Ideation Sessions in UX design


Ideation sessions challenge you to think outside the box. These sessions encourage you to explore as many ideas as possible to find solutions. The focus is on quantity of ideas rather than quality. In a judgement free zone,  you are free to uncover, sometimes unconventional, ideas to build upon. This ideation phase transitions you from learning about the users to finding a solution to the problem. This is where innovation grows and you find what the users has been missing.

The ideation session should be focused on the users to get their perspective.
The more user views you have, the more diverse the ideas will be.

The ideation process can be done several different ways depending on the needs of the user and the problem you need to find a solution for. The session can be done alone or in a group and short or over several hours. It could be a one-time session or over several sessions, as well as being formal or informal as needed. Use the research you have gathered to define the ideation problem that you want to solve. Be clear about the needs of the users. Ensure that the focus in the ideation session is on improving the user experience. Set aside any technical constraints or business viability. At this stage, no idea is too farfetched. It is much easier to scale back a crazy idea that addresses a true user need, than to try to make a very simply idea desirable.

Ideation is the process of generating a broad set of ideas on a given topic,
with no attempt to judge or evaluate them.


Role of the audience


In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser states that “you are writing for yourself.” He explains that if you write with enjoyment, “you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” Try to write about smaller events that are active in memories. They contain more information that will readers will connect with in their own lives.

Although I agree with much of what Zinsser writes, I do think we are always writing for an audience. Whether it is for a group of readers, specific individuals or yourself, as Zinsser suggests, there is always an audience. Keeping your audience in mind while you write can help you strategize how to tell your story or market an idea. Writing is a form of expression that can be used to tell a story, an opinion or even to market a product. Understanding who you are writing for is essential in establishing a tone.

It’s important to write for your audience. If you are writing the local news, you will be writing for that region with specifics the reader will relate to. I think it’s important to envision who your reader will be in order to properly write to this audience. When you know who you are talking to, your tone, use of vocabulary, and personal style will adapt. This will help you connect to the reader as you figure out how to write for them. In E.B. White’s, Approach to Style, he states to make sure the reader knows who is speaking. “Dialogue is a total loss unless you indicate who the speaker is.”

I agree with Zinsser’s statement, “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.” The reader will have their own interpretation. It is essential to understand the reader to set your tone and direction throughout your writing without trying to please a larger group. It is a balance. It comes down to what you are writing about and who it is for. The important thing to remember is to have passion and creativity in everything you write and you will always have the readers attention.

Effective Online Writing

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The Battle for my Life in the New Yorker, is a perfect example of a well-written long-form essay. Long-form essays are articles with large amounts of content, usually between 1,000 and 20,000 words. They are often written in the form of narrative journalism or creative non-fiction. Due to the length of these articles, it’s incredibly important to write in a way that draws in the reader.

The article immediately drew me in. It was as if Emilia was speaking directly to me, telling me her story of absolute bravery. The content of the essay as structured is an easy to read format that brings you through her struggles both in the present and the past. There was no confusion in going back and forth as it was organized in a way that made sense to the reader. Each point is broken into different paragraphs for easy readability from one scenario to the next. The style of the writing and the layout of the page were simple and kept me focused on the content.

She describes specific details such as her mum slumped in the chair to really give the reader a visual. This pulls you further into her story, really feeling her emotion. “My mum slept in my hospital ward, slumped in a chair, as I kept falling in and out of sleep, in a state of drugged wooziness, shooting pain, and persistent nightmares.” I actually found myself reading it in her voice which connected me on an even deeper level.

The way the article was written will appeal to a large audience of readers. The format is organized well and the narrative content is very easy to read and connect with. It has a simplicity to the style and usage of words that flows easily as you read. It has a clear direction and attitude throughout.

Compare and contrast: Is sunscreen dangerous?


The two articles that I picked to compare this week are about the safety of sunscreen. The articles take on different viewpoints, and I found the online readability to be better in one of the articles. I chose this topic for a several reasons. I am about to go to the Caribbean with my family and we are all very fair, so the concerns that have been in the news lately are in the front of my mind.

The first article is from Men’s magazine called Two-Thirds of Sunscreens Could Be Hurting You, Report Says. The article did a wonderful job in breaking down the report issued by the Environmental Working Group. The article’s comprehension was easy to follow and understand. The layout was clean with a lot of open white space that did not take away from the content of the article. The overall experience of the content had a nice flow delivering information and was written in a pleasing manner. The informative article kept my attention while giving me points on both sides of the argument. Below is a good example.

“The Environmental Working Group released its 2019 Guide to Sunscreens today—the 13th annual report of its kind—and it finds that two-thirds of sunscreen products on the market “offer inferior protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” But not everyone agrees you should be scared.”

The article listed the concerns in an easy to read list while summarizing that the major issue. They also consulted with a dermatologist to understand their point of view and give advice for safe sunscreen use which kept my interest to find out more from an expert. I found the article to be very informative but it left me coming up with my own conclusion on how I want to protect my family. The delivery of facts did not develop an opinion but rather kept me interested. I was intrigued to keep reading for more information.

The second article is from CNN called Avoid sunscreens with potentially harmful ingredients, group warns. I found the article to have several useful tips towards the end but the beginning was one sided to pull you in. The experience was not written in a manner which was entertaining or pleasing but rather very opinionated. The facts were not given until much later in the article which left me frustrated. This flow would leave many readers to abandon their reading before getting all the information towards the end. Due to the heavy opinions early on, this article was not easy to read. The layout was not clean design and had a lot of advertisements that were distracting. An example of the comprehension that I felt was hard to read is below.

“The Environmental Working Group says 56% of beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone. The primary function of oxybenzone is to absorb ultraviolet light, but some research shows oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin.”

Although I was using the two articles to compare what I liked and did not like about the readability of each, I was able to walk away with some useful information I can share. Until the FDA puts stronger regulations on sunscreen it is recommended to :

  • Not use a sunscreen over SPF 50
  • Make sure labels list both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum protection)
  • Avoid products with oxybenzone and retinyl palminate
  • Choose lotions over sprays


Professional Bio

I have been in the creative industry for over 20 years with experience in digital, print, mobile and email communications. I started as a print designer and moved into the fast paced digital world of emails and websites. I successfully launched a widely used healthcare mobile app with over 500 modules in just a few short months as a Creative Director at Aetna. In my recent role as Senior Communication Manager at Aetna, I provide design direction and strategy within healthcare communications for both print and digital. A large part of my role is client facing to provide solutions and strategy while maintaining the brand across several products.

I earned a BA in Graphic Design from Southern New Hampshire University, and I am pursuing a master’s degree in Interactive Media and Communications at Quinnipiac University. The digital world fascinates me. Understanding what the user experience means for the user is essential. It is all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the site, services and products that leads to a successful product.




Journey mapping is essential

jouneymap_finalA journey map is a visual representation of the experience the user has with a product or service. It tells a story from the user’s point of view from initial engagement and continues throughout their journey. In order to understand a user’s experience, you need to observe how the user interacts with the many different starting points within the product or service.

For example, this can be through marketing, referrals, search, social media and customer service to name a few. To ensure the experience is a positive one, you need to map out every touchpoint along their journey.

Why create a journey map?

Journey mapping helps you see the business from the user’s perspective. It provides insights into user pain points — how you can improve the experience, and define what users need in order to complete an experience. Users expect companies to be connected and seamless; while also knowing who they are and what they’re looking for. They don’t want to take extra steps to get to their goal. A journey map will help find the cracks in order to create a solution for a better user experience.

Some of the benefits of a journey map may include:

  • observe where users interact
  • determine whether the user journey is in a logical order
  • provide an outside perspective on the why
  • reveal the gaps between the desired experience and the experience received
  • help create priorities for product strategy
  • afford you the opportunity to view from the user’s needs rather than the business needs

Making it worthwhile

For a useful map, you need to include every touch point the user experiences within the product. For example, when a user is planning a vacation, you will need to begin from the moment they start thinking about possibilities right through to finally booking their vacation. Each touch point is an interaction with a product or service. By following along the journey, you will be able to see where users experience pain points.

Key elements to include:

  • Journey
  • User profile
  • Actions & Channels
  • Emotions
  • Actions
  • Opportunities
  • Ownership

As your relationship with the user develops, the map will include a view of the long-term, post purchase journey. Looking at the completed journeys of users can help highlight whether there is a clear path from research to end product or service. This shows the potential obstacles and opportunities to improve the journey.

The Importance of Using Ideation


Ideation is the creative way of coming up with new ideas, which is accomplished through several different ideation techniques. Ideation will help determine the right problem to solve and how to solve it.

UX designers are responsible for solving real user problems. To do this, they need to empathize with their users, understand their needs, and come up with creative, innovative solutions. Ideation will help you generate fresh ideas as part of the Design Thinking process. Ideation sessions will encourage you to think outside the box, and explore ideas you may not have thought of otherwise.

As a designer, the ideation phase is your safe space where you can come up with ideas that may be unconventional and may lead to other ideas which could enhance a solution.  It doesn’t matter if these ideas turn out to be plausible or not; what’s important is that you look beyond the obvious, already-been-done solutions. Ideation sessions will also help you to focus on your users by collecting the perspectives and creativity of a group of people, gathering a large diversity of ideas; and ultimately, to innovate in ways that you never thought possible.

Ideation is an important part in the design thinking process. The goal is to empathize with the users to learn the pain points they’re experiencing as well as understand how needs of the users are not currently being met. Often the solution lies buried within the information gaps. It’s not about what the company sees to be the problems but discovering how to engage with users to understand their frustrations and needs.

By testing and implementing ideation techniques, you can be more effective solving the right problem. It is not a linear process. Some ideas may prove to be implausible taking you back to defining the problem — and that’s ok. When it comes to the ideation phase, just remember to have fun, experiment with different techniques, and never be afraid to think outside the box.




Point of View (POV) statement

[User . . . (descriptive)] needs [need . . . (verb)] because [insight. . . (compelling)]

A Point of View (POV) is an articulation of the problem that you are trying to improve for the end user. It should be well defined in order to allow for a thoughtful reflection or ideation to meet your goal. Your POV encompasses your design vision by defining the chall­enge to address and overcome. Your POV should be an actionable problem statement that will drive the rest of your design work.

To put together a POV statement, you use three components – user, need, and insight. To communicate your POV statement, you will begin by understanding information about your user, the needs and your insights in the following sentence:

[User . . . (descriptive)] needs [need . . . (verb)] because [insight. . . (compelling)]

The POV is a problem statement which should drive your design efforts in which you incorporate into the design the needs and requirements of the user in order to create the best user experience. By creating an actionable design problem statement, you will be able to inspire the generation of ideas to solve the problem.

Venmo app review example

The Venmo app allows users to pay or request money. Some examples of when the app would be used are:

  • Splitting a lunch bill
  • Paying your friend half of a cab fare
  • Sending your roommate your half of the rent
  • Using Venmo as a payment method in some apps

When reviewing Venmo, I was able to identified three user reviews: one as positive, one as negative and one as suggestive. These user reviews identified problems and challenges from a user’s point of view which were then included into the POV statement.

The POV statement is:

USERS of Venmo NEED a safe application to send/receive money which provides user feedback on transfer status and excellent customer support BECAUSE in this fast-paced world, being able to securely and quickly pay for services/items is important.

In short, the POV statement is the focus of the UX designer’s problem-solving efforts and will inform all the decisions made throughout the design process.


Creating personas


Personas represent users whose goals and characteristics reflect the needs of a larger group of users. The descriptions include behaviors, goals, skills, attitudes, and background information, as well as the environment. Designers will typically create fictional details to make the persona a realistic character. Deep understanding of a target audience is important to creating functional user experiences and products. Personas help find answers to the questions: for who and why you are designing this. With this information you can better understand the expectations and motivations of the users, creating a successful user experience and product.

A persona should include the following:

  • Persona name
  • Photo
  • Role
  • Quote/demographic
  • Motivation & behavior – goals & journey
  • Motivation, inhibitors and triggers
  • Influencers
  • Environment
  • Similar personas

Personas need to then be associated with a scenario that describes how a user will interact with a product to achieve its end goal. The scenario will help designers understand the main user flows – by pairing the personas with the scenarios; designers gather requirements, and from those requirements, they create solutions. Scenarios should be written from the persona’s perspective, usually at a high level, and articulate use cases that will likely happen.

Personas are an important tool in making the design process about the user. They are part of the ideation process and assist the designers in achieving a good user experience. Personas help the designers be mindful of how the user will interact with every touch point and as a result deliver a high quality product. Personas are another tool to use in creating the best user experience possible.


Why User Empathy is Important to Design


The general definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. When you empathize with the users of a product or website, you see things from their point of view and not just through your own perspective. Through empathy, you begin to understand that not everyone comprehends the product or service.

Empathy maps are a great way to assess what users are thinking and feeling when they are using a product or service. They help build a broader understanding of what’s behind user needs and actions. This knowledge will help you anticipate how a user might approach a website.

Sections of an Empathy map include the following:

  • Tasks – What tasks are users trying to complete? What questions do they need answered?
  • Feelings – How is the user feeling about the experience? What matters to them?
  • Influences – What people, things or places may influence how the user acts?
  • Pain points – What pain points might the user be experiencing that they hope to overcome?
  • Goals – What is the user’s ultimate goal? What are they trying to achieve?

User empathy research is the process of developing an understanding of the user. It’s not just about their needs but understanding their constraints, practices, problem-solving and influencing relationships. Researching users is a way to help designers identify their users’ underlying needs. Once the need is established, the user experience can be created with new problem-solving approaches that accommodate the user. The ultimate goal is to improve the user’s experience by designing to their explicit needs.

The need for empathy in design is an important factor as the beginning of User Experience. We must develop an understanding of how to design products that appeal to people of different cultures, variety of backgrounds and social influences. Through user empathy, we can begin to understand how and why users interact, feel and solve issues that relate to the product and website.