News and blog posts from our students and faculty

Category Archives: Interaction Design

Coupling between thinking and actuation

As part of the creative problem solving process – designers research to understand a problem space, apply their own subjective point of view or intuition and create provocations to make sense of incomplete information. In Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking, Karl Weick states, Sensemaking is not about truth and getting it right.  Instead, it is about continued refracting of an emerging story so that it becomes more comprehensive, incorporates more of the observed data, and is more resilient in the face of criticism. 

However provocation without activity or movement is useless. The apparently crazy idea is not an end point, but only the first stage. It is what happens next that really makes all the difference. – Edward de Bono

In Discovering Design Ability, Nigel Cross states, some of the relevant information [in a design problem] can be found only by generating and testing solutions; some information, or ‘missing ingredient’ has to be provided by the designers himself this extra ingredient is often an ‘ordering principle’. These ‘ordering principles’ give people access to new information on the whole and can take on various activities, such as the diagram below for example: 

In Theory of Interaction Design, we read 10 articles and discussed the relationship between creativity, knowledge, and strategy. The diagram is an overview of each author’s summary along with my own position.

And what is your perception of it? Can we design for an individual’s perception? Stavros Mahlke, in Visual Aesthetics and the User Experience, thinks we can and should by integrating ‘non-instrumental qualities’ like aesthetic and symbolic aspects and emotional user reactions with traditional user experience interaction design.

In summary, it is in our thinking and activity where solutions are created and make sense.

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Building a pragmatic definition for sensemaking.

The one-year course at the Austin Center for Design is aimed at helping students build a framework for approaching interaction design in a way that builds autonomy for the designer while helping them address problems worth solving.  For me personally, some of the sharpest spikes in learning and independence have occurred when I am able to see how the practice that we are learning is also embodied in the design of ac4d itself.  Typically, we have already been applying a technique for a while in the program before the theoretical underpinning really makes sense.

Most recently, we have been exploring the role of perception and abductive reasoning in the sensemaking process.  After already going through sensemaking in a variety of different ways in the last seven months, I’m starting to develop my own ethic and practice as an interaction designer.  And so while the theoretical readings around perception were very dense, abstract, and seemingly unrelated… my tacit knowledge of the sense-making process made it possible to delve into them a derive my own meanings.

I think one question central to the question of design practice (of which sensemaking is at the core) is why it has largely eluded definition or refinement in the past.

So our understanding of design is in many way inhibited by our lack of understanding of the mechanisms of the creative process.  Because we see a linear causal chain, we are fooled into thinking that the decisions made along the way were the result of deductive reasoning or else just a spark of randomness that can’t be defined.  What we lose in this sort of retrospective is the context of each decision and how a pragmatic consideration of context results in a kind exploratory reasoning called abduction.  What we think of as creativity may in fact only be the result of practicality in the right context.

If it is possible to highlight some of the mechanisms that push us toward new insights, then of course it’s also possible to build a methodology that refines and enriches those mechanisms.  I tend to think of abduction not just as a lateral thinking process, but actually as a sort of filter that helps us select from all of the ideas in our subconscious from moment to moment.

And so the sorts of problems that are the most difficult to navigate–ones with complex external dependencies and incomplete information–are also the problems where a rigorous sensemaking methodology will differentiate itself as most useful because it’s the sort of sensemaking that puts the highest premium on a pragmatic, integrative approach to exploring new ideas.

Pragmatism is, of course, highly dependent on intuition.  And in order to be pragmatic in a way that is mostly likely to be relevant to a problem, designers must make their intuitive understanding of a problem space rich with of the context that is most likely to make their ideas relevant.  Perhaps most importantly, context can’t be abstractly understood, it is inherently informed by activity in the problem space with the affected people.

And while ethnographic techniques are widely used in design research today, I think there is a lack of definition around the sensemaking process that follows research.  Just as a perceptual layer exists between the interactions that users have with systems, there is also a perceptual layer that exists between the designer and the system they are designing.  In order to create an effective dialog with a design, the designer must externalize their ideas as often as possible in the form of iconic artifacts that allow for new projections and subjective reactions.  During our course on rapid ideation and creative problem solving, our class had a shared experience around the need for this sort of dialog as we rapidly prototyped and iterated on designs of thermostat systems.

Externalizations create a kind of relationship with a system and the system itself starts to impose its own constraints and shapes the designer’s understanding even as the design shapes it.  Resilient traits survive this dialog and a solution eventually emerges.

This articulation from the designer isn’t the solution it’s a solution: it’s an argument through a rigorous and methodical creative process.



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AC4D Speaker Series Graphic Recording: “Aging in Place” by Jon Freach

At AC4D’s last Speaker Series, Jon Freach spoke about his research around Aging in Place and taking the design research he did into concept.

I did a graphic recording of the talk for your viewing pleasure, and I hope you enjoy it!

If you haven’t already, go check out the AC4D Speaker Series! This Wednesday is Leah Bojo talking about Policy Values and Getting Results. And if you want to see more of my graphic recordings, check out my site at

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queery: “Is it working…?” and Our Ponderous Process

Hey everyone!

Alex and I have been touch and go on the blog posts, and I do apologize—today I’m making up for it by posting some progress shots to show you where we’ve come from, and what we have so far.

As Alex mentioned, we’ve come out of the end of this developer hole that we put ourselves through trying to build the application from scratch. Not a good idea, and I’m sure that the lesson Alex learned from that is when prototyping, build fast, and then iterate.

I’m pleased to say that our Google Forms, while perhaps too argyle, is working well:

So far we have a few responses, and enough to pair folks together via interest, so I’m looking forward to having folks meet with one another and gauge their feedback on the meetings! Functionally, it is doing what we want it to do, on a low-fi scale, and in the next four weeks, I want to bring up the fidelity of this bit by bit.

So about that argyle…
Currently, queery is lacking in visual design. Google Forms can only do so much, and in order to change the argyle pattern in the forms, we would have to host the form somewhere else and dig into the CSS. While it is possible, it’s not something I’d like to get into in the first version of our prototype, so Alex and I mutually decided that the next phase of queery will be built on top of a WordPress framework, which allows for decent customizability.

As a teaser, I’ll show you what we have in store for queery.

Our logo has shifted slightly, but has gone from this:

…to this.

We’ve shifted from charcoal and turquoise to navy and teal; our color palette is currently this:

We wanted to take the idea of the transgender pride flag and modify it slightly from baby blues and pinks to stronger, more mature teals and corals. We’re hoping that this palette conveys the friendliness and encouragement that we desire in the application while still maintaining a sense that this is a trustworthy, safe process.

What I’ve learned so far is to trust that we will probably not get it right the first time.  I have a lot of anxiety about how the coffee meetings will go because I so badly want to make a positive impact in the community that piloting this is a big deal for me. I also know that the designing process is an iterative one, and that through the stumbling and falling, we’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep going.

Incredible thanks to the folks who are currently using queery—we wouldn’t be able to do this pilot without you. And to those of you who are in the LGBTQIA community in Austin, if you want to pilot queery, get in touch with me via chelsea (at)

I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming weeks will hold.

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Build Scaffolds. Inspire Articulations. Make New Knowledge. And Repeat.

Access to information technology can make our lives easier, of course, but how people are affected and the sharing of their experience is where we can find meaning.

The diagram below maps 8 author positions around the roles and implications of technology and the meaning of experience and context. Click on the diagram for a full view:

 In What We Talk About When We Talk About Context Paul Dourish describes the interaction of information or object and activity as an alternate concept of context. Context as an interactional problem is the relationship of dynamic objects and activities.

But object interaction is more than the transmission of information, as Bohnear describes in Affect: From Information to Interactionit can be a form of social action, which achieves social ends collectively, in ways in which collective meaning shapes individual experience. 

So if you build scaffolds (supportive frameworks) people will articulate their own experiences that can be interpreted for new knowledge for others.

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Highlighting The Work of Non Profits

For quarter four I am pushing through to build out my wireframes with Story Share in a second iteration. It has been an interesting process on going through this design state, again. In quarter 2 I was able to get a taste of what it is like to do user testing with thermostat wireframes. It is interesting to find each time I go through the process that the first concept or iteration to me feels like the best one. Each iteration after that becomes the reality of the world imprinting its true functionality.  Through testing and talking to industry professionals this project is beginning to tighten up in direction and concept.

Below is the second iteration of wires that I will be using for testing this week. The goal of this wireframe is to allow new users to arrive at a space and understand how to achieve a specific goal. This intro slide focuses the user to make the choice of investigating the Story Share app as a new user or to sign in as a previous user. In this scenario the user is new to the space and looking to volunteer. Ex. 1 is of the main page and Ex. 2 is the following screen of a user story.


 Once a user finds a volunteer opportunity they are interested in they are brought to a more in depth level of the app. While viewing the story the option to volunteer with the event becomes a major icon listed at the bottom part of the screen. If a user decides that this is an event that they want to be apart of they tap the “help out with this project” button. Keeping this action as a consistent feature to new users is a form of a reminder to sign up. Basic information is collected as seen in Ex. 4 and email notification for registration is sent to the user. This is to engage the user but not overwhelm them with a barrage of front end questioning.

The ability to allow users to read through projects and navigate the space without being registered is important. By doing this people who are exploring this app can see what level of importance it might have to their needs and goals. Advocacy is a primary function to the purpose of creating stories for Story Share. Creating a continuous feed of information for particular volunteer opportunities can show the on going challenge that many non profits and their clients go through. My goal is to allow users to share stories in order to continue the advocacy of the clients they are helping.

Posted in Classes, Interaction Design, Social Innovation | Leave a comment

Designing Meaningful Models for Interaction

Recently our class has been exploring modern design history and its intertwined relationship with computing technology and approaches to human and computer interactions.  Technology is both active and contextual in our lives and as a result any discussion of how humans and technology is characterized by both granular detail and broad societal trends.

Designers are rightfully wary of the effects of amplification that are possible through modern technology.  Industrialization showed us the immense power and terrifying unintended consequences of amplifying design ideas.  And in the computer age we have seen many of the same naive, shortsighted views that characterized industrialization repeated in new mediums.

In one of the articles we recently read, Steve Mann advocates for the use of a video capture device that will record every moment of our lives and act as a filter for our perspective of the world.

Having an on-demand photographic memory can help all of us by offloading, to a wearable computer, the task of memorizing now-mundane details that might only later become important.

I couldn’t help but think of the idealized representations of home life in mid-century advertisements for appliances and how they would free women from the arduous everyday tasks.  And while Mann’s perspective may have seemed extreme not long ago the introduction of google glass clearly demonstrates our willingness to continue to hand off tasks to automation.

In another article, Paul Dourish explores (among other things) how our everyday activities shape our view of the world.  Out of this view we begin to see technology that simply attempts to model and replace human activity more realistically: in severing out connection with the environment around us through our activity, we lose our ability to make meaning of the world.

Practice is first and foremost a process by which we can experience the world and our engagement with it as meaningful. As technologists, then, our concern is not simply to support particular forms of practice, but to support the evolution of practice—the ‘‘conversation with materials’’ out of which emerges new forms of action and meaning.

Dourish’s wider point is about how the people that we interact with and the social norms that we establish inform, shape, and ultimately collaborate with us to establish the context from which we make meaning of the world.

In another article that Dourish collaborated on this idea manifests into an important implication for designers who wish to affect people rather than divorcing them from meaningful experiences.

This requires a shift from designing systems to model and transmit emotion to designing systems that support humans in producing, experiencing and interpreting emotions.

As designers we design for people to able to understand and use our systems efficiently.  The computing mediums that interaction designers often bring ideas to life in are biased toward an information based approach to the world that relies on representational models.  And so designing for people by creating computational models that match the observational models we see in the world becomes a natural extension of modern mediums.  But over time this disconnects people for the everyday world and leads to hollow, filtered interactions with the world around us.

Liz Sanders explorations in co-design offer a relevant counterpoint to consider.

People are naturally creative. As designers of scaffolds, we need to give them participatory tools to promote generativity in their thinking.

Sanders describes the designer’s role primarily as a facilitator: a conduit for other’s creativity.  I think Sanders overreaches in pushing all of the active creativity out of the realm of the designer and so I think her model is flawed as a model for methodology in the design process.  But they may offer a powerful model for how to think about the systems that interaction designers put into the world.

As with so many themes in design, the ethic for a designer emerges as a tension between competing needs.  Our medium requires us to think about how to leverage information models and our subject requires to consider how to create interactions that lead to meaningful understandings of the world.  So our task becomes to explore interaction scaffolds that give people the opportunity to create their own meaning and then create models of these scaffolds that are appropriate for the medium.  In this way we design systems that embrace the new interactions that are only possible in new mediums rather than simply creating a virtual shadow of meaningful interactions.



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Inner Circle: The birth plan for everyone else

Starting last October, Anna Krachey, Meghan Corbett and myself – James Lewis – began researching pregnancy and experiences surrounding birth. Through the research, iteration and prototyping phase we’ve come up with a product called Inner Circle: The Birth Plan for everyone else.

But, before I get into what the product is, let me tell you the story of how we got there first. We had read a New York Times article entitled “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World” and were confounded by the following statistics:

  • Approximately 1 in 3 births are done by Cesarean Section.
  • The US has a high infant and maternal death rate for an industrialized nation.
  • The US is the most expensive place to give birth in the world. The second most expensive place is Switzerland, and on average it still costs half as less than it does here.

So we were curious – what is going on with pregnancy and birth today?


As we set off on our research, we spoke to numerous women who were pregnant or recently gave birth. They had a diverse array of experiences and backgrounds, but we came to the following conclusion: Our culture sees birth as a scary, out of control event that needs to be addressed as a procedure. With advances in medical technology, birth has moved away from the home and community and into hospitals. While there are many benefits to that movement, one of the negative impacts seems to be that birth is no longer a normal event that other women in the community witnessed and participated in. Women who are pregnant today have likely never seen childbirth in person, or even an accurate media depiction. Americans are typically shown a hyperbolized scene of a screaming, out of control woman yelling at her partner.

After speaking with pregnant women, a doula and doing secondary research our group came to see a more nuanced picture of labor and delivery. We wanted to design a product to enable women to focus on labor and delivery as a long, hard, completely do-able and natural process.



Looking back over our research we thought of the different women who had positive and negative birth experiences. We divided up these experiences across a spectrum between positive births; those that leave the mother feeling empowered by her birth, setting the tone for motherhood and negative births: where the experience often leaves the mother feeling bowled over – like she wasn’t in control and didn’t know what was happening.

We began to see a correlation between a positive birth experience and the level of assertiveness a woman expressed surrounding her pregnancy, and the labor and delivery of her child.

We spoke to a woman who had a homebirth for her first child. In getting things ready, her midwife recommended she write an email to her friends and family setting guidelines, boundaries and expectations for how they should interact with her during labor and delivery. She wrote out an email which she sent shortly before she gave birth that she kindly shared with us. In it, she said:

“We ask that everyone stay out of the house and possibly at a remote location… unless you have been specifically asked to be present.”


“I have put [my friend] in charge of keeping all close to us updated with text messages so that as we get close to the baby’s [arrival], people can make their way closer to the house.”

Inner Circle

Using what we saw from research and what we know as people with life experiences of our own, our group came up with Inner Circle: the birth plan for everyone else.

Inner Circle helps expectant mothers create a birth plan for her family and friends. It helps women make decisions about their own wishes and boundaries around their upcoming birth.

So how does Inner Circle do that? We’ve started designing the wireframes – which I like to think of as blueprints for a website or app – for our new product. We imagine the user to be a pregnant woman, who is probably in the second trimester of pregnancy. She’s gotten through the first trimester where there is a higher chance of miscarriage, and now she’s likely telling her family and friends.

The BASICS: We start off once the user has signed up for the service with a username and password, but hasn’t used the website yet. She sees a modal window, focusing her attention on five essential questions. In it’s essence, this is minimal plan she can send to her family and friends. However, what we really want is to get the basics down and out of the way. Then she can go explore some of the more thought provoking prompts our team came up with.

ORIENTATION: Once she answers the basic questions, she comes to a full screen. On it she she’s her name and a picture of herself if she’s chosen to upload one. This creates a sense of feeling that this is “her space.”

Since english speakers read left to right, the first thing she sees on the left hand side is her plan so far. On it are her answers and a prompt to explore the questions and prompts to her right under “Things to Consider.” She views some of the prompts with example quotes from other mothers. She clicks a button to answer one of the questions; In the example above it is “If you need anything during your last few weeks of pregnancy, who might be on call to help you? Select a few people »” EXPLORATION: The questions are paired with quotes from the mothers we spoke to during our research. These quotes serve a few purposes:

  • They help give context to the question.
  • They act as examples which let women compare and contrast to how they would answer a question.
  • They give social proof of women setting boundaries, showing you can be assertive and polite at the same time.
  • They reinforce the social spirit of the site: women helping other women through advice and ideas.


The user has clicked a button to answer a question presented on the last screen. Another modal window pops-up asking her to assign a few people close to her that she can call on for help. It also gives helpful suggestions, setting a friendly and helpful tone for the product.

COMPARING: After exploring questions under the categories of “Getting Ready”, “Labor & Delivery”, and “Baby Is Here”, the answers she’s given are shorted for brevity under “Your Plan So Far”. This gives her feedback of what she’s done, and allows her to compare it to the questions she hasn’t answered. Our goal isn’t to get women to answer every single question, but to compare and contrast the questions in a helpful manner which gives her pause to think but doesn’t overwhelm her.

While the user can click on any of her answers to make edits and changes, we included an “edit this plan” button at the bottom of the screen. This is because editing a document is a separate mental space from creating it. Changing questions before having to “commit” to them reinforces the goal of having her explore different options.


Shhhh… here’s a little secret! While this may change (these are only prototypes), the “edit your plan” and “schedule to send” buttons from the previous screen actually go to the same screen! Why is that? Because we want users to take this seriously – this isn’t a short text message to a friend, but a well thought out plan. During testing we often had users ask “I can edit this before I send it, right?” However, some users might not want to edit and are ready to send it out. We want to be explicit that users can send their plan without having to”edit” it if they don’t want to.

On this finalizing screen she sees her name and picture at the top of the page. All the instructions she’s written and questions she’s answered are laid out in full, in the same format her friends and family will receive it in.  She can change and edit her answers, and write an personalized introduction and conclusion to her letter. This part of our product is still in it’s infancy. We’re going to iterate and test out a few versions during the fourth quarter to make sure we get it right. When the user is finished with her plan, she clicks a button at the bottom of the screen to “select contacts & send.” Our team still has to take these wireframes to high level of fidelity, but this part of the flow will be where she adds her family and friends contact information and decides how and when she wants to send her plan.

- fin -

Well this has been a long blog post! Maybe you’ve scanned the headlines and images, or faithfully read the whole thing. Either way, what’s next for our group? In the fourth and final quarter of AC4D our group will pilot our product. This is like beta testing, putting our product in the hands of users. However, piloting is like pre-beta testing. The whole product may not be built out, there will still be bugs to work out and things to be re-designed. In essence, piloting is just another test as we iterate and refine Inner Circle.

One last thing! If any readers out there have experience with web development, especially with programming and databases, we could really use your help! Any advice, suggestions or time you might be able to donate would be a huge help to our group. Please drop me a line at or tweet me at @jamesLdesign.

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The Spectrum Project Final Update – From 0 to Queery


As my partner, Chelsea Hostetter, and I have reached the end of quarter 3, it is time to summarize what this time has meant for us and where we will be heading as we step into our final quarter at AC4D.

However, before we dive into that, some thanks and recognition is in order.


Firstly, to our participants, including the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the Central Texas Transgender Society, and PFLAG . You have been incredibly generous with your time and personal stories both triumphant and painful. Thank You.

To our classmates, who have provided both support and challenge via their critique. You’ve helped us to create a better design. Thank You.

To the professors of quarter 3, Matt Franks, Kijana Knight, and Jon Kolko. You have all been instrumental in helping us to make sense of the data and continuously refine our ideas into something greater than it was before. Thank You.

Finally, to our friends, family, and loved ones. You have been our design guinea pigs and our most ardent supporters. Thank You.

Previous posts

For handy reference, here is the history of our posts in chronological order:
Spectrum Project – First post
Spectrum Project – Update 2
Spectrum Project – Update 3
Spectrum Project – Update 4
Spectrum Project – Update 5
Spectrum Project – Update 6
Spectrum Project – Update 7

At the beginning of this quarter, we had 300 design ideas.

Although we had picked 3 to present for our final, our hearts were not set on any particular idea. Initially, we were leaning much more in the direction of either a comic book or a videogame as we are both quite interested in such things.  However, we carefully reevaluated our design ideas and tried to strike a balance between presumed impact, our passion for a particular idea, and feasibility given our skill sets.

Our first concept : A Birchbox for the trans* community

We ended up with our first idea, which was Clique. A Birchbox for the trans* and gender variant community. The was a high level concept which strived to create a space to grow mentors who would curate boxes of things they wish they would have had during the earlier stages of their transition.

We brought this idea to the class for critique.

We carefully wrote down what each of our classmates and Jon had to say and systematically walked through each of the points to see what we wished to address.

We reexamined why we wanted a box and what this all really meant for our community. Our next iteration on this concept was to ditch the box but carry forward two concepts, mentorship and curation.

We asked the community what they wanted to learn about and what they were willing to teach.

Our second concept : Mutual mentorship

What resulted was a concept called Three4Three. We democratized the mentorship concept so that everyone is a mentor. By sharing their strengths, each member could gain confidence while making new connections.

Speaking of connections, this is where our curation concept was carried forward. Instead of curating a box, we thought to curate the community instead. Most websites are open and free. They want to have as many users as possible to that they can receive more advertisement revenue. As such, they do not work particularly hard on removing negative users as that would cut into the bottom line.
Out of concern for our community, we intend the opposite. With particularly strict controls on who can enter, we create a safe, trans* positive environment.

We then brought this idea to our classmates.

Again we were brought some incredible challenges from our peers. We thought carefully about why we felt mentorship was so valuable. After some consideration, we landed on the concept that companionship was the most valuable aspect of the interaction. So we then decided to carry forward 2 concepts: a curated community and companionship.

Our third concept : Friendship and networking over coffee and a game

Coffeeroulette was our next concept. It simplified the meeting of two individuals so that instead of a teaching session, they would meet over coffee and a game.

It was also around this time that we started thinking that this would be a mobile application.

We printed out a series of scenarios with common user tasks and had members of the community try to imagine themselves in those scenarios.

What we learned was that overall, the concept was solid, but there are foundational trust issues which needed to be addressed. We refined our idea once more, and tried to reduce the concept to its most distilled form.

A fundamental question : Can we bring two random people together?

We had a fundamental question which needed to be answered: Can we bring two random people together for coffee?

The answer is yes, however there are some caveats. Fortune smiled upon us as our random pair happened to both be enthusiastic programmers. Most importantly though, was that they both had a friend in common. This mutual connection was the linchpin to the establishment of their fundamental trust.

It was after this test where the mechanics of our community growth were established.

A network of friends

For this concept to work, we needed to create a network of friends. So we decided that instead of allowing for a free-for-all registration system, we would be invite-only.  In particular, we recalled the invite-only, early beta trials of other social networks and realized that after a certain point, a few things happen:

1. The invites become commoditized.
2. Someone is a little careless with their invites and negativity increases.
3. At a certain size, the community is subjected to Eternal September.

We needed to control two critical issues; the flow rate of invites and the quality of who is invited. From this, our ratings system was born.

We recognize that invites are a form of social currency and that there will be pressure to give an invite to acquaintances. In these scenarios, people who are not particularly trans* friendly would normally gain access to our network and wreak havoc if left unchecked.

We ask our users to rate one another and the location where they met after every meeting. With enough negative ratings, not only is a user ejected from the system, but the person who invited them has their rating lowered as well. This, along with a per user invite cap, provides backpressure so that they think very carefully before handing out access.

Between our scenario and live tests, we proved that while a game wasn’t necessary, having a common subject does help start the conversation.

Our final concept

From this, Queery was born.

We then brought this concept back to our users via usability testing. The response was great and we rapidly refined our interface. With some fantastic help from Matt Franks, we ended up with a smooth application which allows users to schedule a meeting around their selected topic, find each other with a discreet signal, and rate the interaction.

On Saturday, Chelsea presented our refined concept to a crowd of designers, entrepreneurs, and AC4D professors. The presentation is available here. We received some wonderful compliments and some sage advice on where to go next regarding business models and technical strategy.

So what’s next?

Over the next quarter, Chelsea and I will be building this concept into a live demonstration application and we need your help!

We’re are looking for mentors in entrepreneurship as neither of us have a sturdy background in finance, marketing, or sales. On the technical front, we are currently leaning toward an HTML5 responsive mobile webapp. If you can find the time to impart some of your wisdom, perhaps over lunch or coffee, we’d love to hear from you!

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The Spectrum Project Update 7: Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

As my design partner Alex explained in his blog post, from CoffeeRoulette was born Queery, a service exclusively for the trans* and gender variant community for pairing people together for safe, one-on-one interactions with one another within a curated community.

When we last left you, we were going to test our wireframes with users—so far, we have tested three users and plan to test another two users by Sunday, and write up a full report by then.

The response has been extremely encouraging. “Where were you six months ago when I moved to Austin!?” said one of our participants while pointing at our wireframes. “You need to make this, invent a time machine, and then give me it.”

Our preliminary tests have also unearthed some usability issues of our wireframes—the confirmation screen for the application after the meeting has been set is unclear, and some of the icons on our navigation bar were not clear enough to convey meaning.

We have since updated our wireframes to not include the navigation bar, and to instead, have an easy, one-at-a-time flow that prevents the user from doing too many things at once. In our new organization, we will have singular flows where a user sets up a meeting, has reminders for that meeting, and only until they complete a meeting and rate the meeting will they be able to set up a new meeting.

Additionally, Alex and I have started asking the hard questions in terms of edge cases:

  • What if someone feels uncomfortable or unsafe during the meeting, how can we stop it?
  • How will we be able to monetize this service to pay for itself and keep it going for the community?
  • How do we pitch this idea to coffee shops, and how do we get more coffee shops involved in trans*issues?
  • What happens if someone who is not supposed to receive an invite is sent an invite (through a mis-typed e-mail address, for example)?

Before our presentation next Saturday, we want to think about these questions and more while we continue to refine our wireframes this week.

We’re also getting fired up for our own reasons—because both Alex and I are cisgendered, we get asked a lot by others, “Why make an application for the trans* community when you are not trans* yourself?”

We will never be able to fully understand the struggles of someone who is going through transition. What I can understand is the anxiety I feel when I walk into a new place with new people, and now I am suddenly expected to walk around to everyone and introduce myself, with no knowledge of how the conversation is going to go. I can understand wanting to stay online with my friends, as I have done that for years and years, only meeting my internet friends once in a while if I had money. I can understand the pain and awkwardness of a conversation going south.

I get giddy thinking about the folks who we have talked to and who are interested meeting one another and hitting it off. I trust that with the right advisors and with the support of the trans* community, we will be able to build something that the community can take over from us and call it their own.

Again, Alex and I are continually thankful for the folks who have been testing our wireframes, providing us feedback, and guiding us on the way to Queery. We’ll see you for a final blog post next week.

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