I believe in starting a conversation with fellow professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading stories, experiences, and ways of working. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring leaders over a cup of coffee (or two!).

This week’s special UX Fika guest is Michaela Zetterström – UX/UI Designer at AMF (One of the leading pension companies in Sweden, managing approximately 3.8 million users). Michaela has knowledge in various creative fields: photography, graphic design, branding and combines it while building great experiences at AMF. Designing digital products for almost 1/3 of Sweden’s population comes with its own challenges, but chief among them is doing solid user research.

Hope you will enjoy the ux research ride with Michaela!

How did you get into the world of UX?

Actually, it’s a bit of a funny story: I was studying my last year at University of the Arts London within BA (Hons) Photography to become a photographer. For my final project I set up my portfolio and created an e-commerce site for people to buy my art pieces. When I launched it, I also started tracking users in Google Analytics and seeing that there were people adding products to the cart but no one was going to the checkout page. This made me question how I designed the website. The website flow was so simple and easy according to me, but when I asked my friends they said it was impossible to know how to go to the checkout.

I realized that I cannot design based only on my thoughts and feelings. This made me really interested in web design. So after my degree in London I started studying UX/UI design at Berghs School of Communication. And my journey into UX and UI has continued since then…

Why is user testing important in every product design process?

The key for doing user testing is to go from guessing to knowing. From assuming to being informed. So simple and true. I can also identify a lot of usability issues in order to improve the product and service continuously by analyzing how new and returning visitors perform tasks in a prototype or existing website. In contrast, Google Analytics gives me data, but doesn’t tell me why behind actions.

In addition, user testing is very valuable throughout the different stages of the design process, as long as you choose the right method and ask the right questions. Last but not least – it is an amazing opportunity to evangelize user experience with your colleagues, by inviting them to observe user tests.

Can you share how your user testing process looks like for you currently?

There are a few important pillars to our user testing process.

Firstly, we are always in close contact with product owners, project leaders to align user research with them, and the current product roadmap. It’s the responsibility of every designer (we are 3 in our company at the moment) to communicate with them regularly, clearly and includes necessary tests in the backlog. It is crucial to mention that not everything needs to be tested. As a designer, I can definitely make small changes and adjustments, but when it comes to bigger flows – it is essential to have it tested and validate ideas first.

After we have clear goals of UX research, we start planning and executing all the logistics: from creating an excel sheet with our selected users, target groups (who do we want to interview, what are the conditions), and preparing for the interviews by creating a test guide. We also work with recruiters who contact our users and target groups.

In terms of the actual tests, we usually spread them over 2 days. We conduct around 5 interviews on each day, with approximately 1 hour per user test. Normally we are two designers in the room and then there is an observation space, where other team members can observe tests by seeing and hearing the user over Skype. In this way, the team can see how we interact, what the user says and does. Our “observation room” practice is highly liked by colleagues. We have had almost everyone from our company participating in sessions like this.

After each test, we have 30 min reflection time together with the two UX designers to sync together or discuss if there are any pending questions, doubts to clarify. In this way, we really avoid making wrong conclusions.

What are your top 3 do’s and don’ts of user testing?

My top 3 do’s:
– Invite your team, colleagues, CEO to observe your user tests, be transparent! In this way you demystify what UX is and what is the value we add to the picture.
– Pretest before the real user tests to identify any issues and also be comfortable in the process, questions.
– Listen, relax and have fun!

My top 3 don’ts:
– Oldie but goldie: Avoid asking leading questions.
– Rushing through user tests to get all your questions answered. Sometimes you have to slow down, you have to shut up and let the user talk, even if it means losing one question at the end because of the time limit.
– Don’t just follow a test script bullet point after bullet point.

Are there any tools (collaboration, testing, etc) that are essential to your user testing workflow?

It depends on what we are testing, but we usually do website tests either in our test environment which is a copy of our real website. If we are testing concepts for the web we usually use inVision and create both: low fidelity and high fidelity prototypes. Then as mentioned we use Skype for sharing the user test with the team.

When it comes to analysis, our UX team blocks a day for analysis, when we go through all the findings, user research data and see if we have the same point of view. In the end we make a presentation of findings and share it with the rest of the team.

What is most challenging in user testing for you?

I would say it’s when I’m leading a user test and I’m so focused that I sometimes can’t forget to “live in the moment”. Sometimes I have a user test script with exactly what I should say and which questions we will have answered. But following a script bullet point after bullet point often makes me feel stiff and not really listening to the user. So what I do is that I write down some of the questions we want to get answered and then memorise them and then do the test without papers. It makes me feel much more relaxed and I feel that I get a better connection with the user and have fun at the same time!

How can UX designers prepare better for user testing? What are your key learnings throughout the years?

I would say that doing a pretest before the user tests is a key learning. I do pretests with friends or colleagues who’ve not been working with the things we will test to identify small things like misspellings but also to prepare myself for the “real” test.

If you could do user testing for one product/service in the world – what would it be and why?

Wow this was a hard question! I think I would do user tests for the weight machines at food stores. I’m always fascinated how I, as an UX/UI designer, can’t understand them. Or correction: I understand them, but I cannot manage to handle them. E.g – when I’m buying onions at my food store and weight them, I can either search for “Onions” in the search field or select vegetables, and then scroll until I find Onions in the list (which is not in alphabetical order…), I always use the search field and when I press “O” it selects I or P which is the letters around O on the machine and the backspace button NEVER works. Gahhh this makes me really frustrated! I can’t be the only one noticing this!?

Extra bits

Your favourite UX or design myth:

“Accessibility is expensive and difficult”. I love (and hate) this one at the same time because it just proves how unfamiliar people are with accessibility on the web. I’ll quote Zoltán Kollin, UX enthusiast, as I think this quote says it all: “To make your website accessible, you don’t need to add extra functionality or to duplicate any content. The key is simply to assess the requirements of those with different skills and limited devices when designing the user interface and your content. To build from scratch a website that’s accessible, therefore, costs virtually the same as to develop one that isn’t”. I find it fascinating how people exclude accessibility when designing solutions, but hopefully, we enthusiasts can change that.”

Recent interesting read

I read this article the other day about the collaboration between developers and designers that I found interesting, as I’m working within a web team as the only UX designer and 5 developers. I really liked the last paragraph: Design is a team sport.

Who are you grateful for in your career?

I must give kudos to our UX Lead Linda Stenmark. She’s amazing! She always finds time for me and I love the way she’s developing me within the UX field, she’s also a great listener (and talker too, haha). I really enjoy working and collaborating with her. So Linda – thank you for being you.

About the UX Fika Series

In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.

For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.

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Want to take part in UX Fika and share your story?

I always proactively get in touch with industry leaders and interesting people! If you would like to have a Fika with me, get in touch. Drop me a message here.

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