Discover

Methods to build empathy for the project and people involved.

Empathy map

What

Creating a visualization of user thoughts and attitudes to help align the team on a project’s needs and layout

Why

To cultivate a deep understanding of user needs and feelings regarding a product.

Time required

20-45 minutes

How to do it

  1. Create an empathy map split into four quadrants: “Says,” “Thinks,” “Feels,” and “Does.”
  2. Through user research, fill out the map to help visualize profiles.
  3. Use the map to inform your design process.

Additional resources

Traditional Empathy Map

Empathy Map: The First Step in Design Thinking - Sarah Gibbons

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Heuristic evaluation

What

A quick way to find common, large usability problems on a website.

Why

To quickly identify common design problems that make websites hard to use without conducting more involved user research.

Time required

1–2 hours

How to do it

  1. Recruit a group of three to five people familiar with evaluation methods. These people are not necessarily designers, but are familiar with common usability best practices. They are usually not users.
  2. Ask each person to individually create a list of “heuristics” or general usability best practices. Examples of heuristics from Nielsen’s “10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design” include:
    1. The website should keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
    2. The system should speak the user’s language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms.
    3. Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue.
  3. Ask each person to evaluate the website against their list and write down possible problems.
  4. After individual evaluations, gather people to discuss what they found and prioritize potential problems.

Additional resources

Applied in government research

No PRA Implications, as heuristic evaluations usually include a small number of evaluators. If conducted with nine or fewer members of the public, the PRA does not apply, 5 CFR 1320.5(c)4. If participants are employees, the PRA does not apply. See the methods for Recruiting and Privacy for more tips on taking input from the public.

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Personas

What

Representations of users based off of qualitative and quantitative user research.

Why

To create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference

Time required

1-2 days

How to do it

  • Conduct user research: Answer the following questions: Who are your users and why are they using the system? What behaviors, assumptions, and expectations color their view of the system?
  • Condense the research: Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant, and universal to the system and its users.
  • Brainstorm: Organize elements into persona groups that represent your target users. Name or classify each group.
  • Refine: Combine and prioritize the rough personas. Separate them into primary, secondary, and, if necessary, complementary categories. You should have roughly 3-5 personas and their identified characteristics.
  • Make them realistic: Develop the appropriate descriptions of each personas background, motivations, and expectations. Do not include a lot of personal information. Be relevant and serious; humor is not appropriate.

Additional resources

Template of a User Persona

How to use Personas -Usability.gov

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Project plan

What

A statement of how and when a project’s objectives are to be achieved, by showing the major products, milestones, activities and resources required on the project.

Why

To get an idea of the timeline and goals of a project.

Time required

Project Dependent

How to do it

  1. Form a project planning group for your team. This team will first determine the objectives and goals of the project, and once work begins, they will manage to see if the plan is being kept to.
  2. To begin making the plan, do an initial assessment of the issues that need to be worked through and the difficulties that may be encountered in the project.
  3. Whenever possible, involve the community to get feedback on their needs, whether through town halls or focus groups.
  4. As the project continues, manage the plan, and make adjustments if necessary.
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UX questionnaire

What

An introductory exercise teams can use to get alignment on the scope of the project and to begin planning the user design of its components.

Why

To determine how the product appeals to users, and to assist in finding necessary changes before decisions have been made.

Time required

10-30 minutes

How to do it

  1. Use our UX Questionnaire and get together as a team to talk through the questions, making sure to record your answers where all team members can access them.
  2. As you go through the Discovery phase, refer back to your answers to help inform the design process.

Additional resources

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