Last time I tried to redesign my college's class enrollment system. The problem is not everyone have access to that system, so it was hard for me to ask advice on internet. Also I didn't how to do research except interviewing my friends. The result is more based on my own judgement other than users.

I am trying to find an easy UX problem to practice. When I say easy I mean not redesign the entire site but improve a small function such as searching, filters. Here is my problem. Let's say I find an E-commerce website and I don't really like its search result page. I think it could be more comprehensive.

  • How can I validate my assumptions?

First I was thinking maybe I could give out a survey asking if people prefer the current page or the page I am thinking about, but it is really hard to say which one is better before people actually tried both versions. Obviously I can't replace the existing page just for testing.

  • If somehow I know that everyone have trouble with this page, and I come out with a new design. How could I know that my design is better without actually implement it on the page?

I am just looking for a random site to practice so I can't get help from website's actual owner. How could I test my result and prove that mine is better


For a UX newbie you already have the right mindset. Don't do a complete makeover when the website or application is not working as well as expected, but try changing small things first.

From your question I get the feeling there is even some anxiety for performing any usability tests and such. Sure this is fueled by inexperience, but it might also be fueled by lack of equipment or settings.

Good thing is you don't need expensive equipment like eye-tracking stuff. Usability tests can be done by simply observing people using the application.

These people can be your friends or even you! You are a student at that school. You have used that program to enroll in class. You know where, in your opinion, the problems lie.

Your friends are users too. You might think they're not fit test persons, because they are like you. But they too are students at that school (I presume) and they too are real users.

If you want to add some dynamic to the test persons by adding someone who is less tech savvy, there is no shame in asking someone in the family with less computer skills to test it.

If the situation allows you, you can even ask a person you just saw performing the enrollment task what their experience was, where they got stuck or what they think was unclear. Asking them what could be improved is dangerous. They often don't really know. You're supposed to be the expert that can think of a solution to their problems.

But how do you test your improvements?

You mention you can't implement the changes in order to test it. The thing is however, you don't need the real thing to test improvements. It would be most ideal if you could use the real data and test the improvements while the old version is still in use (try reading into A/B testing; it might be a solution for you). But just below that ideal situation is a demo where you simulate the enrollment flow. Not every single link has to work and not everything has to be real data, just as long as the steps the users take are the same.

And below that are more static prototypes. These could even be images of the new situation. Let your test persons point at the part where they think they should click next and then show them the screen behind that button by presenting them with a new image.

It is easier to use any of many prototype tools online that let you link images by laying invisible hitzones over the buttons and links and linking that to the corresponding image.

Compare the time the users need to perform the task in the original application with the time they needed to complete the task in your improved version and compare the amount of clicks.

Even after all that you can't expect to present the school (or the person responsible for the application) with a perfect solution to all their troubles. You can't always substantiate decisions with actual numbers and facts. Often you don't know your solution will be the right solution.

But how do you convince (let's name it) the client?
You do that by showing them what is wrong with their application in the first place. Try to be gentle about it, because they might be the one to have build it in the first place. But show them user opinions and the test results of the original application. Then show them your solution and tell them how it would solve those problems and show them the better time scores.


The craziest thing about starting in UX is that it isn't always about your opinion but about proven methods.

For example - the hamburger menu. The hamburger menu is now starting to show up on desktop sites because some designers prefer it/they like it better. However, hamburger menus generally perform poorly in testing.

So for your site, start doing some very general research on what works for searching and try some "tried and true" ui patterns. You can test it by doing the hall way tests (asking anyone to use it and see how it goes), by watching analytics on the site, or by seeing if the site is more successful (more purchases, more sign ups, etc).


Use known processes

There are lots of different routes through a UX project, some more popular than others. I'd suggest you research a few different strategies and pick one that sounds feasible. Here's a really quick (not too many steps) example:

  1. Create some personas, in this case maybe no more than 3 (1 may even do for now). see here for more info
  2. Describe a typical scenario, something a user might want to accomplish using the system. see here for more info
  3. Now discuss with your friends or anyone familiar with your system how they imagine your personas would perform that scenario. It just needs to be simple screen flows listing the steps that are taken along the way.
  4. List the pros and cons and discuss ways that the system could be improved for the users.
  5. Make some quick mock-ups of alternatives and run them by your peers for initial feedback. Think about how those same personas might undertake the earlier scenario but with your new mock-ups. Is it easier? Faster? More intuitive? These are the sort of improvements you want to make first. Worry about is it more polished, more beautiful later. These are mock-ups remember, they can be anything from sketches to wireframes using some design software.
  6. Now that you've had some quick feedback you might consider refining your design and making an interactive mock-up to use for testing. Depending on your skills you could code it, or else there are loads of great solutions like UXPin that you could use.
  7. Now time for the testing on real people to see if your early assumptions and the ideas generated with your friends actually work. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Most likely it will be some mixture of the two - you'll have lots of positive feedback but some suggestions for further improvements.
  8. Repeat 6 & 7 again a few times until you're happy that it's ready for visual design and following that development and live testing.

Okay okay, for the haters who are seeing loads of flaws in this...it's just a little example, if you'd like to refine it or offer alternatives definitely do but please don't spam me in the comments about all the discrepancies you've noted.

  • 1
    I think that gets the main UCD points. – PhillipW Apr 1 '15 at 23:25

You could always use UsabilityHub. Here's what their customers have to say:

enter image description here

  • Can you expand this answer to explain what it does and how it can help? – bjb568 Apr 1 '15 at 22:41
  • Its rather straight forward. Thats why i provided the link. I can add more when I get home. – Code Maverick Apr 1 '15 at 22:52

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