Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teaching UCD in Barcelona

IED logoLast month I was in Barcelona for a week, teaching User Centered Design to a group of 15 students of the Insituto di Design's Design Management Master course.

On a Monday evening, having just finished Day 3 of the 4-day course in Interaction Design that I teach for the Dutch professional training institute Lectric, I got on a plane to Barcelona. After landing and a taxi ride to Pla├ža de Catalunya, the staff at Hotel Denit (which I highly recommend!) helped me settle in for an intense, week-long stay.

SilviaSilvia Calvet picked me up the next morning and escorted me to the IED building in the Gracia neighbourhood of Barcelona. I mentor Silvia via the IA Institute Mentoring Program and she arranged that I got invited by IED.

The students were an international bunch, coming from Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Columbia, Chili, Puerto Rico, USA, and Singapore. They had already started work on their final project (a line of accessories for the Volkswagen brand) and were able to apply the lessons to either that project or their previous projects: when my assignments allowed for it, they would use their projects as examples, briefly explaining them to me before sharing their solutions.

The walls of their classroom (it was theirs for the year) were full of the results of their user research and conceptual sketches, so I was a bit worried that I wasn't teaching them anything new. Fortunately, the responses I got indicated that I was indeed telling some known stuff, but that I presented the material in a (UCD) framework that was new to them, that it helped them put some earlier lessons in the right perspective, and that there was plenty of new material.

And the students were good! The day after I gave them their only homework assignment (with about half an hour left from the daily 10AM-2PM schedule, so they could consult me), I was impressed with the results. The well-delivered concept presentations all consisted of four or five related artefacts (e.g. a central concept sentence, a sketch, some scenarios, a screenflow and high-level wireframes) which was an amazing result give the amount of time available!

Every night I was able to tweak the slides for the next day, based on my findings of the day. I found out that using Facebook as an example website worked better than Twitter (all of them were on Facebook, none on Twitter) and that Hotmail was still popular enough that it could be used to perform a usability test on.

Each day, after a lunch somewhere in Gracia, I would walk to the offices of CVA Consulting to work remotely on the client portal is developing for the Dutch Yellow Pages and act as Silvia's mentor by preparing an in-house workshop focused on managing projects in a user-centered way. Here are the slides from that presentation:

On Friday, my (now ex-)girlfriend arrived and our weekend in Barcelona could start. We enjoyed the cities great food, wonderful shopping, sights & sounds, and got a chance to see what life is like if you live just outside Barcelona, in beautiful Vilassar de Mar.

If I get the chance to do this again next year, I won't hesitate!