In June 2020, Bern completed our UX Project with The Swag. On this project Bern and embarked on a 9 week journey to learn the fundamentals of User Experience design while working on a live client project.
The Swag is an Australian brand which has patented an innovative three layer technology in order to create reusable produce bags, designed to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for an average of 2 weeks or longer. A key philosophy behind the creation of The Swag is to reduce the amount of food waste we create in a sustainable and practical way.
Our task was to research The Swag’s target audience and design a site based on our findings. The goal was to educate current and future Swag users on how to use the Swag, the cost saving benefits of the Swag and the environmental implications from utilising reusable produce bags and reducing food waste.
I was very fortunate to be a part of a small and supportive group. We were mentored by one of the most encouraging and inspiring UX designers, Andrew Doherty. I was extremely intimidated during my first meeting. Coming from a healthcare background, I felt like I was starting well behind those in my group with experience in marketing and business. However, following our first hour, my nerves had turned into excitement as my team helped me to realise what skills I could bring to our design work and research. The team was so eager to support each other that we even completed Zoom calls outside of scheduled Harness sessions in order to facilitate each other’s continued learning.
The founder and creator of The Swag, Peita, was so delightful. What I thought was going to feel like a formal interview, turned into an open and comfortable conversation. I’ve taken some of the interview techniques I learned from the Swag meeting with our stakeholder onto the floor as a clinical OT. Approaching initial assessments or meetings with patients like a casual conversation can really take the pressure off both myself and patients- in turn helping to get invaluable information in order to move forward.
During the research phase, I began to focus on how potential buyers of the Swag navigated and interpreted the Swag’s website. Andrew guided us on potential questions or prompts to facilitate the research phase and helped us to visualise why the research portion of the project was so important as a foundation to the design. As someone always eager to help, I had to really learn how to objectively conduct my research without any leading or guiding statements. When it comes to research, I learned by analyzing numbers or completing systematic reviews, so observing people navigate the site in real time and having them vocalise their thought process was really interesting and quite fun for me.
I’m not well versed in most computer programs and the closest thing to Photoshop I had ever experienced was when I would copy and paste a jpeg into Microsoft Paint. It took me a very long time to get a hold on the different programs we could use in order to design our desktop or mobile site for the Swag. Again, I felt like I was starting a bit behind others in my group. However, after practice and playing around with Invision, I developed a site I was truly proud of. It was so easy to use. I was so excited to learn that I didn’t need programming skills in order to make an interactive prototype!
Because Peita was a real business owner looking for our honest recommendations, I felt extremely motivated to help her and create the best design possible. Had I been working on a website design for a mock company or case study, I’m not sure I would have been as motivated to spend as much time and effort as I did. As a result, I came up with a few different prototypes. Working with my team was so inspiring. In the nicest way possible, they all offered constructive feedback so that I could combine aspects of different prototypes into one. We all shared and stole (as the highest form of flattery) from each other in order to create prototypes which would really help our client, The Swag. I’ve taken the skills learned during this phase in order to develop activities during some of my OT interventions.
I thought I felt my voice shaking the entire time, but I was also very excited for the final presentation. It was very helpful to complete a timed run-through of my presentation for my team. We even sent drafts of our presentations to each other prior to “dress rehearsal” the week before official presentations with The Swag stakeholders. I was able to work out glitches or design flaws which I would have never picked up on. After staring at the same presentation for so long, my brain knew what I was trying to say or how it was meant to look. Although the members of our team presented very different design prototypes, it never felt like a competition. Because we wanted each other to succeed, we worked out any flaws well before our final presentation.
The Swag stakeholders took note at all of our hard work and had very strong positive feedback for each of us. I had a few questions about my design decisions from the Swag stakeholders. I thought these would make me nervous, but we had done such extensive research and so much time preparing that I had very logical and confident answers for every piece of my prototype. The most exciting part is that we saw our recommendations come to life as they were implemented on The Swag’s official website!
Enrolling in the UX upskiller course with Harness was one of the best decisions I have made. Working so closely with a team, I’ve remained in contact with some of them, and I know these intelligent individuals will remain invaluable connections throughout my career. Although I practice as an occupational therapist full time, I have brought skills learned through UX design to my clinical work. I work a lot with patients who have experienced significant cognitive decline. As a result, they don’t always see the world as others might. I have taken my learned design skills to adapt programs in order for patients to navigate apps or even table-top games more independently and easily. As during the research phase of my UX project, I am reminded to ask my patients to verbalise their thought process, where able, as they complete tasks. It has helped me develop better relationships for the intervention process as my patients have stated they feel as though they’re being listened to and understood rather than being assessed or tested. Whether or not you’re looking to pursue a career in UX design, universal skills are learned and developed which I’m positive will assist in moving forward in any profession.
At the conclusion of the project, Bern was assessed for the skills she demonstrated during the 9 week project. These were certified and co-signed by Harness Projects and The Swag to acknowledge the great work she achieved on the project.
Follow Bern’s footsteps and check out our Upskiller UX Course