Module 2: Contextual Inquiry and UX Strategy

Purpose

After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Explain what a UX strategy is and define its scope for stakeholders and clients
  • Perform a contextual inquiry of users
  • Engage users as potential stakeholders within a design process
  • Create a persona, or prototypical user, from interview data

Technologies

On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies  available to you, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, productivity, workflow, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.

You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:

  1. A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
  2. A word-processing application that allows for the production of documents in standard formats (.doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf; Microsoft Word, Open Office’s Writer, or Apple’s Pages are recommended)
  3. A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)
  4. UXPin’s prototyping software: http://www.uxpin.com/

Situation

Users, as Leah Buley reminds us, are just people: people with particular values, needs, and workflows. As a rule, however, the individual needs of these people we call users will not line up. In fact, many of them won’t. Designing products and services that will meet the needs of such a complex social situation is tricky, to say the least, but it is key if you are to successfully help an organization develop a UX strategy, which should be the ultimate goal of every UX designer.

The best way to understand the culture of users surrounding a given product or service is to perform interviews and usability tests with key members of that culture. Your assignment for this module will thus be to perform user research on the NC Coastal Atlas with one particular type of user: the Citizen Scientist. 

You will continue in your current teams for this module.

Deliverables You Must Produce for this Project

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following date / time:

  • Homework #2 – 2/1/18 by Midnight ET
  • An individual Cover Letter (including how you contributed to your team’s documents) and copies of your team’s Persona – 2/22/18 by Midnight ET

The following must be posted to this course website by the following date / time:

  • A copy of your team’s Persona – 2/15/18 by Midnight ET
  • An answer to my design question (see below) on the posts of each of your peers – 2/20/18 by Midnight ET

Audiences

The primary audience for your module is myself, your project manager or UX lead, but users and other stakeholders of the North Carolina Coastal Atlas are an important audience to consider as well. I will of course also be your evaluator, and will assess your documents based on the grading criteria for this module.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 2/1/18 by Midnight Eastern Time >>

Do Homework #2

2) 2/1/18 – 2/15/18 >>

As with most forms of research, the best way to understand how a web application performs is by observing real people using it. This is called usability testing. At the same time, understanding someone’s individual context, culture, and background is just as important. This is called contextual inquiry.

I like to combine these two methodologies into something I call the Story/Test/Story method:

  1. Interview users about their backgrounds.
  2. Have them test core features of an application.
  3. Ask them what they thought about the application.

Here’s an example of this method in action, and this document should be the basis for your usability testing for this module: NC_Coastal_Atlas_Usability_Script.pdf

For learning purposes, however, we’re going to break this method up into its original two components:

  • User interviews
  • Usability testing

In this module, you’ll identify some potential users and interview them. If I hadn’t given you a type of user to recruit, you’d first need to segment the user population for the application you’re testing and then round up about 3-5 members of each user group as a team. (This process is called “user (or customer) segmentation“). It’s common for junior UX designers to be given a particular type of user to research on their first project, however, so that’s what I’m doing.

Who to recruit for as your users

So, the following is an infographic I created for the NC Coastal Atlas design team when I first started the project using a modeling language called the Unified Modeling Language (UML): http://uml.org/.

Process model for the NCCA

This was my understanding of their user population from talking to them. This was also my understanding of the idealized manner in which users are meant to interact with the Atlas.

As you can see, the user type I am asking you to research, the Citizen Scientist, is currently three removes away from the current application. This is a problem for a public-facing application, a problem many of you have identified in your project plans.

Essentially, my initial findings are that the only two user groups who can use the Atlas with any proficiency are people who are pretty familiar with Geographic Information System (GIS) applications: GIS Experts and Coastal Researchers. Coastal Planners, people who work as liaisons between GIS Experts/Coastal Researchers and members of the public, struggled with many elements of the application during initial testing. Coastal Planners often create deliverables for another user group, Coastal Educators, who, in turn, often serve as liaisons between Coastal Planners and members of the lay public through policy work, educational seminars, workshops, and other forms of public engagement.

Your job in all this is to find us some members of the “lay public” to interview. We’re calling these folks Citizen Scientists because they have an interest in Geographic IS or some related science, but aren’t regular users of GIS technologies.

These should be people who:

  • Have basic Internet proficiency.
  • Have some interest in GIS, maps, geography, or some related science.

How to recruit your users

The only way I’ve ever been able to recruit test users is guerilla style: I think of people I personally know who don’t know about the application and who fit the user segment I’m testing. Then I contact those people and arrange a time to do a test with them.

The new generation of software like UserTesting will find test users for you, but you won’t always have access to those technologies, so we’re going old school.

And yes: your cousin’s cousin’s cousin is fine. Everyone probably knows a science nerd or two, I’m assuming. If you have problems, contact me.

How to conduct your interviews

  1. Create a list of at least 6-10 people (you always need to recruit from double the number of people)
  2. Introduce yourself over email or phone and set an appointment to do a Google Hangout (or some other kind of video call) with them (I also like this: https://www.freeconference.com/). Alternatively, if they are in your local area, agree to meet with them at a coffee shop and other public venue. Explain to them that you’re going to be asking them about a new technology that is available to science-minded people and that this is for a class.
  3. Create a list of questions based on the NC_Coastal_Atlas_Usability_Script.pdf that you think would make sense to the type of person you’re recruiting
  4. Do the interview and record it (Google) or (FreeConference). Also take notes on things you find interesting during the interview so you’re not looking at the footage from scratch.
  5. Before and after the test, ask them questions based on the
  6. You can even be in the room with them. If you’re not in the room with them, you’ll need to do a Skype or Google Hangout with them to ask them the before-and-after questions.

Each individual group member should be present for at least one interview. Otherwise, however you divide up the work is fine.

3) 2/15/18 by Midnight Eastern Time >>

As a team, analyze the data from your interviews and post a copy of your persona to this ourse websiteQualitative analysis during a UX project is very simple. Look through your data and try to identify patterns that seem important for the design project you are working on. The following questions will help you:

  • Were there closely-related themes that arose again and again in what participants said?
  • Where there important terms, images, problems, or issues that you noticed again and again?
  • Were there a lot of familiar plot points in the overall story you heard or saw?
  • What was distinct and different about each user (what didn’t match up with every other user)?

Next, craft your persona based on UXPin’s persona template. Sign up for a free trial at: http://www.uxpin.com/. Log-in. Create a persona. Simple. You only need one account per team (because you only need one persona per team), but take advantage of this software, which you can get for free as long as you’re a student!! https://www.uxpin.com/community/tutorials/educational-accounts/

You don’t need to send me a draft of your persona. Trust me on this. Every module we complete from now until the end of the class will basically be a rough draft for your team’s final project, which will be a collection of final versions of the deliverables from the modules. So: all the module deliverables will be rough drafts, so don’t freak out, okay? Just go through the process of the class, knowing you can revise all your deliverables for the final project.

4) 2/20/18 by Midnight ET >>

Post an answer to the following design question as a comment on the posts of each team’s persona on this course website.

Each module, I will ask you a design question, which you must post a response to as a comment on the posts of each of your peers. Your design question for this module is the following:

  • What do you think this teams persona(s) indicate about the specific culture of the Citizen Scientist user group? In other words: what is most important about this user group that a redesign of the Atlas needs to accommodate?

5) 2/22/18 by Midnight ET >>

Revise all your documents and hand them in. The point of receiving feedback from your peers, and also from myself, is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to the course website is the same as the draft you hand in as your final. Revise, revise, revise.

  • An individual Cover Letter (including how you contributed to your team’s documents) and a copy of your team’s Persona are due to Blackboard by Midnight ET

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module