Conduct UX Research - a woman in a boardroom running a research study Conduct UX Research - a woman in a boardroom running a research study

Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts – Course Review

If you’ve been following along so far, you’ll know I’m halfway (ish) through the Google UX Design Professional Certificate which is offered by Coursera. Here, I’ll be reviewing the course Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts. Yes, the course names are long.

This course focuses on the test phase of the UX design process where students are shown how to properly test their previously made prototypes so they can sort out where to make changes and improvements.

Previously, I’ve reviewed the first three courses in the UX Design Professional Certificate. You can check out my reviews here:

Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts is broken up into four weeks:

Week 1: Planning UX research studies
Week 2: Conducting research with usability studies
Week 3: Analyzing and synthesizing research results
Week 4: Sharing research insights for better designs

Week 1: Planning UX Research Studies

The first week of Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts starts with the longest quiz in this program so far, as a recap as to what the entire program has covered so far. Next, students are introduced to the phases of conducting a research study and the elements of a UX research plan. Honestly, this is all pretty dull at this point, at least in comparison to the last course.

This week covers each part of the UX research plan individually, since it will be the main project for this week. It’s good to do research at this stage in the UX design process, but it does feel a bit anticlimactic after doing prototypes in the last course. Especially since we were only required to create partial prototypes, with minimal functionality.

We cover privacy and data collection next, before jumping into the project for week one; creating a UX research plan to accompany what we’ve created for our mobile app so far. My mobile app design will be for an antique shop, and so far it’s in the early, low-fidelity prototyping stage. In other words, it’s not even at a state that could be properly tested, but maybe we’ll get to that next.

The final project actually took awhile to write, though students are provided with a very helpful template. The project asks that students submit an entire UX research plan to test their prototypes, including the project background (what the project is, who it’s for, etc.), our research goals (why we’re doing the research at all), research questions, KPIs (how we want to measure the research), methodology (how, specifically, the research will be conducted), the participants in the study, and the script (questions asked to participants and the tasks they will be asked to complete).

Week one took me about five days, most of which went into the final project. Though, week one is 35% of the course, so there’s a lot to cover. That being said, I absolutely could have completed it sooner but I dragged my feet a bit at the beginning.

a woman in a boardroom standing in front of a whiteboard - digital illustration
Image generated by Dall-E

Week 2: Conducting Research With Usability Studies

Week two of Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts starts by discussing usability studies, which is something we briefly touched on in the last course. We discuss the two different types of usability studies; moderated and unmoderated, then get to watch some mock usability studies. This part is actually really interesting. Although, in the mock study they are using a low-fidelity prototype that doesn’t even have all of its functionality yet, so I’m not sure what the point of testing it is; at this stage anyway.

Next, the instructor goes over the steps for starting a moderated usability study. Why wasn’t this in the first week? Last week’s project had students write all of this information out in their research plan, but now we’re actually covering how to do that? This definitely would have been more helpful information to have before we put together a plan for our UX study.

The project for this week was to actually conduct UX research in a study and record the results with five different participants. I made sure my low-fidelity prototype was still in working order and went to test it on my family members. It went pretty well. I recorded my results and finished up my project.

After submitting my project, I once again got to deal with the rollercoaster of peer grading.

This time it was rough. The first assignment I peer graded was in the wrong format and couldn’t be opened. The next one didn’t meet even the minimal requirements for the project. The one after that recorded study results from only one participant, then just duplicated that page four more times. The next one was directly plagiarized from the course materials. Wow. Then I got yet another in the wrong format, followed by another one that only used one participant and was, again, plagiarized from the course material. Though, they did at least change the name… so that’s something.

I only needed to do three projects gradings, but I kept going in the hopes someone actually did the assignment properly. Another wrong format, then a good one! Wow, someone who took the assignment seriously! I never thought it would come.

After I finished grading those, I got feedback on my own project. One reviewer had given me full marks, the other had docked me a mark for not recording observations for 5 different people… although I absolutely did. This means I got a 95% for week two. I double checked to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, then just resubmitted the project again with no changes. There was literally nothing else I could add. Normally I would be satisfied with a 95% mark on a project… but not when the project was worth 100%.

Why do so many people taking Coursera classes NOT take them seriously? At all?

Week two took me about two days, and my resubmission came back with 100%. Now I can move on to week 3.

a woman in a boardroom running a research study
Image generated by Dall-E. Yes, somehow Batman is there. I’m okay with this.

Week 3: Analyzing and Synthesizing Research Results

Week three of Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts begins with teaching students how they are meant to turn their observations from the previous week into insights.

Essentially, what do we need to improve in our app designs?

Students are shown how to make an affinity diagram with sticky notes… or digital sticky notes (which I prefer) to sort the observations from last week. Then we discuss how to turn insights into themes. Basically, we’re trying to find out what did most of the participants in our usability study have issues with.

This week goes pretty quick, and now I’m onto the final project, which is unfortunately, really unclear. This might be where a lot of the peer grading issue stem from; unclear assignment instructions. Students are given a ton of instructions to read about how to create their assignment, but the instructions somehow don’t state the actual deliverables required, or a logical way to submit them. Instead, students are told to share the links from their Google doc, but then on the submission page we’re asked for pdf files.

Once I submitted my files for peer review I was, once again, given the honor of reviewing other students’ assignments. Let’s see what happened. The first one submitted files in the wrong format. The second submitted an affinity diagram that was so low res I couldn’t read most of the text. The next person did okay, but kind of combined the documents into one… it worked though, so they got full marks. Fortunately, the next one was glorious and perfect and well laid out. That’s what I like to see.

Week three took me two days, and it was generally pretty straightforward until the end, where the actual deliverables are a bit unclear.

Week 4: Sharing Research Insights For Better Designs

In the last week of Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts students are supposed to learn how to share what they’ve discovered from the usability study and apply it to their low-fidelity designs. Yes, we’re still on the low-fidelity stage, since the next course will deal with the final, polished prototypes.

The next thing students learn is about different types of presentations and how to make them. We’re shown how to compile what we’ve done so far into a research presentation via a handy template, then we cover presentation skills.

Next, students are asked to update their app project with the required changes determined in the usability study. Then we’re asked to share our updates in a revised presentation; using the same template as before but with changes.

This was a bit confusing; only because up until this point the program has provided students with an exact template for every assignment, and it’s helped to keep things consistent. Not that all the students use the templates properly, but it’s still a great guide to have. With this last project, students are told to modify their original presentation (which wasn’t for marks), and add some additional stuff that was briefly mentioned in the grading requirements, not the course itself.

Fortunately, most of the assignments I graded figured it out… mostly. Some presentations were missing required pages but were otherwise well done.

Week four took me three days; helped by the fact that I have done A LOT of presentations in my career so far, so that part didn’t take too long once I figured out how to structure it. Here are some of the screens from my final research presentation for week four.

UX Presentation - Title Page

UX Presentation - Before and After

UX Presentation - Next Steps

Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts – In Summary

While the beginning of Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts felt a bit anticlimactic and dull compared to the last two courses, it still contained knowledge that UX design students will need to know, and completing the usability study was actually pretty helpful. Getting feedback from a variety of people helps you to see things you otherwise wouldn’t have seen and helps you realize things that come easy and intuitive to you might not to someone else.

I wasn’t as happy with how we did the usability testing though, only because the low-fidelity prototypes we created were at a very, very basic level and testing them seemed premature. I would have liked to flesh out my prototype a bit more before testing. In a real, professional scenario, I would have. Then the feedback I would receive would have been much more helpful.

This whole course took me just under two weeks, which is good for me since I’m trying to get through this whole certificate program in record time. Why? The pricing is a monthly subscription, so the quicker I complete the program the less I have to pay.

Next, I’m on to course five in the Google UX Design Professional Certificate which is Create High-Fidelity Designs and Prototypes in Figma. This means, pretty soon I’ll have polished, interactive mockups to share with you.

Are you interested in taking Coursera’s Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts course? Have you done the previous three courses? Is there anything about the Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts course you wish I included here? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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