User Experience Design

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Some UX Design methods can be helpful in some situations in education, such as when a team of teachers and people supporting them need a shared understanding to coordinate their efforts.

Can the library use UX Design with Subject Guides?

I’m involved in a project with the library, to look at their Subject Guides. Part of that project is to use a range of UX Design methodologies to try and make explicit the range of assumptions, premises, processes, experiences and relatable experiences and outcomes around subject guides.

This post is an annotated list* of a range of methods mostly borrowed from other research domains, loosely brought together under the banner of UX Design. We have used some of these in the past, primarily in course and curriculum design and development.


  1. Video ethnography could be used along with remote usability testing, and involves:
    • Observation, including extensive filming of practitioners,
    • Allowing practitioners to view the video recorded material and reflexively discuss their practice,
    • Transforming practice through practitioner led change, and
    • Building the capacity for the ongoing and critical appraisal of practice.
  2. Semi structured interviews are open, allowing new ideas to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says. The interviewer generally has a framework of themes to be explored. It is generally beneficial for interviewers to have an interview guide prepared, which is an informal grouping of topics and questions that the interviewer can ask in different ways for different participants. Interview guides help researchers to focus an interview on the topics at hand without constraining them to a particular format. This freedom can help interviewers to tailor their questions to the interview context/situation, and to the people they are interviewing.
  3. Personas represent the goals and behaviour of a hypothesised group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesised from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2-page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and the environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. We use personas in our course design workshops.
  4. Scenarios describe ways that a system is or is envisaged to be used in the context of activity in a defined time-frame. The time-frame for a scenario could be (for example) a single transaction; a business operation; a day or other period; or the whole operational life of a system. Similarly the scope of a scenario could be (for example) a single system or piece of equipment; an equipped team or department; or an entire organisation.
  5. Information mapping is writing clear and user focused information flows and connections, based on the audience’s needs and the purpose of the information. We use a sort of information mapping in course mapping.
  6. Digital prototyping changes the traditional product development cycle from design>build>test>fix to design>analyse>test>build. In this context, we might consider a form of rapid prototyping to illustrate and test radically varied concepts of subject guiding.
  7. Agile software development  is primarily a set of principles for software development (including UX Design) under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. We have attempted to use these principles across many of our methods over the past 2 years.
  8. Participatory action research is similar to agile development in that is an approach to research and development. It encompasses methods that are set within groups or communities and emphasises participation and action. It seeks to understand problems or situations by trying to act on them, collaboratively and following reflection. PAR emphasises collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and history. PAR could be deployed within a program of professional development.
  9. Usability testing involves carefully creating a scenario, or realistic situation, wherein the person performs a list of tasks using the product being tested while observers watch and take notes. Several other test instruments such as scripted instructions, paper prototypes, and pre- and post-test questionnaires are also used to gather feedback on the product being tested. For example, to test the attachment function of an e-mail program, a scenario would describe a situation where a person needs to send an e-mail attachment, and ask him or her to undertake this task. The aim is to observe how people function in a realistic manner, so that developers can see problem areas, and what people like.

*Unabashedly drawing from Wikipedia, checked against personal experience.

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