Web design has long followed traditional HCI and UX principles, making most platforms prioritize ease of use and efficiency. While design guidelines have resulted in platforms that feel intuitive to users, the focus on ease of use and efficiency has necessitated de-prioritizing other worthwhile endeavors. The Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) is an innovative approach to online research and collaboration. Its creators wished to envision a new web interface. What would a platform look like that doesn’t rely on hierarchy? What if the platform prioritized noise, instead of clarity? How can we design a platform that encourages questions, rather than answers?
This project explores how to design PECE to leverage these new design principles while still maintaining a usable platform. The research plan includes:
Identifying broad goals for PECE by interviewing several PECE founders and key stakeholders;
Identifying how users are currently using PECE, both the specific tasks they are trying to accomplish, and the larger aims they have for using PECE;
Articulating the overlaps and mismatches between founder goals and user goals;
Using the data generated to map the user journey, including envisioning how a user would ideally encounter the platform and conducting user studies to see how tasks are performed and where those tasks break down;
Generating several prototypes;
Testing prototypes with different user groups;
Iterating prototype design and user research as needed.
Through this project, we hope to redesign PECE in a way that continues to encapsulate founder visions for the platform while resolving task-level pain points. More broadly, we hope to reconceptualize traditional HCI principles by demonstrating that, in this case, rules are meant to be broken.
This PECE Essay focuses on step 1, and to a lesser extent, step 2 of the research plan.