Wondering what’s winter school? It’s a school program, apparently this was happening in Delhi, during the first week of December which is usually around 5–10 degree celsius. So a winter school.
It’s basically a crash-course program on Human-Computer Interaction, where you learn to build usable and desirable interfaces.
Meanwhile this was happening, I was anyway traveling to Delhi. So I enrolled for it.
Topics covered were:
- Demystifying UX, Interaction Design, and HCI
- Types of Interfaces: Mobile, Web, Wearable, Virtual Reality, etc.
- User-Centered Design
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods
- Field Observations
- Cognitive Walkthrough
- A/B Testing
- Usability Testing
- Contextual Inquiry
- Brainstorming and Bodystorming
- Rapid Prototyping: Paper, Video, Corrugated sheets
- Information Architecture
- Case studies
- Emotional design
It was engaging, like, getting to know the design concepts and then applying them to solve real world problems. Yes, we did it practically.
Before every session, we took an oath that Users come first, and we’re responsible for the UX. That was fun actually.
Since it was a project-based course, so we were divided into groups of 4, which will remain the same until the end of this winter school. And then here is the story –
1. Selecting a problem statement.
[Day 1] Theme of this winter school program was ‘SMART CITY’, and we had to choose a problem statement in any one sector in a smart city, like travel, communication, tourism, infrastructure, security, etc. It’s always hard to sit and think about problems, moreover we are not supposed to think of solutions.
By EOD, we were able to think of 5 silly problems. Most of them were derived from a solution first. But one, and only one problem was really unknown to us.
Why cannot humans in the metro cities enjoy nature?!
Yes! that’s a problem statement we thought could be genuine. Frankly speaking, when my teammate thought of this problem, the rest of us were simply laughing at it. Because it’s funny, right? Try shouting this aloud and see. You will also laugh.
But now, we were all curious to check whether this is a problem or not. If yes, then why?
2. User Research.
[Day 2] A fun exercise – field observation – qualitative research. So, the major difficulties here were to set the target audience and ask the right questions. We didn’t want to give clues to the user or confuse them.
Things required before field observation – keep the questionnaire ready, one person will talk to the user and someone else should take a note of it. And always keep a video or audio recording of the conversation with the user’s consent (this will help for later references).
Types of the questions we had were like –
- How often do you travel?
- What could be the possible reasons for your traveling/not traveling?
- What kind of places do you like the most?
- What do you mean by the word ‘NATURE’? What comes in mind first?
- …. etc.
EOD, we got 12 live and 28 online responses. But we were lacking some more information. So we managed to get a few more responses with a better set of questions this time.
3. Brainstorming and Ideation.
[Day 3] A tiring but interesting part, where you arrange all the data gathered and do some cognitive research with user inputs. We divided the data into 4 parts – problems, needs, types of user and all the keywords that describe NATURE according to the users.
Now, we created a persona and a scenario for every user, with the help of the audio and video recordings of the conversations with the user. See! it helped us.
Time for empathy – Putting yourself to the user’s shoes, it’s difficult because no two people can think alike everything. But still you can try with whatever data you have, it’s fun.
Common user problems were – Money, time, job, poor weather outside and pollution.
After collecting all the user problems. We noted around 15 different ideas to solve each of them, where every idea was equally important for the user. So we clustered the ideas to get one feasible and usable solution that could solve most of the user problems.
Finally – Natureye. A VR integrated mobile application with an extra hardware that fits in the VR box for the immersive effects. The app could also –
- Locate the user in a map and update with the current climatic conditions and the air quality of that location. – This helps in knowing the weather and pollution level outside.
- Show only the nearby places having good air quality. – Those who get to travel can plan accordingly.
- Advises the user to schedule their travel plan according to the climatic changes and the change in the air quality of their destination. – This helps them to travel with a plan.
- Getting a virtual experience of nature using a 360-degree view, with immersive effects like wind, rain, breeziness, etc. – Now this is for users who cannot travel due to money, time or job as their reasons. Definitely this will not solve the whole problem of travelling but our problem statement is to just enjoy nature. So it does give an instant realisation of Nature.
4. Wireframing or low fidelity prototyping – sketching.
[Day 4] Research part was done. And we started sketching the idea on some blueprints of a mobile device. This task was equally divided to all teammates. For example – I will be taking care of the onboarding experience of the app, someone will work on the map experience, other folks will work on the VR screens and travel scheduler screens.
And to make the sketches work like a prototype, there is a mobile app called POP 2.0, it’s available in Google Play Store – free app. Basically, this app uses the snaps of the sketches and allows us to add the button effects to make the screens clickable – kind of a working lo-fi prototype.
Meanwhile, for the immersive effects, receptors and sensors were out of scope for us. So our idea was to fit a small toy fan which also sprinkles water with the VR box – HAHA – it’s just a prototype. So, I was designing a layout for that, and ended with a mask kind of design that covers half of the face, so that a fan can fit in easily.
5. Rapid Prototyping
[Day 5] Post wireframing, we had to make real screens and some prototype of the hardware device for VR immersive effects. We used proto.io for designing the app. My teammate Ankur helped us with the app design. Meanwhile, I was working on the hardware prototype. Purchased a toy fan with water sprinkler, and made a cardboard setup to fit this fan with a VR box. It was difficult but I enjoyed it.
It took us 14 hours (approx) to reach the final product including the presentation slides. And we were ready for it.
[Day 6] Finally, it’s show time. All the groups were ready with their prototypes and presentations, so were we. Our presentation was small, because we had to demonstrate the prototype within a time frame (8 minutes).
We explained different personas with their scenarios, one was traveler and other was non-traveler/ less traveler. Then we demonstrated our app idea, by taking the example of those scenarios. Judges and others really enjoyed the concept. And finally we got our goodies and certificates.
Eventually, the winter school came to an end with some good south Indian food, a strong team, a good project, some goodies, and memories. Thanks for the read. #WSUX17
You can find the prototype of the app here – https://www.behance.net/gallery/62451695/Natureye