Applied Design

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 14.17.53For this unit, we are working on a live brief with BU’s RedBalloon Agency to create an app for Salisbury Cathedrals Magna Carta exhibition. The app will consist of a series of exploratory interactive and educational works that can be accessed while walking round the Cathedral. Each agency (4-5 students) will create a component of the app, for example mini games, treasure hunts, photo edits, and video experiences. The agencies will be formed based on each students interests and initial response to the brief, which will be presented as a moodboard.

Iterative_development_model_V2For this uni, it is important to continue to follow the iterative design processes: Requirements Gathering, Analysis, Design, and User Testing. Following this process will allow constant refinements/improvements to be made throughout the unit, hence making the end product more successful. It is also important to talk with the clients regularly, to receive guidance and ensure the app meets their needs and expectations. A number of trips will be organised to Salisbury Cathedral in order to gather information and analyse the public space.

Logo_xcode

To create the app, we will be learning Xcode, and device specific app development for IOS. This programming language is new to me and I look forward to learning more about it. I will blog about relevant programming techniques that I have learnt in workshops and reflect on how it is useful for the app component my group create. It is important to work well as a team, applying different roles to members: programmers, designer, producer and content creator. This will ensure that work is divided up equally and reflects professional design agencies.

I will go on to begin the requirements gathering stage, by researching the Magna Carta and creating a moodboard to visually show my initial response to the brief. I will also go on to review some iterative design methodologies that my group could adhere to, in order to remain professional throughout the process of this live brief .

Evaluation

Overall, I feel I successfully created a piece of interactive information design for the shared public space, which intends to elucidate/explain an idea or concept. I am happy with my final piece and felt that it worked well with the target audience (see users interacting with piece). I have learnt a lot by doing this project, both the programming side as well as following an iterative design process. The concept that my piece applies to is Surrealism, this concept interests me and looking at various surreal art work and photography really inspired me for my piece. I have used surrealist techniques in my piece such as the juxtaposition of falling objects, repetition of shapes, as well as ideas relating to the blurring boundaries between the real and imaginary. Throughout my blog, I have linked the theory modules that I have studied to my practice (media and history, and consumer culture) as I feel that this is important; it has developed my understandings and allowed me to use more theoretical analysis. I used an iterative design process to produce my piece, which allowed me to constantly gain feedback, and make improvements that have helped to make my end piece more successful. The iterative design processes that I followed were:

– Requirements Gathering
– Analysis
– Design
– User Testing

To view blog posts related to each iteration, then click on the individual categories. Throughout my blog you can clearly see the development of my piece: from learning the basics of programming, to watching tutorials, analysing existing examples, experimenting with various ideas, improving the piece, and finally to users interacting with my final piece.

Testing in Studio

Today I tested my interactive piece in the studio room, W119. There was a white board and white projector screen available which I was able to use for the clear background. From testing the piece, it allowed me to see if it worked properly, as well as to see if there are more improvements that can be made. Here is a video of me testing my piece:

As you can see, on the screen I was captured as a black silhouette as planned. However, the background wasn’t entirely clear as it picked up the edges of the board and screen. Therefore they came up as black blocks/lines and obstructed the shapes from falling. To fix this problem, I need to ensure that the screen I use is big enough in order to fill the width of the camera. As you can’t entirely see the screen, here is a screen recording of the test:

From this, I feel that I need to edit the speed again to make the shapes fall faster. I also think I need to edit the size of the shapes more so that there are some bigger ones rather than them all being small. The programming works as expected as when the shapes are on a white pixel the descend and when on black they ascend. By carrying out prior testing, it has allowed me to further improve my piece to make it more suitable and successful. I am pleased with the outcome and will make further amendments so it is ready to display on the public screens in Weymouth House.

User Testing – Family and Friends

I have presented my piece to my family and friends in order to see whether they think it will be successful and to help me gain feedback and improvements, as well as to help me decide which objects to use (shapes/stick figures/software icons). It is important to gain feedback from users as it means I can improve my piece to make it more appealing and suitable for its purpose. It relates to the iterative design process as I am engaging with users in order to help develop and improve my piece. Before showing my piece, I came up with some qualitative usability questions to ask and here are the concluded responses from the multiple users…

20150111_132825

  • Which object do you prefer?

The majority of people preferred the shapes as they thought this idea worked and looked best. There were a couple that liked the stick men figures as they thought it looked more unusual and interesting. None of the users preferred the software icons.

  • Discuss what appeals you to interact with the piece?

The majority felt that the bright colours stood out a lot and helps make the piece look more appealing. They also liked the fact it involved camera interaction and thought this worked well.

  •  Discuss what you like about the piece?20150111_132938

The majority liked the black and white video capture contrasting with the bright coloured objects and thought this worked well. They liked how they could use any part of there body to interact  and obstruct the objects. The simplicity of the piece also meant anyone could easily interact without any difficulty.

  • Discuss what you understand about the piece?

Everyone understood that it is camera interaction where you can obstruct the falling shapes. However, some couldn’t understand what the point of the interactive piece was. When discussing the concept of surrealism and the blurring boundaries between the real and the imaginary/simulated, this helped their understanding but younger family members portrayed the piece as more game-like.

  • What improvements would you suggest?

A common suggested improvement was that I could experiment with adding more of each the shapes. Also, another common suggested improvement was to make the range of the sizes of the objects more varied. Some users suggested that I could make the piece more game-like and have a point system so that if an object falls, they loose a life. They felt that if it was to be made into a game, the objects needed to fall faster in order to make it a bit harder, as well as possibly to use shapes as decoys. For example, you only loose a life if a square falls and the other shapes are just there to distract you. A big improvement that has come to my attention is that the video capture needs to be mirrored. At the moment, when you lift up your hand, the screen flips it so it is the opposite side. This makes it a bit confusing for users to interact with as the video capture is reversed.

Moores (2005, p.112) suggests:

‘the ways in which individuals make sense of media products vary according to their social background and circumstances, so that the same message may be understood in differing ways in different contexts.’

This can apply to the user testing I carried out on my family due to the varied range of ages from 12-80. Each individual makes sense of the piece in their own way and denotes different meanings and messages. In particular, I found that the younger members saw it being game-like and the older members (grandparents) did not really understand it. This can relate to Jenkins idea of the ‘digital divide’ and how different age generations access and use of new technologies varies. Due to my target audience all being a similar age (students), I feel that there will be some more common denotations from interacting with my piece. However, as Jenkins suggests it is hard to understand the complexity of audiences. Due to this complexity, I’m aware that individuals may denote the messages and concept of my piece in multiple ways, peoples behaviour may differ and my expectations of the audience may be challenged.

Overall, testing the piec20150111_132925e with family and friends has helped me a lot. I have now decided that I will use shapes as the falling objects as this was the most agreed upon response. Also, I am pleased with the visuals and think the bright colours on the black and white video capture is an element that is appealing and liked by users. Due to some of my family being younger than my aimed audience, some didn’t fully understand the piece and the concept. However in the public space, due to my target audience being students, they will hopefully understand the piece better. From carrying out this testing, it has helped me to gain lots of feedback which will enable me to improve my piece to make it more successful. The improvements were all very useful and I will take each of them on board. I need to ensure that next I edit the code to mirror the video capture as this could make it confusing for users and put them off interacting with my piece.

Jenkins, H, 2008. Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. London: New York University Press.

Moores, S, 2005. Media/Theory. Thinking about Media and Communications. London and New York: Routledge.

Userbility Testing

In a recent s1419225895usability_testingeminar we learnt about usability testing and thought of possible questions to test the usability of an interactive piece example. Usability testing is when you test/evaluate a product with its aimed audience. It is important that I usability text my piece with the target audience as it will allow me to see its suitability and fitness for purpose. As well as allowing me to find out how users behave with the piece and what they experience from it (UX). Kuniavsky (2003, p.18) claims that

‘A good user experience doesn’t guarantee success, but a bad one is nearly always a quick route to failure.’

This shows the importance of carrying out usability tests, as without a satisfied audience my piece would be unsuccessful. He also suggests:

‘What makes a good experience varies from person to person, product to product, and task to task, but a good general definition is to define something as “usable” if it’s functional, efficient, and desirable to its intended audience.’

Carrying out usability tests will allow me to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to determine whether my piece is desirable to its intended audience. Quantitative data is that which deals with numbers, it can be measured and easily analysed and made into graphs/chart. An example of a quantitative question could be ‘Did you understand how to use the piece?’, the responses from this would simply be yes/no, hence allowing you to easily measure/analyse user responses. Qualitative data is that which is more descriptive, giving you individuals own personal opinions and views on the piece. An example of a qualitative question could be ‘Discuss what you like about the piece?’, hence giving you more detailed, quality answers. Quantitative questions are normally used when testing a big group of people as they could be good in order to find out who to target, however the responses aren’t usually very accurate and aren’t detailed enough for you to gain ideas on how to improve the piece and hence follow an iterative design process. Therefore, for my piece it would be best to use qualitative question when carrying out usability tests as it will allow me get more descriptive, useful answers as well as gain more feedback and improvements that I could possibly make. I need to ensure that I word the questions in the correct way in order to get qualitative responses from users as sometimes they can give yes/no responses which wouldn’t be as useful, therefore to do this I could use ‘discuss’/’explain’ in the question which encourages them to give a longer answer. From this, I have learnt a lot more about usability testing and quantitative/qualitative data. It will benefit my piece and means I will follow an iterative design process. Next, I will go on to create a prototype for my piece and test it with the aimed audiences.

Kuniavsky, M, 2003. Observing the User Experience : A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research [online]. Burlington, MA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Prototyping

prototyping2A prototype can be described as 

‘An original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages’ (The Free Dictionary, 2014).

Creating a prototype relates to the iterative design process as it allows you to gain feedback and then make refinements and improvements. It is a stage where you can engage with the users and analyse whether the piece is easy to understand, engaging, suitable and whether or not it is successful or not. It is a useful tool in order to evaluate user experience and can be very beneficial in order to produce a successful final piece. Beaudouin-Lafon and Mackay suggest that 

‘Prototypes both inform the design process and help designers select the best solution’.

They propose four ways in which to analyse prototypes:

  1. Representation (form of prototype eg. paper/computer, offline/online)
  2. Precision (level of detail eg. formal/rough)
  3. Interactivity (how user can engage with prototype)
  4. Evolution (life cycle of prototype eg. iterative/throw away)

I feel that creating a prototype for my piece would be beneficial as it would allow me to fully show my ideas and directly engage with the users, hence following an iterative design process. As I don’t have enough knowledge of processing yet to create a rough programmed piece, I feel that creating a rough paper prototype could be suitable. Here is an example of a website usability test using a paper prototype:

As you can see, a paper type is just as beneficial and in this case it has allowed the designer to understand more about the users and how they would understand and experience the website. This example has also highlighted to me the importance of properly testing the prototype, and as Bramhall (2014) says

‘Testing a prototype is equally as important as prototyping a design in the first place.’

When testing a prototype, I should ensure that I engage with the target audience and ask suitable questions in order to help me improve and make my piece a good interactive experience for its users.

Beaudouin-Lafon, M and Mackay, W.E, 2014. Prototyping Tools and Techniques [online]. Available from: https://www.lri.fr/~mackay/pdffiles/Prototype.chapter.pdf [Accessed 23 October 2014].

BlueDuckLabs, 2010. Example Usability Test With A Paper Prototype. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wQkLthhHKA [Accessed 23 October 2014].

Bramhall, D, 2014. The Importance of Prototyping Your Designs. Creative Blog. 20 August 2014. Available from: http://www.creativebloq.com/netmag/importance-prototyping-your-designs-81412694  [Accessed 23 October 2014].

Active Audiences

Contemporary audiences are more active consumers of media texts. For my interactive infographic, it requires my target audience to be active and interact with my piece. The rise of interactivity within contemporary media texts highlights the changing consumption habits of audiences, from passivity to activity. Cover (2006 cited by Macek 2013) describes interactivity as

‘a culturally motivated and historically variable desire to participate in textuality.’

Audiences involvement with texts is increasing; not only by interacting more with the producers’ final media text/piece, but also with the production of texts. This relates to an iterative design process as it is important to engage with the audience at all stages within the process in order to gain useful advice and feedback. For my piece, audiences will hopefully engage with the final piece, but it is essential that throughout I involve the audience with the production and development of my piece. Jenkins (2006, p.60) suggests that:

‘Consumption becomes production; reading becomes writing; spectator culture becomes participatory culture.’

I feel that Jenkins ideas can apply to my target audience as well as to contemporary culture. I’m aware that individuals may participate with my final piece in various ways, some may prefer to spectate whereas others will be more willing to participate. Jenkins idea of ‘consumption becomes production’ relates to Lister et al (2003, p.10), as they believe that:

‘we have seen a shift from ‘audiences’ to ‘users’, and from ‘consumers’ to ‘producers’

This highlights the increasing power that contemporary audiences now have with media texts, and relates to theory I studied in first year regarding fandom, user-generated content and authorship. This shift also relates to a theory unit I have recently studied, Media and History. It highlight the importance of exploring history, as in this case it helps our understandings of contemporary theory debates regarding audiences.

From this, I feel it is extremely important to continuously engage with my target audience throughout the development of my interactive piece. For my piece to be successful, it needs to appeal to its audience and as Gray (2010, p.166) says

‘a text only becomes a text, only gains social meaning and relevance, at the point that it comes alive with its audience.’

I aim to do this by regularly including the audience within the production of the piece in order to gain ideas and useful feedback. As well as making the final piece easy for all individuals to actively interact with.

References:

Gray, J, 2010. Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts. New York and London: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H, 2006. Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. London: New York University Press.

Lister, M, Dovey, J, Giddings, S, Grant, I, and Kelly, K, 2003. New Media: A Critical Introduction [online]. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Macek, J, 2013. More than a desire for text: Online participation and the social curation of content. In: Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies [online], 19(3), 295-302.