The final week for Interaction Design was spent finalizing our Lunch Money Buddy prototypes, and representing our work in a portfolio piece. It has been a great experience working on this project throughout our course, and the progress that everyone has made on their prototypes is impossible to ignore. In my Lessons Learned portion, I discussed how beneficial peer feedback has been to me, particularly with this assignment. Reviewing others’ work can sometimes inspire ideas, or help to uncover things that you had not even considered. In any case, another perspective always helps to make sure that things are on the right track.
Assembling my portfolio piece was particularly fun for me, and gave me an opportunity to practice more visual design. Remaining visually consistent with the styling for my prototype, I was able to capture the steps along the way in a concise presentation, and include some process documents as well. Portfolios are incredibly important for any designer, and this assignment prepared me well to represent my work moving forward.
It is still surprising to see how much progress can be made over just a few iterations of design work from just one person, and I look forward to taking the skills learned from this class and applying them to new projects.
Week three for Interaction Design required us to begin turning our Lunch Money Buddy application ideas into wireframes for peer review. Wireframing is a great practice in testing how designs might look and feel, without necessarily including all of the user interface elements and copy. As it did in my case, it can help to uncover potential issues with a design early on, when they are easiest to fix. By keeping things relatively simple in the early stages with your wireframes, it is easier to focus on the big picture challenges that come along with developed a piece of software. As things are figured out, complexity can be progressively added, until the time comes to develop a working prototype.
As an undergraduate student I studied User-Centered Web design, where I had the opportunity to begin learning about and using wireframes. It was one of the things that stuck with me most throughout my program, as it finally made sense how websites were designed in the early stages. At first it felt a little unusual working with pencil and paper in order to design online content, but now the practice is second nature to me. Moving too fast to the digital side of things can end up hurting more than helping with the design process, which is why I always prefer to start my work on paper.
This week was spent giving additional thought to our Lunch Money Buddy prototypes, as well as having the opportunity to review peer submissions. One of my favorite parts of design is seeing how different people come up with different solutions to the same problem. There is always something unique between two designers’ work, and it goes to show how much can go overlooked when a project has only one set of eyes. When sharing work with your peers, the real benefit comes from the feedback that one can get from fellow designers. The questions that are asked can shed light on things that may not have been so clear, and receiving constructive criticism from another perspective is always helpful. I am always pleasantly surprised when something I did not see gets pointed out to me, or when something I thought made complete sense gets questioned. It just means that there is more thinking to be done, and more problems left to be solved. It is all part of the fun of the challenge of design.
Prototyping software is an incredibly powerful tool to help simulate how designs could look and act in a real-world scenario. It seems as though every day I learn about a new piece of software available to UXers to breathe life into their wireframes. Because it is familiar and well-integrated, Adobe’s Creative Suite is my standard go-to for this type of design work, and I believe their new Experience Design application shows great promise for designers. It makes it incredibly easy to iterate quickly, but it is missing some key functionality (no underlined text, no rollover/active states for symbols).
This assignment introduced me to proto.io, and I have to say that I am really impressed with the capabilities of the software. It’s even more impressive that all of these tools are available from an internet browser, accessible wherever a connection is available. While I am still learning the ins and outs, I cannot wait to take advantage of some of the advanced tools, such as working with variables.
Continuing to work with the Lunch Money Buddy application has been a great practice in drafting wireframes. Wireframing is an invaluable skillset for UX practitioners because it is the first real step towards taking ideas from concepts into real world designs. It forces the designer to think how something would actually work as functional software. Often times the simplest designs can be the most challenging, and the more practice in developing wireframes can help to identify and put into practice effective techniques.
Designing for mobile is particularly challenging for several reasons. The biggest challenge is effectively managing limited screen space that is available to the designer. But even after accounting for screen space, multiple orientations need to be considered as well. With continued iterations, it becomes easier to strike a balance and create a user-friendly interface.
This week’s assignment required us to take the Lunch Money Buddy app one step further, and begin creating site maps. For this assignment, I chose to take a graphical approach to highlight onboarding and various scenarios using the app. I developed highly simplified UI elements to show how some functionality might look. The idea was not to fully develop robust wireframes, but just to show how different interactions may look at their most basic level. Developing a site map this way was a good practice in visualizing how Lunch Money Buddy might actually look if it were developed.
If I were creating a site map for a larger website as opposed to a mobile app, I probably would have developed a more traditional text-based site map. Lunch Money Buddy, like many mobile apps, had a simple hierarchy that was mostly contained in sidebar navigation.
Storyboarding is a very interesting and important element to many creative fields. As it applies to UX, it highlights the actual situations and emotions that users may be experiencing while interacting with a piece of software. It is also very context driven. Since different users have different needs and different usage cases with software, it is helpful to imagine different scenarios that they may be going through in order to produce an optimal experience for them. Applying user personas to these scenarios as we did this week is a great jumping-off point to put yourself in the shoes of other people that will be using your product.
As a kid, I particularly enjoyed comic books for their story-telling ability, and wished that I could create the same kind of experiences on paper. As it turns out, I was never a gifted artist, and gravitated towards digital design as a result. I look forward to applying storyboards as a technique to develop more user journeys in the future.