I love working on projects. Seeing an idea come to life is incredibly exciting for me. I also love a sense of closure. Luckily, during my time as a Communications Manager at Cool Culture, I have been working on a number of exciting projects. Most recently, Cool Culture was able to partner with ThoughtWorks to build an app to help parents of preschoolers visit museums more easily. I was able to manage the project for Cool Culture.
The build happened at a rapid-fire pace. The developer time on the project was four weeks – but the actual project is taking much longer including planning and the upcoming roll out. Despite the speed (or maybe because of it), I’m so proud of what we built in such a short time frame. Since it was my first time managing a mobile product, here’s what I wish I had known from the start:
Listen to Feedback – To A Point: When you’re obsessed with user-centered design, you know that it’s possible to make nearly all of your decisions based on feedback. Figuring out what feedback to act on is much more difficult. Throughout our process, we had four different focus groups. During each, the activities for participants ranged from drawing ideas with markers to a final showcase presentation.
During each session, we received incredibly valuable feedback. In our first session, we realized how many of our parents have limited data plans, and as a result, the app was designed to allow quick loading times. We also called all of Cool Culture’s 90 partner museums to ask if they had WI-FI and incorporated that into the app because WI-FI impacted how our users would be able to use the app. These decisions were totally based on feedback.
Investigate Surprises: As a rule, it’s importance to observe behaviors versus one-off comments or suggestions. If you’re hearing the same thing over and over, listen and figure out how to resolve the concerns. If you’re hearing a comment that is new and surprising, investigate further. You might want to act, but it might also be a specific and not a universal concern.
Design for All Users: I’m proud that the entire process and build involved users every step of the way. However, we didn’t design the app with museum visitor services’ staff – and they are the people who will ultimately see the app and have to understand and accept it as valid. While the entire process has been moving forward at a quick clip, we’re now slowing down and allowing six weeks to roll out the app to museum visitor services staff through calls, e-mail and one-on-one conversations. Why? Because we have to design for all users and work on their own timelines.
Last Minute Decisions Matter: During the last week in the build, our team realized that it would be helpful to add an additional search feature to search by museums with free or suggested donations. Since the beginning, we felt the app could help anyone planning a museum visit, but now the value add is extremely clear. We don’t have to write about it or talk about it – the value is added into the app. Anyone who wants to search for a museum by free admission can do so – no confusing PDF listing or blog post browsing necessary!
You Must Have Buy-In: When you work at a consensus driven non-profit, it can take some time to get everyone on board and up to speed on new projects. While working with ThoughtWorks, we had a few different project managers from ThoughtWorks due to their other projects and scheduling needs. We were lucky to end up working with AK, who heads up the social good projects at the ThoughtWorks New York office, and Aly, a talented UX designer. Aly and AK were truly champions of our project – from e-mailng us at 4am with ideas that couldn’t wait until the business day began to helping us pitch our app for further funding and attention. Aly and AK are the kind of person you want on your team. Someone who you’d never ask to think about your project off hours, but will do so because they’ve bought into your mission.