Ublend founder Anders Krohn
September 7th 2016
Today in Digital Processes we skyped the co founder of Ublend, an online classroom communication app. It works similar to our college’s version of Moodle, but is much more simplified. The idea was to create a platform for classroom communication that wasn’t so overbearing with buttons and options, but rather a clean-lined version. I’m of course over simplifying the product, I know that Anders could explain it in more technical terms.
We skyped not only to have a conversation formally about his product but also about his design process, like what goes into creating a product and how developers work to make effective changes to the products.
He started by introducing himself and how Ublend came to into existence. As a student at Oxford, he and other students were looking at classroom communication and how to better work out these processes by creating a tool for both students and professors to engage with each other and technology. The app creates a space for an online classroom where professors can upload class materials and assignments and students can post on forums for discussions.
The idea was to make a tool that worked but did not have every option out there in the open that every customer could ever possibly want because the interface becomes crowded and confusing.
Anders asked us if we had any concerns about the product, areas that he could improve to make the product better suit our needs. We talked about how the interface with forum posts can become cluttered very quickly with all students posting on it around the same time. The posts just pushed down like a Facebook news feed so people’s comments could become lost in the shuffle. He talked about how there are ways to help combat this issue, but he still felt there was a necessity to keep the posting forum with the latest posts pushing down the older posts (and I must agree it makes sense to keep it that way.) Nell brought up how in this case, the problem was user error. I liked that as a professor even she admitted that they make mistakes like this, ask for help and make corrections. It gives technology a more human connection that way to me. Nell talked about this issue earlier with Anders and they discussed how this could be solved by having students comment to a professors post over making a response post. Clever idea and helps keep the feed from being clutters since comments are not displayed unless clicked on to expand the conversation. We also talked about how it would be nice to have a link option available for hyperlinking text to words. He brought up how this was a great idea for improvement on the site. He pointed out the other feature options for text in posts, like coding, bold, italics and equations. You could also attach an item, but hyperlinking was not an option. there was a work around for this, you can copy and past in the URL and it’ll link directly to the page similar to a word document, but to take a particular work and hyperlink it to a website that isn’t a URL, that doesn’t work, so hopefully in the near future this option will be added!
Then we got into less technical talk and more general thoughts about design processes. It starts with you thinking about what people need, want, services that could streamline or enhance a process or product. What kind of impact could you make and why? Then you have to think about what steps you need to make happen to achieve this, who you need to get involved. I have to say though that the biggest take-away I got from this section of the talk was the idea that you can’t be a perfectionist, because it’s never going to be perfect. Your idea, product, process is not going to satisfy everyone, and that’s okay. Just getting something out there is going to make an impact, and there is always room for improvement. You just have to have the courage to let go and take the risk of putting it all out there for the world to see. Don’t be afraid of judgement or criticism, take it in stride and develop it as you see fit to make it a better version of your envision. Additionally, don’t feel like you need to satisfy everyone. Anders put it well by saying that if he added every feature request that people asked for to Ublend, the site would be rendered useless because there would be so many buttons and options that the site would crash from the loading/rendering time needed to get everything to show up on the site. He needs to be selective to help the product to function at its best, and this is something that we need to keep in mind in our work. We certainly have room for improvements, but we also need to know when to stop, take a step back and let it be what it is.
Overall, I’d say that this talk with Anders was really good for inspiring us to really think about our processes as we go through the rest of our assignments for this class, and really all our classes now and in the future. The idea of learning from others, having courage and working hard are great lessons to apply to any and all aspects of our lives.
I look forward to giving him more feedback and talking to him again in more detail about his design process when the time comes for us to reconnect.