Twelve smart, inquisitive, curious TechGirlz gathered at Tech+Wise Group and taught ApprenNet a thing or two about their website design. Lauren Schwartz, CEO and Founder of Tech+Wise, hosted and taught the most recent TechGirlz Workshop on User Experience. After a phenomenal lesson defining design and teaching the importance of user interface and experience, the girls formed three design companies: Green Paint, CANS Creative and Girls Website and Design (GWAD). Next, Green Paint, CANS and GWAD were each tasked with learning about theirvcustomer – ApprenNet, conducting user tests, collaborating on next steps, organizing their ideas, creating mock-ups and presenting their designs to ApprenNet.
This past year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded ApprenNet a series of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for ApprenNet to develop and offer an innovative way to bring online learning to life. With the funding, ApprenNet created and piloted Meets. Meets are three step learning exercises that involve learning by doing, learning from peers and learning from experts. ApprenNet first piloted Meets in the legal education space. In a LawMeet®, students listen to a hypothetical client, research a solution and upload a video response acting out the role of the lawyer. After grappling with the problem, students review pairs of responses, provide feedback and then vote on a preference. Experts, i.e. the professor or practicing attorneys, then review and provide feedback to the top peer-rated responses and leave their own video responses. All students have access to expert feedback and demonstrations.
ApprenNet asked the TechGirlz to help them design their interface for K-12 students, not law students. Here is what the girls pitched:
Pitch: Make the site more engaging and interactive for a younger audience.
Why: Students like to engage with easy to use platforms. They like to have fun.
Plan: For each action, i.e. uploading a video, engaging in peer review, engaging in expert review, create a separate and distinct place on the website for the action to take place. Make sure all the actions are on one page. Suggestion: Use a tree as the backdrop for each action, i.e. have three trees on your Meet page. Use an interactive bird to fly from tree to tree as the user completes each of the three learning steps. In addition to guiding you through each step, the bird can also talk to a user if the user gets stuck on a certain step in the learning process.
Note: Green Paint created a mock-up in power point and used the infamous Angry Bird as their interactive guide. Quite funny.
Pitch: Create an easier registration process, a more engaging front page/logo and differentiate the site according to age.
Why: Students will leave a site and go to a competitor if it is not easy to use, inviting and age-appropriate from the get-go.
Front Page Design Plan: Redesign the logo. Use engaging colors and a cool font. CANS suggested the logo “LearnIt”. They suggested a clean, white backdrop with the name LearnIt in bright pink and purple colors created with splatters of paint. They also suggested including mascots on the front page. Students can choose mascots to help them guide them through the platform, e.g. tweety bird.
Registration & Login Plan: Make it simple. Ask for a student’s name and email. Also ask for a student’s grade. Differentiate the platform design depending on a student’s grade. Younger grades like more color, avatars, etc… Older grades like a simpler interfaces. Make sure we know our exact audience.
Pitch: Create a clean, easy to use interface where each step of a Meet is on a separate page with clear, large directions in the form of icons (not text). Create a forum for students to communicate and a forum for parents to communicate.
Why: Separating a Meet’s steps with large icon directions cuts down on any confusion on how to participate in a Meet. Parents and students like to be part of larger communities and to know that a website is safe.
Plan: Make each page clean. Use large icons for the action and icons to show next steps, e.g. large red buttons to show when to record. Create large buttons to allow people to go to specific forums to interact with other users.
Note: GWAD also designed a Meet that focuses on website safety for K12 students. Quite impressive!
In addition to pitching design ideas, the TechGirlz had a number of questions for
1. What types of Meets are you designing for the different age groups, i.e. K-3
grades, 4-6 grades, 7-9 grades, 10-12 grades?
2. How will you collect revenue?
3. How can parents check in on their children through the site?
4. Can homeschool students use the site?
5. How will you integrate games into the site?
6. How are you going to promote your business?
7. What are you going to do to help blind and deaf students use your site?
8. Have you considered including video and writing tutorials?
You should, we like both.
9. Are you going to have an alternative way to participate in a Meet if a user is
not comfortable uploading a video?
We learned a tremendous amount from the TechGirlz. Thank you for spending a Saturday with us. We wish we could hire all three companies to start working for us now! Stay in touch and let us know what great things you embark on over the next few years.
– Emily Foote, Co-Founder, ApprenNet LLC