Playgrounds: Week 8

Week Eight found the team playtesting and preparing for halves. While that may seem like a simple sentence, it was anything but.

Halves are supposed to represent both what the team has done with the first half of the semester, and the process that got them there. Doubling as practice for presentations we’ll have to do in our professional lives, Halves are presented in front of the collected student and faculty body of the ETC, as well as live streamed for any clients who would like to watch. There is a strictly enforced fifteen minute time limit on all presentations, and professionalism is paramount.

Fitting eight weeks of intense cross-disciplinary work and research into fifteen minutes has not been easy, but the team has done a marvelous job finding the important pieces of our process to highlight. Honesty is paramount; we are making sure to include details on how we’ve improved on our failures as well as talking about our successes. We are, after all, still students. Presenting to faculty is about more than just bragging about the work we’ve done, it’s about making it clear that this process has been something that we’ve grown and learned with, and that that growth will continue into the back half of the semester.

Beyond collecting content, creating our slide-deck, rehearsals, and critiques from our advisers, the team has made a concentrated effort to not let design fall by the wayside during the week. Iteration came into sharper focus this week with intense focus on playtesting and interviews.

The playtests this week took the form of paper prototyping. It was a choice that let programming focus on making sure everything was running as it needed to, and design test the experience as a whole. We managed to test with fifteen different individuals over three different full-length interactions, following each interaction with a detailed debrief. The test was vert heartening; a lot of our design choices were validated through the guest reactions; use of humor, naturalistic bounce-back statements, and focused questions were all very successful. We also discovered several distinct areas that we need to improve; there is still an unnatural feeling to the conversation, and the cause and effect of questions to resulting drinks is still unclear. The data we were able to gather will help shape the next iteration of the experience in a substantial.

Three key interviews this week were with the Googlers who run the Experience Centers; Erika Brunke, Jess Golden, and Meggie Coates. Because so much of our testing and research has been done with folks outside of our key demographic, these interviews were an incredible opportunity to look directly into what time at the Centers is like. We were able to get information that helped us refine our discussion topics, understand preferred use cases, and even get perspective on what things we could design towards to make lives of the folks who run the centers easier.

Our client call this week was an excellent reminder about our core goal and topic; we need to make sure we create a delightful and surprising experience. All of the information that we’re taking in, and the design that we’re making, needs to lead to that final outcome.

The team will be putting in work this weekend to prepare for halves, and to begin implementing the changes that we identified with our playtesters. Even with that in mind, things are looking on track. We a Monday presentation coming down the pipe quickly, and half the semester behind us, we know what we need to do. The hard part now is just to do.