Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Congratulations to me — I survived week 1 out of 10 of General Assembly’s course! Well, me and the 26 others in the class. Nonetheless it’s an occasion worth celebrating, as the metaphor they offered us rings true: we were pushed into the deep end of the pool, but they were our buoys the entire time.

Project 1:

The first assignment given to us was to deliver a clickable prototype of a mobile app. We didn’t really go in blindly, we had completed our pre-work and orientation prior to the course and knew what to expect in the coming weeks.

Firstly, we were partnered up (or in my case, tripled up because of an odd number of students) and given a problem surrounding a broad topic.

“I love this particular brand of snack but I can never get my hands on them. By the time I arrive at the store after work, they’re sold out and I didn’t know how to contact the store beforehand to ask about stock.”

That was the initial problem I was given, and the topic presented was food. Despite what seemed like a clear problem to solve, UX design is all about being user-centric, and this meant exploring deeper issues, solving a bigger problem that the user didn’t even know they had. Thus, I moved on to:

User Research

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As the week goes by we were introduced to the different aspects of the UX design . I thought about what kind of questions to ask my users to find out what exactly the problem was. No binary questions, no leading questions, keep your biased opinions at the door. Listen to what he/she is saying and watch their body language.

After a demo round with my partner, it dawned on me that it’s not just about food anymore. It’s about shopping for what you want. In the end, my questions revolved around:

  • Shopping behaviour (Who do you go shopping with? How often? Where do you go — websites and/or brick-and-mortar?)
  • Problems with online shopping (What difficulties have you faced before?)
  • Reasons for shopping (Why do you go shopping? What do you need?)
  • Product preferences (Is there something you’re always looking for? What are your tastes?)
  • Buying decisions (What actually makes you pay for something? Why do end up spending money on it?)
I (left) even got a chance to be an interviewee for Brenda (right)! Photo by Harini, one of the lovely TAs (not pictured).

Hours later, all talked out, attention span depleted — I had all the qualitative data to synthesise.

Affinity Mapping

I had a total of 6 interviewees, 5 students and 1 non-student (my poor fiancé who had just wanted to go to sleep), and a whole bunch of data. But the data has to be transformed into usable insights.

Thus introducing affinity maps. Tl;dr: lots and lots of post-it notes.

Frequent actions, opinions, and preferences goes onto post-it notes, one point per piece.

Depending on how long your interviews were, this can be quite a time-consuming process because you have to listen to the transcript and note down the important points.

I thought I was writing so many points, but I learned from my instructor Nuno that there was no such thing as too much data. Sigh of relief.

Then, mapping time!

My first ever affinity map. :’)

There were already a few trends emerging, and this is where I started getting lost. There were a lot of “what/why exactly am I doing this?” in my head. With a little help from Nuno here for a quick “how’s it going with you” and I cleared my thoughts.

Unfortunately, I was stuck again at this point. I had so many solutions to all the problems, some offered by my instructor, some just off the top of my head. But everything seemed too broad.

Because I had a lot of trends and commonalities, what really helped at this point was to create a problem statement worksheet. There were so many problems occurring and it allowed me to narrow down on just one thing to focus on. Thankfully I did that — I was getting panicked as some of my peers are past this part and were already working on their prototypes.

Problem Statement

A young working adult who feels frustrated about looking for a particular item needs to search online extensively but faces trouble finding the items easily.

Have you ever felt that way? My research participants did, and I personally do as well. It’s incredibly frustrating in a world where the internet exists and there’s no reason why this info is so hard to find. Empathy score.

Then I started thinking: why can’t they find the things they want? Everything pretty much exists online. If it’s not online, it doesn’t exist in the 21st century.

You can watch cat videos at 4 AM. We are living in a beautiful time because the internet exists. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I thought it could boil down to the following reasons:

  • The brand has no online presence
  • The product not available in the country, for purchase online, is discontinued, etc.
  • There is so single seamless experience in the buying journey for this specific information

Thus commencing my brainstorming for solutions.

Solution Statement

A user-to-user platform where you can ask others where to find the things you want that you can never find in stores or online. Users who help out earn consumer rewards.

The problem was that you can’t find any info, so the solution is: ask people! Depending on the info they offer you, you now know where to buy it from, what their opening hours are, how to contact them, and you can better plan your shopping trips around it. But also: people won’t help you for free. There must be something in it for them. Thus incentives, sort of like Grab rewards. The original poster can then verify that user-contributed comments are valid information or not, after he’s contacted the store/went to buy his item/purchased online. This helps other users searching for the same item as well.

I can start prototyping, but before that, I needed a user flow to put myself in the user’s shoes. When I do this, I can better craft the app to follow the user’s journey and end goals.

Initial stages of my userflow. Messy is completely okay!
My final userflow.

With my user’s journey in mind and only one main feature to focus on for the prototype (posting an item for others to offer their information), I was all itching to get started because having a new software to try out makes me really excited.

Designing on Sketch and Prototyping on InVision

Man, the Craft plugin developers are really something. How meta is it that there are extremely user-friendly UX processes while I was within my own UX process?

It was a slow and steady progression for me in Sketch with my design, and my prototype became something tangible. When I was almost done with the prototype, however, I realised that I missed something somewhere: my wireframes. I had based my designs merely on the userflow and my prior experience on shopping apps like Carousell, but I could have planned it better and not just ‘wing it’. I’ll have to keep this in mind for my next project.

All in all, it was extremely fulfilling. My hard work and stress over the last week now looks like a real thing. As many times as I’ve asked “where do I go from here?”, I’ve also said, “I’m sure I’m on the right track.”

And next time, I have a pretty good foundation to start with. I’ll still be in the deep end of the pool, but I’ll be able to tip toe and breathe a little bit above the water surface.

View my presentation deck here and my prototype here.

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