Learn My Way v4 - an Agile design/development process

11 Dec 2015 |Written by Ben Fraser

Good Things Foundation’s Learn My Way website is about to undergo some modernisation to take it to the next level. Ben Fraser, Product Manager, shares why we’re embarking on this development... and just how we’re going to do it.

The backdrop

Our Learn My Way website aims to provide free online learning resources for people with no or low digital skills to improve their knowledge of computers and the internet. Learn My Way is already a hugely valued learning tool for our key audience of first time internet users but we are always listening to feedback and know that we can make it an even better learning experience.

As an organisation, we’re now in the early stages of creating Learn My Way 4. This 12 month design/development process will involve addressing the technical underpinnings of the site as well as the interaction design and learning content. As an organisation that always thinks people-first, we need to do this whilst focusing on the end-user at all times. A major overhaul in other words.

The majority of UK online centres use Learn My Way as a teaching resource, so our audience is not simply the learner, but also what we refer to internally as the enabler - tutors, volunteers, digital champions, and so on.

To boot, as a growing organisation this is an opportunity for Good Things Foundation to implement a truly agile design/development process. So in some ways, Learn My Way 4 will be as much about honing a process as honing a product.

The team

As newly appointed Product Manager, I’ll be leading the team (my background is UI/UX design and front-end dev) and I’ll be bringing together representatives from the different Good Things Foundation teams into one core agile multi-disciplinary team - a learning design lead, a learning designer, a user researcher, a data analyst, a scrum master and a developer. I’m doubling-up my product manager role with that of UI/UX designer and we’ll bring in more developers and learning designers on a sprint-by-sprint basis.

Research and goals

At this point, we already have a wealth of insights from our R&I team - ranging from learner feedback, to personas representing all the key user groups and interviews with centres that deliver Learn My Way. Based on all of these, we’ve now determined what our goals for Learn My Way 4 are:

  • A free enjoyable resource for people to learn how to use and benefit from the internet
  • A delightful experience
  • A product that is needed, chosen, loved, consistently reused and shared by our users
The process

We’re planning to go lean and agile on this one, iterating through cycles of build - measure - learn.

We’re also aiming for a twin-track approach:

  • To iterate through a series of ‘obvious’ improvements to the existing site UI and UX
  • Designing a separate green-field learning journey that addresses the specific needs of a particular target-audience. This second track will focus on the learning experience long before any code is written

Eventually the learning track will feed into the UI track and will help us hone the existing learning content.

Pre-sprint planning

Having got to this stage, it means that after months of talking, we're finally ready to start doing something. It has admittedly been a difficult threshold to cross - it is after all easy to sit in a room and discuss existing issues and future possibilities. It’s hard to nail those down into concrete requirements and tasks. Harder still to turn those into something tangible that can be tested, built and deployed.

We crossed this threshold by sitting in a room and thrashing out some high-level user stories/epics. This involved first of all cross-examining the existing site and extracting current functionality and user journeys. We added to these a series of new user stories - from the perspective of learners, ‘enablers’ and learning designers (the needs of content editors are all too often forgotten).

The result was 75 or so user stories and epics. These were prioritised as low-high-medium through an impromptu game of planning poker. Any high priority user stories that were deemed absolutely essential were promoted to ‘high high’ priority, which essentially gave us a feature-set for a minimum viable product.

We created a wall-chart to record high-level aims and design principles, as well sprint-level details. This sees us ready to embark on Sprint 1.