A quick recipe to get UXD insight of your product in less than 2 hours

As a User Experience Designer, I really dig the idea of deep-diving into a several-weeks-long period of research and hunt for insight in my projects. Nevertheless, I am also a big fan of brief and pragmatic approaches to UXD that let the participants engage quickly in rich and meaningful conversations.

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With that last approach in mind, we recently developed a brief workshop for several Fintech entrepreneurs, and it turned out really well. I’ll sum up the workshop activities here, so you can use it as a recipe to kickstart your own UXD express assessment of your product anytime.

A picture from the workshop with some Fintech entrepreneurs during Village Capital's most recent event

What I like the most about this dynamic is that is really lightweight and straightforward; and if you really get a grasp of it, you can run it several times and get fresh insight each time. Do it ideally with more people from your team, but feel free to do it alone, too.

How does it work?

For this quick exercise, you will first create a representative profile of one of your most relevant users. Then, you will map a simple journey inside your product for that user (some basic steps for your user to develop a key task within your product). Finally, you will review those steps in search of areas of improvement, using a game based on Nielsen’s famous Usability Heuristics.

All right, let’s get started.

First stage: Create one Proto-persona (10–20 min. to complete)

First of all, you’ll need to warm up your UXD mindset by being emphatetic with your users. Probably you have created detailed personas before –if you haven’t, here’s a really good article about them– which are descriptions of hypothetical individuals (not actual real people!) that represent a defined type of user; synthesized characters from observations of many people.

A proto-persona is a quick draft of this concept; a brief depiction of one representative kind of user of your product. Grab a blank sheet of paper, divide it in 4 equal squares, and fill in this template to get enough information about your proto-persona:


  • Square 1: Demographics – name, age, gender, sentimental status, family, profession, employment, income…
  • Square 2: Needs & Goals – the basic stuff they need to fulfill in their lives
  • Square 3: Motivators – what gets them out of bed every morning (once they needs are taken care of, what do they think about?)
  • Square 4: Behaviors – how do they behave? what kind of patterns would you identify in their way of acting in everyday situations?


You might have former research on your users; make sure you use relevant data to support your assumptions on your user’s profile.

There are a lot of variations to this exercise, (most of them require more time, though!), use this example for a quick start, or whatever variant that suits you best.

Second stage: Map out a Simple Journey (20–40 min. to complete)

Now that you are more familiar with your hypothetical user, picture a specific task he or she does in your product. Maybe you already have the intention to improve a particular aspect of your experience, such as the onboarding process; a particular moment or action for returning users; an specific event or reward for advanced users– think of something relevant to you and your team right know.


Now, try to ‘map’ the process required for your user to delevop that task. Map enough steps to have a clear understanding of the process, but don’t overwhelm yourself with tons of micro-steps (the sweet spot for this quick exercise is between 5 and 10 steps for a particular task). Make sure to think of the process even before the user get to your product (did he or she googled you? or ended up in your product from a friend’s invitation? make sure to think of the whole scenario).

As an optional approach, divide your journey map in two vertical equal spaces; place your step marker way up if your user is delighted in this step, or way below if he or she might feel frustrated or angry doing that particular action. Make sure you interpret those feelings based on your user (the proto-persona you made before), not your own opinion of your product!

Third Stage: Play Heuristics Cards (10–30 min. for each card approx.)

Now that you have a better picture of a potential real user, doing a potential real task, it’s time to make some UXD wizardry. The fun thing is that you don’t need to be an expert, or know fancy buzzwords, just follow this link and play UXD Heuristics Cards. Pick a random card, and employ the revealed heuristic as a ‘hat’ or ‘lense’ to go critical about the steps in your journey.


The usability Heuristics depicted in the cards are some sort of ‘rules of thumb’ created by Jacob Nielsen –quite a lot ago!– to aid people make common-sense evaluations of the usability of different interfaces.

So, let’s say you pick a random card and get ‘Recognition rather than recall’; then you go through your journey, step by step, trying to find if you are demanding too much of your user’s memory, of if you can give him better and more simple instructions to achieve common tasks.

You’ll be surprised of how easy it is to find areas of improvement by yourself! No UXD expert required in the room! Feel free to select a different card if you need to, and play as many times you need.

Final Word

Our intention with this workshop was not to reduce the UXD process to some express recipe, but to simplify the route by which anyone can start thinking in a way that opens smart and interesting conversations about individual aspects of a product’s perceived user experience.

Do you think this might be useful for you and your team? Let me know your thoughts, write me to martinez@raidho.mx

Read a Spanish translation of this post in Medium.