UX Boot Camp Goes to Europe

Guest post by Francesca Di Mari at Sketchin, a Swiss user experience design firm based in Lugano.

At  Sketchin we strongly believe that design can improve lives and foster social good. We first heard of Cooper’s UX Boot Camp when we visited Cooper in September, 2012, and we fell in love with their idea of using design to educate and foster social good by bridging design students with non-profits. This idea was conceived of and developed by Kendra Shimmell, the Managing Director at Cooper U, and it launched our determination to be part of a design revolution for social good.
Our first step was to create our own UX Boot Camp modeled after what we experienced at Cooper. So in May of 2013, together with Talent Garden Milano and Frontiers of Interaction, we organized the first Italian UX Boot Camp in Milan, modeled after the Cooper UX Boot Camp. Here is a look back at what we created and discovered in the process.
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Meet Our Non-Profit 
Our client, the Jonian Dolphin Conservation, discovered several pods of dolphins living and breeding in the gulf and they became engaged in research activities to study and protect the dolphins in proximity to a huge polluting steel mill with massive towers and blast furnaces.

The association uses a catamaran named Taras in its marine research activities and decided to use it to involve the local population and the tourists and make them aware of the dolphin presence and the need to protect them.
The Challenge 
Our mission was two-fold:

  1. Make the experience on Taras so extraordinary and engaging that the citizens and tourists become ambassadors of this cause
  2. Design the overall experience of this voyage in search of the dolphins

Inside the UX Boot Camp

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The participants — divided in four groups of designers, developers, students and curious people just fond of nature — quickly discovered on Day 1 that experience varies massively, and it is impossible to think of one solution that is suitable for everyone.
So the groups each focused on a different target user and experience:
A high school student on a class trip
The experience this team designed includes educational tools for teachers and students that generate a playful experience. The voyage is a game that helps students learn about the marine environment and its inhabitants and uses life on the catamaran as a metaphor of social life.
The class is given training at school before the cruise and a navigation journal on board that helps them identify marine life and cooperate during the sail. The class then adopts a dolphin and students receive updates and information about their own dolphin throughout the year.
A supporter 
This team conceived of the cruise as one step among many that builds loyalty to the organization. The experience on board becomes a WOW point in the life of a supporter who is part of the organization.
They also designed a companion online experience to keep and maintain supporters’ loyalty and they designed a Supporter Kit that every supporter receives when joining. The kit keeps supporters connected through information, videos and updates from the organization.
A tourist
This team designed an experience that goes beyond tourism to caring for the sea in ways that are funny and interesting. The group designed activities on board so that participants can become an active part of the crew helping the marine researchers collect data about the quality of the water, the marine noises, and the dolphin population.
A wannabe marine researcher
This team conceived of the cruise as a rehearsal for participants interested in exploring marine research as a future job. The team designed this experience based on the participant’s desires — to be equipped with scientific information and tools for a career in marine research.
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See more photos of our design process.

What We Learned

  1. Digital is not always the solution. Making an app, a website, or a high-tech tool is not always the best idea. Sometimes pen and paper suits the need better. (That was a surprise both to participants and the non-profit.)
  2. Users always come first. Experiences are not determined or a given, but depend on the people.
  3. The goal is to design experiences, not features. Experience is complex and variable, so when we design an experience, consider each step always keeping in mind the expectation people have.

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And now?
Jonian Dolphin Conservation is moving forward to implement the following ideas born at the Cooper-inspired UX Boot Camp:

  • A tool kit for schools
  • Redesigned digital touch points to increase supporter loyalty
  • A redesigned overall experience for summer tourists to be part of the crew
  • Hands-on experience, tools and information for participants specifically interested in marine research

And finally, all of our UX Boot Camp participants were invited to make a research cruise during the summer to evaluate the progress of their work and improve it.
So, thank you Cooper U, all aboard!
Interested in attending the UX Boot Camp? Check out the upcoming workshops here.

The Editors

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