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Mentoring Collaborative UCD


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The benefits of mentoring in user-centred web design. Presented at OzCHI 2007 in Adelaide.

The benefits of mentoring in user-centred web design. Presented at OzCHI 2007 in Adelaide.

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  • Transcript

    • 1. Mentoring Collaborative User Centred Design OzCHI, Adelaide November 2007 Patrick Kennedy, Step Two Designs
    • 2. User Centred Design can be hard enough, but what if you and your team have no experience?
    • 3. Mentoring collaborative UCD
      • User-centred web design can be hard enough
      • But what if…
        • you and your team have no experience ?
        • that team is new and still bonding?
        • your organisation expects prompt solutions?
        • hiring a team of experts is out of the question?
      • What if all of these were the case?
      • Addressing this situation tends to be dominated by:
        • Outsourcing to consultants
        • Hiring of contractors
        • Up-front formal training (before commencement)
      • Mentoring offers an alternative approach with many benefits
    • 4. Agenda
      • The next 15 minutes will
        • Discuss collaborative information architecture
        • Outline the context of my experience (redesign of a large government website)
        • Focus on mentoring in a teamwork situation
        • Entice you to read my paper
        • Offer mentoring as a possible solution for you to consider
        • Allow some questions, if we have time
    • 5. Case study: government agency who did not have the skills to fix a website that was out of control
    • 6. Case study: ESA government website
      • ESA is an Australian government agency that deals with scientific data
      • Large information-rich website (approx 20,000 pages plus many applications)
      • Coordination is improving but website reflects organisational silos
      • Been through several design iterations in the past (typically outsourced)
      • The website has grown out of control
      • Technical side of website taken care of (by IT department)
      • But few skills in UCD and IA
      • They recognised there was little knowledge of the audience
      • Major redevelopment initiated, including the IA
      • There was no formal team for the website redesign, so one was newly formed
      • Team included staff from different parts of ESA, and was multidisciplinary
      • Little experience in working together, and varying levels of experience in web
      • Limited resources available and reasonable pressure to complete work quickly
    • 7. Mentoring has many advantages and a mentor is an extremely valuable asset for any team
    • 8. Mentoring has many advantages
      • It builds the skills of the team whilst allowing progress
      • Practical skills and team confidence are developed early
      • Contractors and consultants are expensive and leave the team without the skills to maintain or further develop the site
      • Trying to learn , then do, takes much longer and risks quality
      • Mentoring is more interactive and well suited to adult learning principles
      • Mentoring is often overlooked , perhaps seen as old fashioned
      • Anybody been involved in mentoring of some sort?
    • 9. Mentoring hit the spot in terms of achieving project objectives within present constraints
    • 10. Mentoring was the best approach
      • There was
        • A limited budget for the project
        • Recognition of the need for ongoing website development
        • A desire to build up skills of team
      • Thus, there was hesitation to rely on outsourcing
      • But needed to make progress fast , with best results
      • Mentoring was the chosen solution
    • 11. Flexible mentoring agreement
      • Our mentoring agreement allowed for
        • Training sessions (focussed on key concepts)
        • Phone support (quick reference and advice)
        • Collaborative workshops (mentor blends into team)
        • Targeted pieces of consulting
      • A gradual shift from training sessions to workshops
      • Providing some instruction but quickly putting the team into action, practicing what they had learnt
    • 12. More than just training, mentors provide guidance and help point the team in the right direction
    • 13. Mentors guide and offer direction
      • More than just teach , mentors must act as a guide
      • Instilling confidence , such that they could do the work but also gain traction within the rest of the organisation
      • Encouraging discussion amongst team members
      • Starting with the broad concepts and then narrowing in on specifics
      • Role of a recommender very important (filtering and qualifying)
      • Many teaching aids were used
        • Books
        • Articles
        • Blogs
        • Websites
      • In these days of information overload, mentors should help simplify
    • 14. Mentoring does have some constraints but with some juggling they can be overcome
    • 15. Mentoring constraints
      • Subject to availability of mentor
        • Adding to the pressure was the fact that the mentor was based inter-state (ESA in Canberra, Step Two Designs in Sydney)
        • Limited face-to-face contact between mentor and team
        • This was reserved for training sessions and workshops
        • Additional discussion made use of phone and email
        • Less than ideal , ultimately it proved successful
        • Fortunately, the ESA team were all geographically close
      • Requires mentorees to do bulk of work (can be seen as risk)
      • Depends on a good rapport between mentor and team
    • 16. There are several ‘tips of the trade’ for those considering mentoring in this type of situation
    • 17. Findings
      • A new team can successfully collaborate on complex design activities in which they have little expertise, with the help of a mentor
      • Mentoring is not necessarily just training
      • Mentors end up talking a lot; but being able to ask questions is possibly the most valuable part from the team’s perspective
      • An in-house mentor would be generally more effective
    • 18. The issue of time
      • How much of the mentor’s time is taken up?
        • 5% of the working week, up to approx 90% peak
      • Overall increase in project time
        • If team inexperienced this will be substantial
        • But mentoring is quicker than training before starting
      • Delays due to mentor unavailability
        • This is an issue, especially if the mentor is not in-house
        • But can be beneficial, forces team to stretch themselves and build confidence
    • 19. Feedback after the project
      • Consequences of up-skilling
        • “ It’s unusual that the organisation would want to build up the skills of the team”
        • “ Yeah but the problem is that once you train them up, they will leave and get an IA job”
        • Yes, but not an exclusive issue for mentoring
      • Long term sustainability
        • “ How sustainable is it? Have the mentorees become mentors and champions of UCD?”
        • Yes (‘train the trainer’ ripple effect)
    • 20. Conclusion
      • Mentoring can be a superior alternative to outsourcing, using contractors and up-front training
        • It’s often more cost effective
        • Allows immediate progress while ensuring quality
        • Builds internal skills and ensures long-term capability
      • Perfect for inexperienced teams with limited time/budget
      • Flexible solution, allowing many different activities
      • Guidance and direction are key roles of a mentor
      • Face-to-face is best, but workarounds can be found
      • Demands on mentor’s time is not excessive
    • 21. Thank you
      • Original paper is on the conference proceedings CD
      • Your feedback is most welcome
      • Patrick Kennedy [email_address]
      • Blog:
      • Website:
    • 22. So why are they so unpopular?