Be a Maker Club
Helping Southern Californians unleash their creative side.
This is a hot take: I believe Great British Bake Off is a successful show, due not so much to its showcase of sumptuous baked goods, but rather to its lighthearted, comforting atmosphere in which people learn and have fun.
And that’s also what’s fantastic about the Southern California-based educational organization Be A Maker Club: yes, it’s a place where people go to learn 3D modeling and printing, but at its core, it’s Be A Maker Club’s supportive environment and the individuals that run it that make it unique. And our task is to make a site that conveys how terrific Be A Maker Club’s Community truly is.
Getting to Know BAMC
BAMC cultivated a strong local community following even before it went into the virtual space. While it might be difficult to match their in-person offerings in a virtual space, they still come to this redesign with a great many assets:
Providing users a trial membership via free access to video tutorials
An abundance of 3D printing and modeling resources.
Weekly online lessons.
BAMC clearly has plenty of great qualities, and let them shine, we need to address their shortcomings.
While BAMC has great resources and content, users had a fair amount of difficulty in finding them. Improving the information architecture—how the site is organized and laid-out—could resolve this issue.
The copy on the BAMC site is sometimes unclear, further confusing users.
So let’s dive into the competitive and comparative analysis to see how Be A Maker Club can make best use of their strengths, and how they can ameliorate any shortcomings.
Be A Maker Club values interpersonal relationships and community, as we can see from this thorough analysis.
So what can we improve? Let’s ask some users.
User Interviews and Affinity Mapping
We conducted a thorough round of interviews, with current users, parents, and aspiring makers to see how they experience the Be A Maker Website. Here’s what they had to say:
“I trust that they are very knowledgeable in their field”
Users could see that Be A Maker Club is a team of professionals who have much to offer.
“I don’t understand what I get from membership.”
While longtime BAMC members know what they get from membership, newcomers found membership somewhat opaque.
“I can’t find what I am looking for.”
Users tended to have two types of nav issues: those that stemmed from information architecture, and those that stemmed from a lack of clarity in the copy.
“I have confidence that when they get the website working properly, I will find what I need.”
While there is some trepidation about how information on the site is currently presented, BAMC’s users are quite loyal, and eagerly await what they know to be a quality service and product.
From our user research, we were able to extrapolate two personas: Carl the Kid, and Dr. Grey. We’ll take a look at Carl first.
Carl the Kid
Carl is living his best 9-year-old life in Upland, California. Rambunctious but creative, he loves Star Wars, Legos, Minecraft; anything for which a youngster might have an affinity. In the last few years, Carl’s become immersed in STEM programs, too, both in and out of school. A perfect intersection of his two passions has been 3d modeling/printing, which he’s been learning at an after school program, and loving.
Unfortunately, when COVID forced everything into the virtual space, he found the program that he’s been taking less accessible than when it had been in-person. Carl wants to continue to learn and become a next level maker, but there are so many other things competing for a 9 year-old’s attention.
• Carl needs to pay attention in class, but he also needs to have fun and remain engaged.
• Carl needs to make the things that he's designed in TinkerCAD (a 3D modeling program).
• The class is more of a weekly 1 hour one-hour check-in: It’s hard to stay engaged the other 6 days.
• An hour-long Zoom class—on top of normal school—is too long (screen fatigue).
• Carl wants to work on HIS projects, but the teacher is making a different project in class.
Dr. Grey is a Cardiologist in the city hospital. She’s also a single mom of 2 kids: a boy, Mike, (8) and a girl, Sandra (12). She has an irregular working schedule so she doesn’t have as much time to manage her kids’ after school activities as she’d like. She likes to cook food for her kids and take care of chores when she is not at work, which leaves her with very little time for herself.
She is continuously looking for good after school classes for her kids to keep them engaged and classes happy. Mike loves to create mechanical objects and figures that he uses for his lego city. Sandra has always been interested in art and technology. They both enjoy each other’s company when it comes to online classes because they can help and share thoughts with each other. However, Sandra is more advanced than Mike, and she doesn’t like to wait for him to finish his projects.
• Dr. Grey needs her kids to stay engaged in their after school courses so she has a time for herself.
• Dr. Grey needs to enroll her kids in classes that are easy to use and offer different levels of difficulty.
• Kids do not pay attention to a one-hour class.
• She doesn’t have time to sit down and help the kids with their projects.
• It’s hard to remember and manage online memberships.
Carl needs a way to stay engaged and so he can learn to become a next level maker, but there are so many other things competing for a 9 year-old’s attention.
Dr. Grey needs a course that will satisfy her kids so that they’re engaged, self-sufficient, and they acquire important academic skills.
How Might We...
How might we keep Carl engaged in Be a Maker Club’s curriculum?
How might we provide Carl with the tools to help him understand lessons himself?
How might we make the Be a Maker Club site more kid friendly, so that Dr. Grey can leave her children to themselves?
With some strong problem statements and how-might-we statements in place, we can confidently move into design!
Something that BAMC users have mentioned is that they find it difficult to navigate the site. To this end, we want to reorganize the site’s information architecture (how site resources are organized and displayed). This new site map prioritizes the secondary navigation items—membership, course, contact us, my account, search—that should make navigating the site a more intuitive experience.
New architecture requires a new user flow. Presumably, a user will open the BAMC site with the goal of becoming a maker, EG taking a class on 3d modeling and printing. The user will decide what type of membership they’ll use to access those classes—free or paid—take the four-part class, then decide if they want to print the object that they’ve made with BAMC. If yes, then they user will upload their printable file, print, and they may start the process over again.
Ahhh, yes! We've got some beautiful plans laid! Now it's time for a mid-fidelity prototype. And with a mid-fi prototype, guess what else we can do? Usability tests!
After thoroughly sketching and wireframing, we arrived at a mid fidelity prototype that we could test on users.
•Fiddle with the prototype. What activities can you do with this application?
•You want to sign-up for a 3d printing class. Show me how you’d find what you're looking for.
• You want to learn how to make the Mandalorian Helmet. Show me how you’d do that.
•What met and didn’t meet your expectations?
•At what points did you know what to do and what points were you unsure what to do?
•As a parent, how likely would you be to sign your child up for a course through this site?
With several usability tests performed with our midfi prototype, we’re all too happy to move onto the high fidelity prototype. For this demonstration, we have created three scenarios; one with Dr. Grey, and two with Carl the Kid.
(Feel free to test the prototype out for yourself here.)
Dr.Grey wants to sign one of her children up for a mid-tier, paid membership.
Carl wants to login to his account and personalize his account so that he gets a more curated selection of courses.
From the curated courses screen, Carl wants to pick one course to take, and print the object he makes.
Responses to our prototype were overwhelmingly positive, with many of the site’s shortcomings addressed.
Style and design choices such as new imagery and animated elements reinforced BAMC’s brand as a fun and creative site.
Users found the membership page easy to navigate.
Much to our delight, users consistently found the site intuitive.
While the navigation through the courses gave users no trouble, they tended to want to see less information crowding the screen. Additionally, users made the point that somewhere, it might be useful to have past projects that you’ve completed, in case there’s something from those lessons that you missed.
Users are DYING to know about the “maker points” in the My Account section. Not having an adequate explanation mildly confused users. ( FYI Maker Points are points that students can earn for completing courses, which can be put toward badges our maybe more tangible rewards.)
There are certain features that fell outside of the scope of this sprint that we’d like to encourage BAMC to pursue in the future:
Sites like Quora and Reddit use community engagement to great success. By having a supportive community where users can ask questions, and get and give answers, users will return to the site for the approval of their 3D printing peers through upvoting and a sense of pride in their community.
A challenge to users to be featured on a leaderboard creates a sense of urgency to engage with BAMC. Here are some examples:
-Animal Experience: Come up with an idea for a simple design for a printable animal.
- The Name Plate Challenge: Design a nameplate in any way you can imagine! Here are some examples (include pics of name plates)
Course Completion Badges
As students complete courses, they can earn points that go toward badges. Similar to merit badges or video game achievements, these publicly displayed badges will drive engagement with classes, and may even entice a user to upgrade to a more all-encompassing plan that has more videos available to them.
Separate Navigation for Parents and Children
This service would be something that parents would need to opt-in to, but could ultimately end up saving both the parents and students time, and making the site more navigable to both.
The two separate flows would focus on each party’s goals: parents handle the payment and administration of their child’s courses, and children can focus on classes. Not only would this reduce friction between the users and the site, separating the two flows might actually harmonize them. For example, imagine that in the current user flow a child has finished slicing their design and they’re ready to send it off to print. The print needs to be authorized by a parent, so the child user has to either go find the parent or have their parent with them as they do their coursework. However, if we have the authorization done entirely in the parent’s user flow (asynchronously), and the child merely sends off the print, neither party needs to disturb the other. And as an additional benefit, this may give the child a sense of independence and control.
Once the users have opted into this dual-flow, they can choose the way they’d like to interact with the site by selecting the choice from a window that pops up when they open the site: “Are you a [parent’s name], or are you [child’s name]?”.
We’ve already talked about how Great British Bake Off is about learning and fun, and I stand by that. But I think that I left something out that I think is also very important to Great British Bake Off’s success: the people. Week after week, I watched to see what my favorite contestants would whip up. And that holds true for Be A Maker Club as well.
People don’t just come to learn 3d modeling and printing and Be A Maker Club; they come to do it with their favorite professors. Overwhelmingly, parents and students alike said that the faculty and community keeps them steadfast with Be A Maker Club, even with the move to virtual classes. The changes that we’ve proposed will allow Be A Maker Club’s main asset—the people—to shine.