Google Innovator Project – Update 2

This is my Google Innovator Project journey. You can find the previous entries here:

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

 

RESEARCH

I spent a lot of time analyzing all of the resources for Google’s Material Design. Google has created this tremendous website that instructs users on a variety of topics related to their own Material Design. I used this resource to analyze the layout, structure, and design of my app. The Material Design site also offers a graphics library of every icon you could ever need to build your app. I found this part of the process immensely interesting because I love research and learning new concepts. This resource gave me a better understanding of how the user might use my app.

 

PROTOTYPING THE APP…AGAIN

After creating my first initial prototype, I went through and decided that less is more. I was trying to fit too much into one app and decided to pare down the design and only keep the essentials. Later on, I can always add more, but I wanted to keep things simple. I also realized that a lot of the content on the app could be put onto a training website. More on that later.

I used the d.school design thinking process for the general layout. This version of design thinking is familiar to most and is easily translatable to other systems. I also used the d.school color palette for the app layout. I plan on revising this once I start building the app. I’m not crazy about the colors and I’m thinking about adapting the d.school method with different terminology.

I create a new digital layout in Photoshop and then imported the individual screens into the Marvel App. My new prototype has a streamlined look and feel. It’s visually more interesting than my previous app, and creating the digital mockups will help me to explain the app succinctly. You can find the new prototype here.

 

 

BUILDING THE APP

Honestly, I was nervous about this part of the process. Graphic design I understand, but coding in Java had me intimidated. I intended to use MIT App Inventor to create a prototype of my app while I taught myself how to use Android Studio. I even purchased a few online classes to get me started on Java coding. During my research, I stumbled on a new product called Thunkable. It was created by the folks that designed the MIT App Inventor. Thunkable is built on the same concepts as App Inventor but is more modern with nifty features like AI integration that are missing from App Inventor. I began experimenting with Thunkable and found it to be fairly easy to learn. They have a companion app to put on your phone so that you can live test prototypes. Another perk, a lot of the App Inventor tutorials translate to Thunkable (you can even import your old App Inventor projects into Thunkable).

 

The Learning Curve

In all honesty, it was a bigger learning curve than I was expecting to navigate Thunkable. The interface is great, but I quickly realized that some of my original designs would require a lot of research and every inventor’s favorite tool ‘trial-and-error’ to get my app functioning properly. Many a weekend I watch tutorials and spent multiple hours trying to get one screen of my app to function properly. I knew this would be a part of my process, but I still became frustrated each time the functions did not work the way I wanted them too. I don’t consider this lost time because I learned a great deal pushing through the struggles I encountered.

One advantage of the slow process is that I revised the design of multiple screens quite a few times. I enjoyed this part of the project because I could see my app slowly coming to life. I will continue to work on my rough prototype in Thunkable, but still think that moving to Android Studio will be the best route for the final app.

The Project Expands

As I was working on my app, I started to think about creating supplemental material. One of the functions of the app was to instruct students and teachers about the Design Thinking process. I included this in the original concept for the app. I realized that would simply be too much to cram into one app. Instead, I’m going to create a website that will be a training/resource guide. The site will have instructional videos, activities, and resources for Design Thinking. Ideally, a student could use the site to learn Design Thinking on their own. Recently, I’ve been contacted about the design program that I co-created with @mr_aberg. This further encouraged me to set up this site so that it could benefit those just starting this journey.

My wise mentor, Charles Shryock, IV, encouraged me to continue to focus on the app. During our last check-in, I mentioned that I wanted to shift my focus to the website since it seemed more immediate. Charles helped me to see the value of the app and that the site would support the app in the long run. I appreciated that Charles continued to ask hard questions and encouraged me to stay the course. He also contacted me after a particularly frustrating app design weekend, so I appreciate his patience and guidance.

All this is to say that the project is growing…

Moving Forward

  • I feel like I’m not as far along as I would like to be. Following the timeline that I set up at the end of the Academy, I should have a working prototype by the end of October. I’m not sure that I will hit that mark, but it’s still a good goal.
  • Need to complete my online classes to learn more about Android Studio and Java.
  • Not terribly happy with the current design of the app. It feels very rough and not as professional as I would like.

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