Designing a seamless and effective experience for the Maker Community

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The Team

My Role

Meredith Nelson, Duli Pin, Erika Castaneda G.

Advisors: Lauren Golden and Daniella DeVera

Business analysis, comparative and comparative analysis, user interviews, contextual inquiries, content strategy, wireframing. 

Duration

3 weeks


The Client

Makernet is a free platform that interconnects the maker community and offers resources to help them grow and succeed.

The main actors of the maker community, and Makernet target audience:

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How does Makernet help the community?

By offering to Makers a website where they can:

• Find the spaces to work and to learn to use tools and machines
• Track their learning progress and certification
• Share their progress and progress 
• Find inspiration from other makers

 

By giving to space managers a free set of tools to:

• Manage maker's memberships and bookings
• Create training workshops and events
• Manage machine inventory 
• Manage and Money


During the kickoff meeting with our clients we learned about their business model, vision and pain points. We also found out what our job as designer would be.


Makernet Goals 

-       Help Makers and Makerspaces thrive and evolve
-       Provide the maker community access to resources 
-       Become the global network of the maker community

Makernet Needs

-       Revamp their entire offering into a single website that is comprehensive and scalable
-       Connect spaces into the their network to help members and inventory be discovered
-       Attract people who might not be familiar with the Maker Movement

The Challenge

Design a seamless and effective experience for all possible users of Makernet. 


The design process 

For this project we divided the project in two phases:  1. Understand the business goals and needs, and identify the problem through research.  2. Find the solution through content strategy and the design cycle.

For this project we divided the project in two phases:

1. Understand the business goals and needs, and identify the problem through research.

2. Find the solution through content strategy and the design cycle.


Product Analysis

Makernet currently has 2 separate products:
• A public website that is mostly informational 
• A private panel of the space (member of Makernet) where people book trainings or machines, find events or projects of other makers.

To determine how useful and usable current Makernet’s products are, we divided this process in two phases and performed qualitative and quantitative research activities.

Phase 1– We analyzed the content, architecture, and interactions through heuristic evaluation.

Phase 2– Through contextual inquiry, we studied several people (makers, non-makers, and managers of a makerspace) navigating and interacting with Makernet products.

The results

Public Website   • No clear flow and lack or direction • Hard to know what Makernet is and what you can do • Excessive and repetitive text site-wide • There is almost no interaction to help users achieve their goals • No access to the private panel of a specific makerspace

Public Website

• No clear flow and lack or direction
• Hard to know what Makernet is and what you can do
• Excessive and repetitive text site-wide
• There is almost no interaction to help users achieve their goals
• No access to the private panel of a specific makerspace

Private Panel   • The design was created to be used for a single space, it is not a scalable model: - Lacks search capabilities - The filtering is very limited and not useful •Location is not a parameter •Outdated calendar that is not easy to understand or interact with •No option to edit or cancel events or bookings •Many of the features don’t work well and others haven’t been developed

Private Panel

• The design was created to be used for a single space, it is not a scalable model:
- Lacks search capabilities
- The filtering is very limited and not useful
•Location is not a parameter
•Outdated calendar that is not easy to understand or interact with
•No option to edit or cancel events or bookings
•Many of the features don’t work well and others haven’t been developed

 

Contextual inquiry insights

Confusion about Makernet’s purpose
• Frustration trying to complete certain tasks
• Limited features to achieve their goals
• Confusion about functionality 
• None of the products engage the maker community
• Most testers tried to book machines or training

Contextual_Inquiry.jpg
 

Comparative and Competitive Analysis

Makernet is a unique model that brings into play different types of businesses to analyze:

Makerspace sites - To study their navigation, and how they categorize classes or working areas.
Reservation-related sites - To learn reservations best practices and the elements that come into play.
Business Management Software sites - To know what features they offer, or how their system works.
Local and Global Community sites - To discover how they engage their community, how members find inspiration & make connections.
Industrial and manufacturing sites - To see the online rental process, supplier discovery, and machinery training & certification.

These are the main sites we used as reference and took inspiration from:

• Fablab - Business Management Service
• NextFab - A network of collaborative makerspaces
• OpenTaable - Restaurant-reservation service company


User Research

Understanding the central player – The Maker 

With the limited amount of time we had, we decided to center our design on the Maker, the main player of the game, always keeping in mind the big picture (goals and needs of Makernet and all the potential players).

We spoke to people from a variety of backgrounds, including current student users at Alameda Fablab to understand their behaviors, needs and motivations.


Data analysis 

We took the feedback we had received from user interviews and did some affinity mapping, which is a method of synthesizing data to look for patterns.

We took the feedback we had received from user interviews and did some affinity mapping, which is a method of synthesizing data to look for patterns.

Key insights

• The maker community is proactive, enjoys the ability to learn things and make changes on their own
• Difficulty finding maker spaces, tools, and training 
• Interest in having access to multiple spaces and to transfer certifications 
• Lack of knowledge about training and safety best practices 

our Proposed solution

Based on our research, we thought that MakerNet could be more appealing and easy to use if we integrated into the public site the key features of the panel, such as booking machines and sharing projects, but also add other content to engage users so they will be more likely to sign up, and become part of the brand.

We also decided to incorporated features and content that will help Makernet be more scalable:
• Search bar and filters
• Geo-location


Content strategy

Research helped us identify some key features, as well as missing and repetitive information.

To prioritize the content and features, and narrow the scope of the design, we developed an archetype based on the data of the user who is actively using Makernet: the student user of the Alameda College Fablab.

Archetype.jpg


Structure

We focused on improving the onboarding flow for this student who needs the training to start using the machines for the first time. 

UserFlow.jpg

The biggest challenge of this project was to decide how to organize the information and prioritize the given features in order to provide a seamless experience. 

Once we re-organized the content and designed the sitemap. The four screens outlined in purple follow the user flow of the archetype we created.

Once we re-organized the content and designed the sitemap. The four screens outlined in purple follow the user flow of the archetype we created.

The flow that would take the new student user to complete the task to book a training.

The flow that would take the new student user to complete the task to book a training.


Ideation and testing

Once we had the structure and content, we started our design cycle.

DesignCycle.jpg

We tested our design solution three times with different users, the feedback that helped us refine it land in the final version.

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This is what we changed after usability testing:

• Moved logo from center, to top left, to be present throughout the pages.
• Simplified search bar, from the “directed search bar” initially proposed.
• Grouped main actions into two main categories: learn and get things done.
• Moved up “how it works” to appear right after the global navigation.
• Create a call to action to invite space managers to become part of the network (this link would take them to a landing page with all the information about the management tools).


The final product

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Homepage

• Primary Navigation:
- Learn > Book trainings | Find Projects
- Get things done > Find spaces to work | Book Machines
• Geo location and Search bar implementation
• Intro message that tells what Makernet
• A guide through area


Training listing.jpg

Training listing

• A secondary menu that can also take you to Find Projects 
• A vertical filtering area to narrow the search (2:3 division of the space)
• The product card with details and a call to action button


Logged In - Home.jpg

The user account dashboard 

• Consistent left-side filtering area with a calendar showing booked events by current month
• Tabs on the right allow users to switch from Training to Reservations
• Other details: like number of attendees or the option to cancel


Final prototype

The clickable prototype follows the user flow of the the student trying to find the a training for a specific machine (userflow above)


Closing notes

Based on our research and usability testing, our design proofs to make it easier for makers to find the resources they need and complete the tasks in an easy way. 

The next step will be to develop the structure for that incorporates all the players of the Makernet community.