What Moms Taught Me About UX

I received this in the mail the other day. It was a graduation gift from General Assembly for recently finishing their User Experience Design Circuit (UXDC).

Stay-at-home moms are currently expected to do everything. With a million different tasks needing to get done every second, it can be difficult for them to keep track of it all. There are countless to-do apps, but none that answer the question, “Where should I start?” This void doesn’t allow for proper preparation when it comes to time to do the errands, and can possibly result in several trips to the same area. During the ten week UXDC course, I created a solution to help moms run their errands more efficiently. 

Here are my five key takeaways:

User Experience Is An Iterative Process

True UX never ends. It doesn’t end when a company releases a product or when the budget ends on a given project. UX designers are required to have a “What’s next?” mentality. As I was conducting final testing on my app, I thought all the users would come back and say it was perfect. Although the moms complemented my end result, they left me with several suggestions and proposed next steps. It was then when I learned the value of iteration. There will always be a problem to solve, a customer need to address, or experience to create. 

Ask The Right Questions

UX/UI designers don’t, and shouldn’t, settle for yes or no answers. Those type of questions simply don’t get at the heart of what they are trying to solve. I learned to steer away from asking users “How would you solve X problem”?,  to instead saying, “How do you currently do Y?” When conducting interviews or creating surveys, I began to ask:

  • About specific experiences (best time, worst time, the most recent time, etc.)
  • Open-ended questions (In a survey, be sure to include “Other” as an option.)
  • The 5Ws + H (Who, What, When, Where, Why + How)

Move Beyond The Screen(s)

You may be designing an app, website, or any other digital experience, but I received several insights as I learned to step away from all the screens. VP of Design Education at InVision, Aarron Walter, described this UX lesson as putting “pencils before pixels”.  As a a visual learner, I found it very valuable to disconnect every so often and truly focus on the task at hand. In creating digital experiences, don’t forget the value that the physical world can bring. If I hadn’t interviewed the moms that I did, my final project wouldn’t be half of what it is today.  I also learned that a UX/UI designer can never have enough Post-it notes. 

 User persona: Samantha Dawson, Stay-at-home mom, Age: 32
User persona: Samantha Dawson, Stay-at-home mom, Age: 32

The Value of Personas

At the end of the day, you are designing for a human being. I found myself all too often thinking, “I know moms will love X feature, want it designed like this, etc.” Even though I am not a mom, nor will ever be one, I assumed I knew what they wanted. Boy was I wrong.

Just as my product became more defined over time, so did my primary persona. Samantha evolved from a random image and a fictitious life story, to a real user of Errands 2.0. In the end, Samantha became a “living” representation of all the different women that I had interviewed.

Research, Research, Research

I learned to never make a decision without the data to back it up. The user ended up influencing everything from the color scheme and icon set, to the ability to save itineraries and have a detailed map layout. The more you can invest in research up front, the better your product/service will turn out.

Interested in hearing more about my findings and testing out my prototype? Click here

What did you learn about UX in 2016? What advice would you give to someone who is starting their career in UX/UI?

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Ethan Parry is 

... a Service Designer + UX Researcher at Hanzo. Parry frequently leads workshops around the world on topics such as Google Design Sprints, UX research, and service design. Parry also teaches UX and service design in several universities and bootcamps in Barcelona.