Notes from UX People Autumn 2010 workshops

From drawing alphabetic characters, to drawing real-life charactersThere was time to do two workshops in the afternoon at UX People Autumn 2010, out of a choice of five. Tricky.

One was focused on using Axure, which I don’t think is something many of us are likely to be using at the EBI anytime soon, so that left four. All of them sounded good, of course, and I plumped for “Sketching for understanding, creating and explaining” with Eva-Lotta Lamm, and “Challenging the Interface” with Alison Rushworth and Andy Hood from AKQA.


The aim of this workshop was to show that sketching is a great tool to allow us to express ideas and concepts quite rapidly. We focused on “understanding” and “explaining”, although I suppose we were “creating all the time.Isometric perspective

The workshop co-ordinator, Eva-Lotta Lamm, also wanted to encourage people who thought that they were hopeless at sketching. To this end, she started everyone of sketching simple shapes and structures, just to warm up.

She explained that we can work with a “visual alphabet” to build up more complex images (I guess those would become “phrases”, “sentences”, etc.), and got us all sketching individually very quickly.

Some people were more comfortable than others, but everyone was able to produce something that could explain a concept.

With that in mind, we ended up working on sketches to explain certain features or concepts related to the Transport for London Oystercard system, based on some textual cues and descriptions. A few of mine are below:

Oystercard sketch visual libraryOystercard sketch swipeOystercard sketch fare-dodger

Challenging the Interface

The second workshop I attended wasn’t really all that educational, if I’m honest, but I’m not sure that was the point. It gave a flavour of how designers and creative developers at AKQA might come together to “journey… through the processes of ideation and design”.

We split into three groups of 7-8 people, and were given a design brief to work on. Our group was asked to come up with an National Rail app for the iPad, bearing in mind that there is already a website and an iPhone app.

We immediately started bouncing ideas around, and I was really keen to use a big map.

Sketch notes for National Rail iPad app

We agreed that it would be pointless to simply make a “bigger” version of the iPhone app. At the same time, we knew that an iPad user could just open the National Rail website in Safari, and use that. *yawn* We had to offer something more imaginative, that used lots of the iPad’s interaction features.

Sketchboard of ideas for our National Rail iPad app

In the end, we pitched the idea that in portrait view, our app would be pretty much the same as the website. But when the iPad was rotated to landscape view, the user would be presented with a rich exploration experience.

Tapping on a map or dragging the finger to show journey start and end points; using a slider to choose rough times of day for travel (e.g. “I want to arrive sometime in the evening); we wanted to pull in data about different things – nearby attractions, delays to trips, available discounts and our friends’ travel ideas; we wanted to be able to have collaborative travelling, bringing together friends travelling to the same destination (e.g. Glastonbury); we wanted to be able to quickly purchase tickets and maybe have these displayed on the iPad or a smartphone as a scannable document (e.g. using QR codes) [*]. Loads of great ideas that we pooled.

All these ideas were suggested and then kept or discarded very quickly, so it was a dynamic, brainstorming kind of thing. Really good fun to work in team, with a time constraint, and just come up with as many good ideas as we could. And we were all pleased with the outcome.

Now we just need some funding to make it reality!

Outline of features for our National Rail iPad app

[*] Interestingly, I read that the Nokia C7 handset is scheduled to feature contact payment functionality next year, so a bit like an Osytercard. That’s something else we could incorporate with this app…


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