The second Hull Design Meetup was another huge success, with over 60 people signing up filling C4DI’s theatre on Wednesday evening last week.
This time, we welcomed the talented and enthusiastic Sophie Ottaway from Ottaway Media to shed some light on UX design and how a user-centric design process can be applied to anything, from building a website to building a garage.
Specialising in designing for government services, Sophie has worked as a User Experience Consultant for a number of well-known organisations, including the University of Hull, the University of Bath, Home Office, HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions.
We’ve spoken frequently about UX design on this blog, so we were keen to hear what Sophie had to bring to the table and discover more about the UK Government design process.
“User experience is an iterative process, based on user insight and data,” Sophie enthused on the night.
“First, you must understand what your users need from your product. From here, you can design something based on these needs. Users should be involved every step of the way.”
Sophie firmly believes that this agile-style process is not only applicable to websites and apps but can also be used in the creation of physical products and services.
Basically, all types of businesses should be paying attention to UX design theory.
“User experience (UX) design is the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function.” – Interaction Design Foundation
Now, for some businesses, accumulating user feedback through focus groups and hiring out research labs might seem like an unnecessary cost.
Well, Sophie gave us some excellent tips on how to generate valuable feedback at a very affordable cost.
One that stood out was a guerilla-style of user research where you simply ask people in coffee shops to try out a prototype of your product.
“At first, I was really surprised at how willing people were to help me out,” she exclaims.
“But, people love giving their opinions, especially if the product is of interest to them.”
Sophie doesn’t just hide out in coffee shops, either, she’s travelled to fishing conferences and meetups to test out the “Apply For A Fishing Rod Licence” section of GOV.UK.
“All you need to do is think about where your users hang out; it could be in coffee shops, or it could be on a muddy riverbank!”
You may be wondering why all this is important. After all, who knows your customers better than what you know them?
Well, they know themselves a lot better actually!
By seeing how your users respond to your product you can be sure it’s going to be of value to them.
You may find out that your product already exists, or that additional functionality would be more beneficial to your customers. This insight is invaluable and you could get it for the price of a cup of coffee, rather than spending thousands on developing a product people simply won’t use.
We loved the style of Sophie’s talk as she provided us with actionable tips to apply to our own design work, as well as how business owners can apply user-centric design theory to other processes within their business.
After her talk, those who stuck around got the chance to be involved in an interactive workshop. Groups of 4-5 were given a case study and asked to consider how they would conduct user research, as well as the target audience for their product.
Groups full of designers, entrepreneurs and product innovators had to restrict themselves from simply coming up with a solution – the main takeaway point from this meetup was to build a product around your user, as opposed to assuming you know what your user wants.
Sophie ended her talk with the following actionable tips:
“Develop a deep understanding of your users and design around their needs. It’s so important to involve your users in every step of your design process. And, remember, there’s always room for improvement after it goes live.”