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Paper Prototyping Workshop

by on May 3, 2011

Paper Prototyping Workshop

In our class workshop this week we built a prototype of the media portion of our project. To do this, we needed to identify our audience, as well as how they might want to interact with our site, what we want them to get from the site, and how these things would be executed by our users.

Audience Persona

To develop our audience persona, we were asked to make a list of potential users, which makes sense from a development point of view; it is critical to remember users are more than the identities we label them with and we may have missed potential users. Also we understand that as the project grows (beyond this course), we may identify new users, new needs, and new interactions in our online community that will need to be addressed.

Once we identified who we think will use our site, we need to figure out why they want to come. And from there, we need to identify what we want to them accomplish with the media we have chosen to use and how they will access and interact with content and/or contribute to content.

We identified these potential groups, what we hope they will accomplish with our site, and how they will access the site.

  1. Student groups – ultimately we would like for feminist and social justice-related student groups/student leaders to come to our site, log in, and update information about their group/issue events, activities, news. We also want to provide a place to share links to/resources, as well as a community of related organizations willing to help one another to create more buzz and excitement, creating a broader and more visible platform. This will require that we share our login information or grant sharing/author access. We are currently using WordPress.Students – we would like for students interested in feminist and social justice issues and activities to consider our site a one-stop place to find out what’s going on, where, when, and why. Students will be able to access our site just as they would any other site. Additionally, using a blog software allows users to post comments, creating an interactivity and dialogue.
  2. Heads of academic depts, esp art-humanities – we would like instructors, faculty, and staff to share their knowledge of activities with us (we would have to post) and refer their students to the site to find information about feminist and social justice issues and activism in our campus and broader communities.
  3. Students activists (here and other campuses) – we would like to see feminist and social justice student activists here at UMD and around the region in dialogue and sharing information. We hope that engaging in blog-style comments, we can share information, expertise, resources, and knowledges.

Usability Testing – UMD NOW

So after we figure out who we think will come, we need to figure if they can successfully navigate our site to complete the tasks we hope will be attempted. One of the more complicated interactions will be for users who will login to our site to directly contribute content. We believe that if we maintain gatekeepers to the site, it will become too burdensome for the managers, and will fail. Our hope is that if we grant access to active groups and their members, the online community can grow and be self-sustaining.

sheets of prototype web pageSo our paper-website prototype asks a student organization leader to login to WordPress, post an event on the events calendar and then leave a comment on a blog post. We might have used paper and colored pens more effectively to communicate what was a clickable link (a brilliant, and now obvious, technique that another group smartly used), so there was confusion because of that. We discovered that our own learning-curve regarding WordPress carries over to our potential users, particularly those who will need to know how to navigate the dashboard of WordPress to post and interact. My complaint is that WordPress is not as intuitive as other blogging tools are, but WordPress offers a robustness that the other blogging tools do not. When using existing tools, as opposed to developing tools to integrate into a traditional static website, we have to deal with what is there, so we must ask our users to do the same. If the learning curve for WordPress becomes an obstacle for our users, we may have to rethink our web strategy from a more user-friendly perspective. However, I think if we are willing to train participants and contributers, it can be doable. (This would be another example of sharing expertise, which is one of our goals).

So our test subject had difficulty maneuvering around the WordPress dashboard, much like we did when we started using this tool. However, our test subject has used other blogging software, so she was able to “feel it out” after some trial and error. However, once the new event was established on the calendar page, she did could not figure out how to navigate to the blog post area to leave a comment.

Results from our first prototype testing

WordPress offers a robustness to combine interactive blogging and commenting with static architectural website features, which lends itself to fulfilling our objectives to create an interactive online community as well as driving discourse around feminist and social justice issues. However, it does not feature an intuitive interface, which will create a barrier that we will have to figure out how to overcome. This may include adapting additional or different technologies to our media strategy.

On the horizon

Strategically, this is a difficult time to be starting this sort of project because school will be over in a couple of weeks, just as we are ready to start bringing in groups. (Wow! It’s gone by so fast!). Our group is going to use the summer to find groups, make contact, and get a jump start on networking to pull other groups and student leaders in and, hopefully, to start interacting in new ways. We expect that at least one of us will be on the executive council of Triota, so we can use that organization’s resources (like their table at First Look Fair) to connect with other groups and promote the site and grow an online community. We also will look for allies in the wider community that might also be partners and/or resources for our member organizations and student leaders.

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