04 May 2012

Week 15: Grad School Ends

And that's it. I turned in my last paper the other day and just finished with our capstone poster session an hour and a half ago. No more school work and I get my "life" back—accept for that having to work part. I gave a presentation about my project to a great group of people at work and it sounds like my findings are at least getting people to talk about some of the issues with the interface again, even if they don't end up implementing my suggestions exactly as I laid them out. It's nice to know my work will go to some use. I really can't believe this is the end. Part of me is really glad to have it behind me and the other doesn't know what I'll do now. I'm just looking forward to going on vacation in three weeks to Alaska and Canada.

Standing around for four hours waiting for people to come talk to you about your project while dressed up in "professional" clothes (and shoes) frankly sucks but I did get five business cards and two solid job leads, so that was pretty cool. I had even made up my own business cards with just my information to hand out. Those will be good for other general networking events too. Really, my last, last day is 19 May since that is graduation day with three separate events but still, it feels great knowing I don't have to get up early and study anymore. So long, iSchool.

Capstone Poster [PDF]

Rachele presenting her capstone poster at the iSchool

20 April 2012

Week 14: Project Ends

I made it! Doing my capstone was the one thing about the iSchool program that interested and terrified me at the same time. I am so glad there is the "professional project" option but since I work full-time, I was afraid there would be no good way to accomplish this requirement. Thankfully, I was able to get permission to do my capstone at my place of work and for a different department where I have a real interest in what they are doing. I still can't believe another 14 weeks have gone by and all that I have accomplished in the 125 hours of the project. What I have ended up with is not at all what I envisioned going in; it really is so much more, a much more well-rounded and complete project than what I scoped out initially.

This week was spent tying up loose ends so that I could turn the project in. I finished getting the last bits of data (mostly participant quotes) into my presentation slides and then adding the little touches like animated annotations to my designs and a nifty "play" button overlay for the three video clips I included. I also learned how to export my speaker notes so I can see them during the presentation, though I don't like they way they work exactly. It makes you print out one page per slide with notes below, whether there are notes for that slide or not. Well I have 45 slides and many don't have notes so I will find a way to remove the blank slides at least!

I tried to keep my slides clean, interesting and with few words, the exception being the slides with participant quotes because I do plan to read those word for word and want the audience to be able to follow along. I decided last minute to move the position of the quantitative scorecard from the end of the Results section to the beginning, my reasoning being that seeing the snapshot overview first and then going into detail around each of the key metrics would probably keep their attention more. I know if I just saw chart after chart of data without knowing what it was leading up to, I would get bored. At least this way they know the final scores first and then are shown a breakdown of the data.

That being said, here's a PDF version (sans videos) of my final project deliverable: WEM v.8.2 Pickers

There's a neat feature when you export to PDF from PowerPoint where it can also export the speaker notes into the PDF as a layer that can be toggled on and off so my speaker notes are also included.

Well, this certainly isn't the "end" quite yet; there is still the matter of my capstone poster which I will have ready next week as well as presenting that poster in two weeks. It all feels a little surreal right now. I've been having sleep issues this week even though I am not worried about getting all my work done or anything; I think it's just that change is impending. I'll no longer be a student in a few weeks and I'll have all this free time again. The first thing I'll be doing after graduating is going back to Alaska for another road trip, but beyond that is a great unknown. Maybe I'm afraid nothing will actually change.

Me at the Arctic Circle in Alaska, May 2012

13 April 2012

Week 13: Presentation Work

I'd like to start out by saying I got an actual shiver of excitement this morning when I realized that three weeks from today, I will be DONE with school. It has been nearly four years since I first started getting stuff together to apply to grad school and studying for the GRE. At times, it felt like this was never going to happen, that I was never going to finish. I still don't know what I'm going to do next but at least it will be a new chapter.

So this week I have been preparing my final deliverable: a PowerPoint presentation on my findings. I have had to remind myself that unlike what I write about here and what my Capstone poster will contain, this presentation is not so much about my project as it is about the product I was trying to improve. While there will be some overlap between the contents of my presentation and my poster, they are for different audiences and have different purposes. I have been trying to work on both somewhat in parallel—as far as getting the information together that I want to use—but I have to be very aware about telling two stories.

The presentation is going to be more focused on the usability study, the tasks run, comments and video clips of tasks and the results of testing. I think OT is more interested in whether the design suggestions I came up with are worth pursing in the next version of the product. My poster will be more concerned with the overall project and will likely focus more on the design decisions I made, with metrics from the study being presented only as a snapshot of the usability portion of the study. I started out by creating an outline of what I wanted to put into my presentation:
  1. Introduction
  2. Usability Concerns
    1. Picker models are inconsistent
    2. Selecting multiple objects is confusing
    3. Icon for removing selections is unclear
    4. Channel selection model is counter intuitive
  3. Designs
    1. Single Container Picker
    2. Multiple Containers Picker
    3. Single Content Item Picker
    4. Multiple Content Items Picker
  4. Evaluations
    1. Participants
    2. Tools
    3. Testing
      1. Comments/Videos for each task (9)
  5. Results
    1. Satisfaction (SUS)
    2. Effectiveness
    3. SEQ
    4. Efficiency
    5. Time on Task
    6. Appearance
    7. Scorecard
  6. Recommendations
I have tried to compile all this information into my document, filling out the outline as it were so that next week I can focus on making sure things are in the right order, adding in any animations I might need, and so forth. It has been more work than I though it would be. That is, I think creating a polished, interesting presentation is harder than writing up a formal report. Part of what has been time consuming is going back through the recordings of my testing sessions to pull quotes and to create short video clips (I'm only including three). I think the clips will be especially helpful for demonstrating possible problem areas.

I am also still grappling with some of the terminology and meanings around the statistical data. I don't think I need to understand the ins and outs of every calculation but I would at least like to be able to speak to the major figures I am presenting. I read up on error bars and geometric means and Tanya loaned me a book, Measuring the User Experience, that I found helpful for a couple of reasons. I was struggling to understand what "efficiency" is measuring, how it is calculated since it takes into account only successes, time on task and benchmark times by an expert; the book gave me this explanation: the core measure of efficiency is the ratio of the task completion rate to the mean time per task. Ah! I can at least tell other people that.

About 3am Wednesday morning, I woke up with an idea for how to layout my poster.

My half-asleep sketch of a possible Capstone poster layout

There is just so much information I could include that I need to be careful not to overload the space. My biggest concern is being able to adequately demonstrate my design ideas since I have four permutations.  I think I might end up showing just the two multiple picker designs and indicating that the checkboxes would not be used for the single picker designs. We'll see.