Week 3: Intro to Sketching

This week we learnt about how to take a problem statement and generate possible solutions.  Sketching is the best way to get everything on paper so that ideas can be analysed and developed quickly and cheaply, it is a very ‘low risk’ yet essential task.  To sketch all you need to do is to be able to draw are lines, circles and squares!  These sketches are not supposed to be pieces of artwork and will likely end up getting thrown out at a later stage.  It is about putting down only as much as you need to communicate an idea.  The sketch’s aim is to create the first Minimal Viable Product (MVP).

Matt gave us a ‘demo’ problem statement which outlined an issue with London’s ticket/oyster machines and congestion/ user tension.  We had 10 minutes to sketch 5-6 solution ideas individually.  The time went really quickly, I didn’t even get as far as multiple solutions as I started by focusing on dividing up the different user needs for the two different groups hi-lighted, the local and the tourist.  My sketch looked like this:

2015-05-18 09.58.04 HDR

My initial thought was to find a way of dividing up the different users so that they could use different machines because of different requirements.  I considered the fact that tourists are probably not oyster users and will likely be unsure about what kind of ticket they want. They need to be directed to an area where they could receive this kind of support.  They perhaps function in groups, where it is one persons sole role to buy while the rest get in the way…  Where as locals will generally just need to top up their oysters, with perhaps some sporadic ticket purchase, they will likely be travelling alone and be more pressed for time.  I got about as far as thinking that there would either need to be multifunctional machines or different ones for different tasks, but certainly two ques where each user instinctively knows where to go.

We then presented our ideas to the group (we had been divided up in to groups of 5 for the task, each group was facilitated by one of the tutors or Matt, we had Irene to bounce ideas off).  It was fascinating to see the clearly different but equally valid solutions that everyone had thought up.  We were able to talk about why we had taken our approach and then receive a constructive critique.  It was immediately clear that I had taken a different approach by creating this sort of user flow chat, however this wasn’t a bad thing, phew!  Ideas that hadn’t initially occurred to me were:  location based solutions as tourist hot spots will likely suffer higher congestion, time based solution as rush hour will always be more congested. –  Removing people from the crowd by creating a solution for home top up. – Clearer UI for the tourist screens, good UI for language barriers and/or the removal of confusing branding terminology from different tickets by calling everything ‘the travel card’…  We also generated more ideas by having this open discussion such as giving locals a walking ‘tap’ option to put £20 on their oyster card as well as elaborating on the ‘home top up’ where the walking tap could function as a place where you can see how much you have left on your oyster, or this could appear as a notification… (we discussed the implications of this potentially being annoying  and too invasive).  It was really exciting to carry out this process, I can definitely see the benefits of group ideas generation!

Our second task was to take 10 minutes to develop one idea further, it was suggested that it may be good to specifically took at the User Interface (UI) of the tourist machine.  I ‘stole’ the ‘UI language’ route as my initial user step which one of my class mates discussed in the previous task, I hadn’t though about the UI of the screen yet and we were short of time, so I gravitated to what I thought was best and went with it!  I started out by writing a quick scenario and then launched in to how the screen should look/ function.  Steps included – Choose language, put where you need to go, see travel options, choose if user wants to print out one of the travel options, see price and travel card options, payment – I just got on to thinking about breadcrumbs, group tickets and multi-day tickets when the time ran out:

2015-05-18 09.59.17

In the group discussion I realised that my decision to put the travel card option after the location finder was quite bold,  we discussed that this would be a good time to do some user testing to validate the idea.  The way that a non native language was chosen was discussed in some length during the critique as it was a key requirement that nearly everyone had tackled in some way, it was useful to see that often it is best to put everything on the table and then eliminate options that may not work in reality after some contextual thinking.  For example: one idea for language choice was the use of audio, but this would not work due to noise levels – headphones would not be an option because of theft/damage.  One of my favourite ideas, that a class mate generated, was an interactive illustrated zone map which would help people who were not familiar with London areas to work out what tickets actually meant as well as being able get their bearing and work out where they needed to go.  The ‘walking tap’ was further illustrated, locations had been considered.  Different shaped spaces were also discussed as well as the potential health and safety implications this would have.

It was commented at the end that the activity had gone really well and after the first critique it was great to see people borrowing ideas and putting their own spin on it.  I think this has been my favourite task so far, I can see that this process isn’t scary and actually quite fun and exciting, I am looking forward to putting it in to practice in my personal project.

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