Touch The News Workshop at Mozilla Fest

Mozilla Fest 2011 took place in London last weekend. Mozilla Fest is

The Mozilla Festival is a yearly celebration that brings together hundreds of passionate people to explore the frontiers of the open web. We mash developers, designers, and big thinkers together to make things that can change the world.

This year’s theme is Media, Freedom and the Web—how can the web can make us more creative, collaborative and connected in an age of broadcasters big and small?

I was invited to stop by for the day-long hack session “Touch the Web”, best described by the organizer, Johanna Kolmann, as following

We split up into teams based on creating groups of balanced skills, and self-organized into a format in which we discussed in the morning what we wanted to pursue, what our angle would be to make an iPad version of the Boston Globe website, and hack it together in the afternoon.

PostIt Notes on the wall behind developers conferring
If there are no PostIt notes, there wasn't a UX cycle.

There was no time for a full User Centered Design process, but there was to discuss our expectations from online news media, our frustrations, and what we felt a news source on tablets should have. Writing and posting our wants, likes, and needs on PostIt notes gave us targets and a framework to keep in mind, which we then distilled to the Use Case we wanted to attack. Working that out by comparing to elements of sites we did like—also known as Best Practice or Competitor Research—we sketched a goal together, and in the afternoon we got to work to create a prototype on the iPad.

Large notes on the wall with sketches for a visual interface.
Always keep sketches visible for the whole team during work.

In a sense a very Agile process of defining a story, a goal, and a way to get there quickly. However, in Agile, at the point where developers go heads down to do the work, the UX team can then do preliminary work to get ready for the definition process of the next sprint, or consult on interaction details as the sprint continues. Except that eight now for us there wasn’t a new sprint waiting to prepare for, and there weren’t that many details of the interaction to really oversee.

But UX can always help the developers develop better: I started bringing them coffee and snacks.

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