I designed and developed a prototype application for songwriters in the final year of my undergraduate degree. I presented it to my lecturers as part of my Digital Arts Creative Portfolio, and they suggested that I turn it into an official Max 7 app. It has since become a passion project which I try to improve in my spare time. Check out how it all started here!
I've learned a lot of UX stuff over the last couple of months: I did my first moderated user test for a company, attended an amazing user-centred design conference, and conducted more interviews for Inspirator. I now have a more concrete idea of the obstacles that songwriters face and, as usual, all of my UX learnings are affecting how I approach the project.
However, conducting these interviews made me realise that I need to come up with a better research strategy. The process of setting up interviews is still extremely awkward and fiddly, even though I have plenty of potential interviewees. Not only that, but one of them was reluctant to talk to me because she was shy and very new to songwriting. How might I improve my research process to make data gathering easier for me (I am also a shy person) and the songwriters that I interview?
Well, for the logistical side of things I can use scheduling software. I signed up to do my first moderated user test through some sort of calendar app. There must be something out there that I can use for my own research!
In addition to that, I can try conducting surveys, now that I have some rich songwriting data to build surveys from. A survey will avoid excluding the responses of less confident songwriters, while inviting experienced songwriters to share their opinions too. I can even add the option to sign up for an interview slot with me at the end of the survey!
That's the plan. Let's see how it goes.
Good morning! I'm at a remote conference today, so you know what that means. Time for a #ucdgathering thread of learning! 😁— Hazel Meades (@HMeadesMakes) October 15, 2020
#ucdgathering takeaway 2: minimising design debt is like proofreading for UX/UI. Having a strategy, design system & review system (that the team understands) in place helps. Also, Winchester Mystery House sounds like one hell of a maze! 😅 Thanks for the insight @neilturnerux!— Hazel Meades (@HMeadesMakes) October 15, 2020
As part of my ongoing effort to become the best UXer I can be, I recently came across the concept of the whiteboard challenge (you write your response to a design brief on a whiteboard in 30-60 minutes). It's often used in UX interviews to see how a potential new hire approaches the problem-solving process. However, I found that it was a useful way to reflect on my own UX projects.
After I'd done the requisite amount of excited gushing to my mentor about this discovery, she told me that she looks for whether an interviewee will write down a list of their assumptions before starting a whiteboard challenge. Perhaps the most important question I should ask myself is: what assumptions have I made about Inspirator and the problem solves?
Here are the first three assumptions that spring to mind:
I've also learned that I should try to plan out my research. I need to be more proactive about identifying and approaching potential interviewees, because more regular interviews will improve the final product and my interviewing confidence! The trick is figuring out what timescale works for a research process that still feels new to me.
Wish me luck!
Speaking as a junior UXer, empathy mapping was a UX buzzword I kept hearing and not understanding. I know that empathising with the user is important, but how on earth do you map that? I was befuddled.
Fortunately, things became much clearer after I completed my latest free design course on Futurelearn (I've had plenty of time for online learning since finishing my internship). I learned that empathy mapping means literally mapping out (writing down) what the user says/does in an interview according to 4 categories: hear, feel/think, see, and say/do.
Like all UX research methods, how you do it depends on what works best for you, your research topic and, of course, the user. I decided to map things out in real-time during the interview with a digital whiteboard tool (Miro), and a screenshot of the empathy map template that my course provided.
I tested the procedure out on myself first in hardcopy format. That meant using my substantial collection of post-it notes to document the songwriting process for my most recent composition. Next, I tested the technique out digitally on a songwriting friend over Zoom.
That was yesterday. Since then, I've had time to look over the empathy map, re-listen to my audio recording of the interview, and consult my UX mentor for feedback/tips.
What have I learned?
I am in the design zone thanks to my UX/UI internship at Dataworks Ltd. I've been busy doing exciting design things that I can't tell you about because I signed my first ever NDA! However, I can tell you that the experience has had a big impact on my approach towards Inspirator.
Since my last post, I've conducted a few usability tests on the Inspirator prototype. I also dedicated my Christmas sketchbook to Inspirator development and have compiled a list of apps to look into as part of my market research.
My original plan of design attack was to develop the questions and themes explored in my initial interviews. Then I could survey my songwriting friends and online songwriting communities. However, if my internship has taught me anything, it's that market research is vital to creating a successful design, let alone product.
I already know a fair bit about how songwriters approach songwriting, but I don't know what apps they might use to assist their creative process. I could learn a thing or two from those apps, and I could certainly learn a lot more from my users if I talk to them about the practical tools they use to record musical inspiration on a day-to-day basis. More concrete questions for my users means fewer romantic, generalised answers about their creative practice. I'm interested in technique, not theory.
In October, I joined a UX Design Learning group based at SHE Software. Being part of the group means joining weekly meetings to discuss and share our understanding of user experience, a subject defined by my UX Fundamentals course as: "the establishment of a philosophy about how to treat people". Essentially, UX is all about developing a product with the user in mind. If the user has a good experience with a product/service, they will continue to buy things from that company.
I developed my app prototype before I had even heard of terms like "UX" or "design thinking". However, now that I am aware of them, I'm using the weekly meetings to hold myself accountable for making user-friendly progress with my app development. I learn best through doing things, after all!
I've decided to start off with thoroughly researching my app's target audience. Initial app feedback (both from my songwriting friends and my MA research into amateur lyric writing) highlighted how spontaneous the creative process is. This implies that it may be more useful to capture musical inspiration through a mobile app instead of a desktop app. This means that it's time to start designing for a different kind of screen, and to delve further into how creativity fits into a songwriter's daily routine. User interviews here I come!
The purpose of Inspirator is to provide songwriters with an integrated platform to record compositional ideas. If you're anything like me, you start writing a song and end up with bits and pieces of it everywhere and in different formats. Inspirator cuts through that mess by letting you record video, audio, lyrics and notes about your composition in one place. The video demo below shows you how to use the application, and briefly discusses the improvements that I plan to make to it.
Check out the making of here!