User Research


Intro to UX Design


Lesson Info

User Research

You can't do good design unless you know who you're designing for, alright? No matter how skillful or creative the designer is, if he or she doesn't have clear and detailed knowledge of the users she is designing for and the problem's constraints and the business goals and organizational goals that are driving the design, that designer has little chance of success, alright? All they'll be doing is speculating, and putting out stuff, maybe putting out some sketches, but those sketches have no basis. So, you need to do research, even though it's unpleasant, not fun for most folks, it's the most important step, I would argue because it's the step that informs all of the other steps. It's the step that, later on when you show them the visuals, the pretty stuff and they start getting all emotional because they don't like the color, you can refer back to this stuff, and be like, "Well, we did this research, "and you agreed on this research, "and this is the best to our users, and "I don't li...

ke this color either, but this is what we figured out is best for people." This is a simplified breakdown of how our research works. In this overview, I can only give you the high level steps, but you do your kickoff, you do your literature review, you do your product/competitive audits, your stakeholder interviews, user interviews, but the goal of all of this is to become an expert in the client's business, right? Even if you're not an employee there, even if you're working as a freelancer, you wanna consider yourself as a new person coming in, and trying to understand everything there is to understand about the business and bringing a fresh set of eyes on it. That's the most valuable thing you can bring as a new designer. Let's briefly talk about each of these steps. The Kickoff Meeting is the first time when you sit down with everyone and try to figure out what you're going to do here. It isn't technically a research activity, but it contains an important component of research because it's an opportunity for designers to ask some of those initial key questions of some of the most important people who have a stake in the project. So, it's like, okay, what is this thing? Who do you think is going to use it? What do they need the most? Which of these people are most important to the business? And those may seem like basic questions, and they are, but it's that first step, right? It gives you that insight into not only the product, but also how people inside the company think about the product and how they think about their users and about where things are going. The next step is Literature Review, which is just a fancy way of saying, "Hey, we're going to look at all of the documents, news articles, reports from inside and outside the company." Just read all of it. See how the company thinks about itself. See how other people think about the company. How do they talk about themselves, right? And that's something that you usually do either before the stakeholder reviews, actually, before the stakeholder interviews, step four, so that when you interview with them, you have some good questions to ask. Stuff that you look at will be product marketing plans, brand strategy, market research studies, surveys, white papers, competitive research, customer data support, call center statistics. Those are all things that you look at, and I really enjoyed this step actually. The best way to go about this is to just get all of it, sit down in a room with some tea or whatever beverage you prefer, and just pour over it page-by-page, and after you spend a couple hours with it, you start to notice some trends, right? Take note of the trends. Take note of any questions that you have, and those questions you then later take into interviews with the individual stakeholders in step four. The next step of that is the competitive analysis which is a fancy way of saying look at your competitors and what they're doing. What are they doing better? What are they doing worse? Not to copy what they're doing, even though that will always be your first instinct. if you see a competitor that's doing really well, your first instinct is always to just copy what they're doing. Look at what Samsung is doing, right? It's more to just get an idea of the entire industry and how the industry is solving specific problems. The next step are the interviews with stakeholders. And if you've never heard the term "stakeholder" before, it's a business-y term that is someone that has a stake in this project. Usually, it'll be an executive or managers, people from sales, engineers, people that are involved in this project, and that are inside the company, and it's really, really important to have those interviews. Not only because they give you great information, but also because if you involve them early on, they're less likely to say no later on, right? What I like doing with stakeholder interviews is to interview them one-on-one. A lot of times, people will be busy, so I don't schedule more than hour because if you interview them in a group setting, group dynamics start to take hold, but if you interview them one-on-one, you get each person's individual opinion, and you can see much more of their contradictions between different departments, or different people. Also, one important thing to remember about stakeholder interviews is you you never want to-- It's really important to do some marketing competitive analysis before you go in because you don't wanna go in to a director or a VP and ask them questions that you could've answered yourself with 60 seconds of Googling. That's the fastest way to get on their bad side. You're wasting their time. And finally, the most, the biggest, I wouldn't say most important step, but the very important step is talking to actual users and watching actual users. The questioning part is similar to a stakeholder interviews, it's just sitting there and asking them a bunch of questions. The most valuable information is gained from actually watching people interact with this thing that you're designing or redesigning. It's always more valuable to observe people in their-- not in some lab, right, but go to their office, go to their house. See them interact with it in their natural environment. That gives you much better information than just asking them because people, when you just ask them, people are notoriously bad at telling you what makes them tick for a number of reasons. They may just not know what frustrates them, they may be afraid of hurting your feelings, they may be afraid of feeling stupid, right? I mean, there's many, many examples out there of people in usability studies, right? So, we're watching someone struggle for five minutes trying to do something that we asked them to do in a test, and then after the test is up, in the form, where they ask them, "Did you find this easy or hard?" they check easy, even though you just saw them struggle. Always better to watch people. Research is a really important topic, and a really deep topic that you can spend your entire career on. It's so important, in fact, that I spent a ton of time in my other CreativeLive course talking about research, and going more in depth about what questions can you ask. How do you manage expectations? How do you run some of these tests? I can't cover it in that depth here, otherwise we'd be here for two hours, three hours. If you're interested in more, we've got another course on that.

Class Description

User Experience or UX is one of the fastest growing and highest paying professions around. Whether you’re a seasoned designer, or just looking to speak the language of your colleagues or clients, the principles of UX design help you better connect with the users of your product or service. In this beginner class, industry expert Jamal Nichols will explain what UX is and how to incorporate it into your work to create more meaningful experiences. Designers tend to focus on how things look, when the focus should equally be on how things work.

In this class, Jamal covers:

  • What UX design is and why it’s important
  • Core principles and methods of UX design
  • The traits of a good UX designer

Don’t be intimidated when you see the term UX! By the end of this class you’ll feel confident and empowered to decide if UX is the right career choice for you.



One of the best "Intro to UX" classes I've ever taken. I love how Jamal makes it pretty easy to understand — even for those with no background in design whatsoever. It’s a good starting point for folks who are interested in learning about UX but might be frightened by all the buzzwords and technical terms. So this class is totally recommended, as well as his Interaction Design class. Thank you so much, Jamal, and hope we could learn more from you in the future classes!

Simon Sotelo

This is a great class that is easy to understand and digest. Jamal is witty, personable, and uses amazing analogies to connect the viewer to the process of UX design and its fundamental principles. I'm confident that more classes with Jamal would excelerate anyone's understanding in the field. *****

Debbie E.

Great into class to UX! Turns out my obsession with detail makes me right for a job in the industry (which is a good thing, because that's kind of what I already do :)