General Assembly UX design course: Week 1

Right after my front end web development class ended, I decided to dive right into another class. This one is an intensive online workshop in UX design through General Assembly. The idea is to take students through the entire UX design process, from research to final product, in six weeks.

This first week was all about user research. The challenge was to pick an area to research, find some people who are interested in the topic to interview, and use what I learned during interviews to identify a problem. Then during the rest of the course, I’ll be creating a solution to that problem.

The topic I picked was the process of finding and choosing yoga classes, and to keep a long story short, I found that everyone I interviewed wished that process were different in some way. The most common thing people said was that they’d like more information about teaching styles or what poses a class will consist of before getting to the studio and stepping on their mat.

I ended up really getting into the process of doing user research and interviews. If you want to know more about what went well and what I’d like to improve, keep reading.

More about my topic and research

I encountered issues with finding and choosing yoga classes when we were on vacation recently. I was searching Google for classes near Mount Pleasant, SC and a ton of studio sites popped up. I clicked around on a bunch of sites, looking at the schedules and class descriptions, but ultimately I gave up due to a mixture of boredom and decision fatigue. I ended up doing a class via podcast in our Airbnb. Maybe not everyone is as lazy or easily bored as I am, but I wondered if other people experience problems when they want to try a new yoga class.

For this project, I narrowed down my target audience to people who 1) currently practice, or who have an interest in practicing yoga in a studio, and 2) live in or travel to places where there are lots of studio options available. I recruited five people via Facebook and Instagram and got to chatting and recording.

How the interviews went

In a former life where I worked as a magazine writer and editor,  I’d done hundreds of interviews. But when I started on this project, it had been a couple years since I’d interviewed anyone. I was worried that my skills would be rusty, but I was surprised to find how quickly they came back. Interviewing people has always been a mix of fascination and terror for me. Fascination because I love being able to ask people questions that might sound absurd if asked in the course of normal, social conversation. Terror because, despite the fact that it’s never happened, there’s still a small part of me that expects everyone I talk with to yell at me and get up and leave. I probably should work on calming down that part of my brain.

Anyway, I came in with a super structured list of questions, but I tried to make the interviews flow more like a conversation than an interrogation. I’m pretty sure I succeeded. I also found that I felt much more comfortable playing the role of researcher rather than journalist. It felt much more natural to me to try and get information from people rather than frantically searching for perfect quotes and pithy anecdotes. (Maybe not everyone in journalism does that, but I know I did.)

As I mentioned above, I also got some great insights about what people wished were different about the process of finding yoga classes. For example, a few people mentioned being unsure, based on available information, if a class would be suitable for beginners. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about 16 years, so making things clearer for beginners may not have been something I thought about before this. It also became clear during interviews that people would like to know beforehand whether an instructor uses hands-on or hands-off instruction. I got a lot of other useful tidbits, but I’ll share those as the project continues.

Listening back to the interviews, I did realize that I’d like to work on one thing: not trying so hard to fill silences. One of the guidelines for good user interviews is to let silence be productive. That’s when someone might start talking and say something useful. But whenever there was like a second of silence, I had the urge to clarify the question or suggest something to the person I was interviewing. It was my way of trying to make people feel comfortable, I think. But in this case, it kind of seemed to get in the way.

Next up in the process

In the next week, I’ll be looking at all of my findings and working on my design strategy. Unlike interviewing, this is something that’s totally new to me. I’m excited about trying new things, so I’ll check back in next week with how it went.

 

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