Goal: Find out user pain points for iteration and redesign in AWS Console

Problem: How can AWS console improve to fit user needs?

Deliverable: Reports and presentations about design decisions and console problems

My role: User Researcher, Developer Resources Team

What I did: 

  • Preliminary research on designated console problems
  • Conducted research under scrum and agile environment
  • Conducted usability studies in lab/remote study environment
  • Design suggestions for prompt iteration
  • Result presentations and reports
  • Held meetings across multiple teams for iteration progress


Shufan with Amazon box man

In summer 2014, I worked as a User Research Intern under AWS Console Team.

It was a wonderful experience because I had a chance to be an independent user researcher under my mentor, Andrew, and manager, Jens’ help. I had the chance to cooperate with fantastic UX designers for design iterations, work with the project manager to find out how to solve usability problems, and discuss with developers about possible/practical solutions.

Worked as a sole researcher in real projects

During this 3 months, I completed three projects and brought insights to design iterations. UX designers and project managers told me my reports were very helpful to them. In the end of my internship, I had the honor to present to the head of a service console and a team of developers. My presentation was broadcasted to East Coast Amazon locations in real time.

I really enjoyed the UX research process in AWS! Most of my stakeholders are UX designers, developers and project managers. They were devoted to their work and really want to find out problems. After meeting with stakeholders and understanding their needs in kickoff meetings, I usually became excited and started to write up the research questions and scripts according to stakeholders’ needs.

Axure was handy in agile work environment

During my internship, UX designers would like me to conduct studies with a prototype about a new design or a revised design. The designer sometimes chose to send me the prototype or sometimes asked me to hook things up myself. I found my Axure skill was handy when the busy designer had to email me things and asked me to hook up for the study. Especially in the agile environment, sometimes I had to change the prototype between studies according to the feedback from previous participant, I found being able to produce a prototype in a short time was very useful.


Recruiting participants in AWS was another interesting learning aspects. I learned there were efficient time spots during a day or a week to send out recruiting emails, and a researcher should not send out recruiting emails during a certain time of the day since people were not going to read it. It was quite common for participants to cancel a study session a day before, but I realized that if I was determine to find another participant in time, there was always a way to make it happen.


I always felt privileged to use the usability lab in Amazon for studies. Amazon has great labs for usability study, but making sure the ready was ready to use was essential before the study. Most of the time I used Webex and BlackMagic along with video and audio equipment in the lab for study. One thing I found was important was to go to the lab one day before the study started to ensure every equipment was well-arranged. I was lucky enough that I did not have any technical problem during my internship.


I was always excited to host the usability study. During studies, I practiced techniques on how to prompt participants to talk more about their experience during the session. Sometimes I had the advantage to use Mandarin when doing study with Chinese developers who tended not to talk a lot in English. They opened up in their mother tongue and provided me a lot of information once I spoke to them in Mandarin.</p>


Analyzing data was extremely challenging. Since there were 46 serves at the time I was doing my intern, it was very difficult for me to understand every service well in a very short period of time. When participants (who were all software developers) mentioned other services, I had to do some research on it to understand their answer. Most of the time I used Excel to analyze the data collected, and Adobe Premier to edit videos I recorded during the session.

Screenshot of one of my video recorded study
A screenshot of one of my video recorded study


Most stakeholders were too busy to participate the study session. It was critical to present user pain points in reports for stakeholders to understand how they should tackle the problem. The presentation was actually a discussion with stakeholders. It was beneficial to learn from stakeholders’ point of view when talking about potential methods to alleviate user pains. I had the chance to present my results to multiple teams involved in the problem. During this process, I learned that there were many other elements in developing which were critical in making a decision to implement a new design.

In some projects, I had the honor to work with UX designers for quick design decisions. Under the agile working environment, I found working with UX designers for fast iteration was an efficient approach to get something move on quickly.

Luckily in one project, I had to work like a project manager, took the responsibility of the service even though I was only a research intern, and held up meetings to drive the iteration progress.


a cookie with Amazon logo

During the internship, I found developers’ logic was different from UX professionals! Even though I had a lot of developer friends, I had no idea what they did and could not understand their chats about work. Then I realized that I had very limited understanding about computational concepts to talk to them in “developers’ language”. As an anthropologist, in order to understand a certain kind of people, you have to “live their life”. It was the main reason why I decided to get my hands dirty by developing Mobile Application by using C# in Autumn 2014. I gained a great insights on how developers thought and their development environment, and found myself be able to talk to my developer friends much easily.

Thank you, AWS, for giving me the chance to do the internship.