We've been advocates of user-centre design for our digital portfolio platform Mixiply since its first release. The initial idea, improvements and updates have always been driven by the MiniDevs (students aged 11-13) and teachers from Newlands Intermediate working with our team.
Our latest intern project was an opportunity to reset the focus of the platform, with fresh perspectives from new kids and interns working together with our team.
Historically Mixiply has focussed on creating and sharing AR and mixed reality experiences. While this was always cool, it was certainly a bit niche. Now Mixiply has transformed into something any class will want to use – rather than being seen as something just for code clubs. User-centred design is at the heart of this change.
What is user-centred design?
It's about getting the users themselves involved. A core part of the design process with Mixiply has always been listening to feedback, collecting ideas and paying attention to needs and wishlist items. Quite simply, the product won't work for them without them.
User-centred design is iterative and test-driven. For us, it's the best way to evolve Mixiply. Here's why:
1. Creativity and freedom
First and foremost, the students and teachers bring new ideas to the table. It doesn't matter how radical they are. The sky's the limit. While we can't satisfy all ideas, and all aren't feasible, it's often a catalyst for the right one.
2. User ownership
Students feel proud of what they're doing. The growth in confidence and sense of responsibility in taking ownership of a product has been remarkable to see. There are still decisions to be made with the new release, such as protecting individual artworks, and students want to be involved with these decisions.
3. Features that matter
There's less time wasted building features that aren't useful (or desired). For example, we simplified the previous onboarding process. This made it easier for students to sign up and play with all the mediums rather than enforce an initial pathway for them.
4. Meaningful language
We're often surprised to hear words that we, as adults, don't know. But, by properly listening, we can learn what language resonates (and what we should use in the Mixiply design).
5. Honest feedback (is the best feedback)
Kids don't hold back when they don't like something. If there's even a tiny quirk with how something works, they'll tell you. And we love that they tell us. It just makes everything better.
6. Adapting to change
Using tech for remote learning last year became the norm. By listening to student and teacher experiences with this, and how it's shaped them moving forward, we've adapted to new requirements.
7. Opening the door to tech
A user-centred approach means that the MiniDevs work directly with a range of developers from different backgrounds, different genders, different beliefs. The tech world is diverse, and we want them to know that.
Transformation driven by user-centred approach
Our recent interns Maddie and Monica, studying for a Master's in Software Development at Victoria University, worked on this latest transformative release of Mixiply. Led by Jim Taylor, Emerging Technologies Architect, they took a user-centred approach to develop a raft of new features that shifted the flavour and purpose of Mixiply to attract a larger audience. These include:
Students wanted to collaborate directly on the platform (rather than using separate messaging channels to communicate). Based on their feedback, we designed Groups. Like Slack and Microsoft Teams, Groups is a safe collaboration space for students to share and give feedback on each other's creations. Emojis let them react to updates, and a notification system keeps everyone up to date.
Teachers wanted to see how students got to the finish point of their designs, demonstrating the learning journey. So we created Journals, allowing students to document and share work via journal entries.
No doubt, as we continue our journey with this style of design, the benefits will continue to arise through close collaboration. So far, it's working. And we're happy that the students and teachers think so too.