Contextual Inquiry

User Experience (UX) Design starts with understanding users: when, where, how, and why they use the products and services they do. The market for highly developed UX skills has never been greater, so if you are looking to add or enhance UX skills to support your current role, trying to convince your organization to engage effectively in UXD practices, or considering the field of UX as a career-move, the Rutgers UXD II course is for you. 

Today’s experience are diverse, mobile, and interactive. They take place over time, can involve multiple devices and more than one person. Studies of user needs in these environments can no longer be confined to a usability test lab but understand the social context and activities that are involved in the interaction.  

In UXD II, you will learn about a variety of research techniques: how to choose among them for the problem you are trying to solve and how to apply the results of your work with insights to create engaging and usable design.  This course will give you a core toolkit that will help you throughout your career. 

You will also ‘learn by doing' with team and individual projects that let you to practice the techniques in class. As course attendees from the UXD I course attest, the UXD II methods you learn will be immediately transferable to your daily job.   

Students who successfully complete this course will receive a Mini-Masters Certificate in UXD II from RATE. Coursework can be applied to the Masters in Business and Science (MBS) UXD concentration offered at Rutgers. CEU credits are also available. 

The course meets on 4 weekends, with an exam for those taking the course for credit. The course ends with final presentations of work done on the class projects. 

The course covers: 

  • User research fundamentals – Categories of user research techniques from observation to ethnography to participatory practices, ethics, and core skills of interviewing, observing, and planning a project.
  • Task and activity analysis – Techniques for observing and noting the steps and interactions in an activity, including activity diagrams and journey maps.
  • Personas and scenarios – Techniques for representing an understanding of users through segmentation, personas, and writing stories or scenarios to communicate the user context.
  • Surveys and other remote data collection methods – An overview of the range of user research techniques including surveys, diary studies, artifact probes, and how to ask questions effectively.
  • Card sorting and analytics – card sorting for information architecture, and ways to use site and search analytics to analyze behavior.
  • More tools in the research toolkit - an overview of the range of user research techniques including quick impression tests, diary studies, and experience sampling.
  • Bringing research into the design studio – using the design studio approach for research-based ideation and exploring new ideas.
  • Planning a project – organizing the research toolkit so you can select a balance of methods by type of data collected, whether it is qualitative or quantitative in approach, and where it fits in the user-centered design cycle.

Course Outline:

Week Session Days Topics Homework
Weekend 1: Basic Skills Saturday Day 1 Research Fundamentals
Practice: Interviewing and observations
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  Saturday Day 2 Ethnography
Practice: Create and test interviews guide
Interviews & Observations
Weekend 2: People Saturday Day 3 Personas and qualitative analysis
Practice: Interviews analysis, personas
Create personas
Weekend 3: Activities Saturday Day 4 Task analysis
Practice: Observe & diagram tasks
task analysis
journey maps
Weekend 4: Gathering Data Saturday Day 5 Card Sorting
Other research tools
Practice: run paper card sort, online card sor
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  Saturday Day 6 Surveys
Experience sampling
Practice: write several types of surveys
Create, run, analyze survey
Weekend 5: Using Research Saturday Day 7 Design Studio
Planning a project/business value, reporting
Practice: run a design studio with 1 iteration
Finalize presentations
Weekend 6: Presentations Saturday Day 8 Team Presentations  
  Saturday Day 9 Exams