Even though I’ve been professionally developing software for 20 years there is always a lot more to learn and experience. No matter what project you are working or who you are working for, everyone benefits from your learning. Last week I was given the opportunity to learn something new in the form of the Lean UX Bootcamp run by Spencer Turner.

Part of the end result of my Code for Europe project is the delivery of a digital service that people can, and more importantly, want to use. The Lean UX Bootcamp helped grow my skills to help make that happen.

The Lean UX process aids in creating a service for people to use – once again as a big flashing neon sign – no point in making the most amazing thing ever if no one has a desire to use it.

First we were taken through the concept of Personas – creating visualisations of the different people who would be using the service being created. Initially we identified what has prompted the user to use the service. Then we thought about their characteristics and what they wished to achieve by using the service. This information allowed us to work out what the service should do and how it should behave to allow the user to achieve those goals. To top it off we then created drawings of the users using the very simple but amusing face drawing kit.

Next, using the findings from creating the Personas, we identified the key features required to allow us to a build the minimum viable product. Once we knew what we were aiming for then we were able to create the flow through the process.

The next step was taking a part of the process and creating very basic wire frame versions of the app. It was time to get out the colouring pens and paper and draw simple representations of the interface as it would be used to perform the steps of the process. Nothing very fancy was required and certainly no look and feel, just something to allow someone to see easily what was going on. Several variations of the same process were created just so we could see what would and would not work.

Once they were all drawn it was time to put them up on the wall, throw out any egos and fear of rejection, and get feedback from everyone. Also it gave us an opportunity to see what ideas others had come up with and use them as inspiration when we refined our designs by repeating the process.

It was time to return to our markers, pens and paper and create a more detailed set of wire frames for the process. This time they contained specific UI elements but still kept well away from any attempt to visually design the app.

With these wireframes completed it was time to return to the wall and let everyone see the how the app flowed. Another round of critiquing and ideas-borrowing took place. What this revealed was that even though we were all working on the same problem each of the three groups came up with different solutions. As before this process was repeated in order to provide us with a refined design.

Making things! Making things is always a fun activity, even in the grown-up world of application development. We were shown how to make simple paper-based versions of our app so that the entire flow from start to end could be simulated just by moving bits of paper around.

Paper prototype components

Paper prototype components

The wireframes we had previously created were attacked with scissors and assembled to create our paper prototype. Once it was ‘compiled’ it was run by someone in our team pretending to be the computer and moving things around while an outsider to the group attempted to use the app. The video shows the demo in action – the video was filmed from across the table which is why it looks such a strange perspective.

In all it was a very packed but rewarding day. There was a lot to take in but as always doing makes you learn quicker than reading or being talked to.

The key points I’ve taken away from the workshop were:

  • Don’t assume you know what users want
  • Include everyone
  • Learn to listen
  • Push visual design as far down the process as possible

I look forward to being able to put what I learnt into practice and use the shiny new pens and markers I’ve now purchased.

Markers and pens for UX drawing

Markers and pens for UX drawing

Posted on: 10th June 2014
Categories: Design General
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