How can we help teachers to create engaging, interactive lessons for their students?
SMART lab allows teachers to create game-based learning activities in less than 5 minutes. We provide customizable templates where teachers can add their own content. The activities can be played on an interactive display at the front of the classroom (SMART Board), or on student devices.
I re-architected and redesigned the creation workflow for SMART lab. The previous version had grown organically over many years, with many different designers - and it showed. It was overly complex, lacked consistency, felt too corporate, and was difficult to discover.
Based on my analysis of our user research and our business needs, I determined there were 6 design goals that were necessary for this project to be successful:
- Simplify the creation workflows
- Remove unnecessary decision points / reduce cognitive load
- Increase discoverability
- Provide a consistent experience across all activity creation
- Update visual styles to be more friendly and fun
- Design for future scalability
- Role: Lead UX Designer
- Tools: Sketch, InVision, Adobe Illustrator, Balsamiq, Zeplin
- Timeline: March to December 2016
- Alison: Lead UX Designer
- Min: Product Manager
- Colin: Dev Manager
- Mohamed: UX Designer. He led two Design Stories (not shown here)
- Vivian: UX Contractor. She designed the Lab activity icons.
SMART has spent many years developing relationships with teachers who use our products, so I was able to speak directly with them at the beginning of this project. This helped me to understand exactly what wasn't working for them in the previous version. However, the trick was to make sure that I wasn’t only designing for our very technically adept users, but also for the everyday teacher.
Heuristic Evaluation and UX Audit
Since I was new to the company, I was in the unique position to be able to view SMART lab with fresh eyes. I started by doing a focused heuristic evaluation of the existing product, and a UX Audit. An analysis of the audit plus the user research allowed me to create the goals for the redesign, and begin to plan the scope of the project.
I wrote a detailed Scoping Document that outlined the project and broke it down into 20+ Design Stories. I designed the creation workflow for 12 different types of activities, plus additional functions (edit, save, load, manage content). This was an ambitious project with a tight deadline. To meet the deadline, I had to complete 1-2 Design Stories per week for a period of 3 months. In the end, my stakeholders were satisfied, and my designs were delivered on time.
There were many structural frameworks that I explored while I was in the planning / Information Architecture phase. The first screen would be where the teacher chooses the type of activity, and we would need screen(s) where they add their own content, but the remaining screen(s) went through a number of iterations before the best path was discovered.
Two of my main structural design goals were to simplify creation workflows, and reduce cognitive load. The existing UI gives users so much flexibility that it can be overwhelming. Users have decision fatigue and too much cognitive load. I reduced the number of decision points, and provided intelligent defaults. My designs simplified the number of screens and choices.
In addition to simplifying the workflow and reducing cognitive load, my design goals were to increase discoverability, make the visual style more friendly, and use design patterns provide a consistent experience across all of the different types of activities.
Recognition Instead of Recall
Inconsistencies in the previous UI resulted in users having to re-learn the creation process for each activity. This increased their work, and slowed them down. In my redesign, users could rely on recognition instead of recall, which made it much easier to complete tasks.
I believe that Usability Testing is crucial, so even with our tight schedule, I prioritized Usability Testing. I partnered with a firm called The UX Guys to run Usability Tests with 10 teachers. I built a medium-fidelity, interactive prototype with 5 complete activity types. Each teacher created 2-4 activities in the prototype. By doing this testing, I was able to validate that our overall design goals were met, and I had time to iterate and improve the design based on user input.
The following is an excerpt from the usability report created by The UX Guys.
Increased Discoverability / Onboarding
Many teachers with licenses for our products don't realize what they are capable of doing with the software. When we show teachers what they can do with our products, they become regular users. Onboarding is one way to solve this discoverability problem. My goal in producing the following video was to show new users why they'd benefit from using SMART lab, in addition to giving them a walk-through on how to use it.
I was able to successfully work across teams in order to art direct, script, and produce the following onboarding / tutorial video.
I worked closely with our developer team while my designs were being implemented. In December 2016, the new SMART lab creation workflow was publicly launched.
Response to the redesign has been very positive. Teachers, and even students, are excited to use it! Usage has grown tremendously with the new design. According to preliminary numbers:
- "Start Activity Creation" engagement has grown more than 300%
- "Finished Activity Creation" engagement has grown more than 200%
- The population of users interacting with the new creation workflow has more than doubled
The preliminary numbers exclude several event streams, so the actual engagement is likely to be significantly higher. The development team is refining their analytics; I will refresh these numbers as soon as I have the updated statistics available.