Startup Diary 2: First Sketches and Big Admin

First Published November 1st 2013

The picture above is a snap shot of the chaos that was the dining room table a couple of weeks ago. It shows some of the scribblings related to getting [Moodotron] out of my head and onto paper. This marks a point beyond the hold pattern of occasional thought about the project I've been in for years. Last year a dalliance with Google's Startup Weekend taught me a truck of things and also taught me most current Startup thinking was for the young and engineer minded. I took a lot away from this but am trying to keep things more, well, UX.

Those who know the UX process well may be wondering why I'm starting with sketches. That's a good point, surely I should start off with research. [[MORE]] That's true but, in this case, I've been causally researching it in the background for years, asking people how they they go about finding films, music, holidays and all kinds of things. It's been in the back of my mind as I've worked on numerous websites and carried out research for other clients (although I won't claim to have hijacked any aspect of those sessions as that would not be good).

So what we have is a first expression of the front end experience of the the whole system with most of the large problems solved. It takes the form of pencil/pen sketches on sheets of A4 and in a blank paper Moleskine (which I've moved onto from Squared paper). These sketches are what I call thinking sketches and differ from the sketches one may do if you are looking to communicate the interface to someone else. Providing I understand them then that is the right fidelity. In the sketches I also draw out diagrams for non interface concepts. This is normal for my work and sketching interfaces is often a few steps down in my sketching process. I consider this a sign I'm still a UX person and not an Interaction Designer. At some point these concept sketches will be turned into something I will use to communicate with the yet to be allocated development resource.

In doing these sketches I learnt one major thing - my back end admin system is going to be more complicated, from an interface point of view than the front end. And, to be honest, it won't be the first time on a project. Having worked with many Content Management Systems I have found most of my work for Banks has been taming the CMS not in devising how the page should work or be structured (that stuff is easy). This may, on the surface, appear to be an issue but I consider it a good sign. After all the flight deck of a commercial jet is naturally more complex and requires more thought than the reclining seats in first class, yet you won't see those used as part of an advert.

If this plane is to get off the ground (sorry, I'm slipping into band metaphors again) then I will need the right controls and have the right readouts at hand to be able to change course at will. I also need to put the groundwork in place to allow for the backend to grow and as new functionality is added to have a solid interface in place I can slot new things into. After all the whole point of this project is to start simple and grow. The first version will not be a 'Minimal Viable Product' but something usable and useful without bells and whistles. It will have a level of design and functionality that will make it feel like a finished product - no dummy links and no coming soon messages. In the background there are a huge pile of ideas of what could be added and also a pile of things that will never be added. For example there may be 'wish lists' but they'll never be any ratings (a potential 'Rabbit hole' many fall down). I might explain these some other time.

Next step is now move to a prototype. I'm using Axure and it's slower going than the sketches as I'm learning new techniques I'll be applying to future roles (I'm not giving up the day job yet!). More on that later.


As of Jan 2015 I am now focusing on my role at Transport for London so, for now, the Startup is very much in the background.

See Also:

Startup Diary 1: Rabbit Holes, Rockets and Rock Bands

Previous UX Stew Posts