Saktar2 - UX & UI Pathway


Technical Area: I learned a lot about the overarching topic of UX design, including what constitutes good design vs bad design, how usability and aesthetics factor into the design process, and building task flows. Delving further into the field, I learned about competitive analysis as a tool that can be used to understand users by identifying competitors and dimensions. We also discussed how design thinking is an essential mindset while working in UX. It was interesting to learn that it is non-linear in nature, and that it essentially weaves together the steps of empathizing with a user, defining the issue, ideating solutions, creating prototypes, and undergoing testing. Understanding the different types of user research as well as conducting that research is also essential to UX design, and we particularly focused on the importance of user interviews and card sorting as tools for gathering feedback. Another technical topic I learned about was affinity mapping, which allows one to organize and cluster several ideas in a collaborative manner. It works by gathering individual data, clustering similar topics, and then identifying themes under a broad goal. We also looked at the process of ideation, which involves developing and brainstorming new ideas. In particular, we looked at “how might we” statements, dot voting, and impact-feasibility matrices as tools to help the process of ideation along. In terms of more technical topics, we looked at user flows and information architecture. User flows were especially helpful because it became easier to see the user’s movement while interacting with Stemaway. Learning about information architecture also helped me understand the importance of building a structure that facilitates our understanding of ourselves as users and our position with regards to the information we are working with.

Tools: We used tools like Miro, which is essentially an online collaborative whiteboard platform. Miro allowed us to work efficiently in teams and virtually use sticky notes to organize our thoughts and ideas in terms of constructing affinity maps, user flows, and information architecture. We also started using an organization tool called asana, which helps us keep track of the tasks we’ve completed, need to complete, and are in the process of completing.

Soft Skills: I learned several soft skills over the course of these few weeks, including collaboration and communication. My collaboration skills have been put into practice extensively as I meet with my team, discuss ideas almost every day, and work through different design solutions. Working with different people and interviewing users to gather information has honed my communication skills, especially since I have had to learn how to communicate UX ideas in layman terms.

Achievement Highlights:

  1. I was able to conduct two rounds of user interviews which helped me truly grasp an outsider’s perspective on Stemaway and harness information that allowed an insight into what aspect of the Stemaway interface needed improvement.
  2. I also conducted another form of user interview called card sorting, which allowed me to observe the user’s thought patterns and intuition with regards to my specialization of the platform (the taskbar).
  3. I helped construct a good portion of the affinity map that later became the basis for our core problem.

List of Meetings:

  1. Introductory Meeting - June 1
  2. Meeting 2 - June 2
  3. Meeting 3 - June 3
  4. Meeting 4 - June 5
  5. Meeting 5 - June 8
  6. Meeting 6 - June 9
  7. Meeting 7 - June 10
  8. Meeting 8 - June 11
  9. Meeting 9 - June 15
  10. Meeting 10 - June 16

*These meetings included larger meetings with my UX team, and smaller, collaborative meetings with my subgroup to work on our project.

Goals for the upcoming week:

  1. Learn to use the figma platform and incorporate it into my work.
  2. Take more initiative in introducing my ideas to the group and make an attempt to collaborate further.
  3. Get more involved with asana so as to keep myself on track and paced.


  1. The first task was affinity mapping, and we received some help from our team leads in the form of asking questions and referring to training webinars. Some hurdles included some conflict over how to cluster different ideas and what subgroups/hierarchies to create, and we solved this by discussing the similarities and differences between each group.
  2. The second task was conducting user interviews about the general experience of interacting with Stemaway with one user from the other subgroup and one user who was not familiar with Stemaway. We used training webinars and instruction from the leaders to get a broad idea of which direction the interview was supposed to go. Some hurdles included figuring out what type of questions to ask, directing the user who wasn’t familiar with Stemaway so that they didn’t encounter issues, and communicating the different questions clearly. We resolved these issues by studying videos that directed what an ideal user interview would look like.
  3. The third task we undertook involved brainstorming different solutions to a variety of “how might we” statements that we came up with and then using dot voting and impact-feasibility matrix to further evaluate those solutions. The hurdles in this task included actually coming up with enough solutions to cluster and weighing the pros and cons of solutions against each other. We solved this hurdle by allowing ourselves ample time to brainstorm the solution and then reconvening to discuss those solutions. Again, we used training webinars and some help from the leads in order to accomplish this task.
  4. The fourth task we participated in was constructing a user flow diagram for the Stemaway taskbar. Hurdles included identifying the exact number of steps/clicks that a user would need to take to their destination and understanding which steps were conscious user decisions. We solved this hurdle by repeatedly testing out the taskbar ourselves and drawing observations from there. We referred to training webinars to assist with this task.
  5. The fifth task involved conducting a card sorting interview with a user who wasn’t familiar with Stemaway. One hurdle included identifying which terms were relevant enough to include in the sorting itself, and we resolved this hurdle by looking at which taskbar features we personally felt were the most significant. We used training webinars to assist with this task.

Session Self-Assessment

Over the course of these past five weeks, I’ve learned a great deal about the UX field. By engaging with a combination of webinars and project work, I’ve gained practical experience and professional insights about the world of user interface.

We initially started off the session by taking a general look at UX design and identifying the basic components that are needed to create a successful prototype. Usability, aesthetics, and fostering design thinking are all essential to the establishment of a successful design process.

I learned that the main crux of UX design is research, which serves the important function of telling us what system is best suited to the users. To form the basis of our project, which centered on the redesigning of the StemAway taskbar, we conducted several types of user research, including user interviews and surveys. Conclusions drawn from this research allowed us to create an improved taskbar that emphasized user accessibility and minimized confusion. In particular, our user interviews allowed us to learn that features like notifications and messaging were especially difficult to locate. We used these insights to brainstorm ideas for a new taskbar via a card sorting process, and then used the ideas from that card sorting to construct an information architecture, complete with groups that we felt would be natural for the user to experience.

Once our team had gathered our ideas and inspiration, we set out to create a new taskbar prototype on Figma. By using Figma, we went through low, mid, and finally high-fidelity versions of our prototype. To start off, we edited the original taskbar by adding in an envelope icon to represent messages. Knowing that messages had been a priority during card sorting, we placed its access directly on the taskbar.

Next, we designed and placed a bell icon representing notifications directly on the taskbar. The reasoning for this lies in the fact that users found it very challenging to find notifications. We wanted to lessen the number of clicks they had to go through, so we added in the bell icon as an intuitive marker that would immediately alert the user as to where they could find notifications.

Another taskbar component that we redesigned was categories. Categories signified a way for users to browse posts, but its terminology and placement in the original taskbar created confusion. To rectify this issue, we introduced forums, which improved the organization and layout of the hamburger menu by dividing posts into general and pathway-specific categories. Items that had previously been in the hamburger menu but that seemed more user-centric were moved under the user profile button to further make the experience personalized.

By following further instruction and feedback from our mentors, our team used the concepts of material design to smooth out the visual layout of the taskbar. Finally, by conducting usability testing, we were pleased to learn that our prototype had been a success: most users were able to complete tasks with only one click.

Overall, I gained a good understanding of the complex process of UX design by directly working with my team to collaborate and create a project that cycled through all the essential steps of reconstructing the user interface. Because we had already been familiar with the StemAway platform, getting the opportunity to redesign it allowed us to correct flaws that directly appealed to us as users. As someone who knew almost nothing about UX design before embarking upon this internship, StemAway taught me a great deal and inspired me to continue exploring the world of design!