Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

We’re into our third iteration of wireframes to create an application that facilitates class scheduling and registration for our Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class (iteration 1, iteration 2).

This week, I took another pass at a feature that allows students to set their schedule preferences before searching for classes, since my initial scenario depicted a woman who is trying to maximize her time working toward a nursing degree while also working full time and being a wife and mother. I also continued to refine some details around editing/dropping courses and considered animations/transitions that commonly appear in iPad apps.

Here is the third iteration of the wireframes. (Click image to download a full PDF.)

My other focus with this round was conducting Think-Aloud user testing with five people I didn’t know. I spoke with students from UT-Austin as well as a man in a nearby coffee shop whose wife is a nursing student. As they tapped through paper printouts of the screens, they told me what they were doing, which helped me understand where some of my changes didn’t fit their mental models of how scheduling happens. (I also learned that it’s much harder to test with people I don’t know. They tended to get quiet when confused or frustrated, so I had to keep prompting them to “please, keep talking,” so I could understand what they were trying to do.)

So what did I learn in this round?

  1. Semester selection. Users frequently got stuck trying to plan Fall 2012 rather than switching to the Spring 2013 semester. I should just take them to the semester open for registration instead of the current term.
  2. Course suggestion. I added a feature that suggests courses based on the student’s degree requirements and schedule preferences. The slider interaction to add classes was used only by one tester—and that’s because he couldn’t figure out another way to add classes. I need to figure out whether to rework or drop the suggested course concept.
  3. Registration workflow. In this test, two users wanted to go through the schedule and registration process for one course at a time, rather than create a whole schedule and then submit the registration. I need to figure out how to support that workflow so they aren’t locked out of changing their schedule if they sign up for one class and then want to modify the schedule after submitting the registration.
  4. Create a digital, interactive prototype. There’s a disconnect between paper and digital prototypes. Where users might try tapping an iPad screen to see what happens, it feels more awkward in paper format. I want to create a hyperlinked prototype that users can interact with on an iPad or computer screen to see how that changes the experience.

This week, my big realization was around testing. While the iterations are important, I have a lot of room to grow in recruiting testers, developing scenarios for them to try out key features, and considering environmental factors that will lead to successful testing (noise/distraction levels, paper versus digital prototypes, testing at a table instead of an open seating area, etc.).