I build stuff. Craig Wattrus

PUKU Website Rebuild
Thursday, 9th May, 2013

"Bringing native language books to children in Southern Africa."

Towards the end of last year ThoughtWorks South Africa began on some exciting work for the Puku project. Puku is an Organisation devoted to bringing native language books to children in Southern Africa. I had the privilege of working on the project from when it was first thought of until completion. Who am I? I’m Craig Wattrus a ThoughtWorker here in the South Africa office.

For the South African office of ThoughtWorks this project represented a number of firsts; our first foray into working for not for profit organisations, our first fully pro-bono project and our first project using .Net and C#.

We started with envisioning and then held an inception together with Bontle the CEO of Puku and a motley bunch of ThoughtWorkers. The amazing thing for me was during some of the work-shopping sessions when the whole team started getting their hands dirty and became really passionate about the cause; providing a way for Southern African's to find literature for their children. Everyone in the room was genuinely excited to be working together on the project.

Throughout the project the team was always interested in how what we were building worked with the users. We made extensive user of user research and tested most of our interface and wireframes with real users.

The Team

The team throughout consisted of Justin and Suparna (Devs), Nyari (Analyst) and me (UX). We had help from Kyle, Rouan and Faris (all devs).

This means a dev pair, an analyst and a UXer full time for 5 weeks. It was fun and exciting and a overall incredible experience.

The Project Space

The ThoughtWorks South Africa office provides a really great space to work and play. The awesome vibe, work environment and technology make it easy to focus and collaborate. For play, we have a fridge packed with everything from fruit juice to beer, a pool table, table tennis and xBox.

The User is Always Right (sometimes...)

I guess this is a little cheeky, but as a UXer I think writing this gives me the right... so here goes. We came up with some cool assets through the envisioning and during the project. We did paper based prototyping mostly through collaborative design sessions, product in a box during the inception and personas that guided most of our conversations. This combined with the elevator pitch and pain points really helped us stay close to what the client and users wanted. Ultimately, the proof was in the pudding.

The Wall

The awesome thing about working with Bontle from Puku was that she was always involved and interested in how we worked. She also wanted us to work how we work best, outside of the box. We decided to not take process too seriously and build the best possible product. Through this we realised that stories for a project this size (and perhaps for bigger project) are easier to write, estimate and develop if you can see them. We created a visual process map for each story by printing out our balsamiq mockups and along with some simple arrows plot out the workflows in a simple and visual manner. We also had a traditional card wall and an iteration management wall.

The All ThoughtWorks Mail

"The team built an open source book catalog and website CMS"

If you pay close attention to the all ThoughtWorks project announcements, you would have seen the Puku all ThoughtWorks mail. Incase you've forgotten about it, only skim read it or missed it, below are the important parts

The team built an open source book catalog and website CMS in C# on the asp.NET MVC 4 platform and used RavenDB for the data. It's hosted on Appharbor and CloudBird (RavenDB in the cloud). The building of the site took only 5 weeks from start to end with only one full time dev pair, a business analyst and a UX/ front end dev. If you'd like to help out on the project or would like to use the code yourself find it here: On GitHub.

Faris & Justin also built an open source RavenDB Membership Provider for MVC 4 On Github that is used by the project.

What We Built

You should visit the live site to have a look at what we built for Puku. However here is a quick collage showcasing the new site.

Visit the Site Now!

What Can You Do?

The project as it is open source is just waiting for someone like you to step in and help. If you'd like to have a hackathon, work on it while on it in your free time or just see what we did give us a shout at puku_team@thoughtworks.com.

Some Comments From Our Client

Bontle Senne - "Thank you for going above and beyond!"

UX Meetup in Jozi
Saturday, 25th January, 2013

Local is lekker, but so is some international experience.

South African, Rob Enslin, spent quite a few years practising UX in the UK. He has now moved back to South Africa! Before he knew he was back permanently Rob took it upon himself to start a UX meetup in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Rob pulls from his vast knowledge and experience in UX and his work for ThoughtWorks in the Agile UX and consulting space.

Attending his meetups have been an enlightening experience where I have managed to get some much needed hands on practise with user research and prototyping. Although he has only hosted 2 meetups so far, they have been regular and provide an extremely fresh approach to meetups in general.

Mobile UX Rob's second meetup, held on the 12th of January was all about Mobile UX. The meetup started with a presentation and then moved into hands on mode where everyone got to try their hand crafting user research questions, asking those questions and then presenting back to the group. Although this sounds like a lot of hard work, Rob's facilitation approach means that even those who aren't necessarily UX professionals felt comfortable and had fun.

Some comments from Meetup.com

Manny Ferreira - Really awesome, well structured learned a lot in small amount of time, enjoyed it immensely.
Siphiwe Gwebu - Great meetup guys! Being a non-UX person, I was worried that it might be alienating but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was informative and engaging. Well done!

Welcome back Rob :)

Find out more and join this meetup

D3.js - Enabling Awesomness
Friday, 25th January, 2013

If you're at all interested in data and displaying data, D3.js is possibly one of the coolest Javascript libraries for creating data driven documents. Or in English, friggin awesome data visualisations.

I am not going to pretend to be an expert at D3. They have some awesome tutorials (like the one displaying above) and examples on their site

Cool examples | Tutorials

UX for Startups - Free eBook
Friday, 25th January, 2013

The good people at UXpin.com have made an ebook titled "UX for Startups" available for free.

Like many of my contemporary UX Design peers, I started my career as a so-called usability specialist. Fascinated by ergonomics and cognitive science, I was working to make sure users were able to actually use interfaces. Armed with user research, heuristics and a little bit of prototyping, I was trying to find my place in the ‘developer-oriented’ world. This wasn’t easy.

Read more and download the book

I work for an awesome company; ThoughtWorks, however any views / opinions I post here are my own and do not necessarily reflect their views.