Today I officially started the 10 week full-time UX & Product Design course offered by General Assembly Toronto – Bitmaker. I missed the first day of class yesterday b/c I was still on a plane traveling back from China. Prior to class starting, all students were strongly encouraged to complete the prep work.

Assignment #1: Use Balsamiq to create wireframes for at least four screens from one of your favourite mobile apps (examples: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, etc.).

Gmail Wireframes

Assignment #2: Get familiar with the ins-and-outs of Sketch (or Photoshop) by recreating at least four screens from the same app. See how close you can get to matching the style, type, etc. Bonus: learn about and use Sketch’s Symbols (or Photoshop’s Smart Objects) for repetitive elements.

Assignment #3: Use Invision to turn your Sketch (or Photoshop!) mockups into a functional prototype. Try to match native phone behaviours using Invision’s built-in transitions for mobile prototypes. Send the prototype to your phone to see it in ‘real life’.

What I’d like to do over the course of the next 10 weeks is to write a daily summary of my learnings from class with the objective of reinforcing what I’ve learned by sharing it with my readers.

Today’s morning lecture covered the stages of a design project, agile versus waterfall development methodology, user centered design (UCD) framework, and ideas on how to quote a design project. The afternoon hands-on portion was part 1 of a multi-day group assignment.

Stages of a Design Project
  1. Information gathering
  2. Planning
  3. Design
  4. Development
  5. Testing and delivery
  6. Maintenance

In information gathering, we want to identify and state the purpose of the project, the goals and outcomes we’re hoping to achieve after the project is complete, who we’re designing the product for, and what our users want to seek out or accomplish.

In planning, we want to list all the steps and deliverables that are needed to complete the project. Projects can often get derailed by scope creep, design by committee and poor communication. A plan can help avoid and reduce these common pitfalls. All the deliverables should have due dates and responsibilities clearly articulated as well. A good model to assign responsibilities is RACI.

Responsible – who will do the work

Accountable – who is ultimately answerable to the work being done; this is usually the person who needs to approve the work

Consulted – who needs to provide subject matter expertise and advice

Informed – who needs to be kept up-to-date on the progress

In design, we want to always be reminded of what the goal is and who we’re designing the product for. [Not much detail was shared for this stage b/c we’ll be diving into this topic in much further detail later.]

In development, we want to work closely with the developers to answer questions, solve problems that arise and make sure that the implementation is designed to specification. Depending on the developers’ preferences and working culture, we may need to spell everything out down to the pixel on all design elements to working collaboratively with a front-end developer to nail down and finalize a design.

In testing and delivery, we want to make sure the product actually works and doesn’t break on different platforms and also confirm with our users that it’s solving their problem. There may be an alpha release and beta release before a general release.

In maintenance, we want to fix bugs, add new functionality/content/design as needed, and measure key performance indicators to see if we’ve met our goals.

Agile vs Waterfall

Modern day software projects are adopting the agile development methodology versus the traditional waterfall development methodology because technology and industry changes so quickly. The fast changing landscape requires companies to be flexible and pivot quickly in order to stay competitive and not waste resources building something that is no longer useful.

Agile Waterfall
 Self-organization and team member interactions to provide autonomy for employees  Processes and tools to guide employees
 Demo-able software to show work-in-progress to users  Presenting comprehensive documentation to users
 Stakeholder collaboration to provide continuous feedback  Contract negotiation before anything is started
 Ability to respond to change sooner and faster  Follow a strict and detailed plan
User Centered Design (UCD) Framework
  1. Plan – set objectives, timelines and resources
  2. Research – find out as much as possible about the user and the competitive landscape
  3. Design – create ideas and narrow them down
  4. Adapt – iterate on the design as you gather more data points by testing ideas/mockups/prototypes
  5. Measure – analyze what works and what doesn’t and determine if user goals have been met

Some questions to understand the user better:

  • Who are the users?
  • What are their tasks and goals?
  • What is their experience level?
  • What information do they need and in what format?
  • What are their assumptions?
  • What environment are they in?

Benefits of UCD:

  • Better products
  • Cheaper to fix problems
  • Less risk of failure
  • Delivery to deadline
  • Less scope creep
  • Research reveals new insights and opportunities
  • Faster to market
  • Ease of use – makes more money
Quoting a Project

Keep in mind the profit breakdown:

  • 1/3 salaries
  • 1/3 agency/studio overhead
  • 1/3 agency/studio profit

How to estimate the billable hours:

  • Have a defined design process
  • Break the process down into smaller tasks
  • Look at historical data of how much time was spent doing each of the tasks
  • Trust your intuition and always estimate conservatively (aka, give yourself buffer)
  • Ask the client what their budget is and work backwards to see what you can offer them
Part 1 of Group Assignment

We were short-listed by a fictional national news client to revamp their website.

Client’s problem statements:

  • Client doesn’t currently profit from ads
  • Client’s editors and writers have a hard time managing all their content
  • Customers want breaking news content
  • Customers hate ads on the current site

Our task was to conduct competitive research and determine key performance indicators (KPIs).

Competitive research – Who else is in the space? How are they approaching these problems?
KPIs – how will we know if we succeeded? How will we measure that?

Our submission