User research


Designing for an engaging, usable web requires more than just a concept in your head and VC. A group of user experience researchers and I at the University of Utah researched users of family history products and designed five pages/features for a client. My team explored Search and Collaboration.

Timeline:  Aug. 2016 - Dec. 2016

Role: Undergraduate researcher. I helped to contribute to research, concept development and design.

Team: Allexis Gonzalez, Sami Jones and Shawn Smith 

Research insights

  • A wide range of people use genealogy services like and FamilySearch 
  • Users vary by age, experience level, sex, religious affiliation, motivations and use

Persona and scenarios

Persona overview sheet

We decided to segment the wide range of responses we gathered from user interviews so we could develop a single persona to build prototypes for.

We developed Lauren, a single, 24-year-old woman who is native to the state of Utah. She works full-time, likes to be social, and has very close ties to her family. She is new to family history work but wants to get going on it amid her busy life. She could benefit from improved sharing and collaboration methods. She likes working with people, so having the option to work with the other thousands of users would be very useful to her. It would also motivate her to find others to collaborate and share with. She’s tech savvy enough to use most basic software programs, but she isn’t a professional genealogist. She needs a program that she can stick to long-term. She may get married in the next five years and have children, so it’s not like her time will ever open up more than it is today. And she would like to work on genealogy into the future with her family.

After finalizing designs and uploading them to Invision, we carried out usability testing to test our tools. We gave participants a series of scenarios and associated tasks within our product.

This is most effective when users speak through their experience and explain their thoughts as they go along. We recorded the most important remarks. We asked the users follow-up questions pertinent to the feedback we received.  Based on our findings, we made revisions to the designs.

Our group performed two rounds of testing with two participants each.

In the first round of testing both our users were older than the age of our persona. But their experience with computers and social media was close to Lauren's. We guided them to perform two tasks. Because we created a login page, we had them pretend they had forgotten their login information and attempt to find an alternate way to login. The purpose of this was to get them to connect their FamilyTree account to their Facebook account. However, each participant stated that they didn’t feel comfortable linking their account to Facebook and would've preferred an alternate route to recover their password and login rather than logging in with their Facebook. This may be related to generational differences.

We think our younger persona would not have found logging in through Facebook as cumbersome and would have found it to be a faster alternative. However, after the testing, since logging in wasn’t directly correlated with the problems we were creating tools for we decided scrap the login page altogether and focus on search and collaboration.

The second task we gave our first participants was to connect their account to their social media accounts. Our initial design had “social” within the user’s profile under a social tab. Each participant struggled to find the social tab and expressed that having the social tab within their profile settings was confusing.

With this feedback, we decided to make a landing page that housed our “collaboration”, “social”, and “search” tools that would lead you to a page about each respective tool as can be seen below.

Our second round of testing was performed on two mid-twenties women with intermediate level computer experience and strong social media ties. They were a lot more similar to our target audience than our first testers, however, they had no experience with family history. The tasks we had them perform were different than the tasks we had our first participants perform because we had made updates after the initial round of testing. The first task we had each participant perform was to import and share a record. Both of our participants found importing a record to be simple and straightforward but became confused when sharing a record didn’t come up as a follow-up step immediately afterward or was even found in the collaboration tab. Both participants became frustrated when they had to navigate through our social tab to find the sharing option. Further, each expressed that it was annoying to see the “tree”, “collaborate”, “search”, and “connect” sections but have no indication what each section was about without having to navigate away from the main page. After hearing this feedback we decided to integrate “internal sharing” with collaboration and simplify our main page by making a side-bar with each of our tools as dropdowns which you can see below.

The second task they performed was to connect their account to their social media accounts. Both participants found the task easy to complete and we, therefore, decided to make no adjustments to our social section.

Finally, after performing both rounds of user testing we made many improvements to our tools and believe they have improved greatly. I think another round of testing could be useful at this point, though.


In this final design, the collaboration and chat tools are shown in the side drawer. We wanted to free up space in the header and leave plenty of room to work in the white space to the left. This final iteration uses a more prominent search function in the header. We want the search bar to be the home button of "the iPhone" for FamilyTree. It's somewhere users can go to when they don't know what to do next. It's purpose is to be predictive and give the user prompts as they type.

Sketch designs


Where to go from here

We believe that with the tools that we created the client could have a more successful website by improving searching capabilities and making family lines more collaborative. Having a more collaborative interface would give users the ability to share their work and to potentially work with others during their family history searches, this way users don’t have to use multiple platforms to complete their work.

Design brief

Competitive analysis report