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.

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.


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

The document below can also be found in text.

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

Monday, 2 March 2009

And so the research phase came to an end...

Pretty songs always come to an end, and so does this interesting research phase. Lets summarise what we’ve done during the last months…

Gathering information through diaries and interviews
We wanted to gather information from people who could be possible users of our ‘Academic Networking’ system. Therefore we thought of recruiting users within 3 types of roles – being undergraduates, postgraduates and academics. For each of those groups, we gathered 8 people.
Some people would think “Hmmm…how can only 24 people possibly be a representation of your whole group of stakeholders ?!” We think that is possible, because we chose them quite carefully, selecting people within the spread of different subjects, gender, roles, age, stage within their career, etc.
First of all we recruited undergraduates and made that selection of 8 people. We gave them the task to keep a diary, writing down every time they had a conversation with someone about their work, studies, or research. When they did that, we had an interview with each of them to talk through their diaries and give us some more insight on other things as well. Whilst doing that, we used a questionnaire as well which guided us through the various topics we needed to focus on.
Next, we did exactly the same thing with postgraduates and academics; recruiting, selecting right people, giving them a diary, and having interviews.

recruiting people through an online survey

diary entries

questions used during interview

Task goal analysis and sorting
During the interviews, Harriet was hiding in one of the rooms which got a camera and audio connection so she could follow the interviews without any problems. [See Harriet doing that here] The reason why she was spying on us, was because she was doing a task-goal analysis of all the things participants were saying. This analysis was also colour-coded, which meant we ended up with walls like this after every interview:

task goal analysis

When we finished all the interviews, we started analysing all the entries. Clustering all the data into affinity patterns would give us a better understanding of all the data and would allow us to see the overlaying commonalities between the users as well, whether they were a student or academic.
After doing that clustering, we ended up with a room like this:

affinity sorting

Behavioural axes exercise
Now we had a good understanding of all the users and their underlying ideas and commonalities, we started putting people on grids which contained behavioural axes poles (E.g. High network awareness vs. low network awareness). It’s important we had at least 10- but not more than 15 – behavioural axes. After putting each of our participants on every pole, we clustered them into group. We started seeing patterns of people reappearing together over and over again.
E.g. Sarah and Peter would cluster together on pole 1, and on pole 2, 3, 4 etc.
We ended up with 3 big groups of people clustering together. These would later become ‘personas’ in a way.

behavioural axes exercise with: - behavioural axes and behavioural poles - behavioural patterns (clusters)

Creating personas
The groups we just discovered on the behavioural axes, where the starting points of our persona creation. (If you want to find out more how to create personas, then have a look at our newer posts as we’ll post something more about this in the future.)
After discussing a lot, we ended up with these 3 main personas and 1 ‘negative’ persona as we called it. This means that persona is someone we wouldn’t focus on immediately. Below you'll see the 3 main personas.

Persona 1 (primary persona) - Isobel: Very outgoing and sociable. If she would have a problem or question, she wouldn’t mind asking someone. She also thinks every conversation is valuable (so not only professors are worth having discussions with).
Her network of people is very valuable to her. She’s therefore actively building and maintaining her network as everyone can be useful sometimes.
She really likes to go to events where she can meet people and learn in an active way.

Persona 1 (Primary persona) - Isobel

Persona 2 (secondary persona) - Peter: Someone who rather tries to find solutions about a problem himself by looking in books or going through some other sources before actually asking someone. He just doesn’t like bothering other people. Because he doesn’t like to ask other people that much, he’s not always aware of events or other important things which are going on and because of that, he’s sometimes missing out on information.

Persona 2 (secondary persona)- Peter

Persona 3 (secondary persona) – Kate: Someone senior in her role (can be a senior student or academic), who feels she already learned a lot and now it’s time to give something back to other people. Because she’s so experienced, she perfectly know who to contact in what situation. She’s maintaining her network rather than building it up. Because she’s senior, she has a lot of responsibilities and is very busy. Sometimes she might miss out on some interesting events because she’s too busy.

Persona 3 (secondary persona) - Kate

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

> Diary - This is the diary we asked participants to fill in.
> Interview questions - This is a script of the questions we used during the interview
> Personas - This is a digitised version of the 3 personas we ended up with

> Task-goal analysis - A video showing what's going on in the task-goal-analysis-room during the interview. Task-goal analysis in action!
> Affinity sorting - A video showing you how to find themes (clusters) within the bunch of post-its.
> Analysis phase in general & profiles - A short video showing you when creating profiles and some discussion while doing analysis
> Behavioural axes - A short video showing you another use case example which helps you to understand what behavioural axes are

> 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 runthrough of the different aspects during this complicated process.