Interactive whiteboard (IWB) products created with a user-centered design methodology.
eBeam technology helps teachers plan, prepare, and deliver compelling lessons from the front of the room while still interacting with their computers. For businesses, it allows local and remote users to collaborate on the same digital whiteboard or documents. The technology uses a digital stylus as an input to interact with the projected image of your computer, translating your movements into digital content. You can interact with your computer like you are using a mouse, annotate over things, or sketch on a digital whiteboard.
I was a founding member of a small innovation team that developed products for new markets and platforms, applying and advocating for user-centered design methodology. My projects included designing eBeam’s first IWB for corporate users and a product for digitally capturing whiteboard marker input. I participated in these projects from initial concepts through to software feature specifications, including doing the UX design for a few desktop applications, a web application, and an iPhone app.
I later moved to a product manager role, coordinating design and implementation of a new web-based application as the “customer” in the Agile development process. I led design and worked with developers, QA, and other stakeholders. We completed alpha testing with 10 external users. I also conducted a 15-person usability study of the out-of-box experience of our products. My findings drove user guide and packaging improvements.
User Research & Synthesis
For each project, I worked on a small team that completed user research, concept generation, rapid prototyping, feature specification, and product definition. I led the qualitative user research phase of several projects. I planned and helped conduct surveys, in-depth interviews, and observations in the field. I also led synthesis of user needs and insights into personas, frameworks, and scenarios.
On my first project, the team was tasked with designing software for a new market for the company, corporate end users. We did a contextual inquiry, interviewing 10 knowledge workers and observing several meetings, to see how tools like projectors and whiteboards were a part of their work flow. The synthesis process of that type of research is always intense. We would translate what we saw and heard onto Post-its and then start to group them and pull-out themes and insights. For example, to summarize some of our research, we created a breakdown of meeting types, thinking about information flow and other characteristics. We proposed that the meetings interactive whiteboards could add the most value to were working meetings, reviews, and coordination meetings because information was brought into, interacted with, and synthesized in those meetings. An IWB could streamline that process. The breakdown helped us define the scenarios to design for (small meeting rooms, groups, etc).
For another project, we conducted in-depth interviews with 17 knowledge workers and field visits to understand how and why they use whiteboards. During synthesis, we created this 2×2 of whiteboard use to demonstrate the flexibility of the tool, how it can aid collaboration, ideation, visualization, and communication. The breakdown helped us think about what scenarios would be opportunities for an interactive whiteboard to add value. For example, when we ask users about when they whiteboard, they often think of large groups and aggregating information (like a brainstorm). But going to your co-worker’s cubicle to figure out a problem together on a whiteboard is a use case where having a digital artifact that you can send or build on potentially adds more value.
Scenario & Use Case Building
As part of thinking through new concepts, we would often develop use cases and personas that we might visualize in a storyboard. Below is quickly sketched storyboards for how our “executive” persona would use a personal IWB system. I later formalized it in a written out story after their feedback. The lefthand version is the scenario as it would be today, and the righthand one depicts how the envisioned product (in red) would change the scenario (in yellow). The persona is of an executive who has a whiteboard in his office that he uses when he meets with people. He needs to refresh his whiteboard often because of the many meetings he has and sometimes he needs to share it with remote viewers when he has meetings over the phone.
After synthesizing insights from that research, we developed concepts through lo-fidelity prototypes including wireframes and flows in PowerPoint and mockups in Adobe Photoshop. I have used PowerPoint as a quick way to prototype and show a flow or interaction for a feature. We could walkthrough it to share an idea within the design team, to other stakeholders, or to show to a user to get their feedback. When you click, it looks like you are interacting with it but you are just clicking through slides.
For example, one concept we developed stemmed from the insight that when people use a projector to discuss a visual, it will often lead them to needing to quickly sketch something on the whiteboard. We had an idea for an application that stayed on top of all your desktop applications and could be pulled into focus at any time. You write on it and then drag it back to the side when you’re done. Or you can pull it all the way out to enter a whiteboard mode. This first prototype was successful enough that our team built a functional version that we tested with users.
Below are some examples of wireframes made in PowerPoint and Photoshop. The one on the left is for digital whiteboarding. You would project it from your computer and use the IWB to interact with it. Our goal was to streamline available features and place them in easy-to-reach locations to keep the focus on whiteboarding itself. The one on the right is an early mockup of a web viewer for digitized marker input.
I have a ME background and have worked on products with both hardware and software components, so I have also done many physical prototypes. The principles in prototyping physical products are the same as software prototypes, but the stakes are higher because it usually takes longer to build and test with people.
Working on a product that digitizes physical whiteboard marker strokes, one huge affordance was that someone in a remote location could view what was being drawn. From watching remote viewers use the product, though, we saw that the delight of seeing the whiteboard quickly gets replaced with frustration with how one-way that communication is. The remote person could only watch and try to explain things verbally, while the other side with the hardware was drawing. We wanted to explore how to bring the remote person into the interaction more.
The idea we prototyped was to display the remote viewer’s mouse position using a laser that we pointed on the whiteboard. We attached a laser to a motorized webcam that we could control. We did a Wizard-of-Oz prototype where one of us watched where the remote viewer was moving their mouse and mimicked the movement with the laser on the whiteboard. A few informal tests revealed a lot of promise for the idea. Even without being able to draw, the ability to point and gesture added another dimension to the conversation and gave the remote person a physical presence (the laser point) in the meeting.
Luidia website: http://www.e-beam.com/