Boris is a product designer and researcher working the San Francisco Bay Area



I was brought in as a UX Research and Design consultant for a high end audio start-up. They had a problem, which was that their products were not being well received by their target consumer markets, specifically local influencers within the audio and music entertainment sphere.

I was placed in a team of media producers, marketers, and graphic designers and the team spent the first week sharing expertise. I shared my knowledge of user experience, user research, and how we could help each other create better products faster by observing and understanding the people that used our artifacts. The second week of the project was spent analyzing the problem and gathering user data via questionnaires and video recorded usability study with some of the company’s products.

Step One: Getting to Know the User

The first step of our research was to more precisely understand the problem of how and at what stage of interaction were the products or services offered by our company not meeting the needs and desires of our users. Was it the price point, the quality of the product, its actual usability etc? To understand this I decided to look at our users current behaviors with audio products and technology as well as asking them about their ideal expectations for audio products. I and the team conducted this investigation via short questionnaires as well as user interviews.  Questions from this segment included “What is your favorite musical accessory that you own?”, “For what purpose do you usually listen to music?”, and “How often do you listen to music.?”

The insights we gathered in this section helped us start to crystallize our user groups and identify patterns of perceptions, behaviors, and expectation around music products. This data would prove to be valuable later on in helping us craft personas for the rest of the team and in making difficult decisions about who were and were not designing for.

Step Two: Concept Testing

Now that we had more knowledge about the users, we needed to focus inward onto the product.  I conducted some interviews in which we presented the product to the user and asked questions.  The goal was to find out user perception.  When presented with the product, what would the users think? Would they know what it’s for? Who did they think it’s for?  How much would they pay, etc.  We wanted to figure out where the product fit in with the user’s lifestyle and personality. The types of questions we asked in this phase of research centered around what the user thought of how the product looked, who they thought it was meant for, who they thought it would benefit, where they would expect to see it sold, at what price point, and whether they thought their anticipated price point was fair. It was important to us that we understood how users saw the products fitting in with their lifestyles and cultural personalities.

This research was carried out primarily through interview style question and answer which was video recorded.  The users were recruited through online advertising,  facebook, and local flyering. Once we had an initial pool of users I administered a pre-study questionnaire to determine what types of users we were dealing with and whether they were suitable for our study. The study was conducted in a room which had two sets. One which I modeled after a home living space, and another which was modeled after an office space. I created these sets in an effort to maintain ecological validity as well as to create a more comfortable and casual environment to facilitate the users opening up and acting more natural. Looking back, I see that there was data which suggested that some of the testing should have been done outside as well, to further create a more natural accurate setting of use.

Step Three: Usability / Product Testing

Alongside testing concept, we knew it was equally important to test the actual physical product as well. We tested the product in terms of how easy it was to interact with it, how delightful it was to interact with, how it integrated with the rest of the users life, and on other factors well. Due to the constraints set forth by the stakeholders, we were not allowed to bring the product out into the field to do contextual interviews.  However, I did my best to recreate predicted user scenarios described by the data found in previous research from both our own team, as well as the previous marketing team.  We had our users try to walk with the product, run with the product, do yoga with the product, lay in different positions with the product, etc. All of the physical interactions with the product were videotaped.  We later reviewed and analyzed the recording through coding.  

                  Aside into Marketing
             Halfway through our study period, we were asked to create a promotional video for the products using some of the  footage we were gathering. After making sure to have consent from our subjects, and modifying our testing and                           recording setup we were able to work on creating this piece of marketing material. I handled the music, timing, and                     lighting of the piece, as well as some of the story-boarding for it as well. 

Step Four: Reporting the Findings

Common trends in the research revealed that the product was made from an isolated perspective of target users.  The design of the product did not account for real and varied user behaviors, it did not treat users as having different social and physical needs from a product such as this. Thus the product failed to live up to those user’s expectations and needs. In addition to being designed in a vacuum, the design language and branding of the product were misaligned with their likely audience and their values and aesthetic ideals.   

While presenting the analysis of the data, it became clear that most of the stakeholders were unfamiliar with the importance of user centered design.  Although the data consisted of both qualitative and quantitative data, they remained skeptical of who their target audience was.  I led a persona creation activity to better introduce them to the idea of persona and data driven design.  Following the activity, they gave me the go-ahead to spend the remaining time of my contract doing a more comprehensive redesign of one of the products, which included creating usability guidelines, a draft of branding guide, and setting an overall design direction and ethos for the project.  I worked closely with the development team during this time making sure that they understood the guidelines and would carry it through the product.  In addition, I worked closely with the marketing team to begin the rebranding of the product.  I concluded the project with a brand book, product experience guideline, two commercials, and valuable user research data.  

The following are all of the artifacts that were created by myself.