February 5th 2019 – a few updates on university project work.

Broads project

With the final site visit (for the time being) completed and the concepts tested by a usability group, it’s time to wrap up this part of the project over the next week and a half or so and complete the remaining bits.

User personas

One of the project specifications calls for at least three types of formative user research to be conducted. So far I have done:

  • Ethnographic research – interviewing people from three different focus groups in the environment to find out what it is what they like about the Broads and walking there as well as finding out what technology they use and what kind of things they’d like to see in a digital experience focused around the Broads.
  • Stakeholder interviews – the Broads Authority (and our historian) have mentioned several key pain points for them (mainly from the perspective of getting people onto walks and marketing them) and have given feedback about what they’d like to see in our digital solution.
  • Basic usability testing – basic concepts/mock-ups of various ideas were presented to the Women’s Institute in Beccles and we were able to determine any usability problems or pain points by listening to their feedback and observing how they reacted to the concepts and what they expected to happen when certain items were interacted with.

With information collected from these methods of formative user research, I am now able to create some convincing user personas based on the feedback given.

To start creating user personas, as a group we decided on several types of groups that would use a digital service like the one we are proposing to make:

  • Dog walkers
  • Casual ‘weekend walkers’ (specifically a working adult aged 25-60)
  • Parent(s) with pre-school children
  • Parent(s) with school-aged children (specifically aged 7-13)
  • Retired ‘rambler’
  • Outdoor activities leader (e.g. a DofE instructor or a Scouter)

We identified how each group may use the digital solution based on the data that has been collected from the formative user research conducted over the past three weeks and also using the ‘SWOT’ process to identity the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that each of the user groups poses to the app. For example, the SWOT analysis for the casual weekend walker is shown below.

The SWOT analysis for a casual ‘weekend walker’.

We identified the following:

Strengths

  • They are likely to be using fairly modern technology.
  • They are likely to have decent knowledge of the area.

Weaknesses

  • Potential time pressure.
  • Interest in more well-known locations.
  • Potential lack of knowledge of specific trails.
  • May need to be informed/’educated’ about specific trails (such as the Angles Way).

Strength and weakness

  • Arrival by car – weakness because parking may be limited, strength because it means that they could potentially travel to the area.
  • Interests – weakness because they may not be interested in this area, strength because they may want to explore new areas if they’ve exhausted their ‘usual’ locations.

Opportunities

  • ‘Escape’ from ordinary life.
  • Create small-scale local tourism.
  • Help walkers to plan routes.
  • Help to encourage fitness and exercise.

Threats

  • Accessibility – parking may be limited or the user may need to travel.

From this, I was able to develop the persona shown below.

The persona that I was able to create from the information considered in the SWOT analysis.

From the SWOT analysis I was able to create a fairly detailed persona for a ‘casual weekend walker’ including information about his age, job, house, location, partner, technology, shopping habits, holidays, frustrations and interests. You can see that interests such as ‘walking – but not too extreme!’ are taken from the SWOT analysis (‘casual walking’) and ‘work is often very busy’, ‘doesn’t get to o outside as often as he would like’ and ‘he wishes he could spend more time with Lucy’ are all traits that have come the ‘escape from ordinary life’ opportunity that was identified in the SWOT analysis. Walking in the same famous locations such as Minsmere, Orford Ness and Aldeburgh Beach (all famous nature reserves or places of natural beauty on the Suffolk coast, close to Stowmarket where he lives) is a threat identified in the SWOT analysis.

The other persona I was asked to create was one for a parent with school-aged (7-13 year old) children. The SWOT analysis for this is below.

Strengths

  • Able to complete medium-length walks.
  • ‘Return on investment’ as an objective.
  • Relaxed time on holiday.

Weaknesses

  • May be a little unfit.
  • Children may not be interested in going on walks with the family – they’d rather spend time socialising with friends or playing computer games.

Opportunities

  • The walk could be ‘gamified’ to make it more appealing for the children.
  • Content in the digital solution could be more sophisticated.

Threats

  • Weather dependent.
  • Children may find the idea of going out on a walk (with no obvious objective to them) boring.

Again, from this rather simple and not very detailed SWOT analysis I was able to develop a detailed persona.

Mother with children persona developed from the SWOT analysis.

This persona earns the average salary for somebody living in Lowestoft and the house value is based on current properties for sale in Lowestoft. This woman also has similar stresses about work and not spending time with important people as the other persona does (in this case, it’s her children). This is derived from the SWOT analysis which says that this user group would like to get the children out and spend family time, but the children would rather be doing other things such as playing computer games and seeing friends.

The third persona I investigated was the outdoor activities leader. I was not asked to do this one, but having been an air cadet for a few years when I was younger and also a Scout, I have an idea about what these type of people are like. I didn’t draw up a SWOT analysis of this persona, I made it up using bits of the other SWOT analyses we had done and also my own experiences of these people.

The third persona is for the outdoor activities leader.

I considered what it was that my DofE leaders looked for in practice expeditions and thought about how the Angles Way may or may not be a good example of a walk to complete on DofE. This persona says that the Angles Way could be a good walk for his DofE students, but not enough young people are interested in completing it or they simply do not know about it because they don’t really know the locations it goes through and they don’t know about the key locations on the route.

The personas allow us to evaluate the usability of our designs through the eyes of another person that isn’t us. It helps to make us more empathetic designers who can design for people than ourselves. It’s a good way to almost be able to conduct usability testing without actually needing to get users in and conducting it with them. It’s good if you’re in a situation like ours where this isn’t always possible, or the user base is potentially very diverse.

Download a full resolution PDF of my three personas here.

Research map

The research map I’ve shown really summarises the findings from my user research that has been conducted over the past three weeks. Each focus group is displayed and their pain points, motives and goals are shown on the map.

The research map shows the pain points, motives and goals for my focus group users.

The research maps make it easy to see common factors between the different focus groups.

Common paint points

  • Accessibility – it may be hard for the visitors to access the walks.
  • Signage on the walks – either doesn’t exist at all, is ‘spoiled’ (vandalised, pointing the wrong way, upside-down, etc) or there needs to be more.
  • Mapping – generally there is not enough of it.

Common motives and goals

  • Wildlife spotting.
  • Learning more about the social/cultural history of the site.
  • Learning more about the history of the land formations.
  • Relaxing and socialising.

Using this and the personas, it is easier to produce a digital service because now it is possible to create a digital service that covers these objectives and fixes these pain points and test it from the eyes of somebody who genuinely thinks these things.

Download a full resolution PDF of the user research map here.

What’s next?

A lot!

A high-fidelity prototype of my Burgh Castle web app idea will be made on Friday February 8th ready to present to key stakeholders from the Broads Authority to see what they think. This needs to be proper ‘hi-fi’ prototype with real text, images, fonts, colours and ideally it needs to be clickable too. I will probably turn to Axure to create this.

Before that, the information architecture needs to considered and mapped out, the idea is that the IA for a whole web app will be considered and then each of us (there are three of us) will build the hi-fi prototype for one section of the app, for example I’m going to prototype the Burgh Castle section of the web app.

Then all of that, all of the research outlined above, the personas and everything that has done in the project so far must be presented to stakeholders from the Broads Authority. I believe that this is essentially a pitch of a web app that fits their brief and is built on solid user research.

All exciting stuff!

‘Evaluating successful user-centred design’ report

I added in the interview I had with Tom Haczewski from The User Story and put in key quotes from the interview in the opening paragraph of the report when I define what user-centred design is and then later added in the case study he talked about as a sixth case study. It’s significantly smaller than the other five case studies, but does not have a lot of data associated with it or any third party sources to back up claims, so the case study is almost like ‘case study 5.5’ rather than ‘case study 6’. The best thing about this case study is that allows me to bring in some dialogue from an industry professional and it also’s very unique because this is an example of a website that was tested before it was launched (unlike most of the others I’ve written about), usability issues identified and then rectified before it was sent to market.

This now puts my report at around 3,098 words, meaning that is well within the +/- 10% leeway for the 3,000 word report. The report just needs reading over now to ensure that it reads correctly and that it meets the requirements.

I feel pleased that I’m able to spend a week or so to read over it and make sure it is OK – I’m also pleased that I’ve got the industry dialogue included too. Dialogue from The User Story is particularly good because their aim is to improve the usability of services – they’re not a ‘marketing’ or ‘web design’ agency like some of the companies mentioned in my report are.