Web Design

Inspirator Application

I designed and developed a prototype application for songwriters in the final year of my undergraduate degree. I presented it to my lecturers as part of my Digital Arts Creative Portfolio, and they suggested that I turn it into an official Max 7 app. It has since become a passion project which I try to improve in my spare time. Check out how it all started here!

The Whiteboard Challenge

31 August 2020

As part of my ongoing effort to become the best UXer I can be, I recently came across the concept of the whiteboard challenge (you write your response to a design brief on a whiteboard in 30-60 minutes). The challenge is typically used in UX interviews to see how a potential new hire approaches the problem-solving process. However, I found that it was a useful tool to reflect on my approach to my own UX projects.

After I'd done the requisite amount of excited gushing to my mentor about this discovery, she noted that she looks for whether an interviewee will write down a list of their assumptions before starting the challenge. Therefore, the most important question I can ask myself now is: what assumptions have I made about Inspirator and the problem it will solve?

Tackling My Top 3 Assumptions

Here are the first assumptions that spring to mind:

  1. All amateur songwriters experience the same songwriting problem as I do. I'm currently in the process of exploring this assumption through my generative research. It's been very interesting to see what problems songwriters do and don't have in common!
  2. An app will solve the songwriting problem. Inspirator was a desktop application until my research suggested that songwriters need a convenient, on-the-go solution to songwriting problems (so a mobile app may work better). However, this still doesn't answer the question of whether an app is the ideal solution to songwriting problems. This is another question to explore in my generative research: what tools do songwriters use to overcome songwriting obstacles?
  3. Inspirator is a good app name. I've already had a few suggestions from friends about alternative spellings for the app name (e.g: Inspir8r), a name it hadn't occurred to me to brainstorm before jumping into the design/research process. This is another thing to add to my design to do list!

whiteboard brainstorm of how to approach future generative research

Another thing I've learned from the whiteboard challenge is that I should try to plan out my research. It's like setting up microphones for recording, the more you automate the logistical side of things, the faster you get a result. This means that I need to be more proactive about identifying and approaching potential interviewees. Getting into the habit of more regular interviews will help the final product and improve my interviewing confidence. Just because this is a personal project doesn't mean I shouldn't hold myself to deadlines; the trick is figuring out what timescale works for a research process that still feels new to me. Wish me luck!

Empathy Mapping

18 May 2020

Speaking as a junior UXer, empathy mapping was a UX buzzword I kept hearing and not understanding. I know that empathising with the user is important, but how on earth do you map that? I was befuddled.

Fortunately, things became much clearer after I completed my latest free design course on Futurelearn (I've had plenty of time for online learning since finishing my internship). I learned that empathy mapping means literally mapping out (writing down) what the user says/does in an interview according to 4 categories: hear, feel/think, see, and say/do.

Like all UX research methods, how you do it depends on what works best for you, your research topic and, of course, the user. I decided to map things out in real-time during the interview with a digital whiteboard tool (Miro), and a screenshot of the empathy map template that my course provided.

I tested the procedure out on myself first in hardcopy format. That meant using my substantial collection of post-it notes to document the songwriting process for my most recent composition. Next, I tested the technique out digitally on a songwriting friend over Zoom.

That was yesterday. Since then, I've had time to look over the empathy map, re-listen to my audio recording of the interview, and consult my UX mentor for feedback/tips. So, what have I learned?

  • Making notes during an interview is VERY useful (it might be less useful in person, but I haven't tried that yet)! It helps you think of questions and points to bring up later on in the session.
  • If the question I'm asking isn't jotted down in my interview guide, it comes out of my mouth as a closed question. That can be useful sometimes for checking if I understand the interviewee correctly, but it is otherwise something that I need to work on as an interviewer.
  • It's a bit unusual to do empathy mapping in real-time like I did. I was following the lead of the original presentation video in my course, and didn't realise that you don't normally involve the user in grouping post-it notes. Fortunately, technical issues during my interview meant that didn't happen anyway.

Design Work Experience

28 February 2020

I am in the design zone thanks to my UI/UX internship at Dataworks Ltd. Since January, I have been perpetually busy doing exciting design things that I can't tell you about because I signed my first ever NDA! However, I can tell you that the experience has had a big impact on my approach towards Inspirator.

Since my last post, I've conducted a few brief interviews exploring the current design/functions of the Inspirator prototype. I also dedicated my Christmas sketchbook to Inspirator development and have compiled a list of apps to look into as part of my market research.

My original plan of design attack was to develop the questions and themes explored in my initial interviews so I could thoroughly survey my songwriting friends and online songwriting communities. However, if my internship has taught me anything, it's that market research is vital to creating a successful design, let alone product.

I already know a fair bit about how songwriters approach songwriting, but I don't know what apps they might use to assist their creative process. I could learn a thing or two from those apps, and I could certainly learn a lot more from my users if I talk to them about the practical tools they use to record musical inspiration on a day-to-day basis. More concrete questions for my users means fewer romantic, generalised answers about their creative practice. I'm interested in technique, not theory.

UX-ing my App

10 December 2019

In October, I joined a UX Design Learning group based at SHE Software. Being part of the group means joining weekly meetings to discuss and share our understanding of user experience, a subject defined by my UX Fundamentals course as: "the establishment of a philosophy about how to treat people". Essentially, UX is all about developing a product with the user in mind. If the user has a good experience with a product/service, they will continue to buy things from that company.

I developed my app prototype before I had even heard of terms like "UX" or "design thinking". However, now that I am aware of them, I'm using the weekly meetings to hold myself accountable for making user-friendly progress with my app development. I learn best through doing things, after all!

I've decided to start off with thoroughly researching my app's target audience. Initial app feedback (both from my songwriting friends and my MA research into amateur lyric writing) highlighted how spontaneous the creative process is. This implies that it may be more useful to capture musical inspiration through a mobile app instead of a desktop app. This means that it's time to start designing for a different kind of screen, and to delve further into how creativity fits into a songwriter's daily routine. User interviews here I come!

Application Conception and Prototype

24 May 2018

The purpose of Inspirator is to provide songwriters with an integrated platform to record compositional ideas. If you're anything like me, you start writing a song and end up with bits and pieces of it everywhere and in different formats. Inspirator cuts through that mess by letting you record video, audio, lyrics and notes about your composition in one place. The video demo below shows you how to use the application, and briefly discusses the improvements that I plan to make to it.

Check out the making of here!


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