The final task for Phase 2 of the Broads Authority Project is to create and deliver a presentation explaining what has been done in this phase of the project. This needs to include all of the work that has been done creating the brand identity (graphics students), designing the app (graphics and IxD and UX students) and creating and testing the app (UX and IxD students).

This is my final reflective coursework journal from Year 2.

April 30th 2019

We decided that we’d spend today creating as much of the presentation as possible so that we could have the rest of the week relatively ‘stress-free’. The graphics students had portfolios to make and additional bits of content (such as posters) for the Broads project to create, some of BSc students had reflective journals to write and I want to try and do more with my dissertation research. As a result, we spent the entire day producing the presentation and have only a few bits left to do before presenting this to the Broads Authority on Friday May 3rd.

Reflecting on the project

Since today was going to be one of our final times working together on this project, we took some time to reflect on how we had felt working together and with the Broads Authority to create what we did.

On the whole, everybody had found the experience very positive. We had all really enjoyed working together and had learned a lot from each other. The graphics students had learned a lot about the usability of designs and the BSc students had learned a lot about how to design, how to come up with ideas and where to draw inspiration from in order to create brand identities. This really enforced a lot of the skills that we had learned in BSc2a, which was completed between September and December 2018 and focused a lot on designing websites as opposed to building and testing them which Year 1 briefs and BSc2b focused on.

Using OneDrive enabled us to all work on the same document in real-time.

The only real negatives were:

  • Project management. Most people agreed that having an assigned project manager would have made this task easier since that person could delegate roles, make sure people were doing what they were supposed to be doing and be responsible for the delivery of the project. Some felt that by having a PM we’d also be able to discuss ideas and come to a conclusion faster as the PM would be able to take onboard comments and ultimately decide an option to take. Without a PM, some felt that they weren’t able to argue with ideas from others because they didn’t feel that they had the place to do that.
  • Limited user testing groups. Mentioned lots of time on this blog, but essentially the range of people who could use an app like this is so wide that testing with 3 senior women is not representative at all, even when my parents and my 22 year old friend Hannah are thrown into the mix. Perhaps a good solution would be to test different parts of the app with different user groups, for example children and teenagers might want to use the 360 degree experience more than an older person would, so they’d probably be better test candidates for that. The nature finder might be aimed more at older people, so perhaps they’d be good test candidates for that.
  • Communication with the Broads Authority. Some people felt that the communication between us and the Broads Authority could have been improved, perhaps with more regular meetings and feedback from them. But remember, there is only so much time that each party can offer and the Broads Authority have been very good at arranging field trips for us and coming with us too, as well as watching our presentations.

The use of roles in a team

Roles form an important part of any team. ‘Roles’ are described as ‘a comprehensive pattern of behaviour that remains relatively stable, even when the people occupying the position change’ (Brause, 2016, p. 107). If we were to take this further then there is a chance that new people may be added to the development of this app and therefore some roles for them would be required. We didn’t really have any dedicated roles asides from ‘UI designer’, ‘researcher’ and ‘coder’, but this would be a good start.

Additionally, the skills of individuals in a team could help decide which roles they go into. I talked about the certain skills of each team member at the end of this post, and said how I thought certain people were good at certain jobs, but additionally Brause’s book ‘The designer’s field guide to collaboration’ mentions other roles such as ‘negeotiator’ and ‘energiser’ and ‘deviant’. These are roles based on how people perform emotionally as opposed to the actual work that they can do. For example, somebody who is good at talking to and reasoning with people would make a good negeotiator. Somebody who is naturally in good spirits and really gets ‘down’ would be a good energiser and somebody who is a bit daring and willing to take risks makes a good ‘deviant’ and is able to encourage the team to try something new (Brause, 2016, p. 107).

Roles take time to assign as assigning them often involves learning more about the way people in the team work and react to certain situations. Short-term projects, like this, require roles to be declared quickly, so you might decide them based on who is skilled at what. Longer-term projects often start in the same way, but roles can be rotated and changed as people show different skills and working methods over time (Brause, 2016, p. 121).

Short reflection

However, on the whole we’ve really enjoyed it. We think we’ve made a great app concept which can be built upon.

I’ve said it before, but so far March 25th to April 5th 2019 has been the busiest and most intense time at university for me, but also my favourite. This project has been my favourite so far, but I think it may be eclipsed by my dissertation project soon!

Creating the presentation

Namii was quick to come up with a structure and I was quick to create a new PowerPoint presentation in OneDrive and sharing it with the group so that we could all work on it.

Last time we made a presentation we used Google Docs which worked OK, but when it came to present it to the Broads Authority we needed to convert this presentation into a PowerPoint file which was a little problematic and we had some issues accessing the file at times too. By creating a PowerPoint file from the get-go in Microsoft OneDrive it was going to be a PowerPoint document from the start and thus there will be no issues converting it into a PowerPoint file when the comes to present it. PowerPoint now also has a helpful feature called ‘design ideas’ which can design slides for you based on the text and images on the slide. This massively speeds up the creation of slides. I spoke about it at BETT 2019 on the Microsoft Education UK stand.

Storing the file in OneDrive allowed us to edit the same document at the same time and in the browser (for those who don’t have PowerPoint installed on their computer), or in the desktop version of PowerPoint.

The Slide Designer, shown in the right-hand panel, gives ideas for slide designs without you needing to create them yourself.

Namii’s structure was followed throughout the final presentation that we produced. It is as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Visual identity
    • Brand mark
    • Logo and typefaces
    • Themes and colours and photography for the themes
  • Page design
    • Core pages
    • Animations
  • Experiences
    • 360 degree image
    • Heritage grid
    • Nature finder
    • Map
  • User testing
    • User testing strategy
    • Usability problems
    • Thoughts on visual design [from the testing candidates]
    • Suggestions for improvement
  • Project challenges & limitations
  • Next steps
    • What happens next
    • Creating posters
      • Print-making as inspiration
    • Way-finding (signage and interpretation boards)
    • Website concepts
    • Additional promotional material (e.g. notebooks)

This covers the majority of the work that we have completed since February 28th when Phase 2 began and also includes some slides to talk about project reflection and the next steps.

Slide design

We elected to use the brand colours on the slides and use minimal text and as many graphics and images as possible to represent our point. This is a similar style of presentation to what I’ve done in the past, but it was the graphics students who suggested this style of presentation.

Most slides feature very little text and instead focus on visuals.

This style has several key benefits:

  • Less text on the screen means:
    • The presenter is not reading off the screen, so can engage more with the audience (improved eye contact).
      • The presenter therefore looks more confident, polished and that they know what they are talking about.
    • The audience is not trying to read contact off the screen and instead can focus on listening to what the presenter has to say.
  • The slides take less time and effort to design, since you don’t need to worry about text formatting. All you need to worry about is finding appropriate images.
  • The slides look far nicer.
  • In our case, the brand is maintained throughout.

The downsides are:

  • You need to really know what you’re talking about since there are few prompts on the screen (besides an image and maybe a few words of text). This means you probably need to either rehearse or really know the presentation subject.
  • You may need to use a prompter or an app like Office Remote to remind you of the presentation notes since you can’t read text from the screen.
  • The presentation might not make sense out of context, e.g. if you were to give it to somebody who couldn’t attend the presentation.

App screenshots and animations are shown inside of the Samsung S8 bezel that I made when I was working at Earthware and have used several times since for other bits of work. This makes the content seem more realistic. Slides with screenshots and animations of the apps do not have any text on them besides a title to notify the audience of the contents of the screenshot or animation.

How we showed animations in our presentation. The phone surround makes the animation seem more realistic.

Some slides need more text to give context and to give the audience something to refer back to when we’re talking about more complex points. Good examples of these types of slides are the usability testing slides. We also need some prompts to go by on these slides as there’s a lot of points to remember! These slides have an appropriate image occupying the full slide height and width with a title and text placed above the background image – these are designed by the PowerPoint slide designer.

Example of a slide with text. This one is about the testing strategy. The image beneath the text shows how we tested our app – in a coffee shop on mobile devices.

Presentation length

The presentation will be around 30 minutes long, with around 20 minutes expected at the end of the presentation for questions and discussion.

What’s next?

On Thursday May 2nd we are meeting again and will be deciding who is saying what, adding transitions to these slides and adding in the final bits of content.

May 2nd 2019

I’ve spent most of today working on the report proposal and considering the next steps to take with that. Most of the team working on this project have also been doing the same, so all we’ve really done today is allocate slides to each other based on who did what when we were producing this prototype and the graphics students have put some more of their work into the presentation. They need to hand in ‘extended branding’ as well as the app – this extended branding entails considering other uses for the Angles Way brand mark and the kind of other products it could appear on or in. They have designed Angles Way badges, notebooks and even a mock-up of a cafe featuring the branding! All of this appears in the presentation in the ‘Next Steps’ section as these are further considerations for the Broads Authority.

Chloe’s Angles Way cafe.

 

Chloe’s Angles Way notebooks.

Namii and Zach spent some time designing a website prototype in Adobe XD, built on the thoughts on the previous prototype that Namii and I had, documented at the end of this post. The new website prototype is styled to look at a lot more like our app with similar sliding transitions and angled containers for body copy. The colours and images used are also a lot more representative of the Angles Way branding.

The new prototype is also improved from a reading perspective, with text boxes mainly being on the left side of pages and text spanning the whole height of the page, meaning that the new site follows the left-right direction that most of the world reads in and also follows the F-shape reading pattern more closely.

The website prototype as it appears in our final presentation.

May 3rd 2019

Presentation day!

Last-minute changes

This morning was spent refining and practicing the presentation. One thing that wasn’t working too great with the presentation was its poor performance, caused by the large images of the Samsung S8 that I put into the presentation to place the animation videos inside of. When we were practicing we pressed ‘next slide’ and sometimes it took around 30 seconds to advance the slide. Too slow! Luckily PowerPoint has some tools that can reduce image size, so using these and re-encoding the videos of the animations to make them all under 1MB in size helped to reduce the size of the presentation from around 110MB to 50MB. This improved performance massively.

Several slides were changed and added in. The three slides about animations were turned into one slide and the slide about usability problems was amalgamated with the ‘suggestions for improvement’ slide after a practice run made us realise that these two slides were very similar. A demonstration video of the new website prototype made in Adobe XD was dded in and placed over a graphic of a MacBook to make it look like the phone animation videos.

Two slides about signage was added,  one about interpretation boards and another about the smaller signs that could go on fingerposts and have the QR code to the app on them.

A slide about the campaign was also added and placed a the beginning of the presentation. This slide would be the introduction to Phase 2 of the project and quickly recap what was done in Phase 1 (between January 11th and February 28th).

The presentation

The venue was the Boardroom in Cavendish House, NUA. The presentation was attended by several key stakeholders of the Broads Authority, Jamie, Amy, our historian and our course leader.

Below is the presentation that was delivered on May 3rd 2019.

The PowerPoint presentation itself unfortunately didn’t work great on the machine that we used to present it on. I’m not sure why, but on slides where there were multiple animation videos PowerPoint would crash itself. On every machine that we tested our presentation on prior we didn’t have this issue, so this PC was the exception. Unfortunately we weren’t aware that this would happen until we were presenting and PowerPoint crashed itself on the first slide with multiple videos. We were a little taken aback by this and presented the rest of our presentation with PowerPoint running normally (i.e. not in full-screen mode, which meant that the videos wouldn’t play).

PowerPoint crashing didn’t matter. We recovered our presentation really well and all six of us were very strong speakers. After the presentation we had some time to show the audience the app running on a Samsung S8 that we brought along (as well as their own phones) and show them the slides in our presentation that didn’t work on the big screen on a couple of the laptops we have.

The reception was extremely positive. The Broads Authority absolutely loved what we had produced and had a lot of questions to ask about usability and what our recommendations for the app going forwards were. This to me suggested that they were keen to develop what we had made into an app that could go to market – that’s what we were aiming for!

If I took this to English Heritage, they’d want it. National Trust: they’d want it. RSPB: they’d want it.

A Broads Authority employee’s reaction to our app.

It looks elegant and modern. Not overdone.

Head of the Ideas Factory, NUA.

That quote said it all to me. Seeing the way that the audience were interacting with the app and their reactions to it really made me proud. It also made me realise the need for more extensive user testing as this group of people interacted with the app completely differently to how the WI had done.

After the presentation we had the chance to show the delegates what we had made. Photo courtesy Corrina Mark.

Going forwards

This is officially the end of this project and therefore… the end of Year 2?

Firstly, I can’t believe that it’s the end of another year. Year 1 went in the blink of an eye and Year 2 has gone the same way. One more year and I’ll be leaving university and looking for a job.

From the perspective of the Broads Authority, they are keen to develop this and take it further. This is absolutely crazy – not in that they’re crazy to do this, but it’s crazy to think that there is potential for some of my code to end up in web app that has gone to market and available for people to use. I’ve written websites and software for fee-paying clients before, but never for anybody like the Broads Authority before. Amazing!

The Broads Authority are keen to present this presentation (or have us back to present this) to Norfolk County Council for their consideration and also run further usability testing sessions, possibly at public events and schools. If the opportunity arises, I’d love to get involved with this and develop this further.

If the chance for some kind of internship or work experience for the Broads Authority arises and it’s focused around this or similar digital technologies, I’d jump at it. It’s likely that the Broads Authority might want to continue working with us because we. as design and science students, might not have the in-house resources to complete a task like this themselves (Brause, 2016, p. 230). It is possible that their existing website and design for signage and interpetation board is done by a contractor, much like we would be if this app were to be taken forwards.

Otherwise, going forwards for me means completing the report proposal and finally handing everything in on May 10th. Then I’m on the road to Year 3.

Reflections

Most of my thoughts on project participation, how I think I worked, how I worked with the team and thoughts on the project can be read at the end of this post from April 15th.

To summarise those thoughts, I feel that this has been an excellent project that is marred only by the time limitations that we had. Unfortunately in university this, and the lack of a representative group to test prototypes with, will almost always be the case due to time, money and availability restrictions. That aside, this has been a very enjoyable project. I’ve enjoyed everything from the field trips that I went on in January and February to find out about the area and the people who live in them to working with the graphics students to produce designs to the late nights coding this and finding out all about CSS Scroll Snap and finally hearing the feedback from the Broads Authority.

I feel that I have worked effectively in the team and have learned a lot from the graphics students and hope that I’ve taught them a little about the UX process and coding. I just hope that I didn’t come across ‘too directive’ at times and try to lead the group.

When I look back on university in years to come I’ll remember this as being a fun project and also remember it being an exciting one that coincided with the research and early stages of development of my dissertation project.

I’d like to thank the NUA Ideas Factory and the Broads Authority for the opportunity and for making this project happen.

We make a great team!

References

Brause, Caryn (2016) The Designer’s Field Guide to Collaboration. Routledge