General Assembly - User Experience Design - Week 01


A round up of my first week on the User Experience Design course at General Assembly, London.

Session 01 - Introduction

Course approach and technique

  • Lean UX methodology
  • Using Google Venture’s Design Sprint
  • Applying design thinking to the process
  • The final project deliverable will be native app focused

Course structure

  • Each session will cover a new topic and clearly outline the objectives
  • Each week will consist of pre-work, session work and homework
  • Pre-work is a primer for the topics covered in the next session e.g. an article or video (1hr)
  • Session work is hands on working in rotation with fellow students in a workshop style practice (2x 2hr in-class sessions)
  • Homework is dedicated to the course final/main project (3-4hrs)
  • Once a final project topic has been chosen it will be the focus for each week of the class

Course tools

  • Prototyping tools - Sketch and Marvel or Invision
  • All homework will be set and submitted through Basecamp
  • Class communication is via a Slack channel

Advice for getting the most out of the Course

  • Get the homework in on time
  • Push through the emotional cycle of change
  • Download a copy of session presentations for reference
  • Concentrate on homework over pre-work
  • Make your final project your passion

Intro to UX and Design Thinking


  1. Define the elements of UX
  2. Explore the techniques of problem solving, innovation, user centered design and design thinking
  3. Sketch out potential design solutions to real world problems

What is user experience?

  • UX is ubiquitous
  • We have both physical and digital experiences
  • It occurs while we, as users, try to achieve our goals

Case studies

  • Starbucks - order on the go
  • Uber - competitor landscape (direct and indirect)
  • Instagram - consistent design (happy path, decision points)

User experience definitions

Experience design is the design of anything independent of medium, or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome and human engagement as an explicit goal.

Jesse James Garret{:target="_blank"}

User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Donald Norman{:target="_blank"}

Examples of good and bad user experience

  • Underground signage in Japan clearly visible and native language nonspecific - good
  • Underground signage in London hidden and confusing - bad
  • City Mapper enabling non-native speaking users to navigate cities - good
  • Doors with handles both sides but only swing one way - bad
  • Google Photos lowering user effort, automating gallery creation and making it easier to share photos - good
  • Google Photos showing anniversary photos that evoke sad memories - bad

Good UX case study

John Lewis

  • Caters for all the experience touch points
    • physical shop
    • website
    • purchase
    • delivery
    • installation
    • after care


  • Amazon Prime targets particular user base/audience
  • Website isn’t overly designed
  • Has accumulated a lot investment from users

What makes for a bad UX

  • Poorly designed products
  • Poor wayfinding
  • Social media plays a big part of customer experience and reflects to the brand

Design thinking

  • Start with empathy
  • Understand our users needs, motivators and behaviors enables us, as designers, to make more informed decisions

Interviewing techniques and advice

  • Don’t ask users what they want - users know their problems not the solutions to them
  • Do ask about the best time, the worst time, the most recent time
  • Practice active listening
    • ask why
    • the best interviews are free-flowing conversations that ebb and flow through the topic of your research
    • silence = thinking - don’t interrupt it
  • Ask about a typical day
  • Be aware that moods fluctuate during the day
  • Discussion guide{:target="_blank"}
  • Notetaking is a good idea, additionally the audio can be recorded for convenient playback
  • Quotes are good - affinity mapping
  • outline key takeaways


Redesigning the laundry

To introduce the class to design thinking, the rest of the session was dedicated to researching our experiences of washing clothes. The class split into pairs and interviewed each other to extrapolate potential problems to try and solve. After 10 minutes the first set of interviews were completed the class rotated to complete another round of interviews.

The class then regrouped to compared our learnings in an open discussion.


Familiarize the process of running a Design Sprint{:target="_blank"}

Session 02 - Prototypes and Critique


  • Adapt to changing stakeholder requirements
  • Create a rapidly produced paper prototyped solution
  • Present the solution to the class in a 90sec elevator pitch and take any questions


The class paired up to complete the session’s task of analysing and acting on our research and produce a solution to an identified problem.

Group reflection

As a group we discussed:

  • The single resounding need of our interviewees
  • How our personal thoughts differed from what we heard
  • Our assumptions of what we might hear during the interviews and how they compared
  • Whether an interviewee said something they did but actually, in truth, didn’t do

Identifying the problem

Edward and I compared our research and discussed:

  • What our interviewees were trying to achieve
  • What their motivations were

We then defined the problem they were facing:

Young professionals in urban environments need a way to reduce the time spent on medial task such as keeping up with laundry because they lead busy lives

We put aside any solutions at this stage so as to not cloud our understanding of our the problems our user’s were facing.


With our problem defined, Edward and I each sketched out 6 possible solutions to address the main problem we had identified. In the true spirit of design thinking we explored all possibilities regardless of current technology, logistics or resources.

We divided a sheet of A4 into 6 and sketched a solution in each of the squares in the 5 mins we were allocated. Having recently read about Crazy Eights as part of our Design Sprint reading homework I was keen to give it a try. I have used similar sketching techniques with cross-team workshops before, this one however seemed a lot less intimidating to team members not comfortable with sketching amongst peers.

By not inferring any solutions in our problem definition, this left us free to full explore different avenues of solution discovery. Had we not done this we would have found ourselves painted into a particular solution corner.

With the clock ticking we got to work.

Narrow down

With the first half of our first double diamond full, we compared and explained our solutions to our partners. Interestingly, Edward and I had both come to fairly similar execution of our problem; the details were different but our designs were similar in essence.

With 10mins on the clock, Edward and I then reviewed all of the solutions to find one that would address the defined problem. What we both identified here was that we had biases toward certain solutions and that we needed to continuously keep ourselves and each other in-check and focused on our users and the defined problem.


We were then given 20mins to explore this solution with sketches and diagrams to explain it’s usage through the journey and any important key details.

Drawing form the research of the Design Sprint technique we mapped out the solution from the user’s perspective. Rather than get too caught-up in screen details or technology requirements, instead we explored the various touchpoints and tried to unpack potential risks or blockers and designed to our solutions around them.

We also found ourselves riffing on other solutions and finding opportunities to address other weighty painpoints and needs from our research. These presented themselves as potential internal triggers that aligned with our user’s values. We also began to define the business’s ethical values and principals as this was one of the key takeaways from the interview stage and would help to guide us at each decision point.

Stakeholder bombshell

Halfway through this exercise our instructor Amit dropped the stakeholder requirement change. The constraint was budgetary and implications meant that the application development resources were limited and any app that had been designed were limited to 4 screens.

Designing around this constraint a challenge but we also offered up an opportunity to rely on simpler technologies and more accessible user interfaces e.g. SMS, push notifications etc.

Lightning pitch

Our pitches had to explain:

  • The problem main we identified
  • Our solution
  • The user’s journey through the solution
  • How we designed around the constraint

The class’s solutions were really varied but there was a lot of crossover. A few of the pairs had picked the same problem and come up with roughly the same core solution but the details, technologies and interfaces differed massively.

Presenting to the class was a little nerve-racking, I don’t find public speaking particularly natural and is definitely something I’m looking forward to feeling more comfortable with. However I was surprised and pleased with what Edward and I had come up with.

Workshop reflection

The class re-grouped again to share our leanings from today’s session.

  • Eliminating personal preference
  • The differing motivations of users
  • Avoiding rushing in with solutions

Final Project Topics

With the techniques of problem solving introduced we were asked to explore themes for our course final project.

Guidance for a choosing a topic

  • Explore a problem without a preconceived idea of the solution or technology
  • Identify the target audience and design the solution for them
  • Use design thinking to navigate you through potential routes
  • Choose a field that is important to you


Create at least two topics for the final project.

Week 01 links

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