I opted to do the "Apprentice Track" of the course where I do not turn in homework, but instead only take the quizzes. The reason I don't want to do the homework is that I have some real-world projects I can apply what I'm learning to, so I don't want to spend the time on homework. Which leads me into the real-world stuff I'm working on...
I have started working part-time at a startup called Shoefitr.com as a User Researcher. Yay! I plan on doing this over the Summer (at least) so that I can learn as much as I can and gain experience. It's been about 2 weeks and I'm already learning so much. I've worked on writing a script for a semi-structured interview and I've also helped design and implement a card sorting task. Card sorting is basically what it sounds like. It's a technique that's used to uncover how people organize information and how they categorize and relate concepts. Card sorting tasks include giving a participant cards with information on them. The participant is then given instructions to organize those cards. This could be in a way the participant decides, or the participant could be given guidance to place the cards into existing groups. Or it could be mixed. This is really good for figuring out how people organize information and it informs how designers will then organize information on a website, for instance.
Last, but not least, I went to another User Research meeting. This time it was in the South Bay, hosted by one of the members who works at Google. It was nice to see the Google campus in Mountain View (and eat dinner!). It was once again a great night filled with warm, friendly, and passionate people. A research method that I had not yet heard of was discussed, participatory design. It is an iterative design process that uses focus groups to outline needs, task analysis to inform specifications, and user advisory boards to maintain user input throughout the development process. And it sort of relates to the paper prototyping method I was talking about earlier. The group talked about experience using participatory design and a couple of people shared tips:
- Use black and white, crafty looking sketches, like wireframes, to give to the groups.
- Give the participants sharpies; make sure they keep away from small details.
- Have small groups work together drawing, moving widgets/pieces of a menu, and discussing what is working for them.
- Small groups come together as a bigger group.
- Use icebreaker questions before having people show/share their ideas.
Well, that's all for now. Turns out that I have a lot to blog about and it looks like that won't be stopping anytime soon.