This week, we launched the latest version of Torsh TALENT, our online platform for teacher professional development. The new version includes significant stylistic and navigation upgrades, plus the addition of Coaching Corner, which shifts the company focus from a video-centric platform to one that is also optimized for in-person and real-time coaching. This launch marked the culmination of more than a year of hard work and focus by our design and development team.
A key player who is credited with making the new Coaching Corner intuitive, highly useful and also stylistically beautiful, is our Lead UX and UI Designer, Shaun Herron. To celebrate this launch, we asked Shaun to share with us his design process, and fill us in on how he applied his skills to the latest version of Torsh TALENT.
When Courtney Williams (Torsh CEO) first introduced you to the idea of designing Coaching Corner, what were your first thoughts?
I thought it was a great idea. The TALENT platform we had was good, but I knew we could make it even better. From playing with TALENT, I was aware that some of the workflow needed to be addressed, and I knew we needed to be less tied to video observations. I also saw it as an opportunity to position Torsh better in the market.
Before we get started talking about the new coaching tool, can you tell us what exactly is UX/UI design?
UX is about understanding the needs of users, what they are trying to accomplish, and why. It also considers their limitations. It also incorporates the needs of the business, and it’s of course, beneficial when those two things are aligned. UI design is about maximizing a human's interaction with our product, and keeping patterns consistent and intuitive. When the two are combined properly, our clients can stay in a state of flow and accomplish what they need to, without friction.
So, what motivated you to become a UX/UI designer?
I grew up in art. If you gave me an etch a sketch I’d be happy for hours. I also studied commercial lettering in grade school. The trend continued through college. I’’m not sure I ever sat down and decided to become a designer. Design is something I’m passionate about and something that I’m intrinsically motivated to do. It’s an art, a science, a puzzle and a solution.
An art, a science, a puzzle, and a solution... that’s interesting. Would you say that you have a design process that you follow?
Definitely. At a very high level I use: Discover, Decide, Make, and Validate. For this particular project, we interviewed our users. We had them walk us through their current processes, pinpointing common frustrations and also highlighting things that work well. We also looked at the artifacts and tools they use. During these types of sessions, I take lots of notes, and also put lots of post-it notes on the wall, which I later group into an affinity diagram. After this, I typically have a scoping meeting where we decide what to make. I also do user flow diagrams to help chart the user journey from a variety of different paths.
How do you transition from these conversations about big ideas to designing the specific interface of the product?
After this, I typically start wireframing concepts, which provides a rough visual representation of all the information in my head. It can be hand drawn or quick vector designs. Then, I start moving into visual design and prototyping. Prototyping for this particular project was very important. For one, there are hundred of parts and it’s hard to communicate the totality of the experience when everything is in pieces. The prototype becomes an artifact that can be used internally and externally. Internally, it brings folks from different groups up to speed, for example, business developers, developers, marketers, and account reps. We also use it for user testing and showing clients, which helps validate our design thinking. Parallel processes also include competitive analysis, research into instructional coaching, evaluation tools currently used, etc. When I start to hand off designs, I use Zeplin and tag artifacts in a way that they can be found. Zeplin has replaced the use of traditional redlines and had streamlined the production process. Then, we start seeing parts being created by our developers and eventually, near completion, I start doing a visual QA to make sure we are staying consistent. When we get ready to release, everyone attempts to break it and expose bugs. After that, you hopefully high five your teammates.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! You said prototyping was very important for this particular project. How did this differ from other projects you’ve done?
This project was much more comprehensive than others. We are pivoting the product and laying the path for a new future. What we are creating now should scale, and allow us to layer on new experiences. It’s also is a more comprehensive view of coaching, and should enable coaches and teachers to have rewarding interactions.
Did you receive inspiration for the design from other apps, platforms or websites?
I’ve known for a while that I wanted to simplify and unify the design. I also wanted to make it more contemporary and clean. The product we have today has a history, so it was nice to have a large project that afforded me the opportunity to move toward that vision. As far as inspiration, I’m always looking for apps that have breath and have a good hierarchy, that don’t frustrate me, and that allow me to get things done. But they need to feel beautiful – I hate using an ugly product! I’m a fan of Google, Apple, Trello, Infogr.am. I also find lots of inspiration on Behance and Dribbble.
What was the most challenging part of designing a product for educators?
Being new to edtech has its challenges, but you apply a similar process regardless. I think we can always benefit from learning from our customers, either the products we’ve created for them or ones we could make. There are times when I am designing and I don’t have access to them, so you have to find other ways to solve the puzzle.
What do you hope users will get out of the experience?
I hope it improves education by giving teachers, coaches, and admins a centralized and integrated place to work. Right now, it seems coaches and teachers work using a variety of unintegrated tools. We are aiming to change that with the latest launch of Torsh TALENT, especially with the addition of Coaching Corner. I’m excited to see how our clients respond to it!
To learn more about Coaching Corner, please visit torsh.co/coaching.