User personas and user journeys - key parts of our UX process

Nick Herft's picture 15th March 2018 by Nick Herft

A few months ago we started gathering data on the user experience (UX) of the BetterEvaluation website. We developed user personas to describe our primary audiences, sent out a UX survey, and we've recently finished a series of interviews and observation studies. We've learnt a huge amount about the BetterEvaluation community and the areas of the website that work well/can be improved, and today I'll be sharing a few key parts of our process and how you can stay involved as we move forward!

7 personas

We started our UX process by identifying our primary audiences and grouping them into 7 user personas, each of which having detailed individual needs, challenges/concerns, and behaviours.

Our list of personas:

  • Experienced evaluators
  • Inexperienced evaluators
  • Evaluation managers
  • Evaluation instructors
  • Those for whom English is not their first language (evaluators/managers/instructors)
  • Those with limited or restricted access to technology (evaluators/managers/instructors)
  • Those from other fields/disciplines

Having a well-documented, thorough, and accurate understanding of these personas helps to make sure that the features we introduce, the UX barriers we aim to solve, and the content produced is always prioritised, fine-tuned and always aimed at addressing a specific need, challenge/concern, or behaviour.

User journeys

User journeys describe a set of interactions made by users which start from a need and result in (hopefully) an achieved objective. For example, an objective could be to download a resource. A user journey for this objective could begin from the homepage, followed by entering keywords into the search bar, followed by browsing the search results listing. There could be a whole set of deeper user journeys around browsing and filtering the results, but lets not get into too much detail now and say they find the resource they're looking for immediately, navigate to it, and then download it.

For an objective like downloading a resource, there can be multiple user journeys with different beginnings, different and interconnecting paths with different sets of interactions. There are also many user journeys which are shared amongst the personas.

Documenting user journeys is one of the first steps to understanding what each user actually has to do in order to achieve their objective. Through re-enacting and documenting these journeys we can identify UX barriers and opportunities for improvement.

UX research

Ahhh, with user journeys (mostly) documented, it's time to do some more research and see if users actually navigate and interact with the site in the way we think. This is where observation comes in. We recently finished a series of interviews and observation sessions where we asked users to perform a series of tasks based on user journeys (thanks so much to those who participated!!). These sessions helped us to confirm our suspicions of what the barriers might be, discover other barriers and opportunities, and learn more about our users. 

UX barriers and opportunities for improvement

Below is the first brain dump of the areas around the BetterEvaluation website that have UX barriers and/or feature opportunities for improvement. It did not take long to run out of paper; there's much, much, much more that's on our list, including content improvements (such as content in more languages, more examples, etc.).

While it seems like there's a lot to improve, we also learned that there are a huge number of features and elements of the website that people love. We have to be careful in addressing these UX barriers so that we don't take away from the useful features.

Prototyping

Right now, we're working on solutions to many of the UX barriers and opportunities we've identified. Some of these solutions, if simple enough, have already been rolled out. Many are far more complicated and we need your help to test them and provide feedback. If you're interesting in seeing the upcoming features we're working on and providing feedback to help improve them, please join our feedback panel!

Click here to join the panel

Have you used user personas or user journeys in your work? In what way? Tell us by commenting below!

A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
UX Designer / Information Architect, BetterEvaluation.
Melbourne, Australia.

Comments

Anonymous's picture
Joanna Farmer

This is great Nick! Really cool to see how our contributions are being used :)

Nick Herft's picture
Nick Herft

Thanks, Joanna! We'll have some cool new features and upcoming developments to share with the feedback panel soon! :)

Anonymous's picture
Simon_

Great article thanks.  Do you have any thoughts or can direct me to information on measuring usability or scales.  Interested in your thoughts on standardised (system usability scale) vs user designed?

Nick Herft's picture
Nick Herft

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the feedback.

Although I haven't used system usability scales (SUS), they appear to be useful if you're after a quick way to measure usability and compare your score with other (ideally similar) systems. Depending on your objectives and how big the system is, I'd be less interested in the overall score or comparison, and more interested in the specifics as to what works well, what doesn't work well, and why. I'd would aim to tailor the usability questionnaire to align with the goals/purpose of the system and the needs of the user (or different users/personas).

I found it helpful to think about high-level key evaluation questions (KEQs), and then see which lower-level questions can be answered by the questionnaire. This is more time consuming but I find the results to be helpful.

You might find these articles on SUS interesting:

Pros and cons of SUS (research-collective.com).

10 things to know about the SUS (measuringu.com)

And here's a BetterEvaluation page on KEQs.

Hope this is helpful!

Thanks,

Nick

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