seen + learned

Speaking to Students on Designing the User Experience

Posted: Monday, October 4, 2010 | Posted by Debby Levinson | Labels: , ,

For the past six years, I've been a guest-speaker in Ed Barrett's MIT class 21W785, "Communicating With Web-Based Media." Years earlier, when it was still called "Communications in Cyberspace," I helped informally TA the class, which led to co-authoring The MIT Guide to Teaching Web Site Design with Ed, as well as Suzana Lisanti. (The book is now woefully out of date on the technical side of things, but still has good information about how to plan and organize a class like 21W785.)

I always enjoy speaking to Ed's class, because for many of these students, this is probably their first exposure to a user-centered view of how to develop a complex website or application. Few, if any, have previously had to think about how their site's design – both its user interface and its visuals – needs to please anyone other than themselves.

My goal is to give them tools they can use to get quick feedback, such as sample user interview questions, as well as tools to help turn that feedback into something more concrete to guide them through design and development, such as scenarios, site maps, and clickable wireframes. Given the short timeframe students have to create their projects, Ed and I don't expect that they'll use every tool I give them – but just getting them to start thinking about the people who'll be using what they build is a big step forward, and one that should help them succeed in the professional world.

Slides from this year's presentation are visible below or downloadable from Slideshare.


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