After I’d left university in 2015, I spent some time learning about the field of User Experience Design (UX/UXD). I’d always taken an interest in the human-computer-interaction side of computer science and this seemed like something that would be beneficial for me moving forward in how I designed software and games.

I did research to find out what types of things are covered in UX, typically what job roles they perform, but most importantly I looked for a foothold to start learning which lead me to 2 names – Steve Krug & Don Norman.

Steve Krug is the author of “Don’t Make Me Think”, a book all about making websites and mobile apps highly usable, so that literally no one is left out, there’s an entire chapter dedicated simply to accessibility of your projects. Don Norman is the author of “The Design of Everyday Things”, a book that, as I understand it, is on every single designers bookshelf and is a cornerstone to UX.

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After having learnt as much as I could from them, I started by taking on small projects of my own, so I needed something which was missing in existing design or something that hadn’t been designed yet. As I’ve previously stated I’m a lover of games of all varieties, so one of the projects I undertook was the designing of a dedicated board game website. The other project I undertook was influenced by the typical computer science undergrad’s diet and that was the redesign of the Papa Johns’ mobile app.

I started in both cases by looking up the online reviews for the two services. Depending on the board game sites the reviews varied wildly, however the pizza app was consistently downvoted on both the android and apple stores. From these reviews I took the issues that were voiced the most – “they don’t have X”, “Y didn’t work”, “They advertise Z but I can’t find it”, etc. From that I had my basis on what the issues were, but as I’d learnt from Don Norman, the thing people complain about ins’t always the source of the problem, you have to employ the use of the “5 Why’s” or “Kaizen”. This process involves asking why something doesn’t work, which leads you to an underlying problem, why doesn’t that work, which leads to another problem and so on and so forth until the root cause is found.

In order to fully understand what was going wrong in these products, I designed a usability test, essentially a series of tasks for my own testers to perform whilst telling me what they were thinking as they did it. This was helpful for two main reasons, first of all it showed whether or not the issues in the reviews were consistent, i.e. was I finding the same results with my test subjects, and secondly it helped me find out why users had issues with what was there; Was the phrasing ambiguous, was it hidden in a menu they wouldn’t naturally assume to look under etc.

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From this point I knew what the issues were with sites, and better yet I knew what caused those issues. I now was in a position where I could make knowledgeable changes to the designs of all the sites and the mobile app I’d been using. This involved the creation of many wireframes using the Balsamiq software tool, due to my designs only being wireframes they were not as polished as a fully released website or phone app but they were at least fully interactive, a click of a button would lead to a certain wireframe so that the website and app layouts were fully realised.

After this point I had effectively a fully interactive website and mobile app, the only difference was the dearth of a User Interface. Now I had to test my re-designed products to see if they did actually solve the issues that had been found originally. I gathered some of my original testers and some new ones just to get a fresh perspective and gave them the same tasks that some of them had already performed on the original products being tested. The original testers on the whole seemed to see the improvements with the new designs being put forward, however the brand new testers were split, some saying the design made sense and others asking for functionality that I hadn’t thought to add to the products.

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I decided to conclude both products by writing up a full report from the testing phase all the way through to that point, what I found, what issues had been fixed and which ones I potentially hadn’t found the true underlying cause for. A week or two after this point I went to my local village and asked small business owners if they had a website, and if they would consider letting me re-design the sites entirely free in order to help me build up my skills in the UX field.

One small beautician business said yes, and that will be the topic for part 2 of this post. I’ll put a link here when it’s done so you don’t have to go searching for it. Until next time, keep designing, have an awesome day and thanks for reading.

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One thought on “The Beauty of Design, & Designing for Beauty Pt.1

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