A Taste of Rapid Ideation & Design — My First UX Project @ General Assembly

Project 1 Retrospective

Project Scope: Create a paper prototype of a mobile application based on a user interview. Present your idea and explain how you got there.

Tools: Pens, Paper, Sketch

Timeframe: 3 days

  • Day 1 — User Research / Competitive Analysis
  • Day 2 — Sketching Initial Ideas / Gathering User Feedback
  • Day 3 — Finalize Design / Present

Day 1:

The Interview: My partner for this assignment spoke to her frustrations related to parking near her home in San Francisco. Not only in terms of finding a place to park in her neighborhood, but also remembering to move her car on street cleaning days. It’s easy to forget to move your car (without creating some system of your own), and the tickets add up. As a former car owner and resident of San Francisco’s salty and under appreciated Outer Sunset district, I could relate.

Problem: “I can never remember when I need to move my car for street cleaning. It feels like a different schedule for every street in my neighborhood. I get tickets!”

Solution: Design an application that reminds the user to move their car before street cleaning to avoid getting a ticket. I call this product, “Sweeper”

Competitive Analysis: Looking for existing apps to address this problem wasn’t fruitful. The few options available had very low user ratings, relating mostly to a lack of ability to customize the alarm, and misinformation regarding street sweeping schedules.

I took notes prior to diving into sketching.

Working out different ideas. One page of many notes.

Day 2:

Sketching Process: I found sketching to be one of the most fun, useful and illuminating aspects of this initial project. Beginning to sketch designs forced me to think about the application’s function, and my user in a more specific way. I went through initial sketches quickly, trying hard not to feel attached to one idea. A personal challenge during this phase was making these sketches “quick and dirty,” generating ideas rapidly in order to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I discovered that I have a tendency to spend too much energy picking out sketching tools and colors, I’m a sucker for brush pens… Ain’t no time for that!

Pen sketches of the basic sequence of my “Sweeper” app

User Feedback: In general, user feedback was positive. The “speed dating” style rounds of feedback helped me practice pitching the idea quickly. Several people suggested that a count-down style timer would be useful, as this would help users determine how far in advance they would want to set an alarm. For future projects I’d like to have some of my own questions prepared to help generate more feedback.

User feedback sessions — looking pensive

Day 3:

I decided to take the morning before the presentation on Day 3 to create some higher fidelity versions of my sketches. Trying out the “Sketch” program for the first time.

More Research: Next steps of this project would entail conducting more user research and testing, and figuring out how many people might find this product truly useful. The “speed dating” feedback sessions made it clear that many 20-somethings in San Francisco don’t touch steering wheels often, or ever.

Reflection: Initially, I thought I’d tackle the main problem (street sweeping alarm), and a few side problems (finding a place to park, and remembering where you parked), because hey, why not?! This didn’t work too well. The design became cluttered and overly complicated quickly. I was falling into what my teachers called the “one-stop shop” or “swiss army knife” syndrome. Sticking to one, simple idea helped me create a more successful first project.

Presentation preparation is key. I get that now. Articulating my design out loud helped me test my own understanding of the problem, the user and my solution. Sort of like printing out a document to edit and catch errors, talking through ideas out loud can highlight holes you might miss otherwise.

presentation — the grand finale
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