Aims and Objectives

Pearson is a long established publishing company which is making the transition from a traditional publishing model to digital only.

As part of that change a number of small pilot projects were commissioned with a view to prototyping potential new products and also to start introducing UX along with Lean development techniques to the organisation and develop more of a start up culture.

The project I was working on was briefed to design an app for schools that would allow students to  manage their own learning and give them the tools to reflect on what they’ve achieved in a similar way to habit forming apps like Fitbit work.

The app would allow students to log activities regularly against certain categories. Students could either set themselves challenges which would enable them to log activity with a view to reaching a goal or they could just log activity they felt was valuable. Ultimately the students can then generate reports based on their activity against the categories they have logged activity against which will give them opportunity to reflect and become better students.

Ultimately the app will be standalone on iOS and Android devices but in the short term we developed in the browser as a web app because development and deployment would be quicker.

My role within this project was the UX lead.

 

Method

Discovery

The first part of the project involved a series of discovery workshops both at the school and at Pearson. The workshops in the school focused on understanding the user needs for the project and helped inform an initial direction for the app. The stakeholder workshops within Pearson were intended to not only bring new members of the team up to speed with the project and also to highlight the business objectives and solidify a direction for the app. Following this initial personas and hypothesis for the app were designed.

Ideation

Once we had working personas and objectives established then we worked as a team on a series of ideation workshops to establish a possible direction for the UI. The workshops took the form of a series of 6up sketching activities which gave all the team an opportunity to get their ideas down on paper then we went through a series of quick iterations which culminated in a proposed UI for the app.  It was important that this early iteration of the UI met the needs of both the users and the business and was achievable in the limited time available.

Initial sketches from the ideation phase of the project.

Initial sketches from the ideation phase of the project.

Sketching

From the ideation workshop we quickly moved into further sketching of the app where the designs went through multiple iterations over a few days until they were refined enough to tell a coherent story to the teachers in the school. The initial sketches were demoed as a paper prototype to the teachers and their feedback recorded.

An initial sketch from the project.

An initial sketch from the project.

Designing in the Sprint

Quite soon after the first round of sketching feedback had been incorporated the first sprint started. To avoid waste the design for the app was developed in the browser and not so much in static wireframes so just enough detail was included in the sketches to get the developers started with detail added through conversation and collaboration. The early interface was stripped back as far as possible to allow for fast development and for prototyping to happen within the browser and not in static wireframes.

Along with standard elements like sizing estimates and acceptance criteria each story was also assigned a hypothesis that we set out to validate. This meant that each feature we worked on would be tested extensively with the students ensuring that not only did it meet functional coding standards but was also usable and desirable.

Screenshot of the app

Screenshot of the app

User Feedback Loop

Having a close relationship with the school and also working with Lean meant that after the second sprint we were in a position to release the app to a small group of students (aged 11-13). We met with them once a week and these regular sessions allowed us to do things like 1:1 usability testing, design testing and general focus group discussions and workshops. The feedback we got from these sessions was invaluable because it not only meant we were able to refine the interface based on their feedback but the discussions allowed us to incorporate more features that the students had been asking for.

Testing design with students in the school.

Testing design with students in the school.

We also setup Google Analytics and a dashboard that enabled us to see usage of the app which would be useful source of quantitative feedback to go along with the qualitative feedback we were getting from our regular discussions with the students.

Goals setup within Google Analytics to track usage and metrics within the app.

Goals setup within Google Analytics to track usage and metrics within the app.

Public Launch

After four sprints we launched the app publicly to an audience at the BETT trade show.

Public launch of the app after 6 weeks of design and build

Public launch of the app after 6 weeks of design and build

The app is currently in development and is being rolled out to more schools for further feedback and refinement.