In the Knight-Mozilla Learning lab‘s first week, I was introduced to a concept workflow for developing ideas by Aza Raskin (@azaaza), who is an interface designer and a cloud of (good) ideas. It was the first time I’ve had instructional training in developing a concept. This weekend, I tried out his words of wisdom.
The concept I came up with brings together work applications, news sites and social networking tools that users may use the most into one browser window. I call it Mod Deck. Who is my audience? Young people (under 30). This is the age group who tunes out of the news the most. Although I realize other age groups might find it useful. The idea is that users should not have to bounce through sites, applications and windows to get their news, socialize and do work. Mod Deck is one space.
Here was the idea process:
1. Aza humorously warned us that our first idea will likely suck. Well, I’m prepared for that. But I need people (in kind ways) to tell me such. I surround myself with family, friends and colleagues who are polite and encouraging, not so much harsh critics. Our second speaker, Burt Herman (@burtherman) — the brains behind Storify and Hacks/Hackers — encouraged us to surround ourselves with people who will push us. I’m in need of that circle. So please, give me your thoughts below.
2. Aza also advised to try to finish the first artifact in one day. Well, that’s what I did. I actually timed myself. But I won’t put the time here. That’s an (embarrassing) secret.
3. He reiterated in his talk to try not to put too much detail into sketches. That was the easiest step to do.
4. Going through iterations is normal and necessary, Aza says. I noticed that ideas kept coming to me as I continued sketching. Perhaps I piled on too many ideas, a common mistake, he says. I struggled on this step, without any feedback.
5. Prepare to change the problem that you are trying to solve. This is where I am right now. I recognize this is phase one. I can’t wait to see where this idea will be in three weeks; that is if I keep it.
6. Create a video prototype to explain a concept. This was my first video attempt at a prototype. Aza said that an idea isn’t as important as how a person communicates that idea. The video was my way of explaining “Mod Deck.” In it, I applied two major takeaways from Aza’s talk: 1. Ideas try to create behavior in people. And 2. Answer “how does it make life better?”
7. Borrow ideas. That, I certainly did. My inspiration came from: mobile apps; modules available to add to CMS, like WordPress; Google Reader; a cloud-computing video by @jdsutter; my frustrating news and laptop experiences; and observations from watching students multitask.
Would you use Mod Deck? And how can the idea improve?