Putting Users First

User experience research was a major focus of mine during graduate school. I am fascinated by the current and potential uses for technology, and it is critical that as technology evolves, it is always calibrated against the needs and desires of end users. Conversations and formal tests with individuals reveal that everyone has different needs and preferences, which makes the field of user experience of the utmost importance. I also took a course covering virtual reality experience design and development in which I was able to use my UX knowledge in a new, exciting medium.


Connecting with a real client and forming teams to create a more usable product was the goal of this class project. I was on a team of five students, and we conducted our own analyses as well as user testing to find major usability issues in the QEESI software, which is designed to test for environmental allergies. A major contribution of mine was the competitive analysis, in which I identified major competitors and the features that made each one stand out. For example, this slide shows that all the identified competitors provide “Next Steps” after getting quiz results, so the recommendation is that the QEESI software quiz provides this type of information with the results of the environmental sensitivity quiz.


This is one entry in a semester-long project in which the class was tasked with finding usability issues in the real world and creating solutions and improvements to these issues. A major issue that I discovered was with the design of the Apple TV remote, and an excerpt from my final deliverable says “The intent and definition for minimalism in design is to reduce the subject to only its necessary elements. This is what Apple was attempting with this remote design, but it left out some of those necessary elements. A power button is necessary because turning off the device is something that should be done after each use. A back button, while not technically necessary, would be helpful for the user to feel confident that they were only going back one screen, not all the way back to the main menu.” My solution was to “add a power button, because there is no reason for the function to be hidden within the play/pause button. This is an industry standard – I have never seen a TV remote without a power button. Second, I would add a “back” button, because the current way to go back is by pressing the menu button. This makes sense after the initial learning curve, but upon first use, I was afraid that pressing “menu” would bring me all the way back to the main menu, which I did not wish to do. The confusion of turning off the device and going back a single page could be solved by the addition of two buttons… which would not compromise the sleek, minimalist design Apple was going for with this remote.”


During an internship in Fall 2019, I was able to experience UX testing in the real world to make recommendations for improving an existing product. I wrote test scripts, analyzed customer comments, and created recommendations based on this data. Additionally, I created reports to present these findings to upper management and the CEO of the company. The users I interviewed were real TenantCloud clients, and user comment feedback was used to conduct analyses and form recommendations for feature improvement.


The purpose of the designed virtual experience was to give middle school students an immersive experience to promote pro-environmental behavior as they feel empathy toward a species impacted by climate change (like polar bears). The user enters the "Arctic" as a polar bear character, and they see the environment change (from solid ice blocks to melted ice) to emphasize the real impact of climate change. This experience was designed with several important principles to increase the user's sense of presence in the environment, including the first-person view as the polar bear and the ability to interact with other characters in the scene, thus creating a greater sense of connection with the polar bear. Overall, my team hoped to create an experience that would allow middle school students to feel and see the impact of climate change to spur action toward preventing and slowing climate change.

The user sees themselves in a virtual mirror to promote the feeling of immersion in the virtual experience as a polar bear.

Other polar bears in the Arctic are called the user's "family" to promote emotional engagement with the experience.

The polar bear "family" is standing on ice that begins to melt and disappear, which allows the user to experience the impact of climate change firsthand.

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