Sunday, March 15, 2009

M364 Block 1, Unit 3, Activity 1

You are being employed as a novice interaction designer on a project to develop a public kiosk providing information about the exhibits available in a science museum (this is one of the examples used in Activity 1.2 on Page 10 of the Set Book).

Consider how you might implement each of the four ID activities. For example, you might observe users as a part of establishing requirements. As it is still early in the course you will need to use your imagination and experience when answering this question, because we have not yet covered the various approaches in any detail.
Stage 1 - Identify Needs
To identify needs I would start with the relevant stakeholders. I might end  up with a list like this:
  • Visitors
  • Visitor-facing staff - around the displays and at the shop
  • Curators / educators - whoever determines the purpose and manner of museum communications
  • Display builders / designers - a museum probably has permanent staff for this
  • Management - line management and, if possible, the project sponsor
I would start by reviewing the business goals of the project with the project manager. As a novice I probably won't have access to the project sponsor but a smart PM should be able to answer success-criteria questions like: does the museum need more visitors (eg if funding is related to number of visitors), more satisfied visitors (if funding is related to visitor satisfaction ratings), more families (perhaps to compensate for spending cuts on sports fields and leisure centres), more research visitors (to compete for academic funding), more out-of-town or foreign visitors (to increase municipal tourism) or maybe higher-spending visitors (if the museum is self-funding)? 

Some of these have mutually exclusive implications - maybe the way to raise average visitor satisfaction is to reduce the number of visitors, along with the volume of noise and the length of queues. I would also like to have some idea of the human and technical resources available for the project.

I would ask the museum staff to help me draw up an informal profile of typical visitors, broken down into about a dozen types by (for instance) age, group composition (families, couples, schools?), educational or social background, and distance travelled. I would then select perhaps the five most important types and interview some visitors from each, on arrival and on departure, to see why they came and what they thought about the museum. I would then identify any common themes and factors.

I would then talk to the customer facing staff about what they have to help visitors with, and their observations over time of what pleases and displeases visitors (some of this information may relate to times when the museum was different, allowing us to learn from the past).

I would ask the curators / educators about their goals for the kiosk - what they wanted to display, how they wanted to explain things, and what they wanted to draw to the attention of the various kinds of visitors.

I would talk to the display designers and builders about the physical and technical communication options, including any means for visitors to interact with the kiosk. I would try to build a particularly good relationship with them because as a junior interaction designer there is a significient risk that they will simply ignore me, thus hindering my ambitions to become a senior interaction designer.

Stage 2 Create alternative designs
I would develop and sketch different kiosk designs, showing how they related to policy, pedagogical and practical goals identified in Stage 1, any differences in the resources required for each design, and what other trade-offs the options involved. I would present the designs to representative members of each group of stakeholders to get feedback on the goals related to that group, leaving management to last in order to prevent premature option selection.

Stage 3 Build alternative designs
Depending on the time available I would build one or more interactive prototypes, using further testing and consultation to determine the final choice. The interactive prototype might be acceptible as a design specification for the this option, if not I would add whatever documentation or visual design details were required by the rest of the delivery team.

Stage 4 Evaluate designs
We will evaluate designs at all stages since some problems and issues will invariably become visible to the affected stakeholders only at later stages.

No comments: