“If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which gives it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functionsAnd UI design represents the cosmetics of the body–its presentation, its senses, and reactions.” – Emil Lamprecht

User Experience Design: something all of us encounter every day whether we realize it or not. Here at ThriveTracker, we are dedicated to delivering the best experiences of our products, and this past year we had the exciting opportunity to expand this even further.

Dr. Lisa Anthony, Director of the Intelligent Natural Interaction Technology (INIT) Laboratory at the University of Florida, is revolutionizing the way students think and learn about the user experience. This past Fall, she partnered with local companies, including ThriveTracker, for her User Experience Design course. Pairing the practical application of classroom instruction with a tangible community partnership, Dr. Anthony brought together groups of both undergraduate and graduate-level students to assist in bettering a mobile experience for Thrive.

Students Present Their Final Prototypes

“Human-centered design has grown rapidly in the last six to eight years,” said Dr. Anthony. Prior to this course, UF offered one on human-computer interaction that focused on development and evaluation of graphical user interfaces; however, Dr. Anthony felt that the students could use exposure to the early design process and prototyping.

“This course is very different than any other course in the department and probably that [the students] have ever taken,” she said, “95% of the students in the class are computer science majors and have very analytical backgrounds, so this is the first time many of them are having to stretch their creative skills and think more of the requirements… of what the users are telling you, and then use that as the inspiration for the design.”

With a delicate blend of computer science and human psychology, the field of user-centered design elevates the previous approach of computer science to one in which the user and product are collaborative, catering to the needs and expectations of the user. Thrive was thrilled to work with Dr. Anthony and provide students the opportunity to improve the mobile experience for our clients. Partnerships like this are invaluable for ThriveTracker as they offer innovative ideas and constructive evaluation of Thrive’s products while simultaneously aiding in the students’ academic experiences. And, of course, the class is a huge hit.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” said Dr. Anthony. Between meetings with the clients, the students focus on peer design critique in which they work together to learn how to improve the design experiences. “It’s a very active, hands-on and engaging class,” said Dr. Anthony, “It’s not just lecture, they’re doing designs.”

Students Present Their Final Prototypes

While the design of the class is, in itself, centered around the “users” – the students – it can become difficult at times due to the volume of interest in the course. Some classes have upwards of 50-80 students, which can present a challenge for Dr. Anthony. She mitigates this by breaking the class size into groups that she can work with individually, ensuring that each group receives constructive, actionable feedback. Additionally, the students meet with the clients halfway through the semester to give updates and receive comments on their initial concepts.

The final designs are then presented as interactive prototypes and video sketches of the design concepts. Some of the ideas pitched to Thrive included ways to further filter and customize reports, easier ways to adjust campaign rotations, campaign cards, and an overall more friendly user experience. Check out an example from one of the graduate groups:

While Thrive actively solicits client feedback on a daily basis, the new concepts provided by Dr. Anthony’s students brought fresh insight into the platform. This symbiotic partnership is one Thrive hopes to continue given the breadth of ingenuity the students possess.

“I love working with industry clients,” said Dr. Anthony, “It’s been very rewarding to show the students that the clients value this process.” In addition to the real-world experience the students get, Dr. Anthony emphasized that the interaction with the clients often validates what the students have learned in coursework, providing a classroom experience unlike any other.

Look out in the future for some new Thrive features brought to you by the students of User Design Experience!

 

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