Our Adventure with Human-Centered Design

Natalia Sikora
by: Natalia Sikora | November 16, 2015

This is a story of how one of our teams working on New Student Experience project, Mental Chillout, entered a path of Human-Centered Design and managed not to get completely lost. And had lots of fun and “fun” on their way.

When we were assigned to one of the legacy projects (whoever worked on legacy projects knows how much “fun” it is), our big dream was to change the interface of the application, so that it doesn’t look like the users’ worst nightmare.

OK, I lied. Our biggest dream was to live on a tropical island, but the interface was pretty high on the list as well.

We knew that this mission will be difficult because of many reasons. First of all, the application has been already in use by a large number of our clients. Second of all, lots of our users were freelancers and we had limited possibilities of gathering feedback from this particular group. And finally, we were like Jon Snow of usability stuff – we knew nothing!

But hey! Isn’t “Agile” about doing the best you can with what you have? Well, we already had a huge content team just across the corridor (accordingly to Google Analytics, the group that generated a vast majority of active sessions), we had our Front-end developer. Marcin (a.k.a. Szyszka) who is passionate about UX and finally – we really, really wanted to change something. On top of that, a perfect opportunity appeared when we had a chance to take part in Human-Centered Design training. So, when we subscribed to the course – there was no return. We gathered a number of people from various parts of our office, developers involved in building our application, developers from other projects, even some people from Support Team or Office Management and started planning usability testing.

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With every part of the course we became more and more confident in building and testing hypotheses and drafting test scenarios. At the beginning we wanted to test everything with everyone, but since it was simply impossible, we decided to focus on the 3 research groups:

  • Local users (people who have experience in using our and similar applications, tech savvy and motivated to learn new tools).
  • Representatives of developers community (tech experts, but with no experience with our and similar applications).
  • Others – without experience in using our and similar applications. This group was meant to mock freelancers that see the tool for the first time and need to start working as soon as possible without additional assistance. This group was the most important for us – we wanted the tool to be as intuitive for a new users as possible.

After couple of sessions, experiments and interviews, we had our initial designs of brand new Compose interface. Lots of them appearing spontaneously on walls and random pieces of papers.


Then, another round of verifying assumptions and first changes started appearing in the Live instance of our application. And they were getting very positive feedback! Try to imagine how proud we were!

That’s not the end, naturally.We are still asking, we are still learning and, above all, we are testing our assumptions because we know we may be wrong :)

Natalia Sikora

Natalia Sikora

A psychologist and a linguist. Left prison to join Pearson IOKI crew. Started her adventure in content teams but has been kidnapped by technology. Passionate about Scrum. Loves her dog. One of these statements is not true.
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