PRIMARY PLANNING TOOL

Helping teachers with curriculum planning

Heremon Software were looking for Radii to design and build a tool which would help primary school teachers in Ireland to better plan how they deliver the curriculum. The solution had to fit in to the workflow for teachers and support the principal with administration of department required reports.

Introduction

As an interaction designer you don’t get many opportunities like this. In this project I had the chance to work with an enthusiastic, passionate and hugely knowledgeable startup looking to tackle lesson planning for teachers.

As a designer I was able to contribute to the early research and concept generation. I used my experience in facilitating workshops and user feedback sessions to dig for valuable insights. I worked tirelessly on the product design for the application right through to the marketing material on the launch website.

Primary Planning Tool landscape

Mapping the user journey

Research

Although I have a few years experience designing products and content for students and publishers, this was the first time I was designing a product specifically for teachers. To really get an understanding of the end users I organised and chaired an initial UX Workshop. This was attended by a teacher, principal and members of the Radii production team.

I wanted to understand further the end user, what were their goals, what were their motivations and who were we designing for. Secondly I needed to gain further insight in to how teachers currently use and implement lesson plans. To this end I designed and circulated an online survey which was shared amongst 30 teachers and principals. This data would prove vital to inform some design decisions later on in the process but it also gave me a point of contact to a set of end users which I would later use to validate and test concepts.

Through reaching out to the end users I was also able to gather artefacts that teachers currently use. Examples of Short and Long Term plans along with curriculum documentation and guidelines. After this I was able to conduct several user interviews and use some co-creation techniques to explore the area further. Through each touch point I was pulling key insights which would inform my design thinking.

Sketching the UI

Early sketches to validate functionality with teachers

Concept Generation

As with most projects I was designing and generating ideas throughout the research phase. As I grew more confident in the domain I was able to start initial sketching and prototyping by paper. The biggest challenge here was to take what was traditionally a word processing task and distil it in to assailable screens that teachers would be comfortable with. I presented some early sketches to the users I had available and was able get some real early feedback on issues.

I like to work on paper as long as I possibly can. There is the creative freedom and it removes any constraints that working digitally so often brings subconsciously. User feedback sessions on paper can be quick and collaborative. Over the course of the project I had on a few occasions the user take the pencil from my hand and start sketching what they would like to see. It’s co-creation at it’s fines

Sketching UI

Building on feedback I began more in-depth sketching

Concept Development

When the initial verticals within the product were well established I move to interactive prototyping with Axure. I was able to build several user flows and deep interactions within the platform. Axure is great for user testing but I found it an incredibly useful tool for stakeholder and developer sign-off. Working with clean black and white wireframes in Axure is great as it removes those conversations about colour and style and focuses on the functionality.

UI Design completed

Working in Axure


On this project I collaborated with visual designer Gemma Power to establish an initial UI style. The client’s brief was to match, where possible, the visual style of Microsoft Office 365. The client was working closely with Microsoft on another project and there was familiarity in the UI which teachers would be comfortable with. As a team we kept as close as possible while also instilling our own style on the product. From a practical level we were limited in resources and kept all fonts to free Google Font libraries.

UI Design completed

UI Design complete


Once the visual style was delivered and signed off, I was able to take on the UI design work in-house from then on. Deliberately we had kept the UI quite clean and used the bootstrap grid. This paid dividends as I was able to design and build finished screens directly in Axure after that which reduced design and build time considerably.

UI Design completed

Generating UI in Axure

Validation

As a team we had built in regular validation and testing of the different sections of the product. Having that established access to teachers and end users was vital at this stage so we could build, test and iterate quickly. I was also able to arrange a few in-house sessions where we brought teachers in to go through the product and give feedback in semi-formal manner.

ROLE

Product Design, User Experience Design, Interaction Design

DESIGN TEAM

2 People

SKILLS

User Research, Ethnographic Research, Paper Prototyping, Axure Prototyping, User Testing

Role Details

My role in this project was lead designer across various design disciplines. Wearing many hats is not something new to me. As an interaction designer I was passionate to ensure I delivered a solution that delivered on the user expectations. This could only be achieved by deep user research and empathising with the challenges that teacher's face.

As a product designer you need to balance the needs of the user with those of the business. Working with a startup does offer many advantages when trying out something new, but it also ensures that you approach everything with a lean mentality. For me - this is where things can get very exciting.