Julio Cano Villalobos (UX-Pro): Experiments in customer satisfaction have demonstrated the effect of what is known as the “labor illusion” and the positive perception of service value by customers when they engage with websites that employ “operational transparency”, that is, signaling that the website is working for the customer while they wait for their information to be retrieved. My capstone focused on the experiences of organizations invited to apply to the community partnership program of a large healthcare organization. This program offers funding and technical assistance to non-profit organizations that align under the organization’s mission and strategic priorities. It became evident through my research, that these organizations prefer transparency throughout the process; well communicated expectations and requirements, open communications channels, calendars with specific dates and benchmarks and/or brief updates and touch-base opportunities can greatly contribute to improve the overall experience of a process that is already stressful. Thanks to Professor Kendall House at Boise State University and Mark Hebert at San Francisco.gov for the continued mentorship.
Kate Carter-Cram: My project focused on the potential impacts of consultants’ personal and shared definitions of diversity on accessibility and inclusivity at a university Writing Center. Diversity is one of the buzzwords of the early 21st century. However, its true meaning and implications for writing center work are not thoroughly understood by consultants, writers, or administrators. This study aimed to explore the effects of consultants’ personal understandings and experiences with diversity and turn these into actionable strategies to improve the inclusivity felt by both writers and consultants in writing centers. Short interviews and examinations of asynchronous appointments were conducted to identify the attitudes and practices commonly found in some consultations. Through this research, it became clear that diversity is a process that can take many different forms and have distinct applications. To become more inclusive and accessible, writing centers must continually encourage reflection throughout all stages of the consulting process for consultants and writers alike. In doing so, writing centers can evolve to best support a variety of populations throughout different experiences and processes. Kate was mentored by Boise State UXR Affiliate Faculty Erica Brick of Google Kaggle.
Matthew Gillikan (UX-Pro): My project was a web usability study seeking insights the goals and user experience of customers searching a retail website. First I met with my stakeholder to define a design brief: How might we improve the visual design and enhance the shopping experience of customers? I developed a process to recruit and screen participants appropriate for the study. I then conducted both narrated remote usability studies and A/B tests with my participants. I sought insights into the discoverability of products sold on the site, and the intuitiveness with which the site conveyed available options to customers. What did customers want to learn, and how easily could they achieve their goals? In analyzing my data, I created user personas to capture shared characteristics of customers visiting the site, empathy diagrams to better understand what users were thinking and feeling as they navigated the site, and customer journey maps to identify pain points, work arounds, and positive design elements. Through these methods I was able to deliver concrete recommendations for improving user experience on the website.
Samantha Hayden: My project was with a company who redesigned a holiday stocking product hoping to expand their client base. During the pandemic, the company found sales slipping on the website, Etsy.com. I worked to help them market this new design to reach their goal audience using the information I learned during this certificate program. I met with stakeholders to learn about the company and their new product, and the demographic they typically sold to and wanted to reach. The owners helped me to contact previous customers to get input on the new designs. I created a new persona and profile for this item in her shop, giving it a personality that better fit customer identities and goals.
Thad Phelps: My stakeholder was a regional healthcare corporation interested in improving the training experience for new hires. My design brief was: How might we improve the new hire training experience? I started by documenting the current training experience. I combined multiple methods – including participant journaling, contextual interviewing, and direct and behavioral observations. I worked with multiple employees in different categories, including new and recently hired employees, trainers, experienced employees, supervisors, and managers. Based on this, I developed a “New Hire Journey Map” illustrating the series of steps new employees experience. I learned that many new employees felt uncertain and ill-prepared to begin work after completing the new hire and training process, and I identified the key pain points that created their uncertainty. For example, much of the learning process was text based, and lacked concrete practice and application opportunities. I also identified strengths in the training process, particularly the opportunity to shadow experienced employees, observe, and ask questions.
Matthew Roth: For my capstone, I worked with stakeholders at the Hopsnews – a podcasting platform seeking to create philanthropy through beer. My design brief was: How might we turn Hopsnews into a non-profit organization that provides educational grants for those wishing to obtain a degree in the beer brewing industry? I interviewed Hopsnews stakeholders and studied the brewing industry in Idaho and beyond to identify the benefits that education can bring to individuals interested in becoming brewers, and how to increase diversity among brewers.
Emily Arnold: How might we solve challenges in volunteer engagement that a local non-profit was experiencing? In my project, I applied user experience research to develop insights into cultivating higher levels of volunteer engagement across the organization’s calendar year. I recruited participants from the organization’s database. I conducted 15 semi-structured interviews over a period of three months. My interviews with past volunteers combined photo elicitation with open ended questions exploring the motivations, rewarding moments, pain points and frustrations, and preferred volunteering activities. Three key findings emerged, related to rewarding moments, preferences, and frustrations. All volunteers agreed that their most rewarding moments involved supporting local festivals and events that showcase cultural diversity in Idaho. While several volunteers preferred taking on large roles that required several months of effort, most preferred smaller roles due to their time constraints. While some enjoyed applying their professional skills in a new context, others wanted to learn new skills. The most important frustration that volunteers reported involved inadequate communication.
Taylor Burch: (UX Pro) How might we increase the impact of virtual reality platforms on the learning experience of students enrolled in online classes? To answer this question, I mapped the existing landscape of virtual reality tools and platforms used in education and training. I applied three methods. First, I observed student experiences as they used virtual reality platforms to complete class activities. Secondly, I compared student experiences using virtual reality platforms to their experience with similar activities using more traditional technologies. Lastly, I identified potential hurdles students faced using virtual reality platforms. Based on this, I identified potential best practices for educators interested in using virtual reality platforms in online classes. Insights gained from this study will be leveraged to create support for future faculty efforts. My future research will dive deeper into student attitudes towards immersive tools, inequity in access, supporting faculty, and pedagogical best practices.
Jonathan Croft: For my UX Capstone Project, my design brief was: How might a podcast option be implemented into an author’s short story creation and distribution options? My stakeholder had prior experience in audio recording and providing files to podcasters, but wanted to examine the process by which audio files are transformed into podcasts to better serve authors. Through unstructured remote interviews and web searching, I learned that while there is a basic workflow, there are many ways to deliver and distribute podcasts, depending on budget, equipment, and personal preferences. I also tentatively explored listener wants by creating a structured questionnaire and recruiting a small, non-probability sample of listeners. My stakeholder is now positioned to assist authors in distributing the stories as podcasts parallel to other publication options.
Charlee Draper: How might we improve customer experience at a local specialty retailer with both in-person and online markets? By conducting surveys, making store observations, conducting usability tests, and creating a journey map of the customer’s experience, I was able to generate insights into improving the business model. Visiting we the owners, we arrived at this design brief: “How might we create a business model that is inclusive and that doesn’t nickel and dime customers?” The owner’s aspire to offer education for customer’s with varied levels of knowledge and experience. First I conducted a survey to gain insight into what existing customers wanted. We learned store visitors encountered difficulties navigating the physical store using a walker or wheelchair. I then observed how people navigated the store. Although the store is quite spacious, tight corners were identified..We also identified the importance of low price knick-knacks to making visits memorable and realized that in the store is a gift shop as well as a specialty supplier.
Belinda Eisley (UX-PRO): My Capstone Project tackled this design brief: How might my stakeholders improve their new sales platform in ways that would have benefits across departments? I conducted contextual interviews and process observations with impacted participants holding different titles, responsibilities, and needs. My goal was to separate genuine needs from wants, and gain insights to improve efficiency. The insights we gained were unexpected. Many challenges users were having had little to do with the tool interface, and more to do with knowledge gaps or limited permissions to access certain features. Users, however, tended to overlook these knowledge gaps and permissions issues, and blame the new sales platform (which replaced an older version that they were comfortable with). My study demonstrated the importance of going beyond user interviews and focusing on wants, and using mixed methods to identify obstacles that were not verbalized.
Tiffany Fite: (UX-Pro) Why do students choose to earn a degree abroad? In making that decision, how do they learn about their options? My stakeholder is a small firm offering a subscription database allowing clients to research undergraduate and graduate degree offerings in Europe. She was interested in customer motivations, and learning how clients found her service, and how they experienced using her database. I applied multiple research methods to gather insights: a survey, semi-structured interviews, and observing the topic threads of relevant social media. Nearly half of my survey participants agreed to a follow-up semi-structured interview. Interviews were conducted remotely across five time zones. I gathered insights on client motivations and their interactions with the database and services offered. An important insight was how many customers become valuable promoters who want to help others discover the service. I provided the stakeholder insights related to why customers sought to study abroad, and how they located the stakeholder’s service. I illustrated the customer search process by creating a journey map illustrating pain points and positive interactions. Social media threads provided insight into the questions and concerns customers, and potential customers, were asking one another. My stakeholder will use my research insights to target her marketing efforts and customer service offerings. She will also maximize client evangelism by offering additional options for voluntarily promoting the service.
Christina Lynch: How might we incorporate Human-Centered Design into designing a functional outdoor hand washing station for an emergency shelter? Understanding the experience of end users is significant in designing a product. Usability tests, surveys, and interviews with staff were conducted to understand the constraints, needs and wants of the shelter staff and guests. Design research methods informed the decision making process of a design team made up of engineering students. The team improved the existing handwashing station at the shelter by designing an all-seasons station. The selection of materials and the final design were shaped by the results of the interviews with staff, surveys, and usability tests. The handwashing station has four components: foot-pump, heating, insulation and faucet/sink. The foot-pump and faucet/sink are user-focused, while the insulation and heating are staff focused due to maintenance. This project taught me a lot about incorporation of multiple user-experience research methods in engineering.
Melissa Miller (UX-PRO): My Capstone Project addressed this design brief: How might we transition from an old learning management system (LMS) to a new system, and integrate the new system into our workflow? The goal of our Talent Enablement Team is to customize the LMS to optimize employee knowledge of job responsibilities through efficient, effective training. I used usability testing, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation to understand the user experience of new hires, current employees, and employees preparing for promotion, across a wide range of classifications, from entry level to managers. The tasks assigned to each employee were job specific. Through this user research process we were able to separate necessary tools from superfluous customizations, identify and resolve pain points, and prioritize the questions our team needs to address as we refine our strategy for getting the most out of our LMS.
Cyndi Williams: How might we alleviate gender inequality in online gaming environments? Using observation, participation, participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and story completion exercise, I explored the online environments of two popular massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). The customer journey map for online gaming experiences is riddled with pain points, even before factoring in the stress of gender-based harassment in these forums. I spent approximately sixty hours in set-up and without my stakeholder as a guide, I am sure it would have taken longer. During my interviews and story completion exercise, I discovered that most online MMORPG players are accustomed to these pain points and don’t really mind the work of setting up or the expense of pay-to-play, as long as the game is worth it. My story completion aimed to find out what makes it worth it to invest time and money into a game. The results were better than I expected. Gamers know what they want, they just don’t have an available platform to get it from. Working with my stakeholder, I created some prototypes for an online ratings and social media site that fulfills those needs and provides a safe community for gamers.
Heather Lesko (UX-PRO): How might we improve access management for short-term rentals within the property management industry? Working with a product-focused business stakeholder provided the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of current and potential customers, their experiences, and challenges. Sampling for the study was focused on identifying participants with particular behavioral practices that reflect their involvement within the short-term rental industry. This included individual hosts, property managers who coordinate short-term vacation rental properties, and guests. The study was conducted using various ethnographic research methods that engaged the end-user within the context of their experiences. Individuals participated in the study through remote and in-person onsite contextual inquiry observations and unstructured interviews. This allowed for exploration into relevant themes including rural versus urban short-term rental experiences, property access and technology, and an overview of the hosting experience. Deliverables for the stakeholder provided an overview of insights into the user experience including a final detailed report, presentation overview, customer journey map, and user persona. Overall, the project helped to identify potential business opportunities, assisted in developing messaging, and explored ways to create a better customer experience.
Marisa Stewart: How might we reduce anger and rage among video game players? My project focused on how video games affect emotions. I conducted a pilot study of gamers’ emotional experiences during competitive, team-based games. I used ethnographic methods including diary studies and informal interviews to collect qualitative data to help understand which events act as triggers for my participants. I found timed team-based games that produced factors players could not control generated anger. These results led me to ideate new designs for remote controllers to be developed with sensors that monitor a player’s heart rate, temperature, and physical activity such as button mashing to help decrease negative behavior. Once an action or behavior triggers the sensor’s code, a reminder banner could come across the player’s in-game screen and suggest that they take a voluntary break. In return, they will receive extra points and/or rewards within the game as incentive for taking that action. I believe that once players have the ability to understand their behaviors while playing video games, then they will take more responsibility for themselves and choose to take those extra breaks and limit their negative emotional responses.
Alecia Ohm (UX-PRO): How might we better understand the perspective of dentists needing to complete training? What are their needs, challenges, and approach to learning? Due to the fast-paced nature of the industry, there are many demands on doctor’s time and attention. In order to maximize the limited time I had with participants, I conducted a series of remote interviews using a semi-structured interview method. My recruitment covered a broad range of doctors from a few months out of dental school to over 30+ years in the field. I created a group of personas to capture their voice and build empathy across our support teams. Overall this research produced insights into doctors’ everyday lives, their career paths, and pain points in their learning process