JISC Academic Networking

This project aims to bring some of the affordances of consumer social networks to teaching and learning, and will deliver applications within CamTools, our Sakai-based VLE. This is an informal blog by the project team at CARET, University of Cambridge.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Closing summary

As the project comes to an end, and we pack away our few remaining postit notes for future user-centric design work, we report here the Executive Summary from our final report, including a high level view of our key learnings which other HEIs can benefit from.


Background
The genesis of this project was in the rapid rise of social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and their uptake by academics and students. Earlier projects suggested that while using social networking sites exposed various privacy and IP problems, users found their interactions with these sites more rewarding than using institutional software. We wished to bring the affordances of these commercial systems to higher education, but in a fashion that allowed us to adapt them to academic purposes and requirements. We were also interested in the growing use of user-centric design (UCD), as design is an increasingly important factor in software creation in the HE world. We undertook user research into communications related to teaching and learning in the undergraduate, postgraduate and academic staff populations, to identify user needs, and took this forward with design work and user testing, then development work in Sakai3, building upon the gadget architecture of Apache Shindig. To do this, we worked with a commercial user design company (Flow Interactive), and Flow staff supported, worked with and trained our nascent UCD team; this was made possible by their willingness to engage in knowledge transfer, and other institutions should be aware that this kind of activity is open to them.

Gadgetry
Although we have not moved forward with Shindig within Sakai at this stage, we acknowledge that the gadget architecture is powerful and believe that a gadget framework (Shindig or Wookie) will be valuable as the project moves forward. More importantly, we have found the gadget model to be a key factor in designing and developing powerful next generation interfaces, and the entire Sakai3 UI is structured around gadgets, making it easy to work with and modify. Thus the concepts behind our original choice of Shindig have come through in our final and ongoing work, even if the detail did not.

User-centric design: learning on the job
Flow felt that UCD is a scalable process, and were confident of some successful outcome at any budget. This is because for creative work such as design, and the well understood discipline of UCD, do not have “one right answer” - there are many potential reasonably good solutions, even with limited time and resources (compared to not attempting UCD). This means that even modest projects should be able to get good outputs of some sort using these methods.

User-centric design outputs
We have substantially added to the body of knowledge relating to user-centric design practice in UK HE, especially as regards emerging technologies such as social networking and other Web2 and new media systems. As well as experimenting with new methodologies, sharing with others how they might use these methods, and evaluating our experiences, our work has generated some concepts for designs and systems which we have not been able to take forward in this project, but which we hope that we, or others, will be able to take forward in the future. In particular, some of the early concepts from the user-centric design phase are engaging and intriguing, and will be worthy of further exploration. We also produced a range of materials for others who wish to undertake user-centred design in the HE sector, allowing them to benefit from our experience (our main handbook has been used at Georgia Tech, Michigan, and elsewhere).

User-centric design reflections
A full user-centric design process can be a powerful method for uncovering academic user needs and wants, which would not be uncovered by a project team working instead through a prototype&test iteration process (which may be more conventional in HE), and can lead to more usable IT systems in HE which address needs which might otherwise have been missed. To achieve this, a clear research question must be posed, and a team where technology-lead thinking is balanced with design and user-focussed thinking is essential throughout. Strong team working and group communication (using many methods and channels, as sharing design thoughts can be challenging) is also important. Nonetheless, there are real challenges in UCD, in communicating design work to stakeholders who have not been engaged throughout the process in detail, and in empowering stakeholders to assess design outputs effectively.

Social features in academic software
This project has hugely enhanced the capabilities of a major open source VLE/VRE (Sakai), by adding in scholarly networking functionality, including the ability for academics and students to communicate easily and flexibly, in the engaging manner pioneered by Facebook, but within an academic context and around learning and research content. Sakai3 will have social and collaborative aspects in every part of the system, with seamless creation and sharing content of all types throughout. Complex projects, whether VLEs or other systems, which seek to add social features or to evolve to more socially-oriented versions, should take a holistic viewpoint from the start, and tackle these problems across their systems, rather than attempting to retrofit small social widgets to existing platforms. User research, seeking answers to one or more well thought out research questions, is a strong way to start this sort of redesign effort.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

All the outputs there are

Anne-Sophie has produced a wonderful list of all of the project outputs. This will be included in our completion report, but I'm also reproducing it here as I'm sure people will find it useful.


GENERAL OUTPUTS - Showing the complete picture

* The blog
The blog describes the stages through the project. It also contains a lot of pictures taken during the project, and references to other interesting related projects or blogs.

* the handbook (short version)

This handbook (20 pages - here and here) gives you the methodology description of the user research and user-centric design parts of the JISC Academic Networking project.
A run-through, with real examples, pictures and lots of ‘how-do-I-start-on-this’ should enable you to get started on a project, using this methodology yourself.
This output was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

* the handbook (long version)
This handbook (107 pages - here and here) is the full version of the shorter handbook. It contains much more details, examples and pictures... We would recommend reading the short version rather than this one, but it might be helpful if you want to reproduce such a project yourself.

* the final report (long, but has an executive summary!)
This is the final report to JISC, our funders - PDF.


OUTPUTS FROM RESEARCH PHASE (FIRST PHASE)
The links for the research phase outputs are below, but you can also find them (with matching pictures) here.

DATA GATHERING

* diary
This is the diary template we created and used during our project to gather data. Feel free to use it as well.

* Interview questions script
We also did interviews to gather data. This is the script with question we used when doing these interviews.

ANALYSING THE GATHERED DATA

* Video overview of doing an interview and task-goal analysis
This video shows you how to do an interview, using diaries, but also showing the task-goal analysis which is going on in another room; a clear run-through of the different aspects during this complicated process

* Task-goal analysis video
This video is just a snapshot while we were doing some task-goal analysis. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea if you want to do it yourself.

* Affinity sorting video
A video showing you how to find themes (clusters) within the bunch of post-its. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea if you want to do it yourself.

* Profiles close-up video
This is a snapshot whilst writing up profiles. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea of what it is if you want to do it yourself.

* Behavioural axes video
Someone from Flow explaining to us what this exercise is about. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it's a good example to get an idea what this exercise is about.

* Personas
This is a digitised version of the 3 personas we ended up with, as a major output from our research phase.

BRIDGE BETWEEN RESEARCH AND DESIGN PHASE
You can also find this (with matching pictures) here.

* Focus on personas and scenarios
This document gives an overview of our personas and their relating scenarios. It also gives you some hints and tips on how to create these.


OUTPUTS FROM DESIGN PHASE (SECOND PHASE)
The links for the design phase outputs are below, but you can also find them (with matching pictures) here.

USER TESTING SESSION 1: USING PAPER PROTOTYPES

* General information about our 3 concepts
This gives a general description of what is meant by each of the concepts.

* Green concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Isobel. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* Blue concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Peter. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* Red concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Kate. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* User testing guide during session 1
This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the first user testing session.

* Video on how to do user testing
A brief example video which shows you a real user testing session so you get an idea of what a user testing is like.
This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

USER TESTING SESSION 2: USING CLICKABLE WIRE FRAMES

* Set of clickable wire frames
This is the full set of wire frames used within this merged concept and which we also showed to participants during user testing session 2 - it contains all the merged feedback and refinements we got from user testing session 1

* User testing guide during session 2
This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the second user testing session.

* Site map
This is a visualisation of all the different main pages within the system. A sitemap helps you during designing as well as to focus on the right tasks during the user testing session.

REFINE LAST VERSION CLICKABLE WIRE FRAMES AFTER USER TESTING

* Set of final wire frames
This is the full set of wire frames which were the result of the feedback we got from user testing session 2.


OUTPUTS FROM CODING PHASE (THIRD PHASE)
One of the outcomes of the JISC Academic Networking project is that the results of the project will be integrated in future releases of the open source Collaboration and Learning Environment Sakai. This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

The links for the coding phase outputs are below, but you can also find them here.

* Kernel code repository
http://github.com/ieb/open-experiments

* UX code repository
http://github.com/oszkarnagy/3akai-ux


OUTPUTS FROM PRESENTATIONS AND WORKSHOPS

SAKAI CONFERENCE IN BOSTON, MA
* Sakai presentation PowerPoint
This presentation on Slideshare was used at the Sakai conference at Boston, presenting the methodology and some outputs like the personas etc.

OXFORD ASSEMBLY ON STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN
* The Academic Networking presentation about stakeholder buy-in at the BRII assembly in Oxford
This presentation was used at the BRII assembly in Oxford, presenting the approaches from the Academic Networking project which are specifically useful when targeting stakeholders.

* Handbook on how to involve stakeholders efficiently
This tick-box-shaped document isn’t a walkthrough roadmap, but a list of initiatives you can choose from based on our experiences from the Academic Networking project, in order to involve your stakeholders in an efficient way.
This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

ASSEMBLY/WORKSHOPS ON PERSONAS AND HOW TO DO USER TESTING
The links for the assembly outputs are below, but you can also find the full list (with matching pictures) here.
These links are a set of outputs which can be used if you would like to replicate or undertake a similar workshop yourself. Originally this set of documents would also contain some documents which were already mentioned before (like the persona examples), but below you only see those which weren't mentioned yet.
This output was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

* Persona and user testing workshop PowerPoint
This presentation was used during the assembly, focusing on how to create personas yourself and undertake user testing. This presentation can be used if you would like to undertake such a workshop yourself.

* Persona template
In addition to the examples of the persona we created ourselves, this template of how a persona looks like should give you an idea on how to get started creating one yourself.

* Description of fictive users
You could use this set of 'fictive users' as a set of data when creating personas yourself as an exercise.

* General list of tips when creating a set of questions to use during user testing
This list of hints and tips should help you when creating a list of questions to use during user testing.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Academic Networking within your Virtual Learning Environment

As mentioned before, one of the outcomes of the JISC Academic Networking project is that the results of the project will be integrated in future releases of the open source Collaboration and Learning Environment Sakai.

For those who haven't heard about Sakai before: Sakai is a Collaboration and Learning Environment platform for making teaching, learning and academic collaboration easier by meeting the needs of today's learners, instructors and researchers.
Soon, Sakai 3 will be launched, which will be a much more interactive web 2.0 version, and on top of that enabling the nicest facets of Social Networking.

Many of the ideas which will appear in Sakai3 are in a way based on the User Research from the Academic Networking Project, as well as definitely having been a great inspiration in making decisions whilst creating Sakai3.
We do intend to integrate more of the outcomes of the project in later versions of Sakai3 as well.

Interested in watching the Sakai3 code repositories?
Then don't hesitate to have a look around in the Kernel code repository or the UX code repository .

Monday, 8 March 2010

Assembly on personas and user testing

On Friday 5th of March we hosted an Assembly on how to create personas and how to do user testing.
During our project we learned a lot about these topics so we thought it would definitely be useful sharing it with other projects in this way.

The assembly was in fact a hands-on workshop with first a case study on how we went about creating personas and doing user testing, then some general theory with hints and tips if you want to do it yourself, and afterwards the participants got the possibility to try creating personas and doing user testing themselves.

Unfortunately, some people who wanted to come along couldn’t attend after all. We might organise another workshop in the future, as the people who could attend it, seemed to find it interesting.



An example - use case














Showing how to do user testing














Participants looking at information to start creating their own personas












Participants preparing for a user testing session, looking at wire frames












Trying out a behavioural axes exercise












Materials used during workshop
The documents below are those we used during the workshop. Feel free to have a look at them!
Couldn't attend the workshop while you desperately wanted to find out how to create personas or do user testing? No worries - these materials should give you a start on trying it out yourself.

> PowerPoint used during workshop

Persona materials
> Persona template – what information should go in your persona for sure?
> Examples of personas 1 – these are the personas we created during our project, here used as inspiration during the workshop
> Description of fictive users – you could use this set of ‘fictive users’ as set of data when creating personas yourself as an exercise
> Pictures which you can use when creating personas

User testing materials
> General list of tips when creating a set of questions for your user testing session
> Short example of a user testing session
> Example of a list of questions 1 – we used this during our first user testing session. You can use this set of questions as example when creating a list yourself.
> Example of a list of questions 2 – we used this during our second user testing session. You can use this set of questions as example when creating a list yourself.
> Paper prototypes and wire frames you could use when trying out user testing: Paper prototype green concept, paper prototype blue concept, paper prototype red concept, wire frames

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

the JISC Institutional Innovation Exchange at Birmingham

On Thursday 28th and Friday 29th of January, Laura and Anne-Sophie went off to Birmingham for the JISC Institutional Innovation Exchange meeting.

One of the activities was the Trade Fair... With 7 sold products, we didn't do such a bad job! Thanks for all who bought our products. For those who would still like to have a look at them, you can find all the information you need below.

Overall, it was good to see all projects and people again, and to find out what progress they made.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Product 1 – Find out how to use user-centric design!

Desperate to understand what your faculty and students REALLY want (because it’s never what they ask for)?
This handbook gives you the methodology description of the JISC Academic Networking project.
A run-through, with real examples, pictures and lots of ‘how-do-I-start-on-this’ should enable you to get started on a project, using this methodology yourself.

> Download the Handbook
> Download the complete method book - This is a very long and detailed version of the Handbook above, so be warned! If you do want to get the details though, with a lot of examples and pictures, you might find this one interesting
> Download the flyer

This outcome is one of the products presented at the JISC Innovation Exchange at Birmingham 28th-29th January

Product 2 – Find out how to involve stakeholders efficiently!

Looking to try something new with your next project, or you simply want to find out how to involve your stakeholders efficiently? Then this product is something for you!

It can sometimes be really hard to get your stakeholders involved. This tick-box-shaped document isn’t a walkthrough roadmap, but a list of initiatives you can choose from, in order to involve your stakeholders in an efficient way.

> Document on how to involve stakeholders efficiently
> Document about personas - Adds to the information in the previous document
> Find out more information on 'Stakeholder buy-in' on the BRII blog
> The Academic Networking presentation about 'Stakeholder buy-in' at the BRII assembly in Oxford
> Download the flyer

This outcome is one of the products presented at the JISC Innovation Exchange at Birmingham 28th-29th January

Product 3 – Find out how to do user testing!

Another outcome of this exciting project is a brief example video which shows you a real user testing session so you get an idea of what user testing is like.

We also run a workshop on Friday 5th of March 2010 which gives you concrete tips on how to get started on doing a user testing session yourself, and a chance to ask questions and explore your ideas with others who’ve done it before!
After the workshop, you’ll be invited to see the sights of Cambridge!

This workshop will take place at CARET (16 Mill Lane, CB2 1SB Cambridge). It will probably be a full day (morning and afternoon), but further details will follow later.

Apply for attending this workshop by emailing Laura (laura @ caret.cam.ac.uk) or Anne-Sophie (asd38 @ caret.cam.ac.uk), and definitely have a look at the video!

> Watch the video
> Download the flyer

This outcome is one of the products presented at the JISC Innovation Exchange at Birmingham 28th-29th January

Product 4 – Academic Networking in your Virtual Learning Environment!

One of the outcomes of the JISC Academic Networking project is that the results of the project will be integrated in future releases of open source Online Learning Environment Sakai.
Keep an eye on SakaiProject.org!

> Download the flyer

This outcome is one of the products presented at the JISC Innovation Exchange at Birmingham 28th-29th January

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Off to the programme meeting...

Next week, Laura and Anne-Sophie will be off to Aston for the Institutional Innovation JISC programme meeting.

We're looking forward to meeting the other projects, and figuring out what to buy in the Trade Fair... watch this space for posts about what we'll have available in the Fair!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Assembling

We are starting to think in depth about our Assembly, for the JISC Institutional Innovation programme. We'd like to have a topic of "Personas and User Testing" as we think user testing would be of interest to others at this project phase.

Tentative dates might be 8th, 14th or 15th December, for an assembly roughly 11am-4pm at Cambridge. The programme will include:
  • Personas and their place in user research and testing (presentation by Cambridge)
  • 10 minute micro-briefing "Post-It Notes and their Special Place in research"
  • Our experiences of user testing as part of a user-centric design process (presentation by Cambridge)
  • Best practices in user testing (group brainstorming, to be documented online for comment)
  • Hopefully some presentations from others about their user testing experiences :)
If anyone would like to join us in this Assembly, please email us: laura@caret.cam.ac.uk and asd38@caret.cam.ac.uk and let us know if you might be able to bring a presentation, and which dates would work for you.

Thanks!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Even more documenting!

As promised here is the 100-pages document which has finally been finished (in fact, it's a bit longer than 100 pages).
We even made a 20-page version of it in case you don’t want to go that much into detail.

These documents should give you a detailed overview of our project, telling you all how we went about doing things like research and design.
Our colleague Clay Fenlason of Georgia Tech even asked for this 20-page document to use as a use case example during his teaching.

Friday, 24 July 2009

As Laura James said, the project was presented at the Sakai Conference in Boston. Preparing a 45 minute presentation is surprisingly harder as it seems. I was glad we had so much time to present it, but even 45 minutes still didn't seem to be enough to present everything...There's just too much to say about this interesting project!

When doing the presentation, people seemed to react really enthusiastic about it. Some people were familiar with bits from the used methodology like personas or scenarios, but were surprised by the colourful walls covered in post-its notes and the fact lots of methods were now used all together. Some people seemed to recognize themselves in the personas! Cool! Others made some interesting comments, like: "At this moment, those 3 personas seem to be the right set of presentation for those people, but people behaviours change, so it might be possible that there are new behaviours and also new personas coming up within X years. How would we adapt the system to those differences?" Definitely worth thinking about I would say!

Interested having a look at the slides we used during the presentation?
> Sakai PowerPoint presentation

Some people were so interested in our personas (or simply in the methodology of creating personas), so we promised to share them.
Are you also desperately longing to have a look at our personas or scenarios? Then don't hesitate to have a look!
> Personas, scenarios and the methodology of creating a persona

Documenting, documenting, documenting!

Everyone knows documenting can take a lot of your time. I've been busy for some time now and still I have the feeling we've not covered everything. Sure, these documents are mainly to make sure we're not forgetting anything because it's so easy to forget about something. This means they're actually still more drafts than final documents.

Beside some general writing ups, Tjhien, Oszkar and I thought about writing the whole methodology up within google.docs which didn't seemed to be ideal afterwards but is still helpful if you need to write things up in a collaborative way. We tried to cover all the details in this draft document and we ended up with...more than 100 pages! Really, you don't WANT to read this yet. It's still a draft.

We learned a lot though, even just by documenting. For example: It's really hard to explain certain methods through the medium 'text'. So we tried to start making simple videos of some methods we used.

They're not yet finished, but these are some examples to give you an idea:

How we did task-goal analysis (Research phase):
During the research phase, we wrote down the things participants mentioned during the interviews. We captured this in an unusual but extremely helpful way, being: writing down every entry on colour-coded post it notes. Like this it would be easier to sort this information afterwards. Just have a look how we did that.

> full version of the video with some more information and details
> video restricted to Task-goal analysis
video

How we did user testing (Design phase):
We made some designs of concepts and of course, we wanted to test them with real people to see how they would react on them. Are we still doing the right thing? Therefore, we used a double mirrored room with in one room the participant and a facilitator and in the other room the people who would observe and analyze the data. During the first iteration, participants were looking at paper prototypes of the designs (which you can see in this video) and in the second iteration, they looked at wire frames visible on a real screen.

video

Friday, 26 June 2009

working with Sakai

We last posted when in the throes of our design phase, with iterations of prototyping and user testing - very intense. We managed one round of conceptual design, paper prototype testing with users, a design combination and refinement, wireframe testing with users, and then final refinement.

We are now very proud to have a set of wireframes for one overall design concept which we have created through a full user-centric design process!

Since then we've been working on capturing our work and recording the details of what we have done, how others might do similar things, what results we've found and what we learnt, for future dissemination. The incredible density of activity through our research and user-centric design processes has lead to a huge amount of information, and crystallising that into forms which are useful to ourselves and others has been time consuming - but worthwhile.

We are also looking ahead to the next phases of our project; potentially another round of design and testing, and then integration of the system into new Sakai. Work on the backend engine of new Sakai ("K2") progresses apace, and we're also building some basic networking features into our user interface for Sakai3 as the first hint of what academic networking might become. This does not yet include the full power and excitement of the concepts this project is generating...

Meanwhile, the JISC Academic Networking project will be presenting in two sessions at the forthcoming Sakai conference in Boston, July 8-10th 2009. Look out for John Norman and Anne-Sophie de Baets there!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

And so the design phase came to an end

Lets again summarise what we’ve done during the last months…

Creating extreme designs using personas and requirements
We focused on the concepts and requirements which we thought would be most useful and used those to brainstorm and think of ‘extreme’ designs.
This means we were using these extreme ideas to turn them into metaphors which were much easier to use during the design.
E.g. The metaphore or extreme idea of ‘ballroom dancing’ explained the idea that people sometimes spend time together during a project (so dancing together for a while), after a while they split up and work with someone else (splitting up during a dance and start dancing with someone else in the ballroom).


Extreme ideas turned into metaphors and clustered in groups which seemed to have commonalities











User testing session 1 using paper prototypes
At the end of the research phase we ended up with 3 personas. For each of those personas we created a set of frames (representing the pages within a system) so we ended up with 3 main concepts.
These frames are paper prototypes. This makes sure people will give us more honest feedback (and won’t say things like ‘Hmm, I don’t like the colour of that button’ because they’ll see it’s drawn and not finished at all). We wouldn't be focusing on that kind of detailed feedback yet anyway.
We recruited a set of people again, representing all the different people within the university (subject, age, role, etc). Whilst showing them the paper prototypes during this user testing session, we also used a set of questions so we were sure we kept focus on the right things. The location was in a usability lab, having a one-way mirror where the observers took notes on the other side of the mirror. This feedback would than be used to refine the concept.

Green concept: focusing on Isobel who’s really sociable, and outgoing. Therefore the frames of this concept focus on the extreme idea of ‘events-going out’ as this is very important to Isobel.


Green concept paper prototypes
- homepage -












Blue concept: Focusing on Peter who sometimes feels a bit lost. He doesn’t always know what to do first because he’s not always talking to the right people either. Therefore the frames of this concept show the idea of the ‘boardgame’: representing a set of steps you need to fulfil in order to reach your goal.
E.g. In order to fulfil this course, you need to go to this talk, finish this paper etc.


Blue concept paper prototypes
- homepage-












Red concept: Focusing on Kate who’s senior and just wants to save time in any possible way. This set of frames shows the extreme idea of ‘the switchboard’ which makes is possible for Kate just to see the things she’s interested in, not overwhelming her with things which just waste her time.


Red concept paper prototypes
- homepage-














Refine concept using feedback from user testing session 1
We did some brainstorming and used all the feedback from user testing session 1 to merge all the screens and thoughts from the first set of screens into 1 set of screens, representing all the refinements and usable ideas.


Example of a page which got all the feedback merged together

















Oszkar redesigning

















User testing session 2 using clickable wireframes
This phase was very similar to the first user testing session, which means it was again in the same usability room, with an observer who noted down the feedback. The difference this time was that we used clickable wireframes instead of paper prototypes. This was 1 set of frames instead of 3 because these were merged together. Further, we used again a questionnaire which guided us through the set of tasks.


clickable wire frames
- homepage -












Refine concept using feedback from user testing session 2
We used the feedback to again refine the last version of the frames.














Documents
In the text above, you can find the documents we used during the design phase which might give you a better understanding of the information above.
In case you missed out on them, you can also find them below.

User testing session 1 using paper prototypes
> General information about the concepts - This gives a general description what's meant with each of the concepts
> Green concept - This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Isobel
> Blue concept - This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Peter
> Red concept - This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Kate
> User testing guide during session 1 - This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the user testing session.

User testing session 2 using clickable wire frames
> Clickable wire frames - This is the full set of wire frames used within this merged concept and which we also showed to participants during user testing session 2- it contains all the merged feedback and refinements we got from user testing session 1
> User testing guide during session 2 - This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the user testing session.
> Sitemap - This is a visualisation of all the different main pages within the system. A sitemap helps you during designing as wel as to focus on the right tasks during the user testing session.

Refine concept using feedback from user testing session 2
> Final wire frames - This is the full set of wire frames which were the result of the feedback we got from user testing session 2

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

It's design time!

The blog has been somewhat quiet of late, as the Academic Networking team have been working mostly offsite through an intense 6 week user-centric design phase. Five weeks down, one (this one) to go!

Oszkar Nagy and Tjhien Liao have been working out of Flow Interactive's London offices, learning from the Flow team as they work. We have gone many phases already, which I can outline very roughly here:

  1. figuring out requirements from the user research
  2. initial ideation of many many small design concepts
  3. placing those concepts on axes of "user benefit" and "technical difficulty" (this was a tricky one!)
  4. working up over a dozen concept ideas into rich descriptions (a phase which generated such intriguing concept names as "Ballroom dancing" and "The Spy")
  5. selecting 3 concepts and refining them into extreme examples reflecting the ideas we had
  6. user testing some paper prototypes of the concepts
  7. refinement of the concepts based on user feedback, plus some work to bring them in from the extremes to something more mainstream
  8. a second round of user testing
It's been a real whirl for everyone!

We are now into a final concept refinement round, and Anne-Sophie de Baets is doing a splendid job of documenting all our work so far.

We're looking forward to some reflective time at the end of our 6-week sprint, when we'll be figuring out where to go next (including what to implement in Sakai and when) and also taking the time to wrap up our documentation effort and start to prepare user research results for publication.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Planning the design phase

Get ready for our design phase! The next months we’ll be doing user centred design (UCD) which basically means we’ll incorporate all the data we gathered from our research. We’ll do that by looking at the personas, requirements etc.

Oszkar and Tjhien will be spending 6 weeks at Flow Interactive where they’ll have the possibility to work together with people from Flow themselves.
Probably they’ll make various versions of designs which will be user tested from time to time.

Exciting!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Bridge between research and design phase

On Friday 13th March until Wednesday 18th March, we had an intensive period of discussions and workshops with the people from Flow Interactive.
These days would be a wrap up of the research phase and a preparation to the design phase, focusing on tweaking the personas so they’re ready for usage during the design phase, writing scenarios based on the personas, and defining the user and business requirements. Defining requirements, based on the personas and therefore also on what real users want, is necessary for the designers to be able to know what approaches should go in the future system in order to answer the users’ needs.

Define user requirements from persona goals
Each persona had a set of goals, focusing on life goals, end goals, experience goals, motivations, and challenges.
We went through each of these goals and rephrased them into requirements.

E.g. From Kate’s persona: ‘Discover what other people are working on.’ Becomes a requirement like this: ‘The user needs to be notified about relevant people or content they wouldn’t otherwise know about.’ K

Writing user scenarios
A user scenario is a good way to feel you one with the persona and to see how this user could eventually use the system. It’s actually a story describing how the user (that particular persona) might use the system and how it’s an answer to his needs. In the end we came up with detailed user scenarios for every persona.

Concept generation
Based on the requirements, we started brainstorming on how these requirements could turn into concepts within the system. This was just a kind of warm up for the design phase, a pool of ideas for future design. Each of those concepts got written down on post-its.


Harriet jotting down concept ideas













Prioritise concepts for design activity

We made a big grid: ‘user value’ against ‘effort required’. We discussed where every post-it note should fit on the grid.
For the further design, we will pin our minds on the post-its in the area ‘high user value’ vs ‘low effort required’.


Team discussing the prioritisation of concepts on grid













Finished prioritisation of concept ideas













Documents
The document below can also be found in text.

> Focus on personas and scenarios - also describing HOW to create these