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UX Design 101: Understanding and Anticipating User Needs through Empathy

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January 12, 2023 4:18 PM
Special guest written by
Jon Rodz

Introduction to UX Design Methods: Understanding the Experience Economy

Another quarter, another opportunity to level up my skills as a UX/digital product designer! This week marks the beginning of my winter quarter as a SCAD sophomore, and I couldn't be more excited to dive into my first class of the new year.

As a refresher, let me introduce you to Professor McLean Donnelly, our wise guide for the next 10 weeks. McLean hails from Minnesota and has a dog named Grape Juice (yes, you read that right). He has an impressive background, having worked as a Design Manager at Expedia in Seattle, VP of Design at Shutterstock in NYC, and Design Director at Shopify, all while managing a large team of designers. In this class, we will explore the world of UX design methods, and trust me when I say that McLean is the perfect person to lead us on this journey.

One of the things that stood out to me on day one was the fact that we live in the "experience economy." McLean shared that 1.25 million websites are created every 8 seconds. This means that companies need to not just provide a product or service, but an experience that keeps users coming back. Brands like Warby Parker are great examples of this in action.

The Importance of Empathy in UX Design

But before we jump into any of those phases, there's one key element that is crucial to kickstart our project: empathy.

Empathy is understanding and anticipating another person's perspective, needs, and feelings. And as designers, it's our responsibility to create experiences that are empathic to our users.

Let's take Uber for example. They created an experience for people who are hard of hearing. They developed a fun, quick app for drivers to learn basic sign language to help improve communication with their passengers. This is empathy in action and it can take many forms such as accessibility. Another example is Spotify, with the introduction of 'Spotify Wrapped' feature, the company looked at how users could share music and anticipated this experience, and now it has become a big online cultural event. Empathy can be fun too.

The Different Stages of a UX Design Project: Discovery, Prototype, Analyze, Deliver

As we dive deeper into the class, we will be breaking down UX design into different categories. To give you a sneak peek, we will be focusing on three main categories: human factors/ergonomics, industrial design, and product design. This class specifically delves into UX design, which can further be broken down into UX research, information architecture, and UI design.

For our class project, we will be going through four phases: discovery, prototype, analyze, and deliver. In the discovery phase, we will conduct user market research, map out customer journeys, and create moodboards. In the prototype phase, we will create an interactive prototype, develop a business model, and present a mid-term project. In the analyze phase, we will conduct usability testing and finalize our prototype. Finally, in the deliver phase, we will create a movie, poster, lookbook, process book, and give a final presentation.

Practical Tips for Conducting Empathic UX Research

Empathy is the foundation of UX research, it allows us to figure out what we need to create before even thinking about the UI. It's the spark that ignites the project. During the class, we will be conducting user interviews, observations, surveys, usability testing and analytics to gain emphatic insights into why and when customers use our product or service, how it fits into their life and if the product appeals to their emotions or values.

Real-World Examples of Empathic Design in Action

As you go through the class and on your own projects, keep an eye out for examples of empathic design in the real world. Some other examples could be the way that Nest thermostat learns your habits and adjusts the temperature accordingly, or how the Nike+ app gamifies your workout routine to make it more engaging. These are just a few examples of how companies are using empathy to create better experiences for their users.

Final thoughts and tips for aspiring UX designers and educators

I hope you enjoyed this first peek into my winter quarter at SCAD. Remember, empathy is key to understanding your users and creating great experiences for them. And as you progress in your studies and career as a UX designer, don't forget to keep an open mind and to always keep learning.

Next Steps for advancing your knowledge and skills in UX Design

As you progress in your studies, take advantage of opportunities to learn from industry professionals. Seek out internships or volunteer opportunities to gain real-world experience. Take advantage of free online courses and resources such as Google Analytics Certification, or the free course. Embrace the opportunity to gain new perspectives and new ways to approach design problems. Remember, the more you know and can apply, the more value you will bring to the table.

Jon Rodz
As a young professional designer, Jon Rodz studies UX design at SCAD. He works on products and services thoughtfully across industries. In an industry where Latinos are underrepresented, Jon believes he will make a difference in driving design innovation and systems inclusive of his culture.

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