The why in user testing


To design the best UX, you need to understand what the users do within your site or app. Usability testing lets you see users in real time and how they interact with your product. You can observe the behavior of the user to see what works and what doesn’t work with specifics tasks they are given. The users are encouraged to vocalize their thought processes in order to further identify issues they encounter.

If done at an early stage when the product is at paper prototyping stage, you will find the problems when they are easy to fix. Doing usability testing reduces the risk of building the wrong product; thereby saving time and money. This will help to understand user’s success rate and time spent to complete a task. You will be able to:

  • check if product meets user’s expectations
  • match business decisions to real-world use
  • remove flaws in the design
  • see what works well and is successfull
  • receive user’s initial reaction and user feedback

Usability tests are done at different times in the design process. First this is done with low-fidelity tests to gain quick insights. During the initial development phase, paper prototypes are used for user testing. It can be done anywhere and little design is needed. The results from a formative test should include users’ reactions and comments while thinking aloud. This will show any confusion and the reason for their actions.

Next will be high fidelity tests to capture metrics. This is done at the end of the development stage to show how usable a product is from the user’s perspective. The testing is conducted in a controlled setting or remotely using their computers and mobile phones.

Doing usability testing, will enable you to find solutions to existing problems as well as find problems you didn’t know existed. Testing will increase user satisfaction and a positive outcome to the final product.


User flowchart

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 10.48.12 PM

A user flowchart helps the designer visualize the experience a user will take to complete a task or meet a goal on a site or app. Understanding how a user will navigate a site will help you identify their needs. Flowcharts are made up of a set of basic symbols that show the decision process to the users final destination.

To begin designing a flowchart, you must first identify who the user is. This can be done though user research or designing personas. This will help define the target audience and what the needs are. Next you will need to identify the entry point by understanding how the user will access the site or app. The entry point is where the user is when they first arrive on the site/app.

There are several people that are involved in UX that will bring a product to a successful completion. These can include UI designers, information architects, programmers and developers. They all have a large part in a successful UX experience.  But getting everyone on the same page can be a battle, as each one will need different types of information in order to reach different goals within the product development. For example, a UI designers main concern is user and how they can create something that fits the user. They will focus on the user’s needs, wants and preferences. While a developer will have a different view of the product in order to understand the inner workings of the system.

Using your UX flowchart as a communication tool can be successful in helping to illustrate the product in a way everyone on the team can understand. To keep everyone on the team involved in the user flowchart, you want to stay away from the visual design and focus on how the system will react with the user’s experience within the site.



Information Architecture

Screen Shot 2019-07-21 at 11.46.31 PM

Information architecture (IA) is found in websites, apps and software we download. It is the structural design of information in a shared environment as well as the organization and labeling of a website. The IA supports usability and a connection of design principles for the digital space. It takes information that is being used and applies it to activities which require complex detail.

Information architecture creates a structure for a website, app, or other project, that allows you to understand the user’s actions and where the information we want to be used lives. Information architecture involves the creation of site maps, categories, navigations, and metadata. For example when a designer puts together a top navigation to help users understand where they are on a site, they are exercising IA architecture. IA helps people to understand what they are looking at and where to find it in the real world as well as online. Practicing information architecture helps others understand the importance of site structure and content.

For some information architects, wireframes are the best way to start the process to make connections and identify how the site will work from a user’s perspective. After researching, an IA will be designed around certain screens in order to show how a user will interact with the information before them. Designers tend to think visually and will often use this visual technique to show the structure of information. Wireframes are also a valuable deliverable to share with clients, developers and visual designers as they build mockups, prototypes, and final products.

Ideation Sessions in UX design


Ideation sessions challenge you to think outside the box. These sessions encourage you to explore as many ideas as possible to find solutions. The focus is on quantity of ideas rather than quality. In a judgement free zone,  you are free to uncover, sometimes unconventional, ideas to build upon. This ideation phase transitions you from learning about the users to finding a solution to the problem. This is where innovation grows and you find what the users has been missing.

The ideation session should be focused on the users to get their perspective.
The more user views you have, the more diverse the ideas will be.

The ideation process can be done several different ways depending on the needs of the user and the problem you need to find a solution for. The session can be done alone or in a group and short or over several hours. It could be a one-time session or over several sessions, as well as being formal or informal as needed. Use the research you have gathered to define the ideation problem that you want to solve. Be clear about the needs of the users. Ensure that the focus in the ideation session is on improving the user experience. Set aside any technical constraints or business viability. At this stage, no idea is too farfetched. It is much easier to scale back a crazy idea that addresses a true user need, than to try to make a very simply idea desirable.

Ideation is the process of generating a broad set of ideas on a given topic,
with no attempt to judge or evaluate them.


Role of the audience


In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser states that “you are writing for yourself.” He explains that if you write with enjoyment, “you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” Try to write about smaller events that are active in memories. They contain more information that will readers will connect with in their own lives.

Although I agree with much of what Zinsser writes, I do think we are always writing for an audience. Whether it is for a group of readers, specific individuals or yourself, as Zinsser suggests, there is always an audience. Keeping your audience in mind while you write can help you strategize how to tell your story or market an idea. Writing is a form of expression that can be used to tell a story, an opinion or even to market a product. Understanding who you are writing for is essential in establishing a tone.

It’s important to write for your audience. If you are writing the local news, you will be writing for that region with specifics the reader will relate to. I think it’s important to envision who your reader will be in order to properly write to this audience. When you know who you are talking to, your tone, use of vocabulary, and personal style will adapt. This will help you connect to the reader as you figure out how to write for them. In E.B. White’s, Approach to Style, he states to make sure the reader knows who is speaking. “Dialogue is a total loss unless you indicate who the speaker is.”

I agree with Zinsser’s statement, “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.” The reader will have their own interpretation. It is essential to understand the reader to set your tone and direction throughout your writing without trying to please a larger group. It is a balance. It comes down to what you are writing about and who it is for. The important thing to remember is to have passion and creativity in everything you write and you will always have the readers attention.

Effective Online Writing

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 1.34.44 PM

The Battle for my Life in the New Yorker, is a perfect example of a well-written long-form essay. Long-form essays are articles with large amounts of content, usually between 1,000 and 20,000 words. They are often written in the form of narrative journalism or creative non-fiction. Due to the length of these articles, it’s incredibly important to write in a way that draws in the reader.

The article immediately drew me in. It was as if Emilia was speaking directly to me, telling me her story of absolute bravery. The content of the essay as structured is an easy to read format that brings you through her struggles both in the present and the past. There was no confusion in going back and forth as it was organized in a way that made sense to the reader. Each point is broken into different paragraphs for easy readability from one scenario to the next. The style of the writing and the layout of the page were simple and kept me focused on the content.

She describes specific details such as her mum slumped in the chair to really give the reader a visual. This pulls you further into her story, really feeling her emotion. “My mum slept in my hospital ward, slumped in a chair, as I kept falling in and out of sleep, in a state of drugged wooziness, shooting pain, and persistent nightmares.” I actually found myself reading it in her voice which connected me on an even deeper level.

The way the article was written will appeal to a large audience of readers. The format is organized well and the narrative content is very easy to read and connect with. It has a simplicity to the style and usage of words that flows easily as you read. It has a clear direction and attitude throughout.

Compare and contrast: Is sunscreen dangerous?


The two articles that I picked to compare this week are about the safety of sunscreen. The articles take on different viewpoints, and I found the online readability to be better in one of the articles. I chose this topic for a several reasons. I am about to go to the Caribbean with my family and we are all very fair, so the concerns that have been in the news lately are in the front of my mind.

The first article is from Men’s magazine called Two-Thirds of Sunscreens Could Be Hurting You, Report Says. The article did a wonderful job in breaking down the report issued by the Environmental Working Group. The article’s comprehension was easy to follow and understand. The layout was clean with a lot of open white space that did not take away from the content of the article. The overall experience of the content had a nice flow delivering information and was written in a pleasing manner. The informative article kept my attention while giving me points on both sides of the argument. Below is a good example.

“The Environmental Working Group released its 2019 Guide to Sunscreens today—the 13th annual report of its kind—and it finds that two-thirds of sunscreen products on the market “offer inferior protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” But not everyone agrees you should be scared.”

The article listed the concerns in an easy to read list while summarizing that the major issue. They also consulted with a dermatologist to understand their point of view and give advice for safe sunscreen use which kept my interest to find out more from an expert. I found the article to be very informative but it left me coming up with my own conclusion on how I want to protect my family. The delivery of facts did not develop an opinion but rather kept me interested. I was intrigued to keep reading for more information.

The second article is from CNN called Avoid sunscreens with potentially harmful ingredients, group warns. I found the article to have several useful tips towards the end but the beginning was one sided to pull you in. The experience was not written in a manner which was entertaining or pleasing but rather very opinionated. The facts were not given until much later in the article which left me frustrated. This flow would leave many readers to abandon their reading before getting all the information towards the end. Due to the heavy opinions early on, this article was not easy to read. The layout was not clean design and had a lot of advertisements that were distracting. An example of the comprehension that I felt was hard to read is below.

“The Environmental Working Group says 56% of beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone. The primary function of oxybenzone is to absorb ultraviolet light, but some research shows oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin.”

Although I was using the two articles to compare what I liked and did not like about the readability of each, I was able to walk away with some useful information I can share. Until the FDA puts stronger regulations on sunscreen it is recommended to :

  • Not use a sunscreen over SPF 50
  • Make sure labels list both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum protection)
  • Avoid products with oxybenzone and retinyl palminate
  • Choose lotions over sprays


Professional Bio

I have been in the creative industry for over 20 years with experience in digital, print, mobile and email communications. I started as a print designer and moved into the fast paced digital world of emails and websites. I successfully launched a widely used healthcare mobile app with over 500 modules in just a few short months as a Creative Director at Aetna. In my recent role as Senior Communication Manager at Aetna, I provide design direction and strategy within healthcare communications for both print and digital. A large part of my role is client facing to provide solutions and strategy while maintaining the brand across several products.

I earned a BA in Graphic Design from Southern New Hampshire University, and I am pursuing a master’s degree in Interactive Media and Communications at Quinnipiac University. The digital world fascinates me. Understanding what the user experience means for the user is essential. It is all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the site, services and products that leads to a successful product.




Journey mapping is essential

jouneymap_finalA journey map is a visual representation of the experience the user has with a product or service. It tells a story from the user’s point of view from initial engagement and continues throughout their journey. In order to understand a user’s experience, you need to observe how the user interacts with the many different starting points within the product or service.

For example, this can be through marketing, referrals, search, social media and customer service to name a few. To ensure the experience is a positive one, you need to map out every touchpoint along their journey.

Why create a journey map?

Journey mapping helps you see the business from the user’s perspective. It provides insights into user pain points — how you can improve the experience, and define what users need in order to complete an experience. Users expect companies to be connected and seamless; while also knowing who they are and what they’re looking for. They don’t want to take extra steps to get to their goal. A journey map will help find the cracks in order to create a solution for a better user experience.

Some of the benefits of a journey map may include:

  • observe where users interact
  • determine whether the user journey is in a logical order
  • provide an outside perspective on the why
  • reveal the gaps between the desired experience and the experience received
  • help create priorities for product strategy
  • afford you the opportunity to view from the user’s needs rather than the business needs

Making it worthwhile

For a useful map, you need to include every touch point the user experiences within the product. For example, when a user is planning a vacation, you will need to begin from the moment they start thinking about possibilities right through to finally booking their vacation. Each touch point is an interaction with a product or service. By following along the journey, you will be able to see where users experience pain points.

Key elements to include:

  • Journey
  • User profile
  • Actions & Channels
  • Emotions
  • Actions
  • Opportunities
  • Ownership

As your relationship with the user develops, the map will include a view of the long-term, post purchase journey. Looking at the completed journeys of users can help highlight whether there is a clear path from research to end product or service. This shows the potential obstacles and opportunities to improve the journey.

The Importance of Using Ideation


Ideation is the creative way of coming up with new ideas, which is accomplished through several different ideation techniques. Ideation will help determine the right problem to solve and how to solve it.

UX designers are responsible for solving real user problems. To do this, they need to empathize with their users, understand their needs, and come up with creative, innovative solutions. Ideation will help you generate fresh ideas as part of the Design Thinking process. Ideation sessions will encourage you to think outside the box, and explore ideas you may not have thought of otherwise.

As a designer, the ideation phase is your safe space where you can come up with ideas that may be unconventional and may lead to other ideas which could enhance a solution.  It doesn’t matter if these ideas turn out to be plausible or not; what’s important is that you look beyond the obvious, already-been-done solutions. Ideation sessions will also help you to focus on your users by collecting the perspectives and creativity of a group of people, gathering a large diversity of ideas; and ultimately, to innovate in ways that you never thought possible.

Ideation is an important part in the design thinking process. The goal is to empathize with the users to learn the pain points they’re experiencing as well as understand how needs of the users are not currently being met. Often the solution lies buried within the information gaps. It’s not about what the company sees to be the problems but discovering how to engage with users to understand their frustrations and needs.

By testing and implementing ideation techniques, you can be more effective solving the right problem. It is not a linear process. Some ideas may prove to be implausible taking you back to defining the problem — and that’s ok. When it comes to the ideation phase, just remember to have fun, experiment with different techniques, and never be afraid to think outside the box.