I can’t believe we’re halfway through the term. Congratulations to all the progress you’ve made, everyone!

Initial expectations:

  • Apply what I’ve learned from courses and work. Check.
  • Explore techniques that I haven’t had the chance to practice at work. E.g. Personas, but that’s on the back-burner.
  • Collaborate closely with the developers. See below.

What’s going well:

  • I think the code sprint at the beginning of the term has been invaluable in terms of motivation. There’s the immediate reward of sitting together and hammering through a bunch of tickets, but there’s also a psychological byproduct of meeting everyone who you’re going to work with and won’t be seeing for the next few months. Being able to put a face to a name helps motivate me to push out a mockup because I know a person is waiting on me. There’s accountability, sort of like a hard deadline vs. soft deadline?
  • From a development standpoint, I don’t think I’ve learned anything new as of yet, but the experience is certainly reinforcing everything I’ve accumulated from PEY/school/freelancing:
    • Practices from work/school: wireframe/prototype, annotate, pass to developers, discuss–rinse and repeat.
    • Collaboration is difficult; especially when you’re not occupying the same space or time as your team.
    • Communication is difficult: mailing lists, IRCs, IMs… Everyone has their preferred method of communication which fits into their respective workflow, but it doesn’t always play nicely with others.

The challenges:

  • Having a 9-5 full-time job restricts the timeframe in which I can work on Basie. Weekly meetings are on Tuesday, and while everyone else is chipping away at the project throughout the week, I can only find the time to sit down and think things through on the weekends. I try to keep on top of questions on the mailing list during the week, but I’d love to be able to ride the same wave as everyone else.
  • At the beginning of the term, I had planned on blogging my progress. But between mocking up features and answering questions, writing about what I’m doing seems less important than actually doing it.
  • Collaboration with teammates is difficult, and the challenge is two folds:
    • With teammates in different parts of Canada, we can only communicate online, and that limits the means in which we can effectively work together. I can’t sketch, or make gestures, or talk and point–there’re tools that try to simulate the experience, but it’s cumbersome. It’s difficult enough to find time to meet with people in the same university, but factor in time-zones and physical distance, it just makes sense to work independently.
    • I’d love to be able to bounce ideas off another user experience designer who understands the context of the system. I’m falling back on experience, posing questions during meetings, and the occasional chats with Victoria (from MarkUs) and people at work, but sanity checks with someone who knows the project and who has that sort of thinking would be awesome.

Next steps

Overall, I think I’m still on track with the work even though I’ve been mostly reactive (to questions and tickets) as opposed to being ahead of the curve. What I’d like to accomplish before the end of the term:

  • Aside from addressing outstanding features (so that we don’t have half-finished items for the next batch of students), I’d like to finish a complete set of wireframes/mockup for the system even if they’re just broad strokes.
  • For the same reason that the ReviewBoard is important for keeping bad code out of the repository, I’d also love to do a style guide so that there’s a set of rules that developers can refer to to streamline the UI for inconsistencies.