Category Archives: Code Blacks

Best laid plans. Blueprint for a charity home page

To help the client team moving forward I’ve produced a home page blueprint for the website built during Full Code Press.

With web projects requiring information architecture and overall user experience input it’s often as useful to justify the strategy and principles behind recommended approaches as it is to implement them.

Rainbow Youth helped us to understand their audience, now they need to pick up the website and run with it. It’s important they understand the strategy behind the home page and the function each element performs in relation audience motivations and expectations.

Since the Full Code Press event the Codeblacks team are providing tweaks and ongoing direction for our client, Rainbow Youth before the new site goes live.

To Share the goodness and our findings, …I have made a copy of the web page IA-UX blueprint available for those who work with the design of charity websites.

Code Blacks’ winning website built on empathy

Yes, the New Zealand ‘Code Blacks’ team has retained the trophy.

Full Code Press is a competition big on challenges:
Build a charity website from scratch in a mere 24 hours with a team you’ve barely met in a tiny room in the middle of a seething exhibition hall for a mystery client, with reporters and cameras hovering and under the sleep deprivation of an all-nighter…all this and against the formidable Australian team.

My challenge as UX lead: How to apply user centred design principles under all those constraints?

I figured we’d take some leads from competitor analysis, undertake regular guerrilla user research (reality checking our design with people from the audience) to make sure we were heading in the right direction with information architecture, copy and visual design, and even iron out any usability issues.

How wrong I was.

With the clock ticking and a team hungry for UX direction,  IA and page layouts needed to be locked down within hours of kick-off. Time pressure ruled out the chance to validate our designs, so without any real user research we were left to fly seat-of-pants applying best practice.

I often turn down ‘expert review’ work when it’s clear a user centred approach is required, so this really tested my principles. It felt a little like being on a DIY home makeover show, where corners are cut and the clients end up with a half-arsed job they will have to re-do as soon as the cameras stop rolling.

But our clients from Rainbow Youth were different… They understood their audience.

Our clients shared theirs and others personal anecdotes inspiring empathy amongst our team, providing first hand audience insights, giving us the confidence to charge forward with a clear picture of their goals from using the site and the values to be conveyed through the user experience.

Picking ‘randoms’ from the audience to give feedback on our design may have worked on a high level, but empathy for and understanding of the end user put us in a great position to cater for user needs while achieving the support and fundraising goals of the charity.

It’s amazing what is possible in such a compressed timeframe when you have direct access to a client who themselves are user advocates.

I look forward to comparing notes with Patrick from the Australian team to get his take on UX under pressure.

Full Code Press. 24 hrs to build a great web experience

Next week I’ll be part of an NZ team competing in Sydney against the Aussies to build a website for a charity at CeBIT’09

We’ll have just 24 hours from initial briefing to completion so we’ll cover the full journey from paper through to pixels, against the clock.

My role as User Experience guy is to play the user advocate. Making sure the Information Architecture maps well with the goals and needs of both the audience and the charity.

I’m thinking along the lines of ‘Le Mans’ UX design race;

  • standing start
  • all nighter
  • …but only one set of tyres
  • and no change of driver

Formal User Research and Usability methods are out, number eight wire is in …It’s time to improvise.

The event is called Full Code Press and our team are the Code Blacks.

Australia vs New Zealand, live at the CeBIT 09 conference in Sydney, 12-13 May.