Prototyping. Research, Design, and Test.

This is the 4th post in a series of posts recapping the courses in my UX Design graduate program at MICA.

Date: February 8th — March 1st

Thoughts so far

It’s hard to believe it’s already March. Time may be going by so quickly because this program is keeping my busy. Our group works together multiple times a week but we meet for class on Wednesday nights for an hour and half at 8pm.

Previously in the program we got our feet wet, learned about UX outside of the typical applications, took a deep dive into tools used, and most recently we focused on prototyping.

The Class

This class was very similar to previous classes where we researched a topic, designed a prototype, and then tested it. But in this case, research was provided to us. We were given surveys from “users” and business owners, and a content inventory and analytics for the website.

Baltimore Beach Volleyball

Baltimore is a unique city in that we’ve got an “Inner Harbor”. Along that harbor is shopping, businesses, attractions, and even a beach. Well almost a beach.

TripAdvisor

BBV runs the social sports volleyball league on the courts that line the harbor. But in baltimore, competition is increasing, the social sports scene is growing, and their website wasn’t cutting it. Aside from the comic sans, there was an information architecture problem. Players needed to accomplish specific tasks, like finding the court’s status, standings, inputting results. The website was difficult to get to that information. In addition to being hard to use for the current visitors, there was a very little chance it would be able to educate, onboard, and convert new users considering how hard it was to find what you needed. It was even a concern of the Owner, as stated in the survey, since growth is so vital to the business.

We were dealing with high priority information such as court availability, status, and drop-in play, things players needed now. And with occasionally needed information that was updated weekly, like league standings. And we needed to see how all of this could be accessed on mobile, which is how 30 of the 36 respondents of the survey said they accessed the website. We noticed that the nav bar was the crux of the problem and looked at how we can consolidate key aspects of the site and make it accessible. We read and learned from the players, staff, owner, and webmaster, then proposed design decisions based on their needs.

Roles

This project was in a team format, working with 3 other students in specialized roles. We assigned ourselves a project manager, information architect, strategist (myself), and designer. Although we each had a role, this was a very collaborative effort, we rarely stuck to our “roles”.

Specific responsibilities of mine were to analyze the research and create personas to focus on “who to design for”. In week 2, I assisted the designer in creating the draft prototype by creating a desktop version, which helped visualize how navigation worked in both contexts. Towards the end I watched the user testing sessions performed by other teammates and ideated solutions to issues in the prototype which the designer then implemented.

Deliverables

This project truly called for collaboration amongst all team members which our team successfully executed. We were very communicative over slack and were able to pass off work from one stage to another with ease.

In addition to the personas, our team summarized and presented the research, performed competitive analysis, performed a card sorting exercise, and created a strategy outline that defined the scope of the project.

Before the draft prototype, we created a requirement document that outlined all necessary elements. This was based off of our new content inventory list, site map, and navigation scheme

The content inventory and sitemap/navigation scheme which helped create the req doc

User testing was performed, recorded, and documented which made my part of coming up with solutions much easier. Our mobile prototype was refined reflecting all the feedback from our testers.

Our project focused on navigation, making sure users could get to the important parts of the site with ease.

Here is a list of my classes. I’ll be covering each class in an article much like this before the class is wrapping up.

My next class is called “UX Design Lab 1: Users” is a detailed look into research methods and creating realistic user personas that help make sound design decisions.