckily I’d had some expert guidance from Dan about how to tackle the interviews.

A photo of user research

After more interviews on Wednesday I started to put together some of the interviews into empathy maps. Empathy maps are particularly useful to put yourself into the shoes of your users. An empathy map is divided into various sections - Thinking and Feeling, Seeing, Hearing and Saying and Doing as well as Pains and Gains.

There might be occasions where in an interview someone might tell me something they think I may want to hear, an empathy map can really help to dig down into what they are saying. And hopefully, uncover a deeper understanding of that person.

Thursday and Friday I was sent to Generate Conference. I went up on Wednesday night on the sleeper train from Penryn. I say sleeper train, the reality is little sleep took place. The talks on Thursday were incredibly interesting and I took a lot of things that I could incorporate into my skill set, as well as some new things to try to learn. The highlights of day one were Micheal Flarup’s talk ‘Design better app icons’ and Eric Meyer’s ‘Design for crisis’.

At Generate Conference

Eric Meyer’s talk was very tense and tragic, revolved around how we should consider the user in crisis while we are designing our experiences. Meyer provided some examples of where these users in crisis hadn’t been considered. Some of the examples were genuinely shocking! I’d really recommend reading more of Eric Meyers writing on his site.

The second day of the conference was much more toward my interests, the highlights included Andi Smith’s ‘optimising your workflow performance’ which gave some really useful, practical advice on how to build better sites. Josh Payton’s ‘The future of user experience and the rise of the digital polymath’ was entertaining. Dan’s talk on the ‘UX of things’ was a really thought-provoking, and completely un-biased here, but one of the top talks.

Dan speaking at Generate Conference

And so that really concludes my first week at fffunction - it’s been really great and I’m looking forward to uncovering more user needs and starting to put together some personas surrounding those users next week. Stay tuned for another weekly update, if it interests you!

Oh and shameless plug here - follow me on twitter @james_dexter