The importance of reflection while conducting fieldwork

Course schedules were released yesterday. I had been advised to look into a computer science course called “User Interface Design & Evaluation” since it focused on qualitative research and user testing.

I’ve reviewed all of the slides for the semester in the past day and took notes.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to have taken this course last fall, but it didn’t fit into my schedule. Computing for Good was an absolutely essential class for me to take and I could not handle the courseload of five work-intensive courses.

Definitely would recommend the course for. However, given that I am conducting and have had experience learning about and actually conducting user testing and evaluation, I would learn more from other classes.

One valuable insight from the notes is documenting design reflections, which is the reason why I started this blog in the first place. I will be typing up my own reflections from the observations I have and will continue to conduct on this blog as well. The ones from past visits have been hand-written so I’ll add those fairly soon.

It’s important to acknowledge one’s own biases, especially when dealing with qualitative research. I’m sure these reflective posts will help me analyze my insights, both now and in the spring

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HTC One on 4.3, Time management tools, Why Gmail?!?!,

First time I’ve actually gotten angry at a design change… If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m pretty easygoing and usually in a good mood. It takes a pretty significant event to get me rattled or get me to feel any negative emotion. But G-mail managed to do it… before I talk about the questionable edit they made to their interface, here are a few notes on a good redesign for the HTC One. Then I’ll go into why G-mail upset me

I got the 4.3 update last week, so this post is a bit late. However, not all HTC One phones have it yet. I think T-Mobile and Verizon are still waiting for it. Those users should be eager for the update though since immediately noticeable was the battery life improvement, a recurrent issue with Android phones, especially when compared to iPhones’ battery lives and very short charge times. Before, my phone would go from full charge to ~10%  from 6 am-8 pm. Now it’s closer to ~30-40% during the same time frame. I was out of town this past weekend and only had to charge it twice during the six day trip with moderate use. Before I would have had to charge it every day.

The lock screen widgets are also extremely useful. I really like the direction Google is moving towards with the inclusion of cards. With the widgets, these cards can be made even more visible from the moment you look at your phone. I decided to try adding the calendar and have really liked the reminders there. Each day’s events are listed there for you to scroll through (left/right) with the next event listed first.

I’m a big proponent of Google Tasks and Calendar. I mentioned this briefly on another post, but for individual project management you just need those two tools (or some variant) and your imagination and memory (for picturing the upcoming day’s tasks). Hopefully the next update will allow me to include Tasks as a lock screen widget as well since unfortunately you can’t do that right now. On that note, for group management the only other additions I suggest are Drive and Trello (dropbox for bigger files or if group members will never or rarely edit the same files simultaneously).

Overall, a welcome update after Google somehow decided it would be better to list all of its options under one button in Gmail instead of having the bar . I’ve heard the argument that this was done to conserve limited screen real estate on mobile devices… but that’s the whole point of responsive design. Make the features available for users who are doing work on their bigger laptops or desktops and make them less prominent on mobile devices for users who are more prone to check email or do less intensives tasks.

Honestly I think it’s just Google’s way of plugging its own apps. Why is there a Gmail button when I’m already in Gmail? More importantly, I think they just want Google News and especially Google Plus (which is conveniently listed first in the top left hand corner) to get more use… not happening for this guy, at least.

Usually, breaking down choices into menus based on type reduces cognitive effort. This single button, however, actually adds effort since it’s making the options that were once visible hidden, making users click an extra button for no real reason.  Clearly this was a decision made in favor of branding and improving business rather than user experience. A better decision would have been to have at least two other buttons. One potential use would be “Productivity” and “Other Products” or something of the sort. Maybe “Social” to group YouTube/Hangouts/G+?

Read more details about the HTC 4.3 update at http://www.gottabemobile.com/2013/10/12/htc-one-android-4-3-jelly-bean-first-impressions-new-features/

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WIC/Master’s Project progress

It’s been an eye-opening experience so far working on my master’s project. Building on the work from the past two semesters where I worked on designing, developing, and user testing an Android app meant for educating parents about devleopmental milestones, I am now tackling the same problem but with a broader audience: low-income families. In Georgia, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program works with around 300,000 families that are living 180% under the poverty line. These services they offer reach about half of all of the infants in the state. An Android app is great for families that are well off and who have the latest smartphones, but that technology clearly is not ubiquitous.

I’m still surprised at how few people take the Computing for Good (C4G) class. One trend I’ve noticed at Tech is that the students in my program tend to gravitate towards the newest and coolest gadget. I swear, if I see one more person walking around with Glass….

Anyway, given this trend, it’s no shock that many students express little interest in classes like C4G that don’t always involve iPads and the like. Yet I think more than ever that we owe the world the opportunity to spread some of our talents and ideas to those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to enjoy life as fully as we are. These are people in other countries but also in our own states and cities. Technology is evolving at a pace more rapid than what humans can keep up with. Let’s make sure we help others to learn to help themselves.

Yes, I could go and get a PhD and do research, but I might end up staying in academia to focus on very narrow projects. I am blessed to have a wide array of spells and think I should use these to my advantage, as well as to the world’s advantage . No matter where I end up, I’ll continue this tradition of technology consulting, hopefully also with the CDC and WIC.

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