UXD and ME
January 13, 2023
User Experience Design is not only an important step to take during the phase of product development, but also a necessary one. It is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. A critical step in forming such an experience is the process of research. This allows us to fully understand what the consumer needs, wants, and requires as the creator of the product. It is easy to believe that if you personally like the way something looks or functions that it is the correct way to go forward, but that is not the case. We as designers are not the users of the final product, and therefore it is crucial to take the consumer’s thoughts, suggestions, and opinions into account. This is why conducting research is extremely important for the success of the product.
My Major Project is to create a tiny living interior design website. This site will be created specifically for others in mind. I am someone who has moved quite a few times in their life and always found it fun and therapeutic during the process to design my own tiny living space. Although this subject brings me joy, the website itself is not about me. In order to break away from my own personal design wants and biases, user experience design research is necessary. I will need to learn about all types of styles and aesthetics in order to please my user and give them the same satisfactions that this topic brings me.
User Experience Design is a new concept for me, so breaking it down into phases will help during my implementation of the process for my own project. These phases are…
PHASE 1- DISCOVER: User Research
PHASE 2- DESIGN: Brainstorm features for solutions
PHASE 3- BUILD: Design a prototype based on findings from phases 1 & 2
PHASE 4- TEST: Usability testing
PHASE 5- LAUNCH: Release the product to the users
Another way to visualize the user experience design process is with the Double Diamond model. Within the image there are two overarching goals; the first is to make sure the creator is designing the right thing. This goal is represented in the first diamond, with the main focus being on research. The designer starts with a problem, the main reason for why they are going to create their product, which will inevitably end up being their solution. The creator will then take the initiative to conduct research, both qualitative and quantitative, to gather more information on the problem itself, as well as interviewing or surveying potential users to understand what they would like to see or experience from a solution.
The second goal of the Double Diamond model is to make sure the creator is designing things right. This is represented in the second diamond. Once the research part of their process is over, they move on to build a product that will coincide with the findings based on their research. Usually, this part involves a lot of trial and error. The creator will keep improving upon a prototype until they believe it meets the needs of the user. Once the designer delivers the product for usability testing and has received feedback, the designer will adjust it again and then launch it as a solution to the problem.
Phase 1- DISCOVER
Although I am quite good at designing a room to my personal taste, I am not yet aware of what the general public will want to see specifically from my website. Therefore, I need to conduct research on specific home aesthetics, trendy color patterns, where to find the necessary products for each type of design, what kind of plants will work well in different styled rooms, and home décor trends for the next year or two. In order to establish a well-rounded research model, I need to use both quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain as much information as possible.
Collecting Quantitative Data (Online and In Person Research)
To provide myself with a deeper understanding of what the home décor trends are, specifically for people on a budget living in tiny bedroom spaces, I need to turn to the internet as well as social media. Cost-friendly websites such as https://www.ikea.com/us/en/ and https://www.wayfair.com/ are very popular, have up to date inventory to gain inspiration from, and have a plethora of real-life reviews to read through.
I have personal experience ordering furniture from both https://www.ikea.com/us/en/ and https://www.wayfair.com/ in the past, as well as knowing quite a few people who have used those companies recently. Due to their popularity with the general public I plan to look through the reviews on their websites to understand what type of bedroom products are top rated, are well received, and which ones are not. On top of that, I would also like to visit furniture stores in person, both large corporations and small-scale boutiques, to gain a sense of what products are currently in stock and gaining the most interest from consumers. I also plan to find interior design blog websites, such as https://www.homesandgardens.com/ for the most up to date advice and to keep on trend.
In the wake of the pandemic, over the past few years social media apps, such as Instagram and TikTok, have risen to become the most popular form of entertainment and outlet to receive news. Therefore, I plan to use both platforms for research about my major project, as they are mostly viewed and used by a demographic of people ages eighteen to twenty-four, which is about the same demographic for my website. Instagram is a very aesthetically pleasing app to look at, and people have pages dedicated to any topic. I want to use the app to pick out accounts specifically focusing on the most current décor trends for 2023 and upcoming to 2024. TikTok is also a great resource because it provides a vast amount of budget-friendly home DIY (do it yourself) videos, which will be helpful to learn about and teach to my user.
In addition to the design and furniture, I am going to have a houseplant element to my tiny living site. I have experience taking care of twenty plus plants while living in Miami, FL for a year, and one of the greatest resources to learn from were YouTube channels (e.g. YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@NickPileggiPlants/videos) discussing the nature and needs of each plant. I would rewatch these videos and provide my user with a selection of easy to care for plants to choose from based on their room type, as well as tips and tricks on how to help their desired houseplant thrive in their environment.
Collecting Qualitative Data (Interviews)
Once I have collected all the quantitative data from the internet, social media, and in-person store explorations, I will have a better understanding of what interview questions to ask candidates during my qualitative data research process. As of now I plan to find six interviewees, hoping to get a mix of people who have just moved into a tiny space and people who are currently planning to move.
Based on current consumer patterns, the busy lifestyles of students and young professionals, and the cost-of-living crisis both in Boston and London, people living in tiny spaces will either turn to manufactured large-scale department stores such as IKEA, Wayfair, and Target to acquire their décor in a quick and budget-friendly way or leave their space blank.
While interviewing my chosen candidates, I’d currently like to learn the following bits of information:
- Have they ever decorated their own room before?
- What type of bedroom aesthetics would be the most pleasing to see?
- What factors are inhibiting them from decorating and personalizing their living space?
- What types of material or fabric would they most like to use in their own space?
- What type of furniture stores would they prefer to shop in?
- What problems have they encountered living in a tiny space?
- How big is the space they currently reside in?
- How likely are they to engage in DIY decor?
- Do they like houseplants?
- How likely are they to purchase a houseplant?
- What direction is their window facing?
Originally, I had wanted my major project website to be accessed by and encompass the needs of the entirety of the United Kingdom and USA. After some research, I learned that most people residing in tiny bedrooms and spaces are those who have moved to expensive areas, either for university or a new job opportunity, such as London and Boston.
Therefore, I have adjusted my target, and the audience I want to attract to my website will be university students and young adults living in London and Boston. Both cities offer small living spaces for large rent prices, and thus cause a significant amount of their residents to decorate their tiny rooms on a budget.
When they explore my website, I want the audience to feel as if they be free to transform their little spaces into a cost-friendly sanctuary of their own design.
Demographic of the Hypothetical Target Audience
- 18-30 years old
- lives in London, UK or Boston, MA
- college student/ young professional
- lives in their own space or tiny room
I plan to have a target number of at least six people to interview. These would include about 3-4 friends, two of whom live in Boston and have either just moved or are about to move. Another friend lives here in London and has just moved into off-campus student accommodation for the year. All these friends are either young professionals or master’s students within the correct age demographic and are currently going through, or are about to go through, the process of decorating their own tiny spaces.
In addition, I would like to conduct interviews with a mix of 2-3 university students and young professionals here in London, preferably residing in tiny living spaces off campus. This will ensure a higher probability that the interviewee is allowed to make changes to their space on a more transformative scale.
Phase 2- PROTOTYPE DESIGN
Now that the research process has ended and all the candidates have been interviewed, it will be time for me to start analyzing all the data I collected. All the analyzed data will help me form a clear path for what direction to take the design of my website in a way that it will most benefit the user. This will be done by using empathy maps, user profiles, and journey maps.
Empathy mapping is a great organizational process to start analyzing all the data collected during the interviews. It will provide the designer with a more in-depth view of the interviewee’s background, thoughts, and desires for the final product.
A trick learned from Steph’s class is to use sticky notes during the interview process. For each question an answer is quickly written down in a short but descriptive way to indicate the person’s wants, needs, and concerns. After all the interviews are completed, the sticky notes will be organized into 2-3 categories based on the results. These categories will be grouped together to discover interesting similarities, whether they be positive or negative, to provide me more clarity on how to move forward with my design plan. For example, these can be based on popular design choices, similar go-to stores to shop in, or whether they are plant people or not.
The success of my website hinges on the usability and approval from my users. Their needs must be met, and their concerns should be weeded out during the empathy mapping process. Therefore, this step is the most crucial to perform when designing a solution. If done properly, it can transform a good idea into a great one.
Once empathy mapping is complete, I will then move on to making a user profile based on the categories I had previously decided to create. These profiles do not go into a great amount of detail for security reasons but will include some background information and their category description.
It will also include information such as whether they have ever decorated their own living space, their eagerness to learn about the latest home décor trends, what first comes to mind when they picture designing their own space, and what concerns they have about decorating, and their desired budgets.
Journey mapping is a great step to take to put yourself in the user’s shoes. This will not only allow you to visualize what their experience will be like, but it will greatly improve your own design by metaphorically seeing a point of view outside of yourself. This is a step we learned in Chris’ class and was a fun but very informative way to enhance a design in a timely manner.
To make a journey map, you can create a persona or two based on what you think most of your users will be like, which will include thinking of your candidates based on the information they provided during their interviews.
As an example, the persona can be a made-up character of a young professional who just moved on their own to London for the first time for a job opportunity. As an individual living on her own for the first time to start a new career, the space she has chosen to live in is quite tiny but can feel like home if she picks her own furniture and adds a few personal touches for the décor. To accomplish this, she may go online and search for design inspiration, as well as tips for the best stores to shop that will be the most cost effective.
During this process I would also think of keywords that were brought up during the research stage in order to enhance the website to the needs of the user.
Phase 3- PROTOTYPE BUILDING
Currently, I plan to make an all-in-one website that provides visual inspiration for bedroom decor, offers tips for where to buy certain pieces of furniture (e.g., beds, nightstands, dressers, rugs, lamps, and decorative art pieces) on a budget, trendy paint color combinations, houseplant care instructions, and blog posts about the latest trends for tiny bedroom design. I will also have home décor Instagram accounts tagged on my site, as well as the furniture stores, so my users can find conversations and comments there if they need to decide whether to purchase a product. This way it will not be necessary for me to create a comment section on my own website. This will allow me to put all my effort into the design of my project and the content I will be providing.
I will be starting to write up the content and find/ design artwork for my major project very soon, as I have come to learn the #1 rule in web design is to create the content first. Once this is done, I will have a clear vision of how many pages my website will be, and how exactly it will function.
Phase 4- TESTING THE PRODUCT
Once I have completed putting my content together, I will start to code my website. For each page I complete I will find 2-3 friends to use the website and see if the page works the way I intended for it to. I will also ask for any feedback they may provide, and if they don’t provide any I will ask for a different point of view just in case. This way I can check my work as I go along in the process.
Then once the prototype of the site is complete, I will ask different friends, family members, and those in our MA class to use the website for a final usability test to make sure the entire website works cohesively. Each opinion matters, and I will continue to update the site even past the submission date.
Interaction Design Foundation.‘User Experience UX Design’.[online]Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/ux-design
IKEA.(2023).[online] Available at: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/
Wayfair.(2023).[online]Available at: https://www.wayfair.com/
Justinmind.(09/11/2020).‘What is UX Research: An Introduction and Overview’.[online]Available at: https://www.justinmind.com/blog/ux-research/
Homes & Gardens.[online]Available at: https://www.homesandgardens.com/