Reflection: Week #7 – Test Plans & Wrap-Up

This is my final post in the series of weekly reflections for my Interaction Design course.

For this last week in IxD at Kent State, we were asked to come up with a research plan for testing the prototype that we had created. Luckily for me, this is in my wheelhouse and I was excited to create something that would work for this project. To be honest, I am surprised I hadn’t written anything about this for my Usability I or Usability II courses, but now I get to share one of my favorite things to use for writing up a research plan.

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Reflection: Week #6 – Portfolio Work

After a long few weeks working to prototype the Lunch Money Buddy app, I put the final touches on them to submit something that I felt would be ready for some task based usability testing. But more on that next week.

To finish off this penultimate week of the class, I took all of the work that I had done for this application, including planning items at the front end of the project, and tried to present it in a way that provided just enough detail and insight into my process and artifacts. I’ve had this website for a long time, and it’s been in and out of “construction” for as long as I’ve owned it; even though I’ve wanted to start highlighting my work I either didn’t feel I had the time or was unclear of what I could show from my previous jobs (there’s actually a really interesting AMA coming up about this). So this opportunity to actually use this site for it’s intended purpose was equal parts exciting and daunting.

I really had no idea how to potentially structure a piece like this, so learning about the PARL principle (Problem, Action, Results, Learnings) was extremely helpful. I tried to follow this format to lay out the information about this project, but I felt that without some of the business context, I couldn’t provide a lot of detail regarding the “Problem” section. The rest of the letters in PARL weren’t too difficult to complete, but as with other types of assignments I have worked on, I had to figure out how much I wanted to balance text with imagery and then make a determination around the amount of information necessary to provide a clear yet succinct picture.

Like anything else, feedback and iteration can be the key to this; I hope that the feedback people share will inform future versions of that portfolio piece (it’s very easy to update) as well as how I create future portfolio items for the rest of the work I’ve created in this program.

Reflection: Week #5 – Feedback Sandwich

Before I finish up the prototype I am working on for this class next week, the directive has been to provide feedback to others in the class. I should start by saying that I don’t think I am any good at giving feedback, even though I have been told otherwise. I think the issue is that I have a hard time feeling like what I am providing is valuable, actionable, but also constructive. The assignment did give some level of a rubric for providing feedback, but because the scope of these prototypes can be large, I felt that just sticking to that wouldn’t have provided the level of thought for a fellow classmate to actually use.

So I made sure to go through each prototype that I reviewed screen by screen, and wrote my thoughts on the layout, information, content, interactive elements, animations, and overall usability. I also tried to go through the app using a “natural” task based on the journey maps that we completed, as well as from the information provided in the personas. I ended up producing long bulleted lists, but encountered some doubt when finished:

  1. I had a lot of questions – Because there was a lot that was left open when creating these prototypes, I wasn’t exactly clear on what assumptions were made, what the imagined business rules were, and the complete vision of the classmate’s project. I tried to incorporate these into my feedback to provide an anchor in case I was off base from their intention.
  2. I had to recheck myself for tone – Communicating on the internet can be difficult, especially when you are delivering critical feedback. The idea of the “feedback sandwich” (any negative feedback surrounded by positive feedback) was never something that I thought was that effective, but I do see the benefit of calling out positive things throughout the process of critique. I wanted to make sure that I was balanced, fair, and respectful. I think I did a good job, but like with any type of writing/publishing I do, I made sure to read and re-read multiple times.

Overall, I am hopeful that my classmates will be able to take at least one thing from the feedback I provided to improve their prototypes. Now I am about to take the feedback given to me (and how I received that is probably fodder for an additional post…) and make some final changes before publishing the final version that will be ready for testing!

Reflection: Week #4 – Prototypical Prototyping?

Last week I spent a lot of time learning Sketch so that I could use a new tool to effectively turn my wireframes into something digital. This week was more of the same as I imported my Sketch files into to try to create a very basic, first draft of the prototype that I will eventually test. What followed was a long week of trial, error, frustration, recreation, and tweaking.

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Reflection: Week #3 – Sketching (But not the pencil kind…)

I’ve had the opportunity to do some wireframing in my Information Architecture classes while in the Kent State UXD program, so the thought of sitting down and putting ideas that were on paper to pixels isn’t so foreign to me. However, I’ve decided to take the sketching I did last week and try a new program to create the wireframes… can you guess which one?

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Reflection: Week #2 – Sketching

In my weekly meeting with my manager at work, we chat about what’s going well, what I’m working on, what challenges I am facing, and what I am doing to try to improve the situation around them. One of the things I am working on is a wiki post about our team’s recent offsite, the learnings from the meeting, and the incoming improvements to how we work. I explained that I wanted more feedback and edits from others before I posted it, because I was sure I was missing something. He told me that I should go ahead and post anyway, that the wiki is a place where edits are made constantly, and that information is changing all the time. He recognized that we were similar in the fact that we both want to try to perfect what we are working on before we post, and while it can be a quality that serves us well at some points, we need to learn to iterate and move forward.

This may sound like a tangential story, but it applies directly to me and how I feel about wireframes. As I started sketching different screens for the Lunch Money Buddy app, I realized I was taking too much time working at perfecting the details of the individual screens and spending less time on iterating/ideating on different structures and layouts. Determining the best fidelity when sketching can be difficult, especially when I’m trying to make things look just so… even if this is not the stage to be doing that. I tried to make sure I focused more on coming up with some iterations for each screen, rather than going into the minutiae for one screen at a time.

I will say, having prefab mobile sketching templates has been a bit of a mixed blessing; while I don’t have to constantly draw a device, I think the formality of the medium has caused me to over think the process of drawing up ideas! I would love to try creating copies of my common navigation/interaction elements to create a “toolbox” of items that I can just place from screen to screen (of course, this is not unlike pattern libraries in most wireframing software). Nevertheless, I look forward to getting feedback from my team members, and putting my sketches into something more digital and refined!

Until next week…

Reflection: Week #1 – User Journeys and Site Maps

Well, I’m back at the blogging again. Just a quick update on things since we last spoke:

  • I’m in my final semester of school at the Kent State UXD program.
  • I’m at a new job; I started as a Senior UX Researcher at HubSpot in mid-January
  • I’ll be blogging weekly reflections for my last full course, Interaction Design.

This course focuses on creating a mobile application for parents/guardians to manage their children’s lunch money account. The first week of the class focused on taking the information presented in two supplied personas and an application specifications document to create User Journeys and a “Site” (probably more apt to say “application”) Map. More details on the specifications and personas can be found at the respective links (PDF).

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