Ordinarily, I don’t even look at vendor products when offered free trials. I like to remain unbiased, and not give free advice. I retain the right to look at what interests me, not what might be commercially expedient (a perverted legacy of my academic tenure, no doubt :).
However, two things interested me about this particular offer. First, it was an iPad app supporting design. Given that I’m very much about improving design, *and* quite into mobile, this was of interest. Second, I mistakenly thought it came from Michael Allen’s company Allen Interactions, and he’s not only been an early advocate of engaging design, but also he’s a supremely nice guy to complement his smarts. It turns out, of course, that I jumped too fast to a conclusion, and it’s really from Allen Communications. Oh well. I’m talking about DesignJot, btw.
Now, I’m not going to give a formal review, because instead I want to use this as an opportunity to reflect on supporting design. Though you’ll likely get some idea of what it does and how.
Briefly, this app takes Allen Communications analysis and design process, using the acronym ANSWER, and provides support for using it. You initiate a new project and then get support for design by having questions and even subtopics and questions under that rubric that you fill out for analysis. That information then populates some initial parts of the design support, which then guides you to define strategies and sub-components. There are note-taking and sketching tools too.
The notion of supporting the design process is not new, certainly it was key in the toolset used by one of the major content developers in the past, and such performance support is a good idea. Scaffolding process is an obvious outcome of how our brains work (systematic creativity is not an oxymoron), so the question becomes one of what process you are using as your guide. Without any guidance about ANSWER, I did a spot-check for one of my heuristics and it wasn’t in there. Overall, there seem to be some good and odd things. Using someone else’s particular process may not be your cup of tea, and while you can add your own questions, youcan’t, as far as I could tell, add to the template.
There are some hiccups, e.g. I was surprised that some of the information isn’t carried forward, and some of the interface is a bit counterintuitive (e.g. home button sort of to the right but close to the middle). On the other hand, there are handy tips for many if not all of the steps.
The choice of making it an iPad app is interesting and understandable. It certainly makes it easy to carry around as you talk to SMEs, etc., and that makes it reason enough. The output functions are interesting, however, seeing it produces a ‘project’ file which I *think* only works with another instance of the iPad project (e.g. sharing), or PDFs. Which isn’t bad, as it’s not clear what else you might use, but I might prefer a more manipulable format like an Excel or HTML output that I might post-process.
I think the idea of creating performance support tools on mobile platforms makes a lot of sense. Whether you want to trust to their choice of questions and structure is another question. Overall, it’s an interesting business move, an interesting mobile move, and an interesting chance to reflect on the design process.
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