Interview with Dr David Travis, founder of Userfocus

Interview with Dr David Travis, founder of Userfocus

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To accompany the private launch of  ‘Usability Training Boot Camp’ on Udemy, to which actualinsights* will be able to get early access to, I took the opportunity to interview Dr David Travis, the course instructor.

Dr David Travis is the founder of the renowned UK based, but internationally active, UX/Usability training and consultancy company Userfocus. His UX design courses on Udemy rank among the most popular and best rated online user experience courses.

With 3 full courses available, containing many hours of insightful lectures, Dr David Travis is truly making a name for himself among more user experience professionals all over the world.

Usability Training Boot Camp Exclusive Early Access

Like I mentioned, readers of this blog will be able to get exclusive early access to the new course Usability Training Boot Camp. If you want to be the first to get a notification when the course is available then please make sure you sign up for my newsletter.

Extra bonus… when the course is made public it will retail at $199, but as a actualinsights* reader, you can buy the course for only $99, more than 50% off!

Interview with Dr David Travis

Q. How did you get started in the world of user experience?

David Travis Userfocus

Dr. David Travis

I’m a psychologist by training, with a first degree and a PhD in psychology. I did my PhD in human colour vision (and colour blindness) back in the 1980s and I was lucky that BT, who had the largest human factors team in the world at that time, needed someone with just my skill set. This is because they were introducing colour-coded network management displays and were worried someone would cause a network outage if the user interface was poorly designed. I was headhunted — the first and last time that ever happened to me!

Q. What do you like the most when it comes to training people about UX?

Intellectually, we all know that other people are different from us. But at an emotional level, few people really grasp this idea. That’s why you get so much infighting in design teams, as each person wants to design the interface for themselves.

What I like about training people in UX is when the scales fall from the eyes and people suddenly grok, at a deep emotional level, that it doesn’t matter what they like or dislike about a user interface.

You can hate a design. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your customers like it.

Q. In your honest opinion, can any become skilled in UX be it in design or research?

No. The hardest thing to acquire is this empathy for other people: to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

People tend to focus on the intellectual skills, like field visits, prototyping, and data analysis. These matter but they aren’t sufficient on their own.

Q. What made you want to host UX courses at Udemy?

Every week I was receiving an email from someone asking if our public training courses were available online. Every week I had to reply that they were not. Then one week I had a call from someone at Udemy who thought that a course on UX would be popular with their audience.

I thought this was a good way to dip my toe in the online training waters. To be honest, I’ve been astonished at how popular my courses have become. I thought the audience would be around 50 or so, but I’m now at close to 2000 students on my “User Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Usability” course.

Q. How does hosting UX courses online affect Userfocus’ business? Since Userfocus is UK based, does it potentially strengthen its position in the global market as a user experience and usability training company?

We’ve always been global in outlook. I’ve run consultancy assignments and training courses throughout the world. However, these have been for large corporates who are happy to pay several thousand pounds for me to come to them and train their design teams.

This put my courses out of the reach of ordinary people who wanted to get into the field of UX or who work as a UX team of one. So the main difference with online training is that I’m able to get to this large audience of individuals who would never be able to afford my face-to-face courses.

Q. You now have 3 UX and Usability training courses on Udemy, how has the feedback been so far? Have you, as a UX professional, put that feedback to good use?

Udemy doesn’t have a very sophisticated system for gathering feedback from users: it’s a bit like Amazon’s review system. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that the average review has been 5-stars and people seem to genuinely love the course. I’ve included a more detailed survey on my courses that I ask students to complete, and that’s helped me work out which courses to develop next.

Q. What is your most popular UX and Usability course? Why do think it is the most popular?

User Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Usability”. I think this is because it’s aimed at beginners, and by definition there are more beginners in the world than intermediates.

Q. Will you continue publishing training courses on Udemy? Which other topics would you like to cover in your UX courses?

I am just about to publish my third course titled “Usability Testing Bootcamp”. So long as I continue to get passionate feedback from the students who take my courses, I’ll continue to create new ones!

Q. What other resources, in terms of books, courses or events, would you recommend to the readers of actualinsights?

Did I mention that I wrote a book on usability titled “E-Commerce Usability”? Of course, I’m going to recommend that. And I’d also recommend the face-to-face courses and the blog articles we have on the Userfocus web site. But if people are looking to find out more about the field, there’s a shortlist of books I would recommend. If you want the detail, then my current favourite is Kim Goodwin (2009) Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-centered Products and Services. Worth buying for the chapter on personas alone, this detailed book describes how to apply a user centred design process to the design of digital products. For people who want a book for the beach, try Don Norman (2002) The Design of Everyday Things. This is a wonderful book that examines the intersection of design and psychology. Read Norman’s book and you’ll never look at a telephone, a door or even a teapot in the same way again.

Q. So what can you tell us about the new Usability Testing Bootcamp course? What will people learn, and would you recommend taking the course?

Some people think usability testing is easy. You just put someone down in front of your system and ask them what they think, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

As well as running hundreds of usability test sessions myself, I’ve also observed a lot of usability tests. In some tests, the moderator has been brilliant. In other tests, less so. So on this course I make sure people learn how to moderate a usability test so it’s free of bias. Students do this by watching a live usability test. Students then hear me deconstruct the test so they can do it themselves. People can even compare their behavioural observations with mine.

But on this course, we don’t stop there. We take a tour of the main kinds of usability test method. I show how to choose between lab-based and Internet-tests. People discover how to recruit participants and design bullet-proof test tasks for their own usability test.

I’ve learnt a lot from my other courses on Udemy and this video course is about as far from a chalk and talk lecture as you’ll get. So I’ve included interviews with industry insiders: seasoned usability testers, data loggers, participant recruitment experts and clients who commission usability tests. I show people the forms, templates and cheat sheets that practitioners like me use on the job day-to-day.

If there’s one skill in user experience that every developer and designer needs to master, it’s this: how to run a usability test. I’ve put everything I know about usability testing into this course and I’m really excited about it.

Q. Will this course help people get familiar with the practical side of Usability testing?

Absolutely! I step people through the various stages and then provide breaks in the course where I expect people to do the step themselves. So I show people how to write test tasks and then set an exercise for people to create their own tasks. So it’s more like a workshop than a course.

Q. Usability testing often comes with a price tag, convincing management to buy-in into performing a test takes some skills. Will you be covering this in your course?

The course explains how to report results to managers and developers, but I don’t cover techniques to sell people on the concept of usability testing. I agree that this is an important question, but I deal with it on my “User Experience” introductory course.

My user testing course is more aimed at people that want to run a test and need the skills to do it. But if enough people ask for ideas to get management buy-in, I’ll add it to the course. This is one of the pleasures of creating an online course: you can continually add new content to it!

Q. As a believer in data driven decisions, reporting on analyse is essential. What, in your expert opinion, is key to reporting on the results of usability testing?

It’s hard to identify a single “key” but if I was pushed I would say that the most important thing is to identify the business objectives behind the usability test before you start. You’ll be surprised at how many people run a usability test without first answering this most basic of questions. For example, is the business objective to increase conversions? Or is it to build an email list? Or perhaps the business objective is to increase social engagement?

Once you’ve identified the business objective, reporting back becomes easy because you can use real user data to show how close or far the organisation is from meeting that objective.

About Matthew Niederberger

Matthew works as Conversion Optimisation Manager at Ziggo BV. In his free time he enjoys family life as well as digging into online user research material whilst frequently generating some of his own, which he freely shares here on

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