UX Design: Personas, Part 2 (For the individual designer)

My goal is to be working as a software developer before the year 2016. My website will help me achieve this goal by showing local tech folk my knowledge, skills and achievements. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

(Part 1 consisted of defining my audience and my initial attempts to understand my audience better. Read part 1 here.)

A Realization That I am Only One Person

The initial survey I created to better understand my audience was 52 questions long. I asked a few local UX professionals about it and they pointed out that it was entirely too long. I used these questions in a 40 minute interview with a technical recruiter who was nice enough to give me some of her time even though the interview was too long. I also had the realization that as one person working on the design and development of my website, 52 points of information is probably way too much for me to handle.

An in depth guide is great for a team of designers who are creating requirements for a team of developers, but as one person doing it all I needed to scale it down a bit.

Just the Facts

After my initial request for survey responses only garnered one response and one interview, I decided to take a different tactic. I asked myself

“What is it I REALLY want to know about my audience?”

I realized that, for this project, my audience’s gender and personality type are not as important to me. What I really care about is how they use my website and what they want from it, so I decided to redesign my survey. My redesigned survey can be found here. I sent the new survey out to those within my network that I consider to be recruiters and curious developers which gave me more responses.

My Personas

My personas are based off of the super helpful DIY User Personas post by UX-Lady. They are also hand drawn because pens and markers are easier for me to use than publishing software.

A person who makes hiring decisions regarding software developers:

RecruiterPersona

A curious programmer:

ProgrammerPersona

What’s Next?

This process has pointed out to me that I am not the designer-type. This is the end of this process for now. It’s been eye-opening to dig into the Discovery stop of the UX Design process. If you’re more design oriented than I am then check out the links in my Learning UX Design: Strategy and Learning UX Design: Design posts.

UX Discovery: Personas, Part 1

My goal is to be working as a software developer before the year 2016. My website will help me achieve this goal by showing local tech folk my knowledge, skills and achievements. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

My Trepidation with Personas

I’m excited to continue my exploration of UX Design, but personas make me nervous. It means I have to talk to people. I’m not the hide-in-a-dark-room-all-alone kind of developer, but I’m not a social butterfly either. I also like to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but since I’m learning about UX I don’t know what I’m talking about yet. It’s much easier to admit ignorance behind a keyboard. It’s much more difficult to admit it when talking to people who I want to consider my peers and bosses someday soon.

Who is my Audience?

Part of my purpose for this website is to “show local tech folk my knowledge, skills and abilities.” Who are these tech folk? What information do they want to know? I decided to group my audience into 2 personas: people who make hiring decisions regarding software developers and curious programmers. I don’t think I’ll ever have more than 3 personas unless absolutely needed. I would just get overwhelmed.

Finding out more about my audience?

Users are the most important people involved in a UX project. Without users, a website/app/program is just an exercise in programming. I want my projects to be useful tools for other people so I need to find out what they want. I’ve found that the best way to find out what people want is to ask them, so I’ve created a survey and interview template.

The survey gets basic information:

The interview gets to the meaty information:

  • References and Influences: References are people and organizations that I am associated with. Influences are people and organizations that my audience knows to evaluate my website.
  • Technology Expertise: In order for me to make a website that works best for my audience, I need to understand their comfort and skill with various technologies such as internet navigation, social media navigation, mobile usage and cloud computing resources.
  • Experience Goals: What is my audience looking for when they come to my website? What are their priorities? What is my audience’s expectations for the website? How do they want to feel when looking at the website?
  • Devices and Platforms: Find out what devices my audience uses to view my site. Find out what operating systems and browsers my audience uses.
  • Domain Details: used apps/websites: Find out what applications and websites my audience uses to evaluate my personality, knowledge and abilities that do not include my website.
  • Must Do/Must Never: Find out up to 3 things that my audience feels that I must always do online and find 3 things my audience feels that I must never do online.
  • Relationship with Brand: In this case, the brand is myself. Find out what functionality that my audience wants from my website. Also find out how familiar my audience is with my personality, skills and abilities.

My interview can be found here on SurveyPlanet. Please consider filling out the survey so that I can continue my research.

These templates are built on ideas from the DIY User Personas post by UX Lady.

What’s in store for part two?

In part 2, I review my survey and interview results and complete my personas.

UX Discovery: Measuring My Success

My goal is to be working as a software developer before the year 2016. My website will help me achieve this goal by showing local tech folk my knowledge, skills and achievements. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

Measuring Online Goals is So Easy, It’s Hard

Measuring your goals for a website is so easy it’s hard. What do I mean by that? The internet is full of tools to measure and report metrics! You can measure any and every metric possible, but until you know what it is you want to measure, all these tools will only provide useless fluff.

I only looked into one analytics tool, Google Analytics. Truthfully, It does about 50 times more than I could ever possibly want to do, but it’s free and I’m already immersed in the Google world. Plus I was impressed with the really cool Google Analytics Academy that I got to use as an online, self-paced guide to learn about analytics.

Reviewing My Goals

I need to make sure I’m measuring information from my website that relates to my goals. Essentially I narrowed down my main goal into 3 main parts. I want to attract people who are involved in the local technology industry, because those are the people I want to work for and work with. I want to show off my work to the people who visit my site. And since I am not planning to complete my goal for another 2 years, I want to encourage visitors to return and see more projects.

My Measurement Plan

At the recommendation of the Google Analytics Academy, I decided to use Avinash Kaushik’s measurement planning model to measure my website’s success. Since my website is essentially a branding website, I decided to go with the goals that closely resemble a branding website such as driving awareness, engagement and loyalty. I will attract users, show off my work and encourage loyalty.

MeasurementPlan

I will attract visitors using social media posts. I will measure my success by using the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the amount of visitors and the bounce rate for my landing pages. My target goals are 100 visits per month and a maximum bounce rate for my Colorado Tech Weekly (CTW) posts of 70%.

I will show off my work with blog posts and project updates. I will measure my success by using bounce rate as a KPI. My target goal for my non-CTW landing pages is 60% bounce rate. If you are interested in my blog posts and project updates, I assume you will be more engaged than the average CTW visitor.

I want to encourage returning visitors. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet, but I want to measure my success by comparing new vs returning users and by my social media interactions. My target goal is to have 33% of my users to be returning users. This will require some work.

Next up, I will focus on personas. It’s time to me to find out who my audience is so that I can adapt my content accordingly.

UX Discovery: Brainstorming my SMART goal

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

Brainstorming my SMART goal

After researching the Discovery phase of UX design, I realized that the goal I had for my project is not a SMART goal, a SMART goal is:

  • Specific (and strategic): Linked to overall mission. Answers the questions of who and what.
  • Measurable: How do you know you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Attainable: Realistic and achievable within the time frame.
  • Relevant: Aligned with current tasks and projects and focused in one area.
  • Time-framed: Have a clearly defined time-frame or deadline.

My goal of “designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser” is relevant, but that’s about it. It’s not very specific, impossible to measure which makes it impossible to attain and there’s not time frame set for it. I needed a better goal.

The first thing I noticed about my goal was that I started with “The goal of designing my own website…” which, in a way, is a goal within a goal. I should have a goal for my website, so then the goal of designing my website would be to reach the goal of my website. Now I would seem to have a recursive goal. Recursion is good to have in code, but bad to have in goals. That had to change. Time to brainstorm!

Unfortunately I have issues with brainstorming. I want everything I write down to sound perfect when I write it down. This hardly happens after a few revisions. It definitely doesn’t happen when brainstorming! So I forced myself to write down enough ideas to cover a sheet of notebook paper front and back before attempting to mold my ideas into a goal.

Here is my new goal.

My goal is to be working as a software developer before the year 2016. My website will help me achieve this goal by showing local tech folk my knowledge, skills and achievements. I will attract local tech folk to my site with informative Colorado Tech Weekly posts and my social media interactions. I will show off my previous knowledge, skills and achievements by showing my work, project and education history. I will show that my knowledge, skills and abilities are current and constantly improving by showing the status of self-guided, relevant projects. I will measure my success monthly by tracking webpage views from Colorado and social interactions with local tech folk.

Next I will figure out how to measure my success.

Learning UX Design: Design

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

My third and final week of studying the basics UX design is making me realize how much I am just barely scratching the surface of this subject. This week is about the design phase. Everything up til now has been research and planning. The design phase is where we finally get to start creating our project after wireframing and testing again.

Wireframing

In the Strategy Phase we created prototypes to test user interaction. Wireframes take these prototypes one level further. At least that’s the way I’m going to look at it. Prototypes, wireframes and mockups are tools to quickly design and test ideas. How you use them will depend on your methods and preferences. They should provide just enough detail for the front-end developers and visual designers to do their thing. At this stage, the wireframe should have enough detail to show developers how your site or app will look and interact on various devices. It should also have enough detail so that you can get feedback from the developers on how to improve usability and visual design.

When designing, you’re trying to make something unique yet easy to use. It needs to be different but recognizable at the same time. It seems that UX is a field of informed contradictions. One great way to make sure your design is recognizable and easy to use is with design patterns. Design patterns are common, proven assemblies of interface elements that already feels familiar to users.

Create. Test. Learn.

Ever notice that all the best repeatable instructions come in threes? “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.”, “See zombie. Run. Hide.”, etc. How often and how quickly you create, test and learn during the UX design process will depend on your project management strategy. We won’t quite get into that yet though. Regardless of your management principles always remember to stay on track by keeping your goal in mind with every decision.

Once you have a wireframe, test it with your users, stakeholders and developers to get feedback. Repeat until you have a wireframe that meets your core goals.

Develop and Launch

Once you have a design that’s good enough, your developers and visual designers have all they need to make it happen. it’s time to develop and launch the project. Don’t wait until your design is perfect because if you’re anything like me, it will never be perfect. The purpose behind this process is to create a project that works and that achieves your goals. Don’t be afraid to create, test and learn after launch.

There is so much more for me to learn about UX design and I have enough links, articles and book recommendations to spend the next year reading all about it, but that’s not going to help me learn. It’s time for me to put these practices to use and design my website. Next up, implementing the discovery phase.

Learning UX Design: Strategy

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

My second week of studying UX design, I focused on the strategy phase. Last week in the discovery phase, we spent time learning about our goal, our audience and our strengths and weaknesses. The Strategy phase is when we get to combine those things into something useful.

Prioritizing and Brainstorming

The journey map is going to tell you where your problems lie. Now it’s time to figure out which problems are a big deal and which ones can wait until later. Remember to keep your goal in mind when prioritizing.

Once the problems are prioritize then it comes the fun part: brainstorming. Remember to only brainstorm. Come up with as many answers as you can to the problems regardless of their feasibility. Ask questions like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if <persona> could… ?”

Storyboarding

Storyboarding is like waterboarding, but instead of using water you tie your subject down and bore them into submission with crappy stories. No, wait…

Storyboarding is actually drawing out what would happen if your personas used your brainstormed ideas. Do this until you have a story that you believe your personas will like being involved in. If able, talk with users that the personas represent and get their opinions on the stories.

For more about storyboarding, check out this series on Storyboarding and UX [Part 1], [Part 2] and [Part 3].

Prototyping and Testing

Now we’re at the point that we have good ideas that our personas like so we have to figure out the best ways to make those good ideas happen. This is not the time to make your perfect solution. It’s not the time to make wireframes. It’s quick and dirty prototyping time! Do enough to make it work then test it out then fix the things that don’t work until they do work. A great way to make sure your prototypes are quick are to set a time limit. One way is to spend 5 minutes coming up with 6-8 concepts. After that find someone to critique your idea then narrow down your prototypes to 2-3 good ideas (http://www.uxapprentice.com/strategy/)

As much as I love my technology, I will probably use paper prototypes because it’s easier to quickly come up with ideas.

Site/App Map

With prototyping done, it’s time to set out the plan for your project. If the project is a website, this is when you come up with your site map. Since you want to create the most important, goal oriented parts of your project to happen first, it’s important to highlight the pieces needed for your minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP is your barebones product. There are no bells, no whistles no extra offers, just the basic parts.

The strategy phase is all about finding out what you want to do to fix your problems and make your personas happen. We’re not fixing things yet, we are just finding out the best ways to make those fixes.

Next week, getting down to business with the Design Phase.

Learning UX Design: Discovery

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

During my first week of studying UX design, I focused on the discovery phase. The discovery phase is all about finding out what your goals are, who your audience is and what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s all that business stuff that everyone is told to do, but few actually do it correctly.

Setting Goals

I wrote in a previous blog post my feelings about the importance of having a solid purpose when working on a project. This attitude is reflected in UX design. One of the first things that should be done in the Discovery phase is stakeholder interviews. Stakeholders are anyone with a vested interest in the success of the project (boagworld.com). In a business this would include department heads, executive staff and employees. The stakeholder interviews help designers come up with a solid goal for the project.

A solid goal is at SMART goal. A SMART goal is:

  • Specific (and strategic): Linked to overall mission. Answers the questions of who and what.
  • Measurable: How do you know you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Attainable: Realistic and achievable within the time frame.
  • Relevant: Aligned with current tasks and projects and focused in one area.
  • Time-framed: Have a clearly defined time-frame or deadline.

Download a SMART Goal template

Knowing Your Audience

Your stakeholders are people who care about the success of the project. Your audience are the users of your project. They are as important, if not more so, than your stakeholders. In UX design, personas are the most common tool to find out about your users. Personas are fictional characters based on real data. They describe what a user needs as well as their limitations. (ux-lady.com)

Finding Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths and weaknesses are often found using a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis helps an organization find their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When looking for these from a UX design point of view it is important to look at it from the user’s point of view. Remember UX stands for user experience. They are the reason for the process. UX designers use experience maps (also called journey maps) along with personas to find these things from a user’s perspective and present the information in a much easier to understand format than the 4 squares of a SWOT analysis. (ux-lady.com)

So there we have the basics of the Discovery phase of UX design. I would say the discovery phase is the hardest and most important phase of design because everything else is built off if this phase. By knowing your goals, your audience and your current state of affairs you can start a successful project.

Next week, the Strategy Phase.

Creating Content and Learning UX

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

Focusing on content

As much as I want to jump into learning code and modifying my website, I need to keep in mind why I want people to visit my website. I want people to read about my professional goals and projects. In order for people to read about these things, there needs to be words (Crazy, I know). So I spent my first week focusing on the content of my site. I also spent some time focusing on my social media profiles such as LinkedIn because I know that if someone is looking to learn about me on this site, they will also probably check out those sites as well. My online presence isn’t just this site.

Jumping into UX design

With my basic content laid out it’s time to jump in to learning about UX (user experience) design. Even though my goal is to become a software developer, I think it’s important for me to learn UX because I want to create software that people actually want to use. I could come up with the best way to sort and categorize data, but if no one can figure out how to use it then there’s not much point in creating it. I want to learn UX design because I’ve always wondered how people decide where to put buttons and fields in apps.

I am going to spend 3 weeks drilling down on the basics of UX design using UXApprentice.com as a guide. I will also use tutorials from HackDesigns.org, free local seminars such as the “Design Research to Experience Roadmap” I went to on Thursday hosted by Slice of Lime at Galvanize, and a great list of links from helpful, local designer/developer Alex Hoffman (Follow him on Twitter, he’s a nice guy). After those 3 weeks I will attempt to make use of my newfound knowledge and use it to design this site.

Next week I’ll focus on the discovery step of the UX design process.