Shanaz Ikonne UX Research
I was hired by Kira Street Designs to do user research for a client’s website. This client was a therapist based in Texas who provided mental health services to women, minorities, LGBTQ+ and the neurodiverse population – specifically those suffering from anxiety, ADHD and dyslexia. The client wanted the site to be warm and inviting but the site that they using wasn’t helping them achieve these goals.
We wanted to figure out how people related to therapy and how they went about seeking it out. Because of that, the goals of this project were to:
- See how people looked for therapy.
- Understand the effects that connecting with a good or bad therapist can have on people and their perception of therapy.
- Learn how people dealt with neurodiversity.
I was the main UX Researcher for this project. I was responsible for collecting the quantitative and qualitative data that the Product and Branding teams would use in their designs. I also created the surveys and set up the one-on-one interviews that created the basis for the user personas, journey maps and empathy maps. Lastly, I consolidated all my research into a presentation that I presented to the client.
In total, the project took two weeks to complete. The process followed a specific process but, naturally, some steps needed to be revisited in order to get a more holistic view of the situation.
02 Research Hypothesis
At the beginning of the research stage, there were five hypotheses that were created to be tested. This was based on the research that was found in professional articles about the client’s target audience:
- The current website is too busy and hard to read for neurodiverse and non-neurodiverse users.
- Especially for people who are dyslexic, a lot of the most important text on the site is hard to read.
- The current site seems disjointed. This can disorient people with ADHD.
- Large blocks of text on the site are too hard to focus on for people with ADHD, anxiety and dyslexia.
- The navigation is too bloated. For people with anxiety and dyslexia especially, this would be hard to use.
03 Research Methodology
For this project, we used two types of research methodologies over this two-week timeline:
- Article research.
- One-on-one interviews.
In order to get an understanding of neurodiversity I looked at professional information on the topic. Specifically, we looked at how the neurodiverse members of the population use the Internet.
Diversity among brains is just as wonderfully enriching as biodiversity and the diversity among cultures and races.
Thomas Armstrong in “Neurodiversity”
I looked at how many people identify as neurodiverse worldwide and what types of websites appeal to them and what types of websites they would find unappealing. This yielded information on the best colours, typography and layouts to use. The goal of this was to have a jumping-off point for future research. I then converted the information in these articles into the hypotheses that were used to guide further research.
Next, I sought to find out what people in the client’s target audience felt about therapy and how they identified themselves. We sent the survey out to 20 people. Firstly, I created questions that would filter out the people who had never had therapy before. This was important to do because, even if they fit the client’s target audience, they would need to be people who would possibly be open to using her services. Beyond that, I asked open-ended questions about why they sought therapy and their process for finding a therapist. This part was delicate because this is a very personal topic and so it had to be very clear that none of these questions had to be answered if they felt uncomfortable doing so. The last set of questions focused on their demographic. Things such as gender, age, ethnicity or whether or not they identify as neurodiverse and if they would be willing to be interviewed.
The interview stage was designed to do two things:
- Dig deeper into the reasons why they answered certain survey questions the way they did.
- Get their opinion on the original version of the product – without any design changes.
We chose two people from the people that filled out the survey to interview based on how well they fit the target audience. These interviews were conducted by the Product Designer while I documented the interviewee responses. This allowed me to ask any necessary clarifying questions based on their survey answers or things that they said in the interview. To cap off the interview session, interviewees were asked to complete a card sort based on the services that the client offered. The goal of this was to streamline the information architecture for the website navigation.
04 Recruitment Criteria & Process
For this study, we looked at people who sought therapy for mental health issues as well as people who looked for therapy for other reasons. This allowed us to see what both groups looked for in a therapist’s website and how they were similar or different.
Some recruitment criteria were:
- Having sought a therapist in the past.
- Age: 18 – 35.
- Being neurodiverse.
- Being LGBTQ+.
- Being in a minority group.
- Being female.
The survey was sent to people who showed interest through email.
05 Sample Questions & Usability Tasks
For the survey, I used an open-ended format for the questions. This allowed the people taking the survey to be able to be more open with their answers.
For the interview questions, the goal was to go deeper into their experience with therapy, so the questions were more targeted. The card sort that was part of the interview also served the purpose of seeing how potential users of the website would categorize things.
Card Sort from Interviewee 1
Card Sort from Interviewee 2
06 Analysis & Synthesis
To analyse the survey, I looked at the answers that the survey takers gave and looked for similarities as well as differences. When analysing the survey, it was important to see how people in similar demographics responded to particular questions. This information was synthesized into quantitative information, taking the form of pie charts, and qualitative information that took the form of an affinity map.
Affinity Map from Survey
The information gleaned from the survey informed how I chose the interviewees and the interview questions that I wrote. I wanted them to represent the client’s target audience as much as possible. During each interview, the Product Designer asked more in-depth questions to the interviewee and I took notes while also posing some of my own clarifying questions. Then the Product Designer and I would discuss what we saw and heard in the interview to make sure that we were on the same page. After each interview, I would watch the recorded video so I could make sure that I had a proper understanding of each person. This led to the creation of a journey map for the therapy-seeking process.
Journey Map from Interviews
07 Outputs & Deliverables
At the end of the synthesizing process, the research was consolidated into two user personas. The goal was to help the Product and Brand teams and the client understand who their target audience really is and help them serve them better. In addition to the user personas, I also compiled the research I had done into a presentation that I shared with the client at the end of the process.
BIPOC Woman User Persona
Caucasian Woman User Persona
This research helped the Product and Brand teams learn more about the types of people that would be seeking the clients services. As a result the website that was design would be suited to helping the client find new customers as well as making sure that customers returned. This was something that was a highlighted in the survey and the interviews. Therapy is an involved and delicate process so when people find a therapist that works for them they tend to stick with that person for many years.
Next Steps & Recommendations
Getting to know the people in the client’s target audience allowed me to see the pain points that they had. It also allowed me to help the design team create a design that addressed these issues. Some of these recommendations were:
- For neurodiverse people, and others, a muted colour scheme is easier to on the eyes and contributes to a feeling of calm.
- It is easier to read san serif fonts when it comes to large blocks or important sections of text.
- Making the website design as simple as possible is better for the client’s target audience (whether or not they are neurodiverse).
The website is designed for browser, tablet and phone screens. The personas will continue to be iterated throughout the product design process.
- People actually used the research!
- The research methodology allowed us to connect with people who have had varied experiences with therapy.
- Even though the target audience of the client focused on women, we wanted to get varied opinions. However, not many men took the survey.
- Some people who had previously said they would be interested in being interviewed decided to not be interviewed when asked.
- Some people who were open to being interviewed dropped out due to last-minute scheduling issues.