Stakeholder interviews, part two: Feedback that improves design

Note: I’m Working Out Loud to document my learning journey around developing a digital learning course for the Master’s in Learning & Organizational Change program at Northwestern University. 

We conducted six, one-on-one interviews with MSLOC students who have a wide variety of experience in creating and maintaining a digital portfolio. Overall, there was very positive feedback. Interviewees generally found it easy to navigate the modules and felt that the structure was not overwhelming. That was a key hope, that this self-paced course wasn’t overwhelming for time-strapped students.

In a part one of this post, I identified the stakeholder interview process. This time, my favorite question was: Tell me what this section is asking you to do? It was valuable to get user’s descriptions to determine if their expectations met our intentions.

Our focus group identified key takeaways that will greatly improve the design. These included:

  • Adding in more context about what will be accomplished in each module, i.e. “at the end of this section, you will know how to do XX, XX and XX.”
  • Develop a FAQ for the resource page, making sure to add that there are no grades, address the time to complete the course and explain the “reading” tasks of each module and the “creating within WordPress” tasks of each module. 
  • Create badges that are awarded at the end of each module and ensure that they are fun and align with the MSLOC brand
  • Include more examples of WordPress best practices and explain why those examples were selected
  • Explain the pros and cons of purchasing a separate domain name and integrating it into a digital portfolio
  • Offer a “mark as done” feature so that they can track progress, most students will complete this course in small time windows, as they have the ability

Feedback was consistent that the sites should be as visually welcoming as possible and we’re working with Northwestern learning technology experts to determine what is possible in Canvas to add features. These might include:

  • Responsive banner images
  • In-page navigation tabs
  • Icons for special directions for specific cohorts
  • Tabs for additional information, including examples and resources.

A primary benefit to using these design elements is to continue to simplify the experience for users. We do not want lengthy blocks of text or lack of images or too many links to distract and discourage them from creating a digital portfolio.

Wireframe designs have been submitted and we’ll see what’s possible.

 

DisruptHR Chicago Podcast: Ellen Steele Kapoor on the value of public speaking

The May podcast is here! Ellen Steele Kapoor reflects on her 2016 DisruptHR Chicago talk on the topic of inclusion and diversity. Implementing diversity and inclusion in an organization can be difficult. Make people included can be even more difficult.

“A lot of people have been feeling excluded,” she said. “A lot of people in many parts of society, in many parts of the country, in ages, a lot of people have been feeling like they’re not part of something bigger. When you don’t feel like you’re part of something bigger, the one thing that connects people pretty quickly is fear.”

 

Spring in Chicago: A visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s been a rough couple of weather months. I was so, so naive to think Chicago would start warming up in March. Today though, Spring finally seemed to arrive. A friend of mine summed it up best when she tweeted: “Damn, Chicago. It’s like your heart started beating again today.”

While today’s high temp barely hit 50 degrees, the flowers were blooming and trees were budding at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

We didn’t get a chance to see the corpse flower (a titan arum plant native to Indonesia) named “Spike” that recently opened. We did see this Bonsai tree that’s thought to be 400-600 years old.

We also saw this, which almost made up for the extra long winter:

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Stakeholder interviews, part one: Obtaining robust one-on-one feedback

Note: I’m Working Out Loud to document my learning journey around developing a digital learning course for the Master’s in Learning & Organizational Change program at Northwestern University. 

The first iteration of the digital portfolio course is built in the Canvas learning management system. This design is based on research, project KPIs, answers to key initial questions and a first round of stakeholder interviews.

We met with a group of MSLOC instructors, one-on-one, to collect initial feedback. Instances of overlapping feedback was integrated into the course design. This week, we are meeting with seven MSLOC students, also one-on-one, to document their reactions, thoughts and feelings around navigating the course.

It is important that the designer document as much real-time feedback as possible. Most participants are not accustomed to providing a stream of consciousness around what they are feeling and thinking when navigating a process, especially if it’s the first time they’ve seen the UX.

Here is guidance that we use to draw out as much robust response as possible.

To the focus group participant before the review is started:

  • As we go through this site, please think out loud
  • There is no observation that is too small to mention
  • Tell me what you’re trying to do
  • Tell me how you think you can do it.
  • If you get confused or don’t think you can understand me, please tell me
  • If you see something you like, please tell me

As the participant navigates the course, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions and ask open-ended questions:

  • How would you decide to navigate X?
  • What is this [FEATURE] for?
  • What do you expect [FEATURE] to do? Why?
  • What goes through your mind as you look at [FEATURE]? Why
  • What are you looking for? Why
  • What would you do next? Why
  • Does the general navigation and flow make sense? Why or why not?
  • Describe, overall, what’s happening in the modules? (The interviewer is looking to determine if the modules are the correct size, if any parts seem overwhelming, etc.)
  • Does the quiz hit the mark as more of a checklist?

It’s important to take notes verbatim. There can be nuggets of insight used in particular phrasing that will be valuable when reviewing the notes.

This process is all about removing the friction from the process for the participant. Where are the points that feel overwhelming to someone who is not used to working with content management systems, not used to consistently blogging or not used to getting feedback about their writing?

We want to remove unnecessary obstacles that would keep the student from learning how to develop a WordPress site.

DisruptHR Chicago: Nine “aha’s” from the Spring 2018 speaker event

Well, that was a blast!

The Spring 2018 DisruptHR Chicago was energetic, thought-provoking and high-impact. Ten speakers with something really disruptive to share, five minutes – with 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.

Here are just a few Twitter “aha” moments from the incredible #disrupthrchi community:

Spring 2018 speakers were:

  • Michele Steele, Reporter & Host at ESPN: “Locker Room Talk: Succeeding as a woman in male-dominated spaces”
  • Gary Hallgren, President & Steph Ryter, Creative Culture Leader at Arity: “How to collaborate with the CEO to build your company culture”
  • David Aronson, Founder & CEO at Peanut Butter, Inc.: “Debt got your employees down? Using student loan assistance as a retention tool”
  • Allison Robinson, Founder & CEO at The Mom Project: “Power of the mom! Why we are failing mothers in the workplace”
  • Aideen Shea, VP Learning & Development at Byline Bank: “Putting YOUR career first: What every HR professional needs to know”
  • John Higginson, Chief Technology Officer at Enova: “Why does the white guy support diversity?”
  • Jennifer Fondrevay, Chief Humanity Officer:”Don’t be a robot!”
  • Ariadne Ducas, Founder & Chief Meditation Officer at Kairos: “Mindful disruption – attention is everything”
  • Heather Corallo, Rock Star Serial Entrepreneur: “You can’t solve bad leadership with an app!”
  • Theresa Stewart, HBIC (colored) at 18 Coffees: “HRtifacts: Using co-creation and human centered design in your organization.”

Finally, a HUGE thanks to our volunteers. #soimpressed

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MURAL-ing to construct a user journey

Estimated reading time: Two minutes

Note: I’m Working Out Loud to document my learning journey around developing a digital learning course for the Master’s in Learning & Organizational Change program at Northwestern University. Here are additional details on the digital portfolio project.  

Three possible student groups, each with its own learning needs. Up to five possible learning modules for each group. Five, maybe more, sections within each module. That was a proposed initial structure for the course.

Key questions included: What were the paths and topics for each self-directed learning cohort?What activities should students complete? Did they need to meet requirements in order to progress through the course? Would they want to measure their progress?

Time for a user-experience map – first just a sheet of paper and a quick pencil sketch to determine the main modules.

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The design began to look like a game or a choose-your-own-adventure book.

The drawing sparked additional questions: What were key milestones? Were modules balanced? Were there too many assignments? How might users feel at each stage of the process? What if a student was completely new to digital content publishing? What might their concerns be versus a student who was a more experienced blogger?

From paper, we moved to whiteboard and then to MURAL. I had experimented with this tool in earlier classes, but really came to understand its value during this process. It’s a good way to digitally co-create a user-experience map development and easily move components, add comments, use virtual sticky notes and download versions. To me, there’s something about designing in MURAL that encourages the most pared down, but functional, design. It reminds me of a former co-worker who would look at a plan and ask: What’s the least this could be? In other words, how simple and friction-less could we make this for the user?

The course architecture started to congeal.

It went from this whiteboard sketch…

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To this whiteboard map…

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Then this design using MURAL…

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And, finally, this MURAL design…

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The course design continues to be adjusted as we build and receive prototype feedback.

Now I just need a giant monitor with with a fancy stylus to really take advantage of designing in MURAL.