Archive for November, 2011

A Deep Dive Into Structure & Content

November 18th, 2011 by Carmen Dukes | 1 Comment | Filed in Teaching

Great to Be Back

This was my first class since the start of this semester of Project: Interaction. It was great to see some of our students from last year as well as meeting all the new students. Equally awesome was being back at UAI and teaching in tandem with Katie. We were jetlagged from our trip, but excited about another week with our students.

You Went Where!?!?

Katie and I opened the class talking about our trip to Hong Kong. The girls were curious, asking questions about why we went and what sightseeing we did.

Deeper Dive

We started the class revisiting the sitemap the girls had architected last week. We talked through each section and determined the different types of goals users of the site would have. We identified a good set of goals from “Applying to Project: Grow” (Student), to “Checking Attendance” (Parent), to “Updating Class Information” (Teacher).

From there, we challenged the girls to create user stories for how a teacher, student or parent might use the website to accomplish one of the goals we identified. We encouraged them to sketch out all parts of the experience – how the user found out about the site, how they navigated the site and the steps they took to achieve their goal. Katie gladly gave a demonstration of a quick storyboard before letting the girls go off to create their own.

We wanted the girls to sketch quickly, but it didn’t work out that way. They spent more time on the aesthetics of the storyboard, then the story itself. I think this is partially because they have few opportunities to get creative with markers, crayons and colored pencils and such.

The girls presented their storyboards and we were really impressed. Most had great narratives of how a user would navigate the site. One even included the offline interaction that would lead to finding out about the Project: Grow website. A great teacher moment for us.

In a future class, I would like to revisit creative stories and narratives. While some girls got it right away, others simply drew storyboards of one screen to another, leaving out the most important part: the user. Maybe I’ll share some of my favorite comics and an excerpt from Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics, in the next few weeks.

We finished up the class, asking the girls to create a paper prototype of one page from the site. In teams of two, the students used different colored post-it notes to represent the various content types. They were more excited to share these than the storyboards; maybe because this activity was more tangible than the previous one.

While the girls were working, Katie and I revisited the original “brief” we received from the after school program directors. While the girls had nailed most of the work, we realized we may need to include more content just for the girls, as one directive we received was that the site needed to be “girl-friendly.” To that point, we are also missing the social part of a web experience so we will need to talk to the girls about how that can be incorporated into the site. I’m not sure how social they are online, although one of our students mentioned the need for comments on the web.

No Sitting…Or Very Little of It

The girls sat at their desks most of the class and it definitely affected the energy level in the class. We have to remind ourselves that our students have been sitting all day and incorporate “think on your feet” activities to keep them engaged.

We Need More Sketchbook Volunteers

I would really like to see all the girls jumping out of their seats to share their sketchbooks. And I hope to experiment in the next few weeks with some creative ways to motivate them to sketch and share. I’m thinking some kind of game or competition. More thoughts on this to come…

More Surprise

Katie and I are thinking of creating a set of five or so buttons specific to this project. At the end of class, the girls who participated last year asked if we had any new buttons. So we think it would be a nice to include a special set for this class as well.

Next Week…

We are still planning next week’s class, and hope to include some activities that give the girls an understanding of how web pages work. We also hope to come up with a few activities to make the overall project seem more tangible. Briefly we’ve been thinking about making their efforts appear more 3 dimensional and tangible by representing the building of a website and related interactions with blocks, food, or people.

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Turning Research Into Concepts

November 16th, 2011 by projectinteraction | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Teaching

From our third teacher, Abby Covert:

In our third class, we started by discussing what makes up a website: Content and Structure. As a group we discovered we needed to decide the content (at least broadly) in order to get to the structure, and I introduced the tools of sitemaps and wireframes to the girls.

For our first exercise, the girls – armed with their research – started by brainstorming the types of content and features they could see on the website. We took turns sharing our ideas and each girl would cluster her ideas near those similar that had been already shared.

We started to see big buckets emerging quickly around:

  • A section to introduce the program
  • Staff bios and pictures
  • Class schedule and Descriptions, photos, videos
  • Contact Us page
  • A logged in area for students, teachers and maybe parents
  • An area to talk to potential donors

Most surprising was how well the girls knew the language of the web already, having deep but quick conversations about specifics like including a “privacy policy” and perhaps having an “intro animation.” And of course “Forgot Password.”

Creating Form from Structure

After a quick tutorial on sketching interfaces for websites each student chose 3 ideas to draw out and share back to the group. Anxious to get markers in their hands to see what came out, I was excited to see that their ideas were well formed, detailed and thoughtful.

Next we all drew what we thought a home page might look like. They talked about what ideas they liked and didn’t like from each representation. Then someone asked:

“How do we decide what the top sections are, cause ours are all different.”

I knew they were ready to make a sitemap. Armed with all our pictures and post-its filled with content and feature ideas we started to sort them into buckets and fill out our first draft of a sitemap.

When we finished assembling our map, one girl asked:

“What about colors and the logo – we all came up with those too so why isn’t that on the sitemap?”

What a great opportunity to talk about the difference between content and form! They quickly grasped this concept and all agreed the visual design must wait until we are sure of the content.

Our class ended with the girls getting excited for the challenges that lie ahead, but nervous about making everything really happen. Turns out even teens get stressed during discovery. ;)

More to come… one week at a time!

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“I have so many questions!”

November 15th, 2011 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Discovery, Teaching

In our second week of class we asked our students to begin user research for the website we will create. We wanted to teach them the importance of both on-site observation and individual interviews and asked Odette Nemes, Project GROW coordinator, to visit our class as our first interviewee.

The girls prepared a list of questions for Odette, carefully considering how her testimonial might help them in their quest to design the program’s website.

  • What is Project GROW?
  • How did it start?
  • Who are the “users”?
  • What does Ms. Odette do?
  • Who else works here?
  • How do you apply? How do you get picked?
  • Why did you start this?
  • What information does a site need? Is there a site today?

A short clip from our session with Odette:

After our interview, Abby and I broke the girls into two groups to go and observe some of the after school classes in action.

Abby’s group was disappointed to find they weren’t welcome in some of the classes where they tried to observe. It’s a great lesson for a young designer to learn that outside observers are not always welcome, even if they have worthy intentions.

From their interview with Odette, the students realized the vast selection available to them as students in Project GROW. We wanted to get a good sampling of the classes and observed soccer practice, a science lab class, a self esteem course and a dance class. The students were eager to take a lot of photos and video of each class. They were focused observers, with a sense of importance for the duty of observing and capturing each class.

At the end of class we asked each girl to capture their observations with a drawing. They drew a variety of stories and experiences, told from many different perspectives. At the end the girls were quite happy to share what they had learned!




At the end of our session, they all asked that we do more interviews following the observation. “It’s good that we got to watch everyone, but now I want to talk to them! I have so many questions to ask!”

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