Start the UX Design Process - a woman sketching at a desk Start the UX Design Process - a woman sketching at a desk

Start the UX Design Process – Coursera Course Review

After completing Google’s Foundations of UX Design, I’m now onto the second course in the Google UX Design Professional Certificate, which is Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate.  The title is a bit long, but at least it gets to the point.

This course deals with how to complete the first phases of the design process for a project that students can later include in their UX portfolio. Students learn how to “empathize with users and understand their pain points, define user needs using problem statements, and come up with lots of ideas for solutions to those user problems.”

If you want to check out my review of the first course in this certificate program, you can check it out here: Google’s Foundations of UX Design – Course Review. 

Google’s Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate Course

This course number two in the the seven course long UX Design Professional Certificate and it involves starting the UX design process to create a portfolio project for new UX designers.

This course is broken down into 4 weeks:

Week 1: Empathizing with users and defining pain points
Week 2: Creating user stories and user journey maps
Week 3: Defining user problems
Week 4: Ideating design solutions

Week 1: Empathizing with Users and Defining Pain Points

In the first week of the Start the UX Design Process course students are meant to begin the design process for a mobile app. We haven’t actually covered design basics yet, so I’m not sure how that’s going to go for the students without a design background. But maybe there is no actual design quite yet?

Next, we delve deeper into understanding users, and empathizing with fictional users with empathy maps and personas. But, before we start that we’re given a presentation deck template to record our findings in. It’s a Google branded deck, so students will need to adjust the colours and add imagery that works better for the project they’ll be working on.

Students are told that the project we’ll be designing is generated via The generator to create a mobile app is included right in the course rather than having students go to the Sharpen website.

Most of the results I got from Sharpen were for mobile apps that would have no reason for existing, like “design a food delivery app for a food truck.” Would that work or does it defeat the purpose of the food truck? Or would the food truck itself be the ones making the deliveries? I didn’t want to think about how that would work, so I kept going.

I initially considered going with “Design a shopping app for a paper supply company” so I could going to make that company Dunder Mifflin, but eventually decided to go with “Design a shopping app for an antique dealer” because I thought it would be a bit more interesting.

From - design a shopping app for an antique dealer - the first assignment in the Start the UX Design Process course

After figuring out my mobile app challenge, the rest of the week was spent on determining interview goals and interview questions, creating user personas (real people or fake), then documenting the answers to the interviewees (real or fake). Next we learned about pain points, then had to create personas for a coffee house app, before creating personas for our own projects.

Overall, when this week was over it felt like the whole course should have been done. There was a ton of content this week. Lots of assignments, a few practice quizzes, and tons of reading. The assignments take a while too, and it really feels like some of it should have been pushed to week 2.

After I submitted my final project for week 1 (creating user personas) I was ready to review some of the other student’s work. Some of it was good, some of it was pretty mediocre, and some of it was in the wrong format entirely so I had to flag it for re-submission. Oh well, on to week 2.

Week 2: Creating User Stories and User Journey Maps

Week 2 of Start the UX Design Process starts out with students learning about empathizing with users and defining pain points. The first of those we cover is empathizing, where we’re introduced to user stories and how to write them using our personas from last week.

Students are then introduced to the concepts of edge cases (rare situations or issues that interrupts a standard user problem), and user journey maps. The user journey map part is key, since that’s what the big project of week 2 will be.

Before creating the user journey maps, students are introduced to some ways to design for accessibility. I found this to be really interesting, and it’s exactly the reason why good UX is so important. I’ve been the brand new mom who had to navigate my phone one-handed while my other hand held a fussy, overtired baby, and I’ve had to attempt to navigate my computer more than once with a broken mouse. Those are only a few, minor (and temporary) examples of why accessibility matters, and thankfully the course goes into much more detail about why it’s so important to design for accessibility.

my notes for week 2 - creating user stories
Some of my class notes on creating a user story

Week 2 took me only four days to complete, so that was nice. I enjoyed doing the user journey map assignment; it actually really helped me understand and empathize with the user a bit more.

The peer reviews this week were a bit tricky; but I think that’s because the assignment wasn’t especially clear. Some people did their projects as though their app was already designed, and the user journey was someone using it. But since we haven’t actually got that far in the program, those ones didn’t make a lot of sense.

I did my user journey map assignment on the typical journey that one of my previously created personas takes in order to get a specific item from an antique store. For example, my persona went to the store, looked around, found an item he wanted, checked it out, then brought it to his car. I mean, that was basically it, but I also covered all the minor tasks, emotions, and areas for improvement within.

Week 3: Defining User Problems

Woman in a jar holding a brain hooked up to an iPhone
Image generated by Dall-E

In week 3 of Start the UX Design Process students enter the design phase… or the define phase? The instructor says design but the diagram in the video says define?? The first thing we do is learn about problem statements, which are yet another way to get a clearer picture of who the user might be and what problems they have.

Next, students are introduced to the idea of a hypothesis statement, which basically defines the best educated guess on what the solution to a design problem could be. After that, we discuss value propositions then psychology in design.

I enjoy learning about psychology, so this last part I found really interesting. One of the topics discussed was the human factor, which describes the variables that humans bring to product interactions; things like impatience, motivation, error making, limited memory, and more.

Week 3 took me only a day to complete and ended with a short quiz rather than a project. This quiz was actually pretty tricky, but I took good notes so I ended up doing quite well.

Now onto the last week in course 2.

Week 4: Ideating Design Solutions

So that last week of Start the UX Design Process begins with students learning about the ideation process for brainstorming design solutions. I’m pretty familiar with this process since it’s used in graphic design all the time.

The next thing students are introduced to is how to learn about the competition. The big end project for this week is to create a competitive analysis and report, so students need to learn exactly how to do that now.

For whatever reason, instead of continuing to learn about that, we jump into ‘how might we’ exercises for problem solving, followed by sketching. Both seem out of place in the course, since we’ll be doing our final competitive analysis immediately after this; which won’t even involve doing the ‘how might we’ exercises or sketching. Putting these topics first in week 4 of this course would have made a bit more sense.

The sketching part is a bit quick too, though there isn’t really much focus on the actual design of things yet, so this really seems out of place and almost unnecessary. Students are basically given a quick video on how to sketch ideas at the stick-figure level, which I’m pretty sure everyone can already do, whether they have a design background or not.

Women ideating design ideas at various desks
Image generated by Dall-E

For the final project, students are given templates for the competitive analysis and the competitive analysis report; just in Google doc format. Although, the report template they provide looks completely different from the instructions they give on how to create the report earlier in the course, which is a bit confusing. I ended up using the template, but with nicer colours, type sizes, and spacing.

Week 4 took me a whole week to finish, but most of that was working on the competitive audit project. I was also binge watching Netflix’s Dark at the time, so that probably didn’t help speed things up for me. Regardless, I’m done now. Whew.

Start the UX Design Process – In Summary

Overall, Start the UX Design Process was an interesting course. It took me two and a half weeks to complete and I do feel like I learned a lot; though I’m happy to be done it.

As much as I’m enjoying this certificate program, I’m still bugged by the peer-grading system. This time it’s not because of plagiarism; but instead because of the lack of real feedback. For each assignment, the grading metrics only care about if something is completed, not how well it’s completed.

For instance, if a students writes a paragraph about their brand’s competitor, they get a mark simply for writing it, whether it actually makes sense for their project or not. Or if a student actually scribbles their assignment on a napkin and sends it in; as long as what’s needed to be there is there, they get full marks. Shouldn’t we care about the quality over just meeting the task quota?

I try my best to give valuable feedback in regards to the assignment and in regards to the design or comprehension of an assignment; because it matters; but I’m not an instructor and I don’t have time to go through every student-submitted assignment.

Oh well, I’m on to the third course in the Google UX Design Professional Certificate now: Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes

Have you taken Google’s Start the UX Process course? What did you think? What was the best thing you learned? If you haven’t taken Start the UX Design Process, is there anything else about the course you would like to know? Let me know in the comments below. 

Photo Credits

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

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