Ux (User Experience) 101 at Excella

The company I work for, Excella Consulting, is an amazing place to work. If you are in the DC area and want to work on some great projects with a great group of people, look them up. One of the great things about the company is that they regularly hold workshops presented by other Excellians (that’s what we call ourselves). Recently I attended a Ux 101 workshop that was delivered by Andrea Libelo.

Andrea provided a great short course on what User Experience (Ux) professionals bring to the table and the techniques they use. She started us off with a task where we had to list one thing we love and why we love it and one thing we hate and why we hate it. My love it was Trello, my hate it was Skilcraft (not 3M) stickies. Don’t get me started on the stickies, which ironically don’t stick to anything. But I digress. After the task, she had us introduce ourselves and explain each of our love/hate items.

Many of the reasons why the attendees loved or hated something fell into the categories that determine usability. Those categories were described in the context of a Usability Honeycomb (see image below). When you have high marks in many of these categories you will have a product that people will use and love.

Usability Honeycomb

Usability Honeycomb

She gave us a few examples of good and bad design and then set us off on another task. Learn by doing, love it.

We were given a short list of requirements to develop a children’s website for coloring, math and reading. From the requirements we were given 2 minutes to sketch out the home page. She collected these for later use.

Andrea went on to explain some techniques for understanding the user:

  • Interviews
  • Analytics (A/B testing)
  • Persona’s
  • Survey’s

When Interviewing, Do:

  • Start with close ended questions (yes/no) and progress to open ended
  • Ask open ended questions eventually
  • Enjoy the silence. Magic happens when you pause enough for the user to respond


  • Ask what they want?
  • What do you like about this?
  • What do you not like about this?

Next Andrea provided us a persona of a 4 year old girl. This had her likes and dislikes and allowed us to have a better peak into the user and allow us to empathize with her. From this we did another sketching exercise of a home page.

We then reviewed an all to common feedback loop that is seen in many disciplines with different names for each phase. The loop she drew consisted of Research, Design, and Test phases. The tighter the feedback loop the faster we get to a great product.

To highlight the differences in our two sketching exercises, she grouped them and posted them on the wall. Andrea directed us to the first set of sketches based solely on a requirements list and then the second set based on a persona. It was noticeable how much better the persona based sketches looked.

Lastly she showed a great video of a Ux’er conducting an interview with a young girl that showcased many of the things Andrea talked about in her presentation.

Major Takeaways:

  • 1:100, every dollar spent on Ux translates to roughly $100 in returns
  • The user is not you
  • Talk to your user!
  • Personas help considerably. The difference in the home pages developed when we used personas was significantly better.

Thank you Andrea for the workshop and thank you Excella for the free food!

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