Morley Pilot: The Design Process – UX Research

Following our introductory meeting with Morley College, to discuss the Intelligent Campus pilot, we started to implement the first stage of design which focussed primarily on user research. During this, we explored the predicted target audience and discovered how the users would interact with the product through a number of user-centred design steps

The initial meeting enabled us to determine both the purpose of the product and how Morley College envisaged using the dashboard. We were also able to discover what the potential benefits of using the technology may be. From a simple brain-storming workshop it was evident that the dashboard would be used to report on current and historic room temperatures and monitor room usage. We discussed how it could act as a visual aid to monitor motion activity in terms of campus safety in the future. This would allow Morley College to monitor potential patterns or extremes in data over time which they could then look to resolve in order to help improve the running of the campus buildings. Following the meeting, we were able to start our user research process and create a clear product timeline consistent with newly defined requirements.

At Jisc, we have developed our own design sprint process to enable us to create high-quality digital products, meeting client requirements, and deadlines, like this pilot. The process is split into various research methods which are grouped together into 3 main categories: – Understand, Imagine, Build. These stages will be carried out sequentially with the ability to revisit previous stages as the project progresses. In some organisations, certain task and methods may overlap across the stages depending on the type of project and the amount of time available.

Our initial research involved us carrying out competitive analysis case studies, looking in-particular at similar data-driven dashboards available on the market. This gave us a general feel of comparable products, how they function, which elements worked well, and highlighted which elements could be improved. This helped us to understand their design, and we could then take this knowledge to feed into our decision making on whether it would be a useful feature to include within our product.

After researching the market industry, our next task was to clearly understand our target audience and build a set of user personas which we would then refer to whilst designing the overall dashboard. Typical persona data included – Name, Age, Job Title, Interests, Technology, Personality, Behavioural Patterns etc. This then helped to inform our design decisions. These personas were created by using a Morley College staff questionnaire (created in-house), UK education demographic data and previous Jisc UK education persona research. We created two personas which best represented the tutoring staff at the college but who would both have a different practical and behavioural purpose in using the dashboard.

By creating multiple user personas, it helped us to develop empathy with the user in order to understand why they would be using the product and how they would like to interact with it. One way of documenting this was to produce proposed user stories. This detailed how we think the user might navigate the product and document their potential thoughts alongside the scenarios encountered. With our user personas fixed, we were able to create multiple user stories of proposed directional flows and thought processes which would show us any potential obstacles the user might come across during their experience. Based on this information we have been able to fix the issues with small UX modifications, avoiding timely and expensive fixes, further in the process.

From our user stories and user journey mapping, we have been able to collate a list of features and ultimately a list of pages which has helped to build the basis of our dashboard product. Alongside this, we have created a simple sitemap diagram showing the natural flow of the product architecture which we can then refer to throughout the creation of the project to help aid our future design decisions. This is something that may change over time as new features and components are added during the build process. This is the last stage of research before we start creating rough wireframe sketches of how we think the layout of the dashboard could look based on our feature list and sitemap diagram.

Throughout the future pilot design and build stages, we will use this research as a reference point. This will help us to make informed decisions that will result in a finished product that meets both the requirements of the stakeholder and a great experience for the user. Next, we will be focussing on the conceptual stage of the build process which will see us carrying out sketch wireframing, component UI themes, mood-boarding and mockups.

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