Week 11: The Roadblock


“No person is honoured for what he receives. Instead, honour is the reward for what they gave”

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States

 


It’s 3 weeks from delivery, production is (and has) been in full swing. Everything seems swell, team’s happy, client’s happy…..wait, maybe not! We received word from our faculty supervisor that the client is not all too impressed with the “level of quality” in our UI (insert punch to the gut meme here).

Did we miss something? I mean, we’d just had a client meeting the day before, no negatives, no deltas, no flags? Is it truly that they’re unimpressed with the design or is it a classic case of seeking to squeeze as much juice out of the orange as possible (i.e. stigmas that students must be pushed yada yada).

After receiving the news, the team huddled, faces looking long, energy zapped, it was like the sun fell out of the sky. A whole range of emotions ensued, everything from venting to despondence. Some felt we should just keep moving, fight the good fight, others felt that we should defend ourselves.

We quickly ran a session to weigh the value of each element that needed to be improved, planning to share these improvements with the client one-by-one. Look, we needed to vent, to share what we felt about the ‘negative’ feedback but beyond that, we wanted to deliver our own punch, so our work ethic took over.

What SEEMED to be a down point became a turning point in the team’s approach. We believed in our product, our vision, our ability to deliver quality. We buckled down and ramped up our design, polishing and polishing, determined to see our day of redemption. It wasn’t the end, more like the beginning, we’ll see our day in the sun!

To be continued…

 

Week 13: The Final Presentation


“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand”

Frank Herbert, Author

The final presentation as Telus Digital employees look on

 

So it’s that day, the moment we’d been thinking about for three months. Part tense, part exciting, invigorating yet draining, it was time to present our deliverable. Three months of blood and sweat, bound together by the constant pursuit of success, we were ready….no really, we were ready!

Every project has twists and turns, ours was no different, but the turning point had to be the day we received some negative client feedback. To be honest, it was a buzzkill. I mean, it should be right? You work so hard, hoping to win, not expecting to lose. Nonetheless, it hardened our team, made us more resolute, and by delivery Monday, we were ready to show we belonged.

Team slide from the final presentation deck.

 

The presentation was almost 50 mins in length, almost 50 people in attendance. We were being put to the test and we knew it but we felt strong. Part of that reason was the spirit of a team that had worked so well together, adjusted to every bump and ripple on the path. We organised our presentation carefully, we set the stage by stating the problem, before entering the demo, we made sure that the problem space was carefully occupying the minds of our attendees.


Screenshot from the product demo.

 

The demo was handled smoothly by Andy and Helen, it was a redemption moment, our time to shine so to speak and we unveiled our glistening new bundle builder. Sliders, filters, search results, we felt we had a winning idea, a winning solution, so we acted like it.

 

 

After the demo, we jumped to the the behind the scenes stuff, the business side, the algorithms, the special sauce, then the UX approach, what worked, what didn’t, what user tests taught us – important was to mention what just sucked, what didn’t work – this was a highlight too.

 

 

We wrapped it up with a discussion on next steps, the things we couldn’t get to but we wanted to like  a mobile version, existing customer approach and more. By the time it was done, it was a sweet feeling to see so much appreciation from Telus, from people who are experts in the realm of development, design and management.

We can say without a doubt that without the Interdisciplinary Improvisation course (in term 1), without the tools, the techniques, the industry experts, our mentor, Al Sinoy, we would have had a difficult time navigating such an environment, but we can truly say that after one year of learning, we were totally ready for the challenge and hoped for and expected a good outcome. It was a real confidence builder for the team and more of a celebration of our product than anything.

 

Until the next iteration!!!!!

 

 

Just before their final presentation at Telus Digital

Week 13: The End…For Now


“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”

George Bernard Shaw, Playwright and cofounder of the London School of Economics 

 

 

End of Project Lunch at Italian Kitchen, Downtown Vancouver

Alas, it’s time to wrap it up….for now, is it ever really the end? We were posed the following question from our Agile coach, Al Sinoy:

“If you were to give advice to a future MDMer on how to co-create a championship team and reach great wins, what would it be?”

Anthony Duffy, Scrum Master:

Respect. Plain and simple. The foundation of a great team is not simply skilled developers and gifted artists, nor is it savvy project managers or UX wizards. It is the emotional intelligence to understand that everyone is important, everyone is valuable, and to create the secret sauce that is a a great product, is to understand that making everyone feel valued is the key to a great team recipe.

Camilla Sieben, Product Owner:

Make sure everyone feels comfortable in expressing themselves and sharing ideas. Creating a good work environment generates flow and commitment. And when all the team members are committed to delivering a great product and confidence is built, it is possible to get the best out of each one.

Helen Nguyen, UX/UI Designer:

In my opinion, there are three things that can help to create a championship team and reach great wins: respect for each other especially when giving feedbacks, understanding each person in the team’s skills and working style in order to adapt and collaborate well together, and a willingness to learn and try out new thing, taking initiatives and helping other team members along the way.

Andy Liu, Developer:

Communication is key to the success of a good project. Constant update from oneself to the team can help them understand your needs and ideas. Making sure your voiced is heard, listening is also a key part of communication as well as letting others have a chance to express themselves. The best ideas sometimes come from nowhere.

Cathy Yang, Developer:

Members in a winning team should be frank and constructive when giving feedback, whilst respecting other’s work. As colleagues, team members should be open to suggestions and be flexible. Cultivating such a culture allows the team to exchange suggestions and concerns fearlessly for the whole team to understand each other’s point of view, which consequently allows the team to make the necessary steps to further perfect the product.

Annie Wang, UX/UI Designer:

Defining responsibilities clearly at an early stage of a project is very important. In this project, our three designers defined our specific responsibilities, for example: testing, wireframing, UI design, etc. It worked well and we collaborated efficiently because there’s no overlapping amongst our roles.

Krishna Sriram, Lead UX Designer:

Reflexivity, reactivity and retrospection are all keys to success. You want to quickly be able to change your stance or assumptions on something and quickly react to roadblocks and problems. This applies to both product and process. Process is often undervalued and helps establish rhythm. Building and adjusting your process framework through retrospection is a big multiplier. And let people have ownership and have high standards for each other. Push each other.

 

 

 

Week 13: Beta Testing


“If you always do what you always do, you will always get what you always get”

Voltaire, Francois-Marie Arouet, French Writer and Philosopher 

 

For the final beta test, Botify took to the streets once again for some ‘in the wild’ testing.  We tested a total of six users:

Goals:

1) To assess whether users understand how to navigate through the bundle builder

2) To identify usability issues and navigation errors

3) To understand customers’ views towards the experience

Results

We found a wide degree of usability, linguistic and visual design issues in the final prototype, as listed below.

Usability issues:

  1. Progress bar implementation is an immediate concern. Many users requested to be able to use it, and saw that as a critical feature for them to modify their choices.
  2. Users complained about not being able to see the ‘choose theme packs instead’ option very easily. It seems like the links for the secondary interactions need to be bigger, and were not seen as intuitive.
  3. Not many users found the ‘Search’ field easily. Search function on the channels screen may be more easily found on the main section of the screen, maybe on the right side above channels.
  4. Users did not see or click ‘Show details’ on the footer. One user noted that they would be more comfortable with a cart icon, a convention that they are already used to. Solution listed below:

   

Visual Design issues:

  1. The drop down for uncollapsing comparisons for internet plans is not clear and intuitive. Not a single user found it. The iconography may need to be changed.
  2. There are two primary CTA’s on the Essentials page – users saw ‘Continue’ instead of ‘Customize channels’       
  3. The secondary CTA on Essentials page is too small, and users did not notice that.
  4. ‘Deals and promotions’ area in the footer section wasn’t attention grabbing. Solution below.

 

Language issues:

  1. We might need some text on top of the sliders to indicate that they’re meant to be played with. Solution below.
  2. Essentials text needs to be changed to indicate that it is not customizable.

A few quotes from users:

“It’s nice, but some of the things are not that intuitive. Like the compare thing. if you make progress bar clickable, that would be more helpful.”

“This is far and away a better product because it is empowering me and creating a greater level of service”.

“Quicker than my past experience. Goes straight to the bundle I want, and check out, very easy, not complicated.”

All the users we tested seemed welcoming to the overall concept and experience provided by the final prototype of the bundle builder. The issues that they had are mainly regarding usability, language and visual affordances.

A suggested next step for any design team working on this version of the bundle builder would be to extensively test each portion in isolation and refine the details of the interface.

 

The ‘in the wild’ testing was very fruitful, so much so, we had to do it again. We owed it to ourselves to see how real people would react to our product. One main takeaway from such testing is: one street test is worth ten MDM (in-house) tests, so C12 take note! Their is an irreplaceable richness to the raw reactions of real target customers. Twas fun!

 


 

Week 10: Guerrilla Testing


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister, 1940-1945, 1951-1955

After conducting rounds of testing mostly on site at the CDM, Botify took to the streets to find eligible bundle builder customers to gain better insight. The objective was to conduct an observational usability test, with some follow up questions afterwards.

Location:

Nestor’s Market, Vancouver Public Library

Tools:

An InVision prototype with clickable hotspots.

The InVision prototype allowed us to test an on-screen experience as opposed to paper, however, there were limitations. Asking users to select their channels was difficult seeing that the prototype is not fully developed, so only certain elements were interactive. This skewed the test in a way, since customers couldn’t feel the full potential of the experience.

Nonetheless, there was some valuable takeaways from the users interviewed.

Interviewees

Botify interviewed 9 people between 24 and 45. They ranged from our primary target (middle-aged, multi-services customers with families) to younger subjects who are in the market for internet/tv. 5 males and 4 females were tested.

Documentation Method

Since usability was a focus, the team conducted the test in the following format:

  1. One team member recruited suitable users and welcomed them to the testing area, an introduction was made and users were encouraged to experiment (some constraints were mentioned)
  2. Another team member documented results using printouts of the prototype on paper. Using mini post-its, the results were documented in the following way:

Blue: Language/information issues
Neon: Usability issues
Pink: Negative emotions
Orange: Positive emotions

With each user test, we repeated the stickies to create a heat mapped response to each screen combining issues of language, usability, pleasure and displeasure.

Here is a sample page:

Key Takeaways

A key focus was to understand what doesn’t work:

  • Users were visibly confused by the InVision prototype and felt that they could not easily gauge the product in the current format.
  • Users were confused by the fact that they needed to choose their channels, and then make another similar choice in the theme pack selection screen. They still had a problem discerning between bundles, theme packs and individual channels.
  • Some users were not intuitively drawn towards the sliders nor the panel on the left which instructed them to access the sliders.
  • 5 out of the 9 users that we tested felt like the process was clear and intuitive.
  • The other 4 felt that some parts were confusing.
  • Users visibly liked the idea of an a-la-carte process.
  • Users over 40 preferred a simpler process with less options (more web 1.0-esque), younger users enjoyed the options and real-time interactivity
  • There was a lot of animosity towards theme-packs, essentials and any other industry standard that pushes customers to fixed packages. This hate was real…but…there was a lot of love for an a la carte design, something that brightened the spirits of all users.

So what’s next

With 3 weeks to go, a key next step is to get a coded prototype out in the wild and to test it repeatedly, making adjustments as needed and documenting major next steps beyond week 13. It’s crunch time but it’s also fun time, as we see the fruits of our labour start to take formation. What will be pivotal in the remaining weeks is to prioritise and to shift momentum quickly as needed, solving the key issues first. #crunchtime.

Week 9: Completing the Core


Whoever does not know how to hit a nail on the head should be asked not to hit a nail at all.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosopher and Cultural Critic

As the team turned the corner into the final furlong, the last 3rd of the project, weeks 9-12, it was critical that those elements identified as ‘core’ to the solution are rounding into form. Feedback has been fluid (both from stakeholders and user testing) but it is now time to ramp up production. To that end, the team is working on a medium fidelity prototype (in-vision) and ticking of some of the core development tasks (such as sliders and filtering). With some bumps to iron out between the back-end and front-end, nailing down the blockers and how to resolve them is critical.

Considering how hot the project room was, we unpacked and conducted sprint planning in our lounge area, using one colour and one column per team member (always gotta keep it fresh).

 

Meeting Unpack – Sprint Goals – Sprint Questions – To Do 

The meeting unpack is a means of not only gathering data from the client meeting but also to ‘same page’ the team, so that everyone’s understanding aligns.

The Sprint goals is a draft version in which team members can align on the vision for the upcoming week. The final draft becomes a user story format (see below in the sprint diagram).

The Sprint Questions ensure that the goals of the sprint have actual aims, a means to bring about actionables.

The To Do is a draft version of what becomes the tasks (or clusters of tasks) that will go on the Sprint Board.

 

The final eight weeks of the project shape up as follows:

 

Week 6: Half Way Home


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw, Playwright and cofounder of the London School of Economics

 

As the team was about to complete sprint 06 of 13, it was time to do a detailed retrospective. In order to get a deep feeling of what each time member felt. Our agile coach, Al Sinoy, helped us create a timeline of memorable moments:

The timeline details memorable markers (or milestones) along our first six weeks. This list of events was created through group discussion, which was time boxed and given two or three iterations, in order to hash it out.

Then, each team member (colour coded by Design, Dev., PO/SM) wrote their own account (in silence) of just how happy or how sad a given milestone made them feel. This was an excellent approach to finding out just how happy or sad a team member is, without any type of stressful confrontation.

One of the themes that was apparent from the happy/sad index, was that as the weeks were progressing, the stress level (naturally) was building for developers as they sought to actualise the design. The next step was to discuss and pull out themes that were apparent by clustering the stickies:

The team then organised items by:

  • Team
  • Client
  • Concept
  • Process
  • WTF

The penultimate step was to dot vote on the most important items to creation actionable for. The votes were all split between ‘concept’ and ‘process’. This then allowed us to come to a conclusion on the retrospective by creating the following actionables:

This agile approach to retros allowed us to:

A) understand our journey to date, how we all see it to be

B) gain true insight into each team members joys and fears (in an un-intimidating fashion)

C) To align on actionables that remedy our process in a productive way that brings satisfaction to all team members

Let’s go 2nd half…here we come!

Week 6: Agile Alignment


The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

John Wooden, Basketball Coach

 

This week I had the pleasure of attending a Scrum master guild meeting with the good folks at Telus (Vancouver/Toronto) and Koodo. The scrum masters were meeting to compile an interview guide detailing just what would be the best questions to ask in evaluating a great scrum master. At first glance, it may seem that this type of internal discussion would be more procedural in nature, not something that would benefit a group of digital media students. However, quite the contrary, it provided pivotal insight into just how major companies like Telus are utilising Agile and Scrum to revolutionise management processes and just how important the Centre for Digital Media’s preparation of its students is for the industry.

From the principles Telus values in an agile team:

  • Agile vs Waterfall, advantages and disadvantages?
  • Collaboration between Product Owners and Project Managers
  • Involving stakeholders in the process
  • The value of scrum
  • Daily standups and the various approaches to them
  • Sprint planning ‘ceremony’
  • The value of post-sprint retrospectives and fun ways to integrate them
  • How to implement actionables (after a retrospective)
  • Tools are important to agile teams
  • Sprint boards: physical vs digital?
  • Various metrics that help evaluate and support a scrum team
  • Conflict resolution – improving process, maximising potential vs. the blame game
  • How to approach continuous improvement

All of these topics are—in one way or another—addressed in the MDM programme at the Centre for Digital Media. This term, our team has had the added benefit of working with Al Sinoy, an MDM alumni, our cohort’s Agile coach, and oh yea, he happens to be our Faculty Supervisor. During the first four weeks of our project, Al has been feeding our team tools, processes and procedures that infuse the team with Agile methodologies. The mindset and the values that Telus Digital is assessing (in a great Scrum Master) are exactly the tools being implemented at the Centre for Digital Media.

As I observed the team of Telus Scrum Masters evaluate what’s important in an agile team, I couldn’t help but nod my head: the digital tool box we constantly evolve and increase as we move through our three project terms, the constant evaluation (personal and team), the sprints, the retros, the refinement, is all part of year-long journey of industry-tested preparation for the digital workplace.

Below are some images from our Sprint process that are also utilised by Telus:

Sprint Board:

Weekly retrospectives:

Post-Sprint Actionables:

Week Three: Sprint Rhythm

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”
– John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States –

With almost three weeks in the book, it’s time to start nailing down our sprint rhythm. Sprint plan-sprint goals-retros, rinse and repeat. To make the process more visible, the following poster was plastered on the project room glass, right above the visual timeline and the sprint board.

Continue reading “Week Three: Sprint Rhythm”

Week Two: The Meeting – The Decision: Bundle Builder

Faced with the decision to work on a website portal (myTelus), the Bundle Builder, or a pitched project, Botify settled on the Bundle Builder since it has the most value proposition, and meshes well with the team’s skills and backgrounds.

Continue reading “Week Two: The Meeting – The Decision: Bundle Builder”