General Assembly - User Experience Design - Week 02


Week 2 roundup of User Experience Design course at General Assembly, London.

Session 03 - User Research


  1. Introduce the skills needed for effective interviewing
  2. Explain the benefits of contextual enquiry
  3. Cover techniques for ensuring unbiased interview questions
  4. Draft an interview discussion guide

Class Slides

Introducing User Research

  • Social media has bred a culture of complaing making it easier for customers to openly converse with companies with their problems
  • Users are experts in their problems but not experts in the solutions
  • It’s important to keep a record of quotes both good and bad
  • Unlike quantitate research that explains the what, user interviews offers the qualitative research that explains the why

Research Types

  • Generative: utilised when a working with a new solution
  • Evaluative: utilised when a solution already exists

Why Do The Research?

  • High-risk to the business by not doing so
  • Gives an objective view on the solution
  • “You are not the user”
  • Builds empathy with your potential or current users
Discover Habits
  • Ask why, preferably 5 times
  • Don’t assume you know why
  • Ask questions
  • People make up things when they can’t remember, find truths to acknowledge responses
Discover Workarounds
  • How are they currently fixing their problem?
  • What are they using?
  • Why are they using this particular workaround? What works, what doesn’t?
Contextual Inquiry
  • Introduces the context to the task
  • Unpacks all the other conditions that effect the process of completing a task
  • Spread the sample research

User Interviews

  • Define goals of the research
  • Understand business goals
    • Their (stakeholders) needs
    • Their assumptions
  • Use a discussion guide
    • Helps to keep the conversation flow going after a tangental discussion
    • Enables a structured interview and gain the insights you are searching for

Interview Preperation

  • Record the interview if possible
    • Enables playback for more focused note-taking
    • Note-taking during the interview can be distracting and limits your concentration on the flow of the conversation
  • If offering payment/reward for the interview, present before the interview commences
    • This avoids giving the impression the participant needs to say the right things and impress
  • Make them feel comfortable
  • Interview with the users who will actually be using the product, not those who are at management or higher level
  • Identify other stakeholders and collaborative services e.g.
    • Government
    • Council
    • Charity

Body Language

  • Your body language will contribute to the sucess of the interview
  • your participants will reflect your body language, try to remain relaxed and open


  • Don’t control the conversation
  • Ask open ended questions
  • Take note of personal stories
  • Improvise when discussions take an interesting path (up to 50 max)

Discussion Guide

  • Total of around 10-12 questions
  • Make note of services and products used - competitors
  • Listen to but put aside and don’t dwell on offered solutions
  • Focus on:
    • Observations
    • Quotes
    • Inferences
  • Evaluate what people like about a product/service - ask them to guide you through the experience

Class Exercise

To introduce this process practically, the class was given a theme of financial budgeting and contactless payments to research. We split into pairs to:

  1. Define our research goals
  2. Find out what we need to understand and empathise with our users
  3. Outline 5 questions to ask so we can fully understand the problem

With these written we rotated amongst the group to conduct user interviews.


  • Write an interview discussion guide
  • Complete 4 user interviews
  • Submit discussion guide and written interview notes

Related Links

Session 04 - Competitive Research


  1. Compare products in the same industry
  2. Understand direct and indirect competition
  3. Group exercise to relate to final project

Class Slides

Business Needs

  • Balanced with the needs of the user
  • What are the business goals?
  • Stakeholder management

Acheiving Balance

  • Tech - Risk
  • Business - Cost
  • User - Experience

Never A Black Canvas

  • Internal politics
  • Resources
  • Tech contraints
  • Product managers


  • Ask why
  • Dig deeper
  • Repeat back to validate your understanding
  • Would would success for the business look like?
  • OKRs, KPIs come later, strive for a statement of change in future state
  • Find out what the business is trying to achieve and why is it doing it
  • Understanding is the goal

Stakeholder Research

  • Test with a competitors site if you have nothing built
  • Test how it works not how it looks
  • Conduct usability testing

Task Analysis

  • Test competitor sites with your users
  • You are not testing the critical user journey
  • Have lots of tasks tested by your users

Case Study - Uber

  • Uber serves…
    • People
    • Packages
    • Food
  • JTBD - what is the job?
  • The competition might not always be obvious

Parity Is Not A Strategy

  • Feature competition is a waste of time unless validated
  • Not knowing why a competitors product is designed the way it is and replicating regardless is a high-risk manoeuvre
  • Our goals at this stage is to understand why, not simply pick a solution that seems to fit


  • Feature inventory
    • Identify gaps and opportunities, talk to users and validate
    • Can be presented as subjective data
    • Comparison matrix
  • Pluses and deltas
    • Strengths and weaknesses
    • Good and bad points
    • Can be subjective


  • Important to communicate between teams
  • Feature creep is not an option
  • Is there an unmet need?
  • Having no competition might be a problem
  • Same feature set but a better experience - validate this by user research
  • Scaling a product e.g. iPhone » iPad
  • Validate any assumptions
  • Let the interviews unpack the opportunities


  • Having a niche is important
  • Ask what job the user is hiring the product for, how can you do the same job?
  • Think about the value chain of the business
  • Be broad to find out how jobs are being done


  • Where are the gaps? How can they be filled?
  • How can the experience be improved?
  • Look for the unmet needs

Class Exercise

In pairs the class applied competitor research to web-based event ticket services Twickets{:target="_blank"} and Viagogo{:target="_blank"}.


Conduct competitor research in the areas of service related to our final project.

  1. Feature inventory
  2. Pluses and deltas

Related Links

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