All posts by Gary Maccabe

Junior UX Researcher with a background in psychology and social media management. My interest in UX design stems from my time studying Cyberpsychology and human cognition as part of my BSc. (Hons) Psychology degree. Although it is still early in my career I have provided many large organisations with UX services and solutions. This experience has given me a solid understanding of what good UX design is and how to deliver it.

My Experience with Sitemaps

I was eager to explore building sitemaps after being introduced to their benefits while learning about the web design process. However, I had an unconventional first experience: I was asked to create a sitemap after the content and navigation were decided. While after-the-fact planning is bad practice (particularly for a UX consultancy website), it was a learning experience in my skills development as a Junior UX Researcher. Most challenging was the structuring of each page within the sitemap in a way that would be understandable to the user. Because the sitemap was based on an active website, I had to do some UX reverse engineering.

figure 1: My First Attempt

On my first attempt, I made the mistake of including all headings and subsections in the pages of the website. In retrospect, its smart to include only the headings that user interacts with. This resulted in an unclear and fairly cluttered sitemap that did not wholly represent the navigational complexity of the website.

It was after this initial setback that I made a mental breakthrough. In order for the sitemap to accurately portray the website, each page link needed to be displayed in a way that was understandable and intuitive for the user.

At first, this task seemed simple as the website did not have a lot of content. Nevertheless, creating an accurate pattern for the sitemap that precisely mapped each website page proved an obstacle. After some experimentation, I discovered that the website pages were all linked in a way that formed a circular navigation pattern.

figure 2: Final Sitemap

After this discovery, I displayed the pattern in an easy to use map. As seen in Figure 2, all of the pages in the navigation bar are linked both to the ‘Homepage’ and the international team pages. (The team pages are listed in a drop-down menu in the navigation bar). The ‘Teams’ page links to ‘Services’, which links back to ‘Contact Us. Finally, the ‘Insights’ page stands on its own with links to the various social media accounts below.

This task has shown me the utility of sitemaps for both designers and users. Sitemaps can be used to help  a user navigate, or allow a designer to structure a meaningful navigation process. In essence, sitemaps are hierarchical models that break down content into specific areas as well as show the relationship between internet and external pages. I now understand how the process of building a sitemap is a fundamental skill for UX practitioners.  

Gary Maccabe

Junior UX Researcher with a background in psychology and social media management. My interest in UX design stems from my time studying Cyberpsychology and human cognition as part of my BSc. (Hons) Psychology degree. Although it is still early in my career I have provided many large organisations with UX services and solutions. This experience has given me a solid understanding of what good UX design is and how to deliver it.

My Journey into UX Design

The field of User experience (UX) design was largely unknown to me until fairly recently.  It is not something I was introduced to as part of my undergraduate psychology degree despite studying ‘Cyberpsychology’, which focuses on the study of human cognition and behavior within the ever expanding digital world. Although the ‘Cyberpsychology’ part of my course did not directly discuss UX design as a discipline (which now I think it should have) it opened my eyes to the effects that technology is having on our everyday lives, from the way we communicate to how we behave offline vs online. This is what initially drew my interest to the field of online research.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk UX
Dr. Susan Weinschenk on the psychologists view of UX Design

Yet, it wasn’t until shortly after I completed my degree that I first came face to face with the term UX design. I was scouring job sites (as all new graduates do) trying to find an area where I could combine my background in psychology with my new interests in online research. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first as to how UX design and psychology were intrinsically related. However, once I began researching the field more thoroughly, I immediately recognize the overlap.

I discovered that like empirical psychological research, good UX design relies on data gathered from qualitative and quantitative research methods such as interviews, observations and surveys. Having a background in psychology placed me in a great position to start practicing UX, as not only had I built a strong foundation around these research practices, but I had also (without realizing it) studied many of the same theories and concepts that underpin much of the research that is done within UX.

For example, I found that motivation, perception, memory, attention and cognitive biases must all be considered when observing/testing users. I also found that the only way to consider these concepts in relation to different users is to be empathetic. Thus, the ability to show empathy and understand another person’s situation and experience has been essential to my role as a UX researcher. Empathy is another UX skill I have been developing unwittingly for a number of years through my previous work as a student mentor. When I came to realize its importance within UX research, I knew that this was the right career choice for me.

designbook

One strange aspect of being a UX researcher that I have grown to enjoy is explaining what it is to other people. As UX is a relatively unknown field it is very common for others to ask what it is. Although explaining what UX is to laymen can be a hard task at times, I get a great sense of satisfaction and achievement from another person having an ‘aha’ moment when they finally come to understand what I do (I get the same feeling when a user instinctively knows how to work an interface).

I’ve found that one of the most effective ways of explaining UX to another person is to discuss the design of everyday objects and why they are designed that way. Once they realize that everything from their car to their Xbox controller has mountains of usability research behind it they often think ‘well yeah I guess it does make sense to do the same thing for websites’.

UX Design
Understanding UX Design

A good example of this was when I was discussing my new job with my brother and I was using one of the many definitions that I had picked up online to describe it to him (such as these UX Design, UX Research), but he was still finding it hard to understand. The conversation then moved on to his new car and how it was so much easier for him to start and stop the engine using a button rather than turning a key and that’s when I said that’s the outcome of UX research, that’s what I do, but think online…his ‘Aha’ moment then followed shortly after.

This is also when I realized that UX practitioners had been recycling findings from fields like ergonomics and human factors and applying them to online environments, which only enhanced my interest in the field.

Looking to the future I’m excited to see what new challenges I’ll face in my role as a UX researcher and how the field will evolve alongside new technologies. Also, having spoken to others in the field and seeing how enthusiastic they are (even after 10 years) I’m very confident that I have made the right career choice.

 

Gary Maccabe

Junior UX Researcher with a background in psychology and social media management. My interest in UX design stems from my time studying Cyberpsychology and human cognition as part of my BSc. (Hons) Psychology degree. Although it is still early in my career I have provided many large organisations with UX services and solutions. This experience has given me a solid understanding of what good UX design is and how to deliver it.