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I'm a beginning in a UX field and currently building up my portfolio. In portfolio projects how do I include the research element of the UX process when I have no money to spend on formal UX research?

My research background (in psychology) is a big part of my interest in UX and a significant portion of my resume so I feel like I should include a research element to my projects, but I'm not sure how. The only "users" I have access to is my friends and family, and this is obviously biased. Any advice or guidance is extremely appreciated, I'm completely at a loss and I have no idea how others have solved for this problem.

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Hallway Usability Testing

For a start, I would prototype a portfolio project as simply as possible and conduct "hallway testing". The term means "ask the next person who comes down the hallway", but you don't really need a hallway.

For totally bargain basement usability testing, you could set up in any public space and ask people to try your app. Many will do it for free. A small reward (a sticker, a piece of candy) could be enough to draw many testers.

The key is to formalize your procedure so people can do it efficiently and your data is meaningful.

Think of a specific task you want them to complete, then don't interfere, just observe and take notes. Be polite and gracious. Say "thank you, you've been a big help". That alone is enough incentive for many people.

When you've completed some testing, organize your notes and pluck some key insights. Make changes. Repeat.

Take a look at the book Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug. This has lots of specific detail on how to do "do it yourself usability testing".

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I understand where you are coming from! If I am correct, your concern is more to do with 'how' can you show your research in a portfolio and not so much with the actual process of how to do the research. Hence I will aim my answer at that.

1) Consider "Impact Maps" which have worked great for me, both in getting requirements clear and often to fuel great discussions with users/stakeholders/team members. Here's a good video to quickly grasp the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RznIi2WkJb0

2) Once you do such an exercise, you will have a tangible diagram/chart of sorts to include it in the portfolio.

3) Taking that as the starting point, you can possibly prepare a "User Story Map" which is a great activity/idea/method to visualise the whole project at once. Some links for reference here: - http://jpattonassociates.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/story_mapping.pdf - https://marcabraham.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/jeff-pattons-story-mapping/

There's more you can do in form of sketchy Personas, Journey Maps etc - but the above two have worked out great for me, both in terms of fuelling users to add inputs and then taking that input to form a product plan. The idea should be to showcase the effort in making the research, and not the decorated final template/artifact. As I said, since there is a 'real' tangible output, you can showcase the same in your portfolio.

In case of minimum access to users, and as a project - you could do this by yourself, considering the various scenarios/users/behaviors/goals. Obviously, any real user involvement would be great. Important is to keep a positive intent to solve the problem at hand, rather than producing these charts/diagrams/outputs to just adorn the portfolio.

Hope that helps!

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