User Research and Usability Testing Fundamentals for UX/UI Design | Sarah Bannister | Skillshare

User Research and Usability Testing Fundamentals for UX/UI Design

Sarah Bannister, UX/UI Designer | Dog Enthusiast

User Research and Usability Testing Fundamentals for UX/UI Design

Sarah Bannister, UX/UI Designer | Dog Enthusiast

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14 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Class Overview

    • 2. Basics of User Research

    • 3. Gathering Research Participants

    • 4. Determining Research Goals

    • 5. Qualitative Research

    • 6. Quantitative Research

    • 7. Determining the Right Research Methodologies

    • 8. Synthesizing Your Research

    • 9. Testing Your Research

    • 10. Crafting a Testing Plan and Testing Environment

    • 11. Recording Your Testing Results

    • 12. Revisions Based on Testing Results

    • 13. Class Project: User Personas

    • 14. Final Notes

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About This Class

Learn the ins and outs of conducting user research and the strategies that will allow you to create the best possible human-centered digital interfaces.

What: Gathering plenty of preliminary information on your users before starting any design process is one of the most important steps in ensuring successful use and conversions of the products you design.  This class will clarify the methodologies involved in the ambiguous research phase of the product design process, specifically the methodologies used to conduct user research.

Who: This class is geared towards anyone who is interested in learning more about user research, whether they have experience in product design/UX/UI or no experience at all.

Why: User research knowledge is an important skill for any designer. Businesses and companies benefit from research, and it will improve your personal process whether you’re a freelancer or employed designer.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah Bannister

UX/UI Designer | Dog Enthusiast


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1. Class Overview: Hi there. Thanks for checking out this Skillshare course. My name's Sarah. In this class, you'll learn the ins and outs of conducting user research. Why user research is important in the product design process, and how it can help you to create the best possible human-centered digital products. If you are just interested in learning more about the foundational basics of user research, if you're a beginner in the field of design or have an interest in exploring a career in design, this course would be great for you. Learning how to conduct good user research is really important in ensuring that you are creating products that will be usable, user-friendly, enjoyable for your target audience. The more you do user research, the more you'll learn to utilize empathy in your design process allowing you to better connect with your demographic that you're designing for. Being able to see from your user's perspective and point of view, will allow you to take your product from just okay to great. Being able to conduct user research, and having knowledge on user research is becoming more and more in demand and more and more common in the design process by many companies. So being able to add this to your toolkit will be very beneficial whether you are already in a company and maybe it's something you wanted to introduce to your company or they practice, and you haven't yet practiced user research or you're on the hunt for a job, you'll see more and more often that user researchers is in-demand skill to have. User research involves gathering as much information on your target demographic as possible before you start your design work. It's one of the most important steps in ensuring successful use, and conversions of the products you're designing. This class will go through the process of conducting user research, what that looks like, different methodologies that could be involved depending on your project in your scope. It will also teach you how to properly use the takeaways that you gather during your research and how to apply them to your final designs. For this course, we'll be creating a pretty cool class project. So we'll be making a user persona. I'll go through what that looks like, what a user persona is. It's a really great tool that can help keep your design team aligned on the same goals. Creating user personas are pretty common in the UX design process these days. So this could potentially be a really good portfolio piece, if you're building up your portfolio still or you could take the exercise and use it to conduct user research and create your own persona for a project you've done in the past. I'm really excited that you're interested in this course. Be sure to follow me for more fundamental courses on UX and product design. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out. Let's get started. 2. Basics of User Research: User research is an incredibly important step and one that should not be taken lightly or rushed through when designing products that will be user-friendly for people. There's little product designers play a really powerful role in the process of launching an app or website. Because their role is to bridge the gap on the technology that makes up the software to the person using the product in a way that's engaging and could potentially make the person lives better on a day-to-day basis. Being able to make those products really user friendly is key. User research is the term that covers a wide range of research methodologies used when designing something whether that's an app or website or any other type of product. Including user research in the product design process is the key step that takes it from being a product that humans use to it being a human centered product. Those are two very different things. A human centered product keeps the target user or audience in mind throughout every single phase of the product design process. The final design should have usability in mind at all times. For an app, every single screen, and every interaction and micro interaction should focus on making the experience better for that person that will be using the app. Every single piece of it should contribute to that main primary goal, focused on the user, making it human centered. 3. Gathering Research Participants: The really cool thing about user research, is the people that you talk to, the participants you're using or testing, or your interviews. These will be the people that will keep improving your product. So you will use that feedback and it will continuously be used for iterations and revisions and you'll just be able to keep improving your design. It can be really difficult, if you already are a designer, you may know it can be very difficult to get a solid perspective on your design when you spend all day looking at. Even if you asked for feedback internally on your design team, if you spend a lot of time with your product, It's not always very effective as far as critique or feedback goes. So it's really, really beneficial to have a fresh set of eyes, especially when those fresh set of eyes comes from a perspective user, someone who really relates to your demographic and fits that persona. So one key point here, back to that, it's really important to try and get testing participants or user interviews. The people that you choose to be your participants, it's really important to be sure that they're close to the demographic you're designing for. That's going to give you the best feedback possible. It'll give you the most takeaways that will really influence your designs. That's what should influence your designs. It needs to be accurate to the demographic. So I'll be designing a booking tool for a hair salon and it will be used by hairstylists to book their clients. It wouldn't be very effective to use people who are not hairstylists or people who don't work in salons as your participants for your user tests, because you want people who can really explain to you the pain points they face on a day-to-day basis. The goal of your designs, especially for products like that, that will be used in a professional setting. The main goal should be to make those people's day-to-day job easier and their day-to-day lives easier. So you really want to talk to people who are relevant and they can tell you what makes their job difficult, the software that they currently use that they're going to replace with your software. That will be the new tool they use to book their clients. How can you make that better than what they're currently using? If the product that you're designing for already has the user base, this can be a really great place to gather your research participants. If you're designing for a product that doesn't have a user face yet, there are lots of ways that you can find participants. When you're building something from the ground up, you can determine your target audience by doing initial research on the market of the product. So say you are designing product for a senior living retirement home. So you would pretty quickly determine that your target audience would be someone who is an elderly person looking for a place where they would like to move for more full-time care, or the family members of those elderly citizens who might be looking to help place their parents or grandparents into a senior living retirement home. So you're going to want to determine what type of research methodologies you'll be using before you gather your research participants, and we'll be covering those different methods in the upcoming courses. But here are the ways that you can look to gather research participants. You can use social media, Facebook, for example, to tap into your social network or other online message boards that you're a part of, maybe using Reddit to look at some product so related to the product you're designing for, and trying to find people that would be interested in talking deal. Places like Reddit people use Reddit to share their experiences with the public already, so there are a lot of people you can find. If you're looking in the right places that would be happy to share their experience for the sake of your research. You can use advertising. This can be public advertising on places like Craigslist, your local newspaper to trying public bulletin boards and places it might be relative to the product or designing. If you're designing a website for health care, maybe placing advertising for user research participants on bulletin boards in hospitals or public health facilities. So using websites like, you can pay a small fee depending on your budget the're different websites that you can use, that have user testing services and might make the experience easier if you haven't done user testing before. You can also approach people in person. This is what I started out doing when I was learning. It's a little nerve-racking, definitely, but you get very confident really quickly and you can quickly gain a lot of different perspectives in a short amount of time. It can be effective to offer an incentive in this way. If you're in a coffee shop or a bookstore, you can offer to get them a coffee or a small gift card, something along those lines. You might face some rejection, though people are generally pretty nice and pretty willing to help you out, especially if you do have some kind of small incentive. If you target the right places, you might be able to find people who have an interest in the product you're designing. Determining what your budget is, what your scope is like, how much time you have, this can help you determine how you can gather your research participants. 4. Determining Research Goals: The main way to start determining your research goals is to ask a lot of questions, and this is something you should constantly be doing in your design process, asking questions internally to your team, asking questions to stakeholders or clients. Ask questions early and often throughout the design process, as there's always more to learn and discover about the subject or working in the first question to ask yourself or your team is what phases this product in that you're designing for. Are you in the process of trying to better understand your user demographic? Do you know what their goals are? Do you know what their needs are? Do you know what pain points they face on a date of it day basis when they're using similar products? Maybe you're trying to understand the reasons why they might use your product in the first place. Are you working with a designer duration on a pre existing product? Maybe there's been some testing done already, or some user research conducted, and you need to learn more about the pain points that came up or the the flaws in the design previously that you need to make it orations full to improve that design. So in this case, maybe your goals would include determining which user flows on which tasks. In the app that you're designing for the Web site you're designing for which user flows, her interactions could be improved for a better user experience in to improve the overall user experience. Asking these types of preliminary questions in the beginning of your design process is really important. So you are learning as much as he can before you actually start designing, and it will prevent a lot of issues from arising. It will prevent you from having to go back and, um, fix any mistakes that could have been prevented by just passing The simple preliminary questions I'm determining. Research goals can also be a lot easier when you are working with a team. Um, you don't always have to be working with a team to conduct leaves or research. You should conduct it as much as you have time and budget for and even if you're designing something on your own. But it's very effective to, uh, craft your research strategy with other people who are involved as much as possible. So asking your team internally having those discovery sessions before you have, say, Kickoffs, talking to your team and seeing what they know will help to save time and, uh, stakeholder time. When you get that with people with your clients or stakeholders who you're working with on the project, if you can really dedicate the time that you have with them to being the most productive, you don't wanna ask questions that you could have already discovered just by talking to your team. So making sure to really discover as much as you possibly can is early on in the design process. So then you can use future time in the most valuable way possible. As you move further along in the research process. After you speak with your design team or you determine your research goals on your own, you can. 5. Qualitative Research: There are two types of primary research methodologies. There's qualitative research and quantitative research methods. Qualitative research seeks to find answers or understand questions and problems through the target audience that involves; through stories or through experiences and what your user research participants tell you about their personal experiences. Qualitative research relates to non-numerical data and is more detailed focused. It plucks evidence and stories. It tells more of the human experience of the people facing the problem and it uses a set of predefined procedures with multiple participants to answer a question or solve a problem. Qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, observation. When I say observation, interacting with products, asking users to speak out loud with their experience, tell you what they're seeing on the screen, tell you what they're thinking what they think the next step they should take in the process of interacting within a product or focus groups where you get multiple participants in the same room. 6. Quantitative Research: Hearing these two terms, it's pretty clear to determine what these might mean as far as qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research helps accomplish finding answers or understanding problems through the target audience. Quantitative research options are the opposite side of the research methodologies. These focus on numerical data. They collect numerical data. They pull from a larger pool of participants from the demographic, so say maybe conducting a large online survey, this would pull in a lot of quantitative data, and it often shows statistics and is represented in charts or graphs rather than stories or more word-based findings. Quantitative research might include gathering data from surveys, sending surveys out to as many people as you possibly can to collect information, or using questionnaires, things like that, that will gather a lot of information from a lot of different people. You're not really facilitating anything because you don't need to hear all of the details. You just want to ask a lot of questions to a lot of people so you can gather a lot of data, which will usually be numerical data that you can use for determining things like statistics and overall assumptions about your demographic. 7. Determining the Right Research Methodologies: You might wonder, how do you determine the right research methodology to use, because there are a lot of different options to choose from. The way you can do this, it really depends on credit, few different factors, but the goals that we talked about setting previously, your research goals, looking at those that will be the most important thing to look at when determining what type of methodology you use. That should be a pretty good indicator of what general methods you will use, whether you're looking for qualitative or quantitative data. After you look at your research goals and that can help you determine the general type of research methodology you'll use. You can look at different factors that might come into play so what type of product are you designing? That might help you determine our research method and then looking at constraints are there geographic constraints? Do you not have access to your demographic or to user testing participants? You might have to conduct a remote research methods. Do you have budgetary constraints? Do you have time constraints? How much time do you have to conduct user research? The less time you have, the faster you'll need to be able to conduct your research. That might mean using something like a survey that allows you to quickly send out a questionnaire and get a lot of data back in a short amount of time. If you're able to send it out to a lot of different people, a lot of the time, you won't have all of the desired means to fulfill your research goals. There will be situations where you just don't have the budget or you don't have the time, you need to move fast. Determining the most efficient way to conduct your research while getting back useful feedback and useful takeaways. That's what you want to aim for every time. Even if that means you can't conduct your research in the most ideal way possible, you have to take those constraints and other factors into mind. 8. Synthesizing Your Research: Ideally the process of synthesizing your research and going through everything that you've collected will be a collaborative effort. Really helps to have other people to brainstorm with. When you're designing that's more of a solo effort. You diverged at that point from your team and you come up with your own concept or you have your own part to work on. But when you are synthesizing research or brainstorming, that's ideally more of a collaborative effort. You can come out of the research phase with a ton of content and a ton of information to sort through. This can be a really time consuming process, and that's generally why it's really helpful to have other people to help you with that. Also having other perspectives can help you discover a lot more because someone else on your team might be seeing things that you don't. The easiest way to sort through the content you've gathered is to break it down into different steps. So step one would be to lay it all out and analyze everything. A process that a lot of companies and design teams uses called affinity diagramming. This is when you take post-it notes and you mark up the different patterns you find on Post-it Notes. You place them all over the wall and then you take all of the different main points and takeaways and you place them into groups. So the second step is to organize and group your findings into pairings that make sense and that expose those patterns. You can more easily look at it and say, "Okay, so this is some of the general problems of this type of user faces. This is some of the goals they had." That's basically the way you can group them up into different categories. So the third step involves analyzing the meaning of each group. You can attribute names or meanings to these categories. This will help you to identify the areas that you'll work on in your design process. For example, you might have a whole group dedicated to the pain points that your users explained to you in your in-depth interviews or focus groups. Then you can place all of the post-its that have the takeaways that relate to pain points for your users under this category. The fourth step is to summarize your key takeaways. So after you've gone through all of your findings, and categorized everything, and sorted through everything. You can take all of that and you can analyze it and summarize it into a more refined document. This will help you to create solid strategy when you move forward into your design process. These findings and takeaways will be the influence for your next phases in the design process when you design the iteration or when you're designing something brand new from the ground up, you want it to be research based. You always know you had a reason as to why you design something. For example, when you're presenting your designs, you can present your designs to your clients or stakeholders and say, "This is what we found in our user research and this is why we designed like this. Because we know that this will help them accomplish their goals better and this is what they told us. They told us personally with their experience, and that is why this design works like this." So some deliverables from synthesizing and summarizing your research might include customer journey maps, which is basically a visual summarization of the experience a user has when interacting with a product. User story documents. User stories are a list of wants and needs from your users that explain what they want to experience when they are using a product. Finally, user personas, which we will talk more about because that is the class project that we will be working on later in the course. 9. Testing Your Research: For user testing, user testing is about testing your product, not about testing your users. What we'll need for this is a design that ranges from low to high fidelity. Something that can be easily understandable by a human. While this may not be a fully flushed out high-fidelity design with all the interactions finished, it might even just be a paper prototype, as long as it's clear what actions the user can take and kind of the flow of the product that they would be using that's great for your user testing needs. You'll also need a testing script with different tasks that the users should take. These tasks should focus on the features that you are testing. You 'll also need testing participants. Research actually shows that five participants is a great number for testing and it's actually plenty to show any patterns that might be discovered in your testing process. You will need a testing facilitator. Someone to talk to the testing participants and then give them the instructions that they need to complete the different tasks. Finally, you will need a note taker or a recorder. Someone that is dedicated to just observing and taking notes on what the user says or what the user does. It's a lot easier to have someone to do this primarily and not be switching back between giving instructions and then taking notes. You both want to be actively listening, especially the person taking notes and observing. The different concepts you've come up with for your design should be based on your findings that you found from your research. For example, if you're working on a video streaming subscription site and the users that you had interviews with in your user research, maybe they said being able to find their subscription settings was difficult and they didn't know how to change their subscription plan and that was frustrating. Maybe that would be one of your design goals, is to better design the account settings so they could easily find their subscription plan and change it. When you're testing your concepts with the user testing participants, the really important thing to remember is if the users struggle to accomplish the task you're asking them to do, it's a flaw in your design. This is not the user's error, especially if there's a pattern where multiple users are having trouble. That's a really key telling way to show you that you need to make a revision in your design and make it easier for them to use. Like I said, you are testing your product. You are not testing your users ability to use the product. You're testing your product to make sure it is user-friendly and the user experience is good and accommodating to your users. 10. Crafting a Testing Plan and Testing Environment: Deliverable for your user testing, we'll usually include a user testing plan. This consists of an overview of testing including; the schedule, the environments you would be testing in, the testing methodologies, and sometimes the series of testing tasks that the user will be asked to perform. But that might actually not even be determined yet. You can create a user testing plan before you even determine your task for four-year tests. The user testing environments can be done in person with a user, they can also be done remotely with a prototyping service, for example, InVision or Figma. These are web apps that allow you to create prototypes, and they make your designs more interactive. Users can click through the different flows. You can have video sharing, conferences, and observe users. In this way, you can send them a link to your prototype. Watch them go through the different flows if you can't be in person and do in-person testing. Or it can be done in a testing facility, the user's home, a public place, like a mall, for example, if you are going to be approaching people in person in hopes of finding test participants at the last minute. Generally if you'll be observing a user in person, it can be best to do so in an environment that you would be most comfortable in. Sending like their home, or somewhere that's more comfortable than say a testing facility where they might feel more like a research participant, even though that's what they are. Having it feel more natural, might cause the user to act more like they would if they were using the app in a normal setting. If they are going to be using it in their home, or just out and about on the go, a research facility probably wouldn't be the most natural setting for them. Whenever possible, using a setting that makes the most sense to the product, that is ideal. 11. Recording Your Testing Results: Just like we would synthesize our user research results, we want to synthesize our test results as well. This will allow you to look at the experience of your testing participants, see where any red flags in your design came up, see if they had any pain points, see if they really liked anything in something that you should definitely include in your design. This is where you can look at all of that and determine your next plan for your iteration or a revision. As I mentioned before, I'm emphasizing you really want a note-taker. You want someone who will be there to take note of every major of the experience of your testing participants, everything that they say that will be useful when you come back, you can always come back and review that information, but you can't go back in the moment and relive it. You want to make sure you have that documented. You don't want to just wing it and try to remember what they said. Because it all becomes a blur because usually you'll facilitate a lot of tests in one day. You'll have a day of testing. You won't do it day by day over time. You usually have a set amount of time to get your testing done. You really want to make sure that you have someone to actively listen and record that. This part is when you'll come back and review all of that documentation that the note-taker or a video recorder took, and then that's when you can better synthesize all of the information. One thing to note, be sure to ask for permission anytime you're going to be recording a user. If you are going to record them on audio or video, just quickly beforehand, always get on camera on your audio recording device. Always get it recorded that they agree to being filmed or having their audio taken just for any liability, things like that. You just always want to make sure you have that permission. Another thing you can do if you want to gather more numerical data, you can also conduct final surveys after you've done your testing with participants. Each person that goes through and uses your product and prototype, but so will just provide you with additional information and give you that quantitative data if you're testing provided a lot of qualitative data which are usually well, you can use something like end of testing session survey with each user and that can give you some really good statistical information, like five out of five users rated this task flow on a scale of 1-10. It was eight as far as ease-of-use goes. That could also really help influence your design decisions. When time comes to present your work to clients or stakeholders, it can be another way to backup your research if they ask you, ''Why did you design this task in this way?'' You can say, ''Well, our testing participants showed and told us that they found this task very easy to use. On a scale of 1-10, it was an eight.'' 12. Revisions Based on Testing Results: Ideally user testing would always be a part of any design process. It is very common. It's becoming very expected in the product design process, especially with many larger companies. Companies are starting to realize the importance of user testing and how it can separate their product amongst the competitive market. Depending on the constraints of your project, this can also help you to determine the number of revisions or iterations you might need on testing. A lot of fast-paced, start-up environments, they don't have a lot of time for user testing. You might just be able to do one round of testing and then apply your revisions, and then launch. That's just all there's time for, and then maybe over time, you can come back to it and prioritize another round of testing in the future. In a larger company, you might have a lot more time. You might be able to produce multiple rounds of user testing, and user research and apply your feedback, present to stakeholders, and then the more budget and time you have, the more they might ask for extra rounds of user testing or user research to be conducted. 13. Class Project: User Personas: For the class project, we are going to create a user persona, and I covered a little bit about what a persona is. It's basically a combination of all of your users. As you talk to different people that fit your demographic, and they tell you their experiences, and their stories, and cover what they experience in their day to day lives. Whether it's your designing a product that will help them with their job or make their day to day lives easier. You want to learn about these people as much as you can on a personal level, as far as it relates to the product you're designing because this will really help you to understand them better. That's how we can connect with people, is through their stories and experiences. We can use empathy to really see from their perspective, or at least attempt to really try and utilize that inner designs, and that's where human centered design comes into play. User personas are a common deliverable in a process that's using human centered design and design thinking. These are really common tool used by design teams. Their brief visual, they're pretty simple, but really powerful and making sure that you are always keeping your users perspective in mind. User personas are basically a visual reminder of your user, who they generally are, and what their general goals, and needs, and wants are, and how you can take those, and really put them into your product, and make it a powerful user experience for them. So that's one of the primary goals of user experience design, is always keeping your user in mind and making sure every element, every interaction, all of the screens in your app or website, making sure they contribute to the overall experience, and making it a product that will be right, or make the users lives easier, and be an enjoyable experience for them. No matter how small or big that affects them. Whether it's a software enterprise, software for people trying to do their jobs, or whether it's a mobile game, or a productivity app. It can always be human centered, and that will always make your product better because you are putting your target audience in mind. That will ultimately lead to a more enjoyable product for them because you are not your user. You want to be thinking about, what do they need, what do they want to accomplish? That's what empathy and I User Persona helps you to have that empathy. So that's why user personas are used in design teams and that's generally what they can help accomplishes to align you on the user and to keep those goals in mind. But basically, how you would create a user personas, gathering all of the takeaways from your research with your users. Those interviews or stories that you got from your users, gathering those major takeaways helps you to determine the target audience, and then determining your target audience will help you determine who your ideal user would be, and what you want to do as much as possible. Any, your user persona is include storytelling. The more relatable and detailed you can make this document, the better because it helps it feel like it's a real person, and it kind of a real person because it's a combination of all the people you've talked to, but it's still a fictional character that's the synthesis of all of the different users that you did your research with. I'm going to include a sketch template for the purpose of completing this class project, you can just download it. You can easily fill out the information. It'd be great, if you have a product that you've designed in the past that you didn't have a persona for. Think about who that target user would be? I would love it if you created a persona for that, and you entered in all of the relevant information that made sense for your product that you've designed. You can add your own styling to it. You can change the coloring, the font. You can even add additional fields, if you feel or change the fields, if you feel it's relevant, you can add your own image. Really, make it personalized to the that product you want to design for and be sure to upload it in the class project gallery because I was very excited to see what you guys produce, for the user personas. 14. Final Notes: This is the end. You made it all the way through this class on user research basics. Great job. We covered a ton. We talked about all of the different aspects of conducting user research, what the different methodologies are, and I really hope that, if you haven't already, you will create a user persona for the class project gallery. That would be awesome. I really want to see what you guys come up with and what you learned from this class. We've talked about how to take feedback from your users and how to use that to influence your design. So, if you guys have any feedback for me on this class, if there's any topics you want to learn about, if you have any requests as far as learning about UX or product design fundamentals, anything like that, I would love to hear it. Feel free to reach out. Be sure to follow my profile so you can always get updates on the new classes I'm creating. Thank you so much for tuning in and watching this class. I really appreciate the time you took and I hope that it was valuable to you. Like I said, feel free to leave comments on any feedback or any questions you might have. Happy designing.