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The only way is user-centred – UX training for Essex staff

I’ve just delivered 3 days’ training in user experience (UX) research and design techniques to staff working in IT Services at the University of Essex. (Forgive the title pun, I couldn’t resist). In this post I’ll cover what the training entailed and how trainees rated it.

Spending most of the week at their beautiful Wivenhoe Campus on the outskirts of Colchester, I had an engaged and enthusiastic group of software developers, IT support and training staff, learning technologists and managers join me to run through our programme of 6 half day sessions:

  • Usability testing
  • Collaborative usability test reviewing
  • Workshop essentials
  • Persona development
  • Experience mapping
  • Prototyping

I also designed and executed usability testing of their IT support web pages, so that when we did the collaborative review session the group got some insight into the biggest issues new members of staff face when trying to resolve common support issues.

Training & activities day-by-day

On day one of the training, we learned about usability testing, and spent time testing scenarios relating to IT support for University of Essex staff.

Man uses phone while another person watches

Usability testing staff IT support services with role play


People work in pairs at laptop computers

Everyone in the group undertook at least two usability tests on a site of their choice

On day two, we introduced core workshop principles which we would then utilise throughout the remainder of the training sessions. The first such activity was for the group to develop consensus around priority audiences for the design challenge set, and to develop proto-personas as a means to communicate this.

Group work at a wall with post it notes

Teams used active workshop collaboration techniques to reach consensus about priority audiences


Woman hold paper containing sketch aloft while speaking

Sharing back photo-personas to the group


On day three, we explored experiences relating to the design scenario and used these to identify patterns of behaviour and user need through experience maps.

Woman sits at table writing

Key points from interview notes are transcribed onto post it notes for use in an experience map


Close up of post it notes

Actions, feelings and quotes are sorted and synthesised into the beginnings of an experience map


For the final session of day three, we picked on specific pain points identified in the experience map, and prototyped potential digital solutions to try out with each other.

Person holds sketch and speaks

Rapid sketches of interfaces are discussed as a group


Person sketching a user interface on paper

The best elements of our rapid prototyping session make it into the next iteration of the interface


Person interacts with paper interface while two others watch and make notes

The refined paper prototype interfaces were then used in usability tests


The training has been very well received by the 18 participants, with average feedback scores for the usefulness of each of the sessions between 1.2 and 1.5 (where 1 was strongest response, and 5 weakest).

What UX training attendees said

Close up of post it notes

Feedback on the training from attendees has been great.

Some participants also included comments in the anonymous feedback forms. Here are a few:

“Many useful things in this training I’ll be using [in future]”

“The usability videos were particularly enlightening.”

“I’ll be putting what I learned about personas into practice, using them to improve services.”

“Really interesting! Lots of tools and techniques to use.”

“Really interesting and enjoyable 3 days – definitely some techniques to try out, particularly for building consensus.”

“I thought Neil was excellent, clearly knew his stuff and how to communicate it.”

“Really interesting and enjoyable three days – definitely some techniques to try out, particularly for building consensus. Thanks very much.”

“Three days was a lot of time to devote but worth it for the depth that the topic was covered in the variety of techniques learnt.”

Course organiser feedback

Alex and Sally, with whom I organised the training were also kind enough to let me know what they thought of the training I delivered.

Neil was recommended to us from a colleague who saw him speak at a conference and I’m very glad we got him in. He delivered a really insightful course which was engaging and useful. The personalised element was incredibly beneficial for us to see his teaching in action (and get some really useful feedback on our website) and I could definitely see us using a number of the elements of the course in our future projects. I would certainly recommend Neil for user experience training.
Alex O’Neill
Customer Support Services Team Leader
IT Services, University of Essex


Neil has just been on campus delivering a really successful three day training course focused on understanding user needs. I would highly recommend Neil to anyone looking to implement user-centred design thinking in their practices.

Sally Swaine
IT & Digital Skills Coordinator
IT Services, University of Essex

Need more UX & facilitation skills in your team?

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss potential training for your team

Neil Allison, User Experience Manager contact details

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