A lesson Learned… damage done wasn’t so bad

I had a class in which we (the class) were assigned into groups to develop a low fidelity prototype for a shared travel app. On my team I had two software developers. My team experience was pretty limited at that time and previous teams I had worked with as an undergrad had little to do with development. I was stoked TWO DEVELOPERS!!! WE GOT THIS!!!

There was nothing we couldn’t build as a team. We brainstormed; this feature, that interactions. It was going to be great. We built the wireframe up to a prototype and finally got our first user to test it. This was going to be awesome…. Or so I thought

(Some Background) One of my majors in undergraduate was sociology. I learned to conduct interviews and observations. Interviews with a prototype are a little different than what I learned in sociology. One problem was that every time I asked the user to perform a task I was spelling it out for them; add a description, now save it. I wasn’t letting the user explore or figure it out themselves. But that actually didn’t help the user none, and I learned first hand the biggest difference between detached research and testing something you build… Owww, my bruised ego!

“Oh god, that is awful!” said the user of our cherished feature. “Ewww” she said when one of the three of us looking over her shoulder explained that your destination information was prepopulated from your previous trip.

The design was fifty shades of bad.

We had been so excited before the test. As the smart graduate students we were, we had all the greatest ideas known to man. But once those ideas where out of our heads and into the world we were faced with the fact that what looked great in our meeting, after we’ve explained it to each other and bought our own rationalizations, didn’t fly with the user. Especially since you don’t get to sell them on it before they start using it.

I see this happening more and more. What sounded like a great idea turns out to be disconnected and lofty in terms of where it stands for the user. Testing doesn’t just find the flaws in our product, it breaks down what we think we know. We think we know what the users want, and testing shows us that the user will do anything and everything that we never wanted them to do. More importantly, we think we know what we’re doing. Testing shows us the things that we looked over, the things we weren’t prepared to see, and it shows us the things we have yet to learn.

Sorry if this came off a bit motivational speaker 🙂


Screen Free Week

Just found out that this week is Screen Free Week. Surprise to me!

While I’m all on board for unplugging and getting out for a while, I can’t say that I agree with the Screen Free’s overall premise.

Take the hypothetical situation of ditching your shoes. There’s nothing wrong with going barefoot while your at the park. The feel of grass between your toes, running around like a little kid. Sure, go for it. But let’s say you decide to go shoeless for a week. Some of your acquaintances are going to stop talking to, you’ll have become that creepy guy who stopped wearing shoes. Also you won’t have groceries for a week, since the market isn’t letting in without shoes. You might get used to watching the ground everywhere you go just to make sure you aren’t about to step on a jagged rock, piece of glass, or stray Lego.

Shoe’s are such a part of our daily lives, and to stop using them for a week is going to cause some problems.

Same thing with our screens. I bike ride occasionally. On the ride out, I rock audiobooks and podcasts, on the ride in, I unplug and listen to the sounds along the trail. There is value in it. but if I unplugged for a week, cold turkey, dear god…

One it would mean I wouldn’t have any contact with my fiance who right now lives down state (She would be pretty upset with me I’m guessing). My project team would probably beat me with sticks since i wouldn’t be able to get any work done. No phone calls (screen on my phone). No work done. No bills paid. Friends and acquaintances offended that I’m not responding to emails… I can go on.

I think what groups like Screen Free forget is that for all the problems; Mass Marketing, decreased concentration and activity in school children, poor academic performance… Our screens have permeated our worlds and help us as much as, if not more then, they hurt us.

Here is what I propose instead of unplugging for a week:

Screen Free is encouraging users to reevaluate their relationships with technology. I agree this is something each person should do. But don’t do it by unplugging for a week. Start looking into how you can reverse the negative effects of screen time on your life. Take your kids Geo Caching and let the screen enhance your outdoor experience. Ride a bike, stop to take pictures on your ride, then map your route online. Boot Linux, and start learning with your kids. The question I am asking myself this week is not am I spending too much time in front of a screen. The questions I’m asking myself this week is Is my screen helping me live the life I want, and how can my screen help me live the way I want.


After a bad experience last quarter (having to salvage a prototype) I finally said he’ll with it and bought and IPad mini. Interested to see what I learn from it. So far i have focused on enhancing my regular tasks. Though I find writing blog posts easier on my lap top, this is good for a quick note…
I’ll get more in depth tomorrow.