Naja Kikelj


UX design research in urban planning

Naja Kikelj is a psychologist, researcher and participation consultant in the field of urban planning based in Ljubljana (Slovenia). She finished her masters in Psychology at The Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, focusing on the psychology of economic behaviour. She started working as a researcher and workshop facilitator in the creative center Poligon, and continued her career as a UX researcher and design sprint facilitator in the award-winning design studio Ljudje. In recent years, she has been working in the field of urban design as a project manager at Prostorož, researcher and participation consultant, focusing on transferring the citizens’ wants into urban design briefs. Her publications are focused on research in the creative and cultural industries, as well as user experience.


User experience (UX) research is the study of analyzing behaviour, needs and pains of target users for the purposes of the creation or improvement of user-friendly designs. The practice of UX research has yet to be transferred from the field of design to urban planning, despite the sectors having the same overall goal: creating products that provide real value to users. Methods such as ethnographic field studies, journey mapping, desirability studies, usability testing, etc. can be used to identify and prioritize what to design, to test and validate urban design ideas, identify areas of improvement and detect viable investments. Urban design practitioners are not equipped with the skills required to plan and execute research on this scale. The goal is to develop a standalone service to serve as a support process to urban design that will essentially lead to improved planning, better quality of urban spaces, systemic changes and impact on policy framework.