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Introduction to the ‘Summer Project 2k15’

So, summer is here, and that means I have a lot more spare time on my hands. Because of this, i have decided to use my skills that I gained over the past two years at university to create a website for my portfolios. While on a superficial level this seems very straightforward, I am creating one in a way that would be appropriate to present to a client. This means I need to do more than just coding, or creating a website (which I’ve done already, as you can see on my website MockingBird Makeup), I must also do research, user testing, database organisation, and web accessibility testing, just to name a few.  I will use this blog to follow my learnings and reflect upon what I’ve done, and how I’ve improved my skills.
The website, surprise surprise, will be about Marvel Comics. While my previous assignment was about Marvel comics as well (which you can read about here), this one will be completed by myself, and has a different purpose. While the previous website – the assignment was about the Secret Wars event, this website has a different purpose – to introduce new users to marvel comics.
I recently listened to a podcast episode – ‘How to deliver a successful user experience’ by Talking Code, where Sarah Doody, a UX designer discussed user experience, the process of UX design (for both online content and mobile content), and storyboarding. The biggest thing she discussed throughout this podcast was the necessity of having a problem statement or a value proposition. This allows the UX desginer, and the whole team to focus on the problem and not get carried away with other aspects. For this reason the problem statement for the client (Marvel Comics) is that at the moment it is very overwhelming for new audiences to get involved in their comics. This website’s goal is to create a space that makes it easier for them to understand, and become involved with both the comics, and the community surrounding it.
I’ve already created the client statement, which is used to highlight this problem statement, so the next part of my process is to create a user persona. Luckly Sarah Doody also talks about this in the podcast. In all of my previous subjects, user personas have been emphasised as an effective way to identify users wants, needs and expectations. However, after listening to the podcast, I found out that there are many people within the industry that don’t appreciate them. This is because more often than not user personas are created without research – the UX Designer or the Information Architect just make them up based on their own personal usage, and research on other websites, much like what I did in my subjects. In this stage they are just representations of fake people, both stereotypical and not specific.
Sarah Doody suggests that this can be combatted by doing specific research, which can only be done via talking to people. This can be through market research, surveys and even though field research – when the UX designer sits and watches as users interact with their online (and physical) environment – where the user clicks, where they click first, why they go to a certain page, even what else they’re doing outside of the online environment, such as eating, listening to music etc.
Like I said above, I have already created the plan of attack. time frame and client brief, and so I am now up to the stage of investigating the audience and creating user personas. I definitely plan on using this new information gained from the podcast when creating my user persona. I am firstly planning on creating a survey, and from there I will hopefully be able to do some field research, and perhaps some interviews. I’ll see how I go, and definitely keep this blog updated as I do.

Weekly Wrap Up Week 12: And We’re Done!

In the words of Bugs Bunny, That’s all Folks!
Yep, that’s right, the semester has come to an end, and with that, my Weekly Wrap Up blogs will be too. I’ve learnt a lot this semester, with two very interesting subjects that have helped my figure out my passion for user experience. I’m very lucky that I’ve had such supportive teachers, and I can honestly say that what I’ve learnt this semester will help me in my future.

By far the most i’ve learnt (and been interested in) comes from Designing for the Web. Not only did i enhance my HTML and CSS skills (which i had learnt in preparation for this subject), I also learnt how to create an effective report for information architecture, as well as how to research  information architecture and the user’s experience of a website. I also had to create a website, for a client in a group, strengthening my teamwork skills. I also had to use my leadership skills as I was the Project Manager of the assignment. (If you want to hear more about this assignment, click here). Overall, it was a fantastic subject that I am lucky to have been able to take.

The other subject was Managing Digital information. As you have probably ready from my previous weekly wrap ups, I haven’t enjoyed this subject as much, but it is still undoubtedly useful in my future career – even if I don’t want to be a librarian or a curator, people will still need databases, and I am now able to create them, using industry standards, and all of the other knowledge that I gained from this subject.

Overall I’ve had a fantastic semester, and I’m looking forward to the next one. But what about the blog? Now that the semester is over, I won’t have much to write about! But don’t worry too much, now that I’m on uni break, I will have more time to write more journalistic articles, some of which will be featured on OuttaGum , as well as my summer project. What is my summer project? Well it’s something that I will use to occupy my time, and add to my portfolio. Unlike this series I will be writing as I go, rather than a weekly wrap up, thus it may be more sporadic. It will happen however, as it is something I am very passionate about and looking forward to. The first post can be found here.

Anyway, thanks for reading along, and I hope that you gained some insight onto what I learnt this semester. The weekly wrap ups will be back next semester, along with what I’ve written above, so see you in 4 months!

Weekly Wrap Up Week 11: The Catch Up

The past couple of week on this blog have been rather quiet, and while some of that is due to lack of classes, and other parts of it is due to other ‘unforeseen circumstances’, it is also because I’ve had a lot of university work, and work itself to do, and I prioritised that over this blog. So, I’m sorry about that, but hey, at least it shows that I know how to prioritise!

Anyway, back to what I’ve been doing. The past couple of weeks has mostly been about our assignments. For Managing Digital Information we have been working on our database. I’m not going to lie, I’m really not enjoying this subject, or these assignments. It seems rahter repetitive, however I can’t deny that is applicable to someone who wants a career  in Information Architecture, as I do. Part of IA is knowing how people search for information on the web, so database management is an essential skill. I have to admit however, that a lot of this seems to be common sense. There is a possibility that I may be thinking this because I’ve already learnt a lot in my previous subjects, and the culmination of that knowledge has lead me to that belief.

Web design on the other hand has probably been my favourite subject in my entire degree. Like I said before, this week was predominately about our assignment. We had a meeting with out tutor, and the subject coordinator. Because I’ve become the project manager of the group, I had to ensure that everyone was up to date with their part of the assignment, according to the plan that we had created.  By this week we wanted to have all of the wireframes done, the CSS and the HTML for the homepage all completed. We had already done all the research for this assignment previously so we didn’t need to do anything with that, however we will need to document it for the report, which is something that will be done by next week hopefully.

I was really happy, because all the feedback we got from our teachers were very good, and they were impressed with what we had done, and we are definitely on track (thankfully!). In fact we were told that they were impressed that we had a homepage completed, apparently no many other groups had done that. The rest of the work for this week will mostly be focused on finishing my part – most of which I’ve done already (The HTML for two of the other five pages, the client brief), and then waiting for everyone else to complete their part so I can finish mine (the usability testing, and finalising the report and prototype of the website).

I’m not sure if I’ve exactly explained what assignment 3 is in this subject, but if you’re interested you can check out this post to find out more!

For MDI I ensured that I wasn’t the project manager (which I often end up doing just because no one else will, and I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and make sure that everything is completed properly. What can I say, I’m a perfectionist). I decided to do this because i knew I would already have a large workload with Web Design and my other commitments, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not great at this subject, nir am I super passionate about it. So, for this assignment I’m in charge of writing the final report. This is good because it’s something I can do at home while waiting for people from other assignment to send me their stuff.

In the end, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do this week, as well as my Spanish assignment and exam. Wish me luck!

Weekly Wrap Up Week 6: When MDI is away, the Web Designers play.

This week was a rather slow week in regards to content, particularly because we’re focusing a lot on our assignments, but I will talk a bit more about that later below. There isn’t any information here about Managing Digital Information because this week due to other commitments I was unable to attend class.
This week in Web Design we mainly focused on searching. This is really important, because when a user goes on a website, if they’re unable to search for the information they need, there is a problem. We discussed the point of search engines, why they are great, and how they work. I have to admit, there were a lot of algorithms, and there is a reason I’m doing communications instead of maths or science, so this was a bit difficult for me, but the overall concepts make quite a lot of sense, which is a very good thing. There are basically three ways that Search Engines work: They Crawl, which means they collect data from a website by scanning the content of each page; they use indexing, where the data is already in a database; and Ranking and Retrieval, where the user is given the most relevant pages based on key words.
In the tutorial we worked on our assignment three, which is a group assignment. For this assignment we must create our own website for a client, based on Information Architecture theories. For my group we are doing Marvel Comics (Surprise surprise). However, at the moment, the Marvel comics website is pretty good, and it is very broad. Because of this we have actually narrowed our website range down to the current even that is happening in the marvel universe – Secret Wars. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit worried about this, because I am the only one who actually knows about it (and is enthused about this assignment to be honest), so I had to constantly explain what is happening in the event, the information needed and other things like that. But we did ask our tutor about it, and they seemed to be rather interested, so I’m looking forward to it. Because I am the only one who actually knows about this topic, I feel like I have been thrust into the spot of team leader. To be fair, I would probably eventually end up in this position, just because I like things to be done correctly, and a year of doing group work has proven to me that unless I’m in charge it won’t be done properly (or at all). So, in regards to the tutorial, we did what is needed to be done in the beginning of a project – the basic decisions that will affect the rest of the project. Things like the Client, the Audience (Primary and Secondary), and then research into the clients needs. That was a surprisingly long process, and because of this it took up the majority of the tutorial.

Weekly Wrap Up Week 5: The quiet before the storm

This week was rather different to the others that I have had. While MDI was rather similar, in Designing for the Web we had an assignment due, and on top of that we didn’t have a live lecture this week.
Designing for the Web
Because we had an assignment due this week, a lot of our tutorial was focused on fixing up our assignments. This was the case because a major part of the assignment was creating a website. I had already completed mine fully, so during this time I was able to update the CSS and make it look more professional. Surprisingly I really enjoyed doing this assignment, because, while I had to do research, I also had to create a website, which meant I got to use my knowledge in HTML and CSS to its (almost) full potential. And the topics that I got to do my research on were interesting as well. We were given a list of topics, and I chose “Mobile UXD” and “User Generated Content”. I chose these because I know that they will both (hopefully) be useful to me in the future.
Managing Digital Information:
In the lecture we mostly talked about frameworks, which is very similar to what we have been talking about before with systems of classifying objects, however they tend to be more in-depth versions. The example that stood out to me the most was Dublin Core, because I understand that KOS, which I will discuss later. We also talked about Meta-data and XML, however I don’t quite understand a lot of that, so I’ll need to do some more research.
In the tutorial this week we talked specifically about Dublin Core, with the basic 15 elements and then the further elements after that. We were given an image of a nudibranch (a type of australian shelled animal), and then had to determine what core elements would be appropriate for it. From there, we discussed it in relation to different types of documents, and it was mentioned that the way we index this document is based on what type of document it is. For example, if it’s a digitised photograph of a shell, like this document it, we would have to decide is the document the photograph, or is it the shell itself. This would then affect most of the categories, which is really important to note for all types of categorising.

Weekly Wrap Up Week 4: Assignments and Framework

This week was rather different to the others that I have had. While MDI was rather similar, in Designing for the Web we had an assignment due, and on top of that we didn’t have a live lecture this week.
Because we had an assignment due this week, a lot of our tutorial was focused on fixing up our assignments. This was the case because a major part of the assignment was creating a website. I had already completed mine fully, so during this time I was able to update the CSS and make it look more professional. Surprisingly I really enjoyed doing this assignment, because, while I had to do research, I also had to create a website, which meant I got to use my knowledge in HTML and CSS to its (almost) full potential. And the topics that I got to do my research on were interesting as well. We were given a list of topics, and I chose “Mobile UXD” and “User Generated Content”. I chose these because I know that they will both (hopefully) be useful to me in the future. If anyone’s interested, I would be happy to upload my website/assignment, just leave a comment below.
This was me last week
This was me last week
In the lecture for Managing Digital Information we mostly talked about frameworks, which is very similar to what we have been talking about before with systems of classifying objects, however they tend to be more in-depth versions. The example that stood out to me the most was Dublin Core, because I understand that KOS, which I will discuss later. We also talked about Meta-data and XML, however I don’t quite understand a lot of that, so I’ll need to do some more research.
In the tutorial this week we talked specifically about Dublin Core, with the basic 15 elements and then the further elements after that. We were given an image of a nudibranch (a type of australian shelled animal), and then had to determine what core elements would be appropriate for it. From there, we discussed it in relation to different types of documents, and it was mentioned that the way we index this document is based on what type of document it is. For example, if it’s a digitised photograph of a shell, like this document it, we would have to decide is the document the photograph, or is it the shell itself. This would then affect most of the categories, which is really important to note for all types of categorising.

Weekly Wrap Up Week 4: It’s all connected

Week 4 was the week that my subjects finally overlapped. If you’ve been reading these weekly wrap ups, you should know by now that in Designing for the Web we’ve been talking about the usability of websites, and for Managing Digital Information we discuss databases and categorisation. However this week the topics switched.
In Designing for the web this week we talked about categorising information. We mostly discussed how it was done, pretty much what we have been discussing in MDI, however there was more of a focus on how good categorisation makes things a lot easier and better for the user. In the lecture, we kept on going back to the example of Online Shopping. This was really good because it’s steeped in real life, and it uses all of the same principles that I have been learning in Managing Digital Information. Our lecturer outlined the importance of having a consistent categorisation system in order to help the user. If you look at the image below, of the Forever 21 categorisation system. We noted that because the categories are obvious, and easy to find (or intuitive if you like the ‘proper language’), it makes the user experience so much better, which creates customer loyalty, and increases sales.
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Our lecture referenced a lot of the vocabulary that I have learnt already in Managing Digital Information, which was in my opinion really good because it reinforced my understanding on the terms, and for the rest of my peers that haven’t done MDI yet it exposed them to terms that they are going to learn next year. We also mentioned one of my favourite things- boundary objects, and gave the example of animals. We did it slightly differently (because it’s not as in-depth as MDI), and talked about how we are categorising something, rather than who is trying to find it, as we do in MDI.
During the tutorial we did more categorisation (in between the multiple fire alarms that is!). With this though, we did something a little bit different. Instead of something abstract or on the screen, we were given magic the gathering cards, and then told to categorise them. Because of my experience with MDI I already knew how to do this pretty easily, so my group did it very quickly. It was much easier than the categorising that we had to do for MDI, so I was very happy with the final categorisation.
In Managing Digital Information we had a guest lecturer, Sharon Wise, who was discussing her thesis, which was about how they categorise ecocultural data from the Murry Darling Basin. There was a lot of refreshing of information that have been given to use in regards to controlled vocabulary, but something that I found very useful was the emphasis Wise put on data visualisation. Data Visualisation allows for users of the information to understand what is given to them. It is essentially how to improve the user experience of data, where the user is someone that wants to use that data. It’s much easier to understand something when it has been visualised for you as opposed to just being given a long list of numbers and words.
In the tutorial we looked more at controlled vocabularies and how they relate to KOS’. We were shown a variety of different KOS systems (Such as Dublin Core or CDWA) which is used to create a standard of how things are categorised. We were given a variety of objects, and then had to categories them based on these systems. It was very interesting to see how different something is categorised based on what system you use, and how much easier it is to understand the data when there is a standard in place.
Overall I am very happy with this week, it finally joined my two subjects together, and really made me feel like what I am doing now makes sense, because they all relate to each other, regardless of what I want to pursue as a career.

I’m Published!

Exciting news everyone! I’ve been talking to some companies online in regards to publishing some of the content that I write. And I’m excited to announce that I will now be contributing to OuttaGum, the online Pop Culture news site. I will be mainly focusing on comic books, which (as you know) I want a career in, which is really great, because this helps get my foot in the door.
I plan on running a monthly book club around comics, which I suggest you all join, because comics are great. And they won’t be all marvel comics either. I’ve been braching out from marvel and reading a whole lot of other things, so you can read about those over on the website.
I will still be posting on here, so don’t fret, but you can read all of my work here: http://www.outtagum.com/author/kirra-jackson/
*Occasionally I will be posting things from OuttaGum here, but that won’t be for a while after it’s published, so definitely go check out my other work!

Weekly Wrap Up Week 3: Defintions

This week predominately focused on definitions, with Web design actually defining information architecture and how it relates to design (and UXD!), and MDI defining the indexing process.

In Web Desgin we talked predominantly about Information Architecture. Specifically what an Information architect does. While we were given quite a few different definitions (as it is such a broad thing), there was one that stood out to me the most, a statement by Jorge Arango from 2010 where he said “Information Architecture is not tied to a particular technology. While it is true that this is a field born from the internet, it is all around us. IA has always been about helping people find and understand things – this is where it adds value to the world”. Information is always around us, but it is Information Architecture that actually helps people use it. IA is usually invisible, unless something isn’t working. And that’s also how Design comes into play. In fact, we discussed how, no matter how well a website is organised, if it doesn’t look good, a person won’t use it. This is where the Psychology of design comes in, which you can see below.

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There are many things to consider when actually designing a website, but one of the biggest things I took out of this was that when working as an Information Architect I need to be wary of how design choices can actually affect how the IA works, and that it can negatively affect the users, context or content.

It was a very information heavy lecture, so compared to that the tutorial was rather laid back. We also focused on information architecture, however we used the skills learnt so far to analyse other websites. My group and I (more me than anyone else to be fair) decided to analyse the website comic book resources. I often find myself going to this website for comic book, and pop culture related news, however I know that every time I got there, I’m unhappy with it. I’ve never been able to my put my finger on why I wasn’t happy with it, but now, with the skills that I’ve learnt I am able to. Our final review was that, from an IA point of view, it does have good access to information, however in this case, there is too much information being given and it is overwhelming. The insistence on tags, as well as the fact that all the information is shoved into a small space can make a user feel uncomfortable on the website.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.37.02 am

With managing digital information there was a lot of information given to us this week. We mentioned things relating to the upcoming assignment, such as things like boundary objects (that i mentioned last week), and we also focused heavily on the actual indexing process (which was adapted from Mai, 1999). There were three main parts being:

  1. Document Analysis Process
  2. Subject Description
  3. Subject Analysis

With The document analysis process being about what the subjects are, the subject description being about formulating a phrase that allows it to be indexed, and the subject analysis being about translating the subject description into indexing language. I have to admit, this does confuse me a little bit, however I’m sure that I will get it sooner or later, and if not, I’ll ask my tutor about it.

In the tutorial we once again practiced categorising documents, however this time we had to categories their about-ness. While this is still also confusing to me – what exactly is about-ness?, I found that I was very good at it, finding the key works or phrases in a text, as well as the two or 3 overall ideas, based on who is looking for it. We were given an article about the increase of lead in the water supply in Ontario, Canada. The first time we had to categories it for a scientific database, and the second time we had to categorise it for a medical one. It was surprising for me to see the difference in how I would categories it, where with some categories I would completely change, while others I would just add a word, for example for the scientific database I would use the phrase “Lead-Levels” and for the medical one i would use the phrase “Blood Lead-Levels”

I was also lucky enough to go to a UTS Communications career event, which you can read about here

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You get paid to do whaaat?!

This week UTS careers hosted an event called “You get paid to do whaaat?!”, a networking event that introduced Communications Students to professionals in a variety of fields that all have a background in Communications.

This personally for me was an amazing idea because, while I know where I want to be in the future, and what kind of work I want to do, I don’t actually know how to get there. I also have most of my experience in social media, and while I do enjoy it, it’s not something I can see myself doing long term.

Like I said above, there was a variety of people within the communications degree, with vastly different experiences getting to where they were currently. There were people working in journalism, some working in creative and Web design, and other working in production.

There were two main parts of the night – ‘speed networking’ as they called it, where each guest (there was about 7 different people, all with different roles and backgrounds), and they each had 7 minutes (to the second ) to answer our groups questions, and tell us a bit about their experiences.  While this was good for me, as I had different questions for each of them, I did find that there were only about two or three other people asking questions. And while I didn’t get to ask all of the questions I had, I did feel a bit awkward being one of the few people asking questions – but hey, that’s how you get yourself to be know, right?

And even though I wasn’t able to ask all the questions I wanted to, there was time afterwards in the ‘general networking’ part of the night. This was when we were free to go around and talk with the speakers of the night and other comms students (which is always important for networking). I felt that the way this was set out was done very nicely, as I had questions that I wouldn’t have thought to ask if it were for the previous part of the night.

There were many valuable things I gained from this evening, from the fact that specialising in certain industries is a great thing, especially if one gains transferable skills, to what people are actually looking for in a portfolio, but the most valuable thing I learnt was how to effectively network in the communications industry.

Previous to this I thought that to network, what you needed to do most of all is get your name out there, so that people know you’re available, however I learnt tonight that there is so much more to networking. One of the speakers told us that when you network, you need to go in there with a particular goal. And it should be specific, not just to have a brief chat and give a business card, but something specific, like learn what skills people are looking for at that time. Another great piece of advice – something that I do struggle with, I have to admit, is that it is really important to make sure that people don’t just know your work, but also know your name, and even you as a person. It’s all good for a recruiter to hear that you do amazing things, but if they have a person already that does that, even if they’re not known to be as amazing as you, that person will still be more likely to be hired than you, because they know them. It’s all about getting your foot, then your face in the door.

The only problem that I had with the night was that I forgot to get contact details from the speakers. While none of them worked in areas that I personally have an interest in, I do know that it’s still a good idea to get in contact with them, as everyone pretty much knows everyone in the communications industry in Sydney, and they also are great banks of knowledge, they actually have gone to places that I might want to go, or have experienced a career path that I might take in getting to where I want to be.

Regardless of this, it was a really great night, and I’m very grateful that my uni offers things like this, and I’m so glad that I was able to attend.

Image from the UTS careers service