Week 8 @ MxM — Communication Breakdown

On Monday morning we came into the office ready to look at our design with a pair of refreshed eyes. We pondered what our users had to say, and discussed how we each felt about the direction that we were moving in, very quickly reaching the conclusion that our design is an ugly baby that needs to be cared for and nurtured as much as possible.

For the first time ever, it appeared that we made a major design decision without an hour of debate and intrigue into what exactly we were each individually envisioning. At the time, it felt like this marked the beginning of a beautiful new era of the internship program, where we live in harmony and know exactly what is going on in each other’s minds. Obviously it was too good to be true, as the issues of overly easy communication began to show as we started to individually design our own vision of our newly resolved product.

This issue of communicating our expectations of the product was a common theme throughout the week. It began as we continued to discuss the design that we wanted to make, with the three of us eventually starting to disagree on the design’s finer details. Whilst we had a common understanding of the general user process of the product, we individually had different ideas of how it would actually work and why, that would need to be debated and put down on paper in some visual means. Thankfully, Tara intervened, stopping us from debating ourselves in circles by suggesting the development of a UX map. This written artifact could be pinned up on our team whiteboard — a constant reminder of where we stand.

Having something written on the wall of the studio gave us something to probe at all times, provoking questions and conversation based on what we were all looking at. Having a physical item could also be easily edited, meaning that if a member of the team had an issue with the flow of the UX, then we could just sketch over it and amend the issue. This was important in ensuring that we were all on the same page, and had the same level of understanding of what was going on.

This UX flow helped us in many ways. It meant that Thomas and I could get to work on an area of the design, having time to discuss more important design issues and details. The flow also made me realise how vital certain aspects of our design are in the user journey, and where some pieces of the puzzle will require a different level of thought and design than others. For example, once we all agreed on the three inputs that we need to pose to a user (task, time and mood), we realised that even describing the inputs and metrics that a user had to encounter using the design felt a bit sluggish — imagine actually using the thing? By putting sticky notes up against the wall, I had a constant reminder of what needed to be a seamless interaction from machine to user.

After discussing the ease of which users could input into the device, we debated the metric of which users would enter their mood. What emotion are we measuring? Do we want to find out if people are bored, tired, sad, upset, angry? Having done a user trial with the product — with the interns acting as the triallers — we realised that having a scale of words to measure your feelings with is quite difficult. Words are, to a certain level, subjective, and assuming that a user may be taking a break because they may be feeling disengaged in comparison to engaged is both naive, and actually a bit unrealistic. From this, we made the design decision to be as visual as possible, as selecting a word to describe your mood can be dangerous.

Next week I will be mood boarding and visualising the possible identity of the design, hoping to discover how the design can actually look and work. I am looking forward to getting visual, giving myself an opportunity to truly leave my mark on this project.