Module 4: User Experience

Purpose (the WHY)

After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Explain what user experience (UX) and usability are and define their scope for stakeholders and clients
  • Perform a usability test of a website or mobile application
  • Collect, analyze, and generate findings from usability testing and user research


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. UserTesting’s usability software:

Genre (the WHAT)

Users are a key stakeholder for all professional writers. Users are the people who make use of the documents, website content, content management systems, etc. that we maintain. In short, they are the people who read and interact with our writing when our writing is delivered online. We have to constantly be vigilant as to how usable, or engaging and useful, our deliverables are for our target users.

One key method for understanding user needs is a usability test.

Your assignment for this module will thus be to perform a usability test on a website you think needs improvement, to analyze the data you collect, and to report these findings in a Usability Report. 

You will be making use of UserTesting’s usability application for this module: UserTesting has generously made this application available to us for free.

Our gift code is: U-ECU3. Instructions are included below.

Deliverables You Must Produce for this Project

The following writing and review tasks must be completed in Eli by the following dates / times:

  • 11/16/18: Draft of Usability Report is due to by the start of class
  • 11/16/18: Review of Usability Report is due by the end of class

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

  • 10/24/18: Homework #5 is due by the start of class
  • 11/19/18: A Cover Letter and final draft of a Usability Report is due by Midnight ET

Audiences (the WHO)

The only audience for your cover letter is your instructor, who will use it to evaluate the choices you made when constructing your documents. Your primary audience for your Usability Report is the owner of the website or mobile app you are trying to improve. Your instructor is an important audience of this document as well, however, as he will assess it based on the grading criteria for this module. Your peers will also act as an audience by helping you respond effectively to this overall writing situation.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 10/24/18 by the start of class >>

Do Homework #5

2) 10/24/16-11/16/18 >>

As with most forms of research, the best way to understand how a website or mobile application performs is by observing real people using it. This is called usability testing.

Your first task in this module will be to choose a website or mobile application to test. I highly recommend the hilarious resource Webpages That Suck. It can be any application you want, however.

You also might want to choose the same website you used in Module #2, but that’s not required.

Next brainstorm a specific user segment, or specific group of users, you want to test for, examples are below:

  • Someone looking to buy a product or service from the website you are testing
  • Someone looking to find additional information on a topic related to the website you are testing
  • Someone looking to support a cause related to the website you are testing
  • Someone looking to partner with the organization who created the website you are testing

For this segment, you’ll need to brainstorm, based on information available on the website you’re testing, the following information for them. Choose 3 attributes from the following list you think are important to the user segment:

Demographics (age, gender, sexual preference, race, ethinicity, nationality, etc.)
Buying behavior
Customer type
Technical expertise
Domain knowledge
Web usage

Next, brainstorm 7-10 tasks you think users should be able to complete via the website or mobile app you’re testing. Below are some examples to help you:

  1. Find a specific piece of information.
  2. Register for something.
  3. Add something to your shopping cart.
  4. Search for something.
  5. Navigate to a specific location.

Next go to and sign up for a free account. UserTesting has generously made this application available to us for free.

Our gift code is: U-ECU1. Here are instructions from UserTesting on how to use the application, but we will go through the setup process together in class:

Here are a few helpful resources for you and your students to get started: check out the demo video in our help center, which will cover what the platform does and the basics of setting up a study.
Fill out this planning worksheet to plan a study and reference complete guide to user testing.

When your students are ready to set up an account and start testing, share these instructions:
How to launch a desktop study
How to launch a mobile website study
How to launch an app study
How to launch a prototype study

And if you or your students have any questions, please email And let us know about the experience for you and your students!

You’ll get your results in about 24 hours.

We will also be practicing in-person usability testing, however, so you learn how to facilitate a usability test. As with most forms of research, the best way to understand how a web application performs is by observing real people using it, which is why we dousability 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.

From your user segment you’ve created, brainstorm 3 people you personally know who fit the user segment. These should be 3 people you can contact in the next week to do a usability test with them, so people who you can physically meet with.

Next, brainstorm before and after interview questions based on the website you’re testing and the user segment you’re testing with. Essentially, before the usability test you want to ask them about themselves and the context they come from as a user. After the usability test you want to ask them about their experiences with the website you tested.

Consider the following example testing script to help you: NC_Coastal_Atlas_Usability_Script.PDF

From our brainstormed lists of actual users and questions to ask, we will place everyone in pairs to conduct their usability tests, collect data, and return to class with the data for analysis.

3) 11/16/18 by the start of class >>

  • Draft of Usability Report is due to Eli

Analyze the data from your tests, draft your Usability Report, and submit the draft to Eli. The following questions will help you:

  • Were there particular tasks that users failed to complete entirely?
  • Were there particular tasks that were clearly more challenging than others?
  • Were there particular tasks that users took longer to complete than others?
  • From the data collected, can you tell why these tasks had lower completion rates, were more challenging, or took longer than others?
  • Were there closely-related themes that arose again and again in what participants said or did during the test?
  • 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 other users)?

Your Usability Report should include the following sections:

  1. Executive Summary: In general, what did you find, and why should people care about what you found? What do your findings say about the website or mobile app you tested? What do they not say? What needs further research?
  2. Findings: Give a concise but complete breakdown of all the patterns you observed in your data. Screenshots of the application are always a good thing to show the client the exact problems!
  3. Design Recommendations: What do these patterns indicate are logical next steps for improving the website or mobile app you tested? What should be the client consider doing, based on these findings?

4) 11/16/18 by the end of class >>

Review of Usability Report is due to Eli

5) 11/19/18 by midnight >>

Revise all documents you’ve created. Remember that the point of these reviews is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to Eli is the same as the draft you hand in as your final (and end up eventually showing to your community partner). Revise, revise, revise. Listen to your reviewers and make critical choices to improve your documents based on what they say.

Post your Cover Letter and a final draft of your Usability Report to Blackboard.

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module