SHREYA SHANKAR

Life

IDEATE 2017: A DESIGN THINKING CONFERENCE

April 15, 2017


IDEATE is a special place for me because it's where I discovered my love for product design, and it's where I found my career path. I had never heard of UX, Interaction Design, Product Design until I attended IDEATE in 2016, and now it is a huge part of my life. I will forever be thankful to IDEATE for giving me the chance to discover my passion. 

This year's conference had some major improvements; notably, changing from a two-day conference to a one-day conference as well as introducing creative aspects into all parts of the conference and giving out some great swag for all attendees. The shift from a two-day conference to one-day dramatically improved the energy, creativity, and flow of the event. I found myself wanting to extract all possible creativity and lessons I could out of the seven hours of the conference. 

HOW to design reality: 

The day started with a great talk by Stephanie Engle, a product designer on Facebook's VR team and a Duke alum. Stephanie talked about the paradox of letting people express themselves while trying to contain an entire person's identity on a screen. I thought this was really interesting because it provided the greatest constraint that a platform like Facebook faces - how to create identity within the context of a screen. From there, she segued into the idea that designers create reality. 

2.1 billion people in this world spend an average of 3.5 hours a day on their smart phones. For 3.5 hours a day, a person's window into reality is the size of their phone screen. 

Stephanie used time as an example of how designers alter your window into reality (therefore creating the reality you live in). The examples she used blew me away, because it made me realize how every little detail is portrayed in such a way that achieves the goal of the product. For example, Uber shows your pickup time in minutes left, whereas it shows your arrival time at your destination in standard time. Little design changes like this have great implications over a period of time, especially when users don't realize that their reality is being distorted by their window into reality. Another great example is Youtube removing the status bar when you use the app, giving you the opportunity to spend much longer watching videos than you intended to. By changing these little things, a person's window into reality is altered with the distortion of time. It's important to understand how you use a product to alter and design reality. 

Workshop 1 - designing for behavior change: 

This workshop was interesting because it focused on combining behavioral economics with design. Our challenge during this workshop was to: create a push notification that opens a dialog to increase a behavior. The specific behavior we were focusing on was increasing a person's water consumption by following through with a "water challenge". 

I really enjoyed this workshop because it taught me a lot about how humans react to different situations. Before we started, we were given a sheet of different behavioral economics terms (general terms that described human behavior in different situations). Our first step in the challenge was to come up with a list of reasons of why people don't complete a "water challenge". Since the challenge took place over three days, we broke down the challenge into five stages: 

  1. Skill Goal Started
  2. Habit Complete Day 1 (Drink Water)
  3. Habit Complete Day 2 (Drink Water)
  4. Habit Complete Day 3 (Drink Water)
  5. Skill Goal Complete

Using these stages, we identified potential problems people would have at each stage that would cause them to not complete the challenge. Each of these problems was then sorted into behavioral economics categories, and from there we chose to tackle one specific category with our push notification. Our final product idea was to tailor the push notification to each user, by asking them to fill out a short questionnaire as part of the signup process. We were specifically trying to target the "why does it matter to me" mentality, and by using notifications that are more personal, our team believed that it would get people to complete the habit and complete the challenge. 

WORKSHOP 2 - User research & design thinking:

This workshop was hosted by Colette Kolenda, a user researcher at Spotify. She gave us a completely different perspective on design thinking, as she works more in the consumer psychology field. From her talk, I learned that her team focused on how people approach Spotify, and how designers translated this research to physical features and design changes. User research is a big part of design thinking, and I believe now more than ever that it's impossible for one to exist without the other. Designers are designing for the users after all, and user research is all about understanding the user's needs and what makes them tick. 

Colette gave us a little taste into user research by giving us an exercise that allowed us to understand the context, ask open ended questions and dive further into the user's mind (rather than just asking short yes/no questions). The exercise we were given was to "explore the class registration process." With a partner, we took five minute turns asking open ended questions to each other to come up with fundamental problems that needed to be solved. A great question that my partner asked me was to "describe the class registration process in 3 adjectives", and then build on each of those adjectives. 

From this point, we were already on track to follow the five step design thinking process: 

Research - Define - Ideate - Prototype - Test

Once our "research" was complete, we moved on to defining the problem using our research. My partner and I identified the problem statement as: 

Duke students need a cleaner and more efficient interface to register for classes. 

Ideating with our problem, we came up with 5 possible solutions: 

  1. Windows with tabs that hold all the information in one place
  2. More accurate class information available
  3. Having visual schedule available to be viewed at all times, as people forget the times they register for classes 
  4. More transparent information such as modes of inquiry available easily
  5. Easy way to link to a four year plan, make it interactive 

In the prototyping phase, we were told to create a hypothesis. My partner and I went with the windows with tabs that hold all the information idea to prototype, and we came up with a quick five minute wireframe of the idea (seen below):

In the prototype to test step, Colette explained to us how these prototypes would be tested and what she looks for when testing prototypes. The main points were whether the solution is solving a problem that affects core users, whether the solution is possible, and whether the prototype holds to objectives. She also gave us some insight into evaluative user testing, where an interview with about 5-8 users is enough to identify problems and the biggest issues. 

DESIGN CHALLENGE: 

For the design challenge, each of the visiting speakers were given a prompt and a group of participants to work with. Participants chose which prompt they wanted to work with, so I chose to go with "design an app that improves productivity while studying." Our group mentor was Stephanie Engle, and I learnt a lot from her during this challenge. Her first piece of advice was to cross out "design an app" because a solution to a problem does not necessarily have to be in the mobile interface space. She then asked us to define productivity so that we, as designers, would really be able to understand what we were designing for. Within our groups, our definition of productivity was "accomplishing tasks effectively and well." We then went on to define the problem, why people are not productive while studying. Our problems we defined were: 

  1. Distractions
  2. No immediate satisfaction
  3. Procrastinating
  4. Ineffective Studying

Stephanie really pushed us further at this point to come up with a laser sharp scene that would put edges to a problem. She pushed us to define a "hero moment" for our product, and paint a picture of what success would look like. She asked us to answer the question "what are you uniquely adding to the solution?" From her, I learned to paint a picture for a user and use that picture to help define success and the hero moment. I also learned to always fill out the statement "we will know our product works when we see ...." 

Stephanie was really helpful with her mentorship and the idea of a hero moment really stuck with me, as it is a great way to pinpoint success with a product and it makes the path to success so much clearer. 

After much consideration, our team came up with the idea of social productivity. We didn't want to tie productivity in with the actual product, because we believed that every student studies in a unique way and creating a "fun-fact" bot or an app that blocks off other apps for designated amounts of time might not work for everyone. We ideated an app that would compile a group of people's to-do lists, and would send out notifications to other people in the group when someone was either working on an item in their to-do list, or had finished an item on the list. Using the concepts of accountability and group mentality, we thought this would be a good way for college students to be held accountable for their work. A lot of times, students don't want to work because they aren't feeling it, or because their friends aren't working. Using this concept, our goal is that if students see that their friends are working, they will also want to work. Our hero moment was that users of this product would be on track with their work and everyone would lift each other up by motivating each other to work. 

Fun fact: our team actually won the design challenge at Ideate with this product, yay!!! 

This was the end of IDEATE 2017, I took away so much from this conference and am so glad to have attended for the second year. Here's to more progress in design, and another year of design adventures!