Design Computing Studio Reflective Journal
Reflective Journal No 1…. Here we go!
This week’s topic is about our course aims and expectations.
· Based on what I know of this course, I expect to be doing […] this semester.
· I want to learn/experience/do […]
· I’m worried about […]
· I hope that I can […]
· What are your expectations for this course?
I am worried about picking up PHP as I know the back-end programming will be very different so I will endeavor to focus a lot of time and effort in learning this new programming language.
I hope by the end I am proficient in using these new skills and when asked what direction to take during these early classes it’s hard to visualize the outcome and know what is possible due to lack of knowledge so it will be exciting to see this capability unfold.
My expectations for the course are to learn new skills in the server-side space and to apply them to real world situations and projects. I also want to use the skills in design gained during last semester, to push the boundaries and to expand them in our design tasks this semester.
Reflective Journal No 2…uh Interesting
The start of the project allowed for some identification of some interesting topic areas. The first week I started out by going through the data sets and looking for data sets that would complement each other. The next part of my investigation was into the technology we would be using to gain an understanding of how the system works, and if the idea possibilities were even feasible.
The brainstorming activities that helped the most revolved around the group setting in class, when we went through ideas, we grouped together strong themes on the white board. The big themes that came out of these sessions were based around the great amount of material revolving around Queensland’s involvement in the first World war and also the large amount of historical data on Brisbane. The advantages of the exercises in class allowed for group input, and often the ideas were built up in stages with everyone giving a different perspective to tackle a certain problem. Some novel ways of using that data and presenting it in a fun and interesting interaction styles evolved.
I later took those themes and spent considerable time investigating other projects based on Anzac Day and the soldier’s who left to fight overseas, and also some historical city displays based around historical images and stories, and the modern-day equivalents.
The skills I will be brushing up on in the workshops will allow for me to start to incorporate areas of the idea I want to implement. I am currently putting together a detailed plan of designs and the elements I will need to bring the whole project to life. The designs at this stage surround a children’s discovery interactive game where a student can learn about some of the soldiers from the war. Information about where they went, their age and some background information about these people. The idea would be to allow the children to follow a path of discovery over many interesting stream of knowledge for them to enjoy in a school learning setting.
Reflective Journal No 3…. Research it is
My research for this topic entailed gaining as much knowledge of the domain area as possible. Once the understanding and skills progressed in the workshops I could plan a bit better about what elements would be possible for the project so my research focused on which elements I could bring together to make a great project. The area I am focused on is the First World War soldiers from Queensland so the next phase of my research was to see how I could link these data sets to further information. The big turning point in the research came when I noticed the NAA identifier code in the data sets. The NAA after some research stood for the National Archive of Australia and through this data point I could access the soldier’s individual military records that have now become digitized. This was a real turning point in the project for the team and therefore the research undertaken because after this finding a connection to a huge treasure trove of information began to flow with links to the National library and to the Australian War Memorial.
This research then allowed me to sit and piece together how best to use this information to create an exciting interactive project. I visited the Australian War Memorial website to research some of the available resources that schools can access as classroom packages and decided to incorporate all this data to allow school kids to investigate some of the Queenslanders who fought in the great war. The objective is to pull back the vale and allow the students to go beyond a simple portrait to gain an intimate knowledge of who some of these great Queenslanders were and where in this great state that they came from. This would then be expanded to incorporate and track some of their participation in certain points in the war and to see how their services impacted the war effort.
The research methods I found the most productive were to group together all the areas of interest that could hold some keys to information in this project. I spent considerable time online looking through both the War memorial collections trying to establish a connection but once the search lead onto the National Archive all the links started to appear and I could create a huge source of linked information, API’s and data sets. The classroom resources were by far the biggest inspiration and allowed me to visualize how to use the data to create a compelling learning and interactive experience for students.
Reflective Journal No 4….Lets Pitch
The design exploration exercise was a good step to not only continue in the development of my pitch skills but to also think about the project. When I came back to University the thought of presenting terrified me but through having to present across all the subjects, I have grown much more accustomed to it. The significant difference I think is that I am fully invested in these projects so I have an intimate knowledge of the processes involved and therefore feel much more at home discussing the facets of these projects. I am not sure, but I think this is the way that this University tackles this problem, which I know has personally helped me immensely in both confidence and ability and I can stand up and talk about the project properly for the first time. The ideation phase allowed for extensive research that will help when we develop our teams next week. The data sets at first seem limited but the research allowed for a much larger concept and connectivity of data to emerge.
I knew my concept and decided to do the pitch unassisted, in so far as I just stood up and presented using the pictures in the poster as talking points for the pitch. I wanted to push myself outside of the realm of sitting there talking off a big sheet of paper. The pitch I thought went well and I made a point of making it as direct as possible and decided not to waffle on for too long because it was easy to lose the attention of the class. This was a big thing and knowing I can get up in front of the class to present and leave my safety blanket in the form of a reading sheet or a palm card behind was a big step.
Without content in hand and looking up at my poster for prompts I did miss some content that I was going to deliver but it wasn’t essential to getting my concept across and was more about giving some background information. When I practised my talk, it was longer but in the heat of the moment I think I rushed a bit over some points. The time was shorter than I expected but thought that this is a good thing in this situation so that I can engage the audience and get my concept across.
I think my concept was well received and during presenting tried to constantly engage with the class while talking. My concept was good but I did see some concepts that were using the idea of big data in a totally different fashion to the way I had intended. The concepts surrounding games and unique ways of delivering the content were interesting. Their was the same data sets but a varied response in how they were developed to present that data which I found interesting. My hope is to use the same content as my idea but work in a team with one of these dynamic ways to use and present that data.
Firstly, I wanted to critique Where in Brisbane is Amelia Jane. The concept was a unique spin on how to use the data but due to never having any knowledge of the original game that was inspiration I at first found it hard to understand the concept. The pitch was delivered well with no notes and engaged the whole crowd. Overall a great pitch but just needed to explain the concept a little further via some large visual graphics. The poster was very text based and didn’t allow a good visual representation to back up the pitch.
The second one that I chose to critique was Uncovering Anzacs which was very like mine. The concept was an effective way to expand all this data for consumption and I thought the concept was developed quite well with a lot of background research to really link up all this data. The pitch was good and the poster was developed to resemble old documents which added to the nostalgia of the piece. The only part I thought could have been worked on was maybe a flow diagram to show how all this data relates to one and another.
Reflective Journal No 5…Great Idea!
Major Project part A is developing well with some solid steps made during the week to put forward our idea and to develop the plan for execution. The Team came together and we managed to complete a team charter with all the team members going over the document to thoroughly understand everyone’s roles and responsibilities in putting together the project.
We then set up all the necessary communication and storage areas to facilitate our collaboration with a google drive folder to keep track of all the different elements of the project in one easy to use storage folder. We then set up a
Facebook group and team chat so we can be in contact with each other at all time. The ability to use such platforms in the projects is a vital component with everyone staying in the communications loop and having a large storage area to dump all our work in so we can easily access it when we need it for design and planning, and our documentation.
The idea we developed was a combination of three of our ideas which allows for group and individual ownership across certain elements of the projects. The data connections were something that myself and Stuart had both researched heavily to bring several external components into the interactive journey. The team liked the way that Christina had developed her idea to showcase this data in an attractive and easy to use format so a combination of the ideas has created a viable solution to our problem. The setup of the team and the surrounding folders and chat facilities in the past has made an enormous difference to getting everyone involved and to put the best foot forward in getting traction as a newly formed team. With further meetings, the design for the projects interface has begun and an analysis of the data needed and how we are going to achieve the results are developing.
The next step is to present our idea in a pitch to the class and set about further development of tasks and to collate all our work and create the design proposal document. At this stage, we have the template and individual team members are beginning to produce sections for the document for submission late next week.
Reflective Journal No 6….Lets go Team!!
The Team has shown to be productive with effective communication and participation from the members. The development of the design proposal saw the team break up the tasks into areas that people had developed for our presentation. We allocated areas of the document to complete and when we all came together all the areas had been populated in the google doc. I think by setting out tasks and spreading the workload early we have developed a good team working model moving forward. The presentation went well and moving into the document we had some very interesting content and scope to the project that was added.
The system we have implemented is working well because it allows for instant communication and tells the team if anyone is not involved or out of the information loop. By doing this we can pivot and change plans at a moment’s notice to tackle problems and to bring the elements needed together for the deliverables. The other key is the ability for the group to ask and discuss problem areas to allow the whole team to answer and work towards a collective solution. We are collaborating on the document and project files inside of a google drive folder with a shared google doc for adding and editing out project documents and communicating via Facebook messenger both platforms working well for the teams work.The Team has shown to be productive with effective communication and participation from the members. The development of the design proposal saw the team break up the tasks into areas that people had developed for our presentation. We allocated areas of the document to complete and when we all came together all the areas had been populated in the google doc. I think by setting out tasks and spreading the workload early we have developed a good team working model moving forward. The presentation went well and moving into the document we had some very interesting content and scope to the project that was added.
The system we have implemented is working well because it allows for instant communication and tells the team if anyone is not involved or out of the information loop. By doing this we can pivot and change plans at a moment’s notice to tackle problems and to bring the elements needed together for the deliverable’s. The other key is the ability for the group to ask and discuss problem areas to allow the whole team to answer and work towards a collective solution. We are collaborating on the document and project files inside of a google drive folder with a shared google doc for adding and editing out project documents and communicating via Facebook messenger both platforms working well for the teams work.
Reflective Journal No 7….Good Test..
Our paper prototype was a good exercise. The first time I did a paper prototype in Intro to web I really didn’t know what the outcome would be. My first attempt unveiled a big selection of Interaction problems and before I wrote even one line of code I could refine my design to make it much more user friendly. From that experience, I realized the value of using a prototyping in low fidelity and getting it into the face of users early to iron out problems. I have since used this approach across all my subjects and projects as a valuable tool to really get the design down long before the project goes into the development stage. The one thing that was funny in this stage of design was that our team, from previous experience in doing these paper prototypes was able to identify problem areas early among ourselves as we developed our paper prototype. The first time I attempted it I had a multitude of problems, but through experience this time the paper prototype was fairly refined even before I put it in front of users, which was a good feeling. The process of developing a paper prototype gives you a profound sense of how the whole project flows together. Even if this stage never went in front of users it is still an amazing tool for the design and development of a project. For such a cheap and effortless process, it can be the biggest make or break in a user centered project. This stage can help to evolve and iterate a design journey quickly and cheaply saving vital hours in both design and in development.
Because the process can reveal so much by the time you get in front of the users, the team was able to work through some serious problems and refine our design before we got to testing. The significant difference is that big problems are easily identified but distinct user problems always arise during the testing which was the case in this testing series. Like many user centered activities regardless if they are a survey, Interviews or test, a pattern always seems to emerge. There will always be anomalies but when you run the same test five plus times over in the same format and the same pain points arise in every test you know that there is a problem space that you need to address.
We went into the testing using different rolls in the team to all gain an understanding of the test outcomes. We did have a survey that we ran post test but we had the same generic outcomes from that but the true insights came from watching the test in real time with multiple users. I find in these situations that watching the experience unfold doesn’t lie and much more information is gained by observations. We took photos and notes during testing but the outcomes of the test were glaringly obvious. The problems we had were based on a few points, but the most obvious was the association of finding material based on a response on the slider. The slider of time is a big part of our design but we used it for a carousel to cycle through images and to locate items of interest. We tried to use this same feature with the search function but found out very quickly that people associate the timeline with scrolling and finding and not in a search result. Very good information to gain in this stage was that every user struggled with this same point, even after a focused point was developed in the user tutorial we used. These are the big advantages to paper prototyping, if we had implemented this phase without user testing it would have been a massive development burden. The outcome was a plus really, as we reallocated the design to focus the search function on a different outcomes. In doing so we enabled the process to be much more user focused and a whole lot easier to implement. A win win really from our teams perspective.
So, after the test the big plus sides are the concept, the layout and the overall functionality. The problems were minor and things that we can easily modify going forward. The big plus for the team was that during this testing the users could use and Interactive with the system. The problems that arose were minor design faults which was a good sign for the team as our process had not overlooked critical features. We have easily rectified these problems which now puts us in an advantageous position to deliver a user centered and enjoyable project.
I must say the ability in this project to have a team that is all focused on achieving superior results makes a massive difference. Our team has excelled both from the perspective of open and accountable communication channels, which has a massive effect on team outcomes ,also the setup of our communication and collaboration channels has made it so a non response and lack of effort is therefore broadcasted to the whole team so all members know what their responsibilities are and therefore endevour to achieve them. The clearly defined team, command and control structure that we have established in the outset of the project is now paying dividends in keeping all members on track and delivering their tasks at hand.
Reflective Journal No 8…….Teamwork!!!!!!
The team has developed a detailed plan moving forward with allocated tasks for each member. Our MVP is based around these first steps being implemented and because we all have very specific tasks to achieve I think we can reach the level of MVP very quickly which leaves a big allocation of time and resources to realize the rest of our projects outcomes. The group has been divided into a task based system to chase specific goals. If the person tasked with that goal can create an outcome the team can move and pivot into any space to overcome any problems we face heading towards the deadline. As I write this one of our team has adapted the code to interact and organize the data from the data set which is the biggest component of our team’s plan. (E.g. check team plan in proposal docs) The team identified early on our skills deficit was in the backend development and allocated resources to overcome these short coming. By identifying these problems early, the team could redirect sufficient resources to tackle these issues early on and therefore divert a disaster later in the project. Lucky for the team we have some great members and they could identify and overcome some of these issues early, leaving the team in an advantageous position as of week 8. Its sounds at this stage like it’s all rainbows and sunshine’s but this is far from the truth, we have managed to overcome some of our first obstacles, mainly through good planning and teamwork, but we are a long way off delivering a final product. I hope that this team cohesion and communication so far will allow us to move through the project with the same focus and collaboration that have had heading into phase two of the project.
We have overcome one of our big hurdles at this stage but are far from our desired outcome, we still have a lot to develop.
The important thing for our team is communication and therefore being able to allocate responsibility for key aspects of the project. At this stage, I am working on the graphics and high-fidelity prototype for the project. We did a low fidelity prototype in the form of paper but our team realizes that the process of turning this into a fully interactive high-fidelity prototype will be a massive advantage for the team. By taking this step, we can further test and refine our design and by doing this stage we can provide a 2 step advantage in delivering the project. Maybe you ask why? But by doing it this way we refine the graphical aspects of the project in photoshop and in doing so enable direct export of out CSS to the project. The other advantage of this approach is that we take high fidelity imagery and assets into Adobe XD for testing and evaluation with our end users.
At this stage, all member are moving forward in a satisfactory manner and we are on track to be ahead of our time schedule. Due to the team’s lack of back end development skills we allocated a huge amount of time and resources to this sector but Stuart has spent considerable hours working to overcome these problems which has now resulted in the team’s position being solidified. We decided early that due to our team’s lack of skills in the back end that we would have to run two concurrent activities towards the projects outcomes. The first was working on elements of the front end. The other was moving team members to focus solely on the issues in the backend that would cause us the biggest problems. At this stage, we have overcome our biggest back end issue. Our front-end framework is close to completion. Our high-fidelity prototype and therefore image set are close to completion. And last of all is the focus on our development of a great search function based on a specific and tailored regular expression. I am hoping that from here we can move forward with little problems but that is rarely the case. At this stage fingers crossed we are moving well in the right direction.
Reflective Journal No 9
I put a large amount of work into the high-fidelity prototype because this process has helped immensely in the structuring of the website build. By fixing all the navigational links and refining the pixel positions the transition into the final build has been fairly streamlined and efficient. The team is now working on some minute details to add touches as we endeavor to bring together all the different aspect into a working package. The marry up of components will probably see some technical issues so we are moving forward to allow plenty of time if problems arise. The ability for me to use Adobe XD on one screen and code on the other makes the transfer of prototype to project quite precise.
The presentation didn’t go as planned and being the last team of the day is never good especially after two plus hours of presentations. We had some technical issues and had not cached our photo example and lost valuable time while it loaded that cut off some of the end content from our presentation. We knew we had done poorly in our time management in our presentation and didn’t manage to portray the true extent of our position in the projects delivery. The team is working well but we realized early that with a mixture of International students that we must set very specific tasks and goals or the workload becomes very one sided.
10 Reflective Journal.
My task from week 9 was to convert my design and prototype to a front-end framework for us to put together. I took the prototype and created all the pages necessary for the project and set up all the frames and basic CSS. We are going to utilize PHP headers and footers and other elements so another team member is working on those separate to my front-end work. The basis for the page layout is quite basic but has a lot of PHP input from the data sets and other API’s. The conversion was easy from the prototyping software so during this week our full integration is taking place. One area we had trouble with was our scrolling timeline so some finer details are taking place with that by other members of the team.
With the HTML and CSS framework complete the team needs to form back up as one and implement the full projects Interactivity and capability.
We are still in need of a test plan and with the next phase we wanted to take our project on the road so to speak and venture down to the Queensland State Library and request permission to test with some state library users.
We are on track for final delivery and if the final integration comes together we are in an advantageous position to work on the finer elements of the design and to also begin work on our final document and other associated material for our final project delivery and trade show.
Week 11 Reflective Journal
To be completely honest I thought we would be cruising to the finish as the plan we had developed predicted some massive hurdles in the form of populating out photo function with the data properly, which we achieved some weeks back, but as is always the case a random element has popped up and made for a change in designs and functionality.
The good thing is we predicted some teething problems and pushed forward early knowing that problems could arise at any stage. When I was discussing this exact point with a team member we both reflected on getting into trouble late in the development stages of our main Intro to web project and both submitted projects we were not happy with. The nature of the beast when working within this realm is that with complexity and multiple moving parts comes an increased chance of massive technical issues.
The final run to the finish involves the last parts of implementation for the project. Up till very recently we have all had different areas of responsibility but within the final weeks the team must unite together to deliver the site along with all the corresponding material. I personally have pushed hard on a few other assignments and work commitments to free up this next week to focus purely on design computing. The problem with this stage of the semester is managing all the subjects and deliverables. At this stage we are on track and the way I have aligned my timetable I can devote 24/7 to the projects outcome from here until the submission date. If that requires a round the clock effort than so be it.
Week 12 Reflective Journal
The final stage has created some major problems and created a situation that I really didn’t foresee. The way the team was working earlier in the project allowed for a certain level of trust among the members so when members say they have completed the work allocated to them then I honestly believed they had. The problem with group work on such complex projects is that all aspects must be monitored, which is hard when the components you yourself must solve are creating problems and the last thing you want to do is have to take on separate rolls and complete work that other people have guaranteed.
This is the situation we faced at the final stages of the implementation. Our team was designer heavy and a big component of the project revolved around bringing all the components together at the end. The problem is that the nature of the semester means that there is competing time allocations due to other subjects so when we had to come together and really knuckle down as a team the team fell to bits. The key factor is communication. If the team can resolve issues promptly then the project seems to flow but in our case, the messages sat and were not answered for 5 plus hours. The other component of communication is maintaining timings which did not happen. The small problems that revolve around one member cannot be solved if that member is absent, so thing begin to snowball and that’s the predicament we found ourselves in. The team meetings would see members either not show or come hours later so the ability to house a group discussion in one place at one time was impossible and this really hurt our project.
The need for semantic and well documented code makes complete sense to me now after spending hours trolling through code from other members that’s in a totally different arrangement to how I do business. Our project was complex but in relation to a massive real-world project for delivery to real customers I can now see the importance of communication and collaboration. The biggest hurdle I had identified was the importing of data from the data set via PHP. When the team changed tack and allocated resources to this problem I envisaged massive headaches but when the problem was tackled I sort of thought the follow up components of combining all the different elements would be easy going. How wrong I was. The increased work pace of the end of semester combined with multiple working components made for an implementation nightmare. Due to this the place we had pictured of completing at was far different.
We had developed a staged solution from our MVP to build and take advantage of multiple research streams from multiple API’s. The problem was when the implementation began we ran into serious issues straight from the start. The marry up of multiple sections of code and more specifically the front to the back end made for some frustrating hours of debugging. The one thing that I never encountered until this project was how vital the systematic development of html and CSS are in a project such as this. This aspect is often seen as some pretty aspects but when bringing together the front and back end this is a major component. NAMING CONVENTIONS!!! Wow the massive problems from dodgy naming and placement of code. Anyway, I could probably do 5k more words of focus on the bad points but as they say you only learn by making mistakes so I see this as a big learning curve to be aware of for the future.
Week 13 Reflective Journal
The lead up to the final tradeshow was honestly a nightmare. The week leading to the final presentation saw the team hit several hurdles and with the implementation phase we developed communication problem, technical problems and the final implementation. The problems surrounded the marry up of code and the implementation into a scrolling JS framework. The problems encountered trying to run such a complex problem were vast but right up till the tradeshow and even as the tradeshow began we ironed out some of the last bugs and delivered a good system representation.
The trade show began with a setup using Army colored material and artifacts so that everyone knew the premise behind our project. This area I thought would have seen some colorful displays, but most teams had very little showcase material and used treats instead. The trade show ran smoothly and my first apprehension about our system was relieved when the system tested well and allowed for the users to work through the systems structure. If we had another phase to the project I would have tested the system fully and made changes but due to the technical difficulty, we experienced this wasn’t possible before the trade show final exhibit.
The bad points were that I really wanted to have the system to a much more advanced level when we were ready to present. The idea was an all-inclusive research portal, so I would have loved to be able to demonstrate a multi stream research window allowing users to explore even further into a soldier past. The good point was that we managed to overcome our problems and still present a working system at the show. The dedication of a solid number of hours and nights leading up to the trade show got the job done. The team dynamics make an enormous difference and when others in the group are striving for an excellent product then the dream stays alive even if other members chose to fold in their duties and dedication to a good outcome. Another good point is that the design and concept is totally viable and the expansion of the system to include these more advanced features is totally possible in the future.
The trade show produced some amazing projects and the systems developed were extremely varied given the limited number of data sets available. The ingenuity teams used to developed and create a solution to implement the data is a credit to the creativity and design skills of the students involved. Across the room a very different selection of projects was presented. My initial thoughts at the beginning of the project was that the projects would all end up being similar in context.
Week 14 Reflective Journal
In the past when I did some front end development work I had developed a simple portfolio webpage so with that design I am developing further on the design to incorporate some of the new content developed throughout this subject. Firstly from my course in graphic design I wonted to develop a personal brand and logo for my portfolio. The brand and symbol I wanted needed to be simply, easy to read and aesthetically pleasing to see. I tried a number of combinations and worked with some different font combinations to develop my final design.
I started with a few different combinations to develop a striking header for presentation of my portfolio. The design for the front page is based on the grid system and uses a very subtle design frame with windows allowing the user to progress from any topic area into a linear formation of the design process.
My original design from a previous course is the background of the front page and a previous assignment using CSS transitions animated the behavior inside the windows on a hover. The effect transitions in a grey background and buttons to allow for the user to choice the area they wish to investigate further. I have implemented the full page JS framework to add some subtle movement elements to match the design. The same design that was developed in the front page is used throughout the website with the predominant color being white with grey and the use of grey drop shadows. The same grid system that was developed for use in the front page has been the guiding theme for the whole site. At this stage I am moving further with the implementation of all the content elements and using the JS framework have created a system to take the user through the design journey in a linear fashion. Due to the need for the portfolio to become a tool for finding employment I have developed six different frames with some frames to be populated with content from other subjects at a later stage.
Week 15 Reflective Journal
wow we made it
Well the final wrap up to the semester. The course has exposed us to much broader set of challenges than first though. The full process through this varying number of aspects has created a much bigger impact than first anticipated. At time very stressful and caused some sleepless night but overall a good learning experience.
I must say I am happy to be writing this last post and tidying up the last few assignments before I can finally have a decent night’s sleep and relax. Overall the pace has been hectic, and some valuable group and individual lessons have come from the course. The complexity of projects and the need for leadership and great management are probably the biggest take ways moving forward.