A Conversation with the Internet

AHernandez_Board10Being an independent creator has gotten tremendously easier with the rise of YouTube and other video streaming sites. So naturally I jumped on the opportunity to integrate it into my capstone project. YouTube allows its users to have a channel along with their account, so I’ve had a channel for the past eight years. I did not, however, start using it to post content until 2015. I shared a few videos, travel vlogs, collaborations with my siblings, and then abandoned the channel for a couple years. This semester project seemed like the perfect chance to revive it. I had grown since my last video and I had a new idea of the kind of content I wanted to post.

Thus “Conversations with the Internet” was born.

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At Night: A Film By Michael Fidler

What Is At Night?

At Night is the film I directed and edited for my capstone project. It is about a girl named Alex who is woken up in the middle of night and decides to wander her house to discover the unknown. Is something lurking or is it all in her head? Continue reading

How Maddie Learned From ADDIE Learns Online, a WordPress Site

Senior Capstone is one of the most challenging and rewarding projects you will do at Shepherd University. It challenges you to consider what you’re passionate about and to learn more about yourself. For myself, I had many challenges in the beginning. I worried that the project ideas I had weren’t good enough or didn’t make sense. I started with one proposal at the end of Capstone prep, however when I started the final Capstone course, I completely changed my idea.

I made my decision to change my Capstone idea after my summer internship. One of the many projects I did while interning was to create a best practice guide. The department I worked in created learning materials for customers, including live online classes. My assignment was to sit in on one class for each of the online instructors. With a list of requirements that my department already had, I had to evaluate each instructor. After, I wrote a best practice guide that reinforced the requirements. This was distributed amongst all the instructors.

Online learning has always interested me. From the engagement/”classroom” management side, to the technology aspect of online learning. I thought to myself, over the summer, how I could merge this interest with the document I already had made. And suddenly I knew what to do! I extended my original best practice guide and made it more general. My idea was that any company or school could find these guides on my WordPress site, download it, and use it for their instructors.

Originally, I wanted to become a teacher, however that dream is on hold for me. So, I compromised and minored in Education. Another goal of mine for this project is combining my two loves – teaching and communication.

Now that we’ve finished the semester, I’m very happy with the project that I chose to do. It was something that I was interested in and enjoyed researching. I also think it will benefit me when I eventually do go back to school for teaching.

Georgia’s Beauty Vlogs: A Feminist Approach to Beauty Vlogging

Me, at my Senior Capstone Presentation December 5th, 2019

Deciding on My Project

When trying to decide on what to do for my senior capstone, I really thought about both what I like to do, and what I really consume the most of on a daily basis when it comes to communication. Then it dawned on me, I watch hours of makeup videos almost daily. I decided to take a try at becoming a beauty influencer! However, I knew that I would take my own political spin on these videos.

Research

During my research, many of the sources that I read stated that: of the people who watch vlogs, people either watched vloggers who reminded them of themselves, or those who they wanted to be friends with. That being said, I determined my primary audience to be 18-25 year olds who had an “edgier” aesthetic.

I also used both feminist theory and the social construct theory to shape my content to better fit my personal brand. I tend to think of myself as a heavily socially minded person and wanted my audience to be able to perceive me in this way. I wanted to be a new voice for women who have been traditionally silenced in traditional media. I also wanted to prove that beauty is a social construct and should mean something different to every person.

My Videos

Editing

I have to admit that I really enjoyed the editing process for my videos. I really like using iMovie and had fun with the creative freedom to edit my videos in any style that I wished.

Before this process, I had no idea how much editing style had to do with the overall tones of YouTube videos. It took me watching even more videos than usual to determine what my editing style would be. I went with a choppier editing style to showcase my funnier, more laid back personality.

Plans for my Future

In the future, I would like to maintain my YouTube channel. I had a great time making these videos and received very positive feedback both online and during my capstone presentations. Overall I learned a ton about the overall process and time commitment that it takes to be successful on YouTube.

A Peek into the World of UX

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For my recent Capstone project, I decided to challenge myself and look into a totally new field. With most of my classes revolving around social media and PR, I wanted to see how those skills could transfer into learning something totally new. Let me tell ya, I had a blast! I couldn’t believe how well the skills I had already developed in nailing target audiences and demographics, research, surveying, and marketing could help me take on completely unique projects.

 

So what did I do?

After having a few bad online experiences during my own adoption process, I decided that I wanted to help humane societies reach their target audience effectively. First, I believed that I wanted to do this through a social media campaign. However, after reflecting on my passions, talking with the always-wise Monica, and doing vigorous research, I decided to try my hand at User Experience (UX) design. Specifically, I wanted to conduct user surveys and analyze thought processes, activity networks, and providing recommendations for a more cohesive, usable design.

What does all that mean?

Basically, I wanted to take a look at a website, in this case the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County’s (AWSJC) site. From there, I evaluated the needs and values of the company, determined what their main drivers of value were, and looked into important information the average user should be able to easily find and access.

Then, I developed tasks for participants that had a natural flow to them. This allowed them to feel as if they had a reason to be on the site, therefore allowing for a better flow to the overall experience. With the tasks compiled, I also wrote a moderator script that offered more control over the survey and prevented bias. It gave background to the participant while also giving pointers, feelers, and probes to the moderator throughout the session. If you want to read over it, you can download it below!

After developing the script, I decided on my methods and theories. These were important, as my project was heavily research-dependent. If I went into my surveying wrong, I wouldn’t collect the data I needed in order to develop my recommendations. First, I considered potential theories I could use. Since this was a completely new field and concept to me, I relied on countless articles, blogs, UX design introductory courses, and so much more in order to get this project done. Throughout this process, I found myself referring to three main theories:

  • Activity Theory– Focuses on identifying usability issues and problems across the entire activity network
  • Image Schema Theory– Explains importance of understanding current knowledge of user and how it affects their responses
  • Rhetorical Theory– Emphasizes discovery processes and helps to understand how to create usable ways to complete complex tasks

After gaining the information I needed, I moved forward with developing methods:

  • In-person testing session. This allowed for user reactions to be observed. Body language and facial expressions speak for participants without diverting their attention from the task at hand.
  • Moderated testing session. Having a moderated testing session allowed for more control over exposure, order, and environment.
  • Task-oriented session. In order to create the most natural user responses, I designed a script with a natural flow from task-to-task. This prompted users to be engaged with the site since they are completing each task with a purpose. The tasks also encouraged more user-feedback about layout, issues they had, if they were able to complete a task, etc.
  • Recorded Session. To be able to refer back to while analyzing, I recorded user screen responses and vocal reactions. During the session, notes were also taken.

Finally, with my methods laid out, I could move on to surveying! This was probably the most tedious portion of my entire project. I decided to interview twelve participants. I split those participants into three platforms- Android, iPhone, and desktop. In addition to testing all the platforms, I also used two more sites in additions to AWSJC’s to act as a control and comparison. These acted to prevent bias, ie., I tell the participant I’m trying to see how usable the website is, so they react poorly to the site. To further prevent bias, I also showed the three sites in random orders to all participants.
After much trial-and-error, I finally got the twelve recorded sessions I needed (but I honestly interviewed over 30. Technical difficulties posed a real obstacle). Armed with user responses, I could move to the final stage of my project.

Analysis

With my research done and my notes ready, I began combing through each recorded video session. I took notes on patterns, notable reactions, inconsistencies, as well as verbal cues, facial expressions, and body language. Now, that’s a lot of information. Definitely overwhelming to look at. So I wanted to make it easy for the AWSJC (and for folks like you) to be able to understand user reactions. Remember that moderator script up there? Well, in it is all the participant tasks and follow-up questions. That might be handy for what’s coming next.

My solution to making the analysis easier-to-digest was a spreadsheet. In it, I outlined specific key reactions and comments throughout each task, whether or not they were able to complete the task, overall comments and impressions. In addition, I made my recommendations even easier, they’re right next to the comments and reactions! You can check it out for yourself below.

Alright, cool. Analysis is done. But what now? I have all these user responses and recommendations, but what do I do with all of that information? With this data, I decided to make a visual, tangible model of what a complete, usable product could look like. Below you’ll see a mobile and desktop wireframe I developed as an initial mock-up.

What’s next?

One of the reasons I love this project so much is because it’s one I can constantly grow and improve upon! As my skills and experiences increase, I want to build a working prototype to present to the AWSJC. That way they can interact and see how much easier it is to interact with their company when they have a fully-functioning, usable website.

Wanna know more?

See my portfolio and my blog here.

Overall Experience

Once I found the project for me, I had so much fun. I enjoyed challenging myself, learning new theories and tactics, and broadening my horizons. One of my key takeaways from this experience would to be creative. Your capstone is your baby. You have complete control over where the project goes, what it is, and what you want it to become. Have fun, do something you enjoy. Most of all, learn something new.