UX Design

IBM Placement

the brief

In July 2017, I had the opportunity to join the design team at IBM Hursley to gain experience in User Experience Design within a multinational organisation. During my two weeks, I worked in a group with three other university students - Dominic Baderin, Carla Boré and Alex Hopwood - on a brief given to us by our mentors Andy Gatford and Chatura Fernando.

The brief asked us to imagine what a native third party experience of IBM MQ would be within the Azure Cloud Platform. The product was a middleware software that could be used across multiple platforms. We were asked to consider how the user would discover the product, try the product and finally buy the product.


Our first stage was understand who our end-users were. We used empathy mapping to help synthesise our team’s knowledge about our users. Using the background information given to us from the Message Queuing team, our own personal research and our personas, MQ Administrator Edd and App Developer Andre, we started to build our Empathy maps for our two users.

We drew a grid and the four quadrants of the map: Says, Does, Thinks, and Feels. We then recorded what we knew about the user using sticky notes and place them in the appropriate quadrant of the map.

Within each quadrant, we looked for similar or related items. This helped us to pick out the pain points of our users and allowed us to understand who we are solving the problem for even better. We then had a Playback with the MQ team to discuss our insights.

As-is Scenario mapping

As-is scenario maps allowed us to gain an understanding of existing user workflows. On a whiteboard we drew four rows and label each: Phases, Doing, Thinking, and Feeling.

We then went through the phases our users currently go through using one sticky note per phase while we added sticky notes to each phase with what the user is doing, thinking, and feeling. Iterate through the scenario at increasing resolution until you are comfortable with the level of detail.


Once we had built up an understanding of our users and the challenge, we compiled our insights and scoped for a meaningful problem to be solved.

We pulled out the pain points from the Empathy Maps and As-Is Scenario Maps. We found these to be poor documentation, a long process and poor communication between Edd the MQ Admin and Andre the App Developer.


Once we understood our users, the problem and the pain points, we moved on to designing a solution based on our users needs.

Big idea Vignette

We initially started by creating a Big Ideas Vignette which allowed us to rapidly diverge on a breadth of possible solutions for our users’ needs. Using sticky notes we wrote down a ‘big idea’ which described the experience a user might have with the solution. We used small illustrations to convey our idea and shared them within our team. We then looked for similar ideas and moved them physically closer together and identified any ideas that we felt stood out. We then had another Playback with the MQ team to discuss our ideas and converge on a few ideas that we wanted to advance.

To-Be Scenario Maps

We then used a To-be Scenario Map to tell the story of a desired future solution. Using a whiteboard and sticky notes, we draw four rows and label each: Phases, Doing, Thinking, and Feeling. Like the As-Is Scenario Map we then went through the phases of users while adding sticky notes with what the user is doing, thinking, and feeling; however, this time we were looking at what we what the ideal solution to be instead.


Finally we were ready to create our wireframes, which allowed us to prototype user interfaces before creating high-fidelity designs. We explored different variations of our designs and share our sketches to get feedback from the MQ team and the rest of the design studio at Hursley. Our low-fidelity sketches allowed us to iterate quickly and find the best solution.


Once we had created our low-fidelity sketches and gained feedback from the MQ team we moved on to creating a high-fidelity prototype from our final designs, which was presented at our final Playback. The prototype gave an idea of the interface and navigation that we had designed.

Unfortunately our final Playback marked our last day at IBM which meant we were not able to see the project through further; however we gained positive feedback for the work we had completed.


The experience taught me a great deal about User Experience design, especially the techniques that I can use to understand my users better. Since the placement I have taken on other projects as a user experience designer and I wish to pursue more UX design in the future.

The main challenge was this was the first time in two years I was working with a team I was unfamiliar with. Initially it took time for us to feel comfortable enough to discuss our opinions and ideas freely because we were cautious of our ideas being judged by others; however, by the end of the two weeks, we felt comfortable discussing ideas and questioning our designs in order to find the best solution to the problem.

Working with new people with different working styles and on a project I was not familiar with, challenged me as a designer; however I loved testing my ability and it was a pleasure working with passionate creatives.