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December 11, 2019 9:30 AM

Hands-on workshop highlights user experience

A hands-on workshop hosted by Conestoga’s IT Innovation and Design (ITID) program focused on finding novel approaches to presenting user research. Held at the college’s Waterloo campus on November 26, close to 60 participants joined Janna Cameron, design lead at the Sonova Innovation Lab in Kitchener, to learn how to effectively communicate results with stakeholders and clients. 

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Conestoga students Alex and Bohdana work on their UX comic as part of a hands-on user research workshop presented by Janna Cameron.

Although open to the college community, the workshop was offered to complement studies taught to first-year students in ITID, Computer Programming and Computer Programming and Analysis on user experience (UX), which includes an introduction to current practices in interactive design to gain a better understanding of the growing importance UX plays in software development. The workshop also attracted students from the Interactive Media Management - Interaction Design and Computer Applications Development programs. 

Passionate about helping product teams empathize with the people they’re creating for, Cameron helps Sonova innovate by understanding non-articulated customer needs, expectations and frustrations. She was first introduced to usability and user research at the University of Waterloo, where she studied System Design Engineering with a focus on human-computer interaction, and her experience in the industry spans a variety of sectors, products and platforms. 

“I do a lot of that early requirements gathering, really sitting with people, understanding their stories, how they use technology, their frustrations and trying to translate that into an exciting solution they can use,” said Cameron. Getting teams, stakeholders and clients to recognize key points of data as they read through pages of reports, Cameron explained is often a challenge.    

“I started thinking about how I could present my results in such a way that people actually get engaged and retain the information,” Cameron continued. 

Her solution came after coming across a book that took a 30-page academic paper and succinctly parred it down into a spread of comics. Cameron decided to use the same method to compress her research and illustrate findings. The experiment worked, and Cameron said she found her research to be better retained by creating UX comics, including important emotional aspects to user experience that are often hard to pick up in traditional reports.   

During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to create their own UX comics by gathering raw data, creating a synopsis, mapping out a story and drawing it. Part of the process also included reviewing final content to ensure pictures were not misleading and represented research accurately.

“Janna is a highly respected local authority in UX design,” said ITID program coordinator Randall Kozak, who organized the event. “This workshop was meant to give students a fresh approach to UX and show that even experienced designers are always looking for new and innovative techniques.”

The IT Innovation and Design advanced diploma program at Conestoga prepares graduates to help companies effectively compete on a global scale through the development of skills in graphic design, content creation, user experience, software development and marketing in order to design new and competitive software applications. 

Cameron sits on the program advisory committee for IT-related programs at the college, providing expertise and insight to keep programs aligned with current and emerging industry needs, ensuring Conestoga graduates have the skills and knowledge to make a difference in their workplaces and communities.

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