UX Strategy Musings from Will Tschumy, Microsoft User Experience Advisor

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Express Yourself: The problem, personas, rules & criteria

July 2nd, 2007 by Will Tschumy

Now that the Express Yourself event has come and gone (and it was great to see those of you who made it, I wanted to present to you, the faithful readers of UX-Strategy an in-depth view of the event.

We had a great event, with more than 166 people attending – it was a great joy to see how much fun people had, and how engaged both the teams and the party goers were in the problem.

Check out the photostream here: http://flickr.com/photos/tags/expressyourself/

Without further ado…

The Problem Statement:

One of the most profound aspects of the internet is its ability to connect people, share ideas, and share content (particularly video). Ideas, opinions, news, art, and content in general, have never had the freedom and speed of movement they now have as a result of the internet. The internet is the forum of the global village.

The global village has some problems, however. These same characteristics, however, make the internet a decidedly non-child safe environment. Parents are faced with several unsavory options:

  • They can throw caution to the wind and hope that their children do not find anything too inappropriate
  • They can use software to block entire URLs
  • They can use software to log what their children have looked at, who they’ve spoken to, and what conversations they’ve had
  • Some combination of the above

The Challenge

Your challenge is to design an environment that allows children to share media / content as well as interact socially with each other in a child safe way. A large part of this design challenge is to make whatever experience desirable, rather than simply a forced option. Specific features and functionality should be determined by the needs of the personas (see following pages). While your solution does not need to be functional, it must simulate the experience of each of the personas you’ve chosen to solve for.

You may assume that Mary has solved whatever issues she was having with blocking her daughter from undesirable sites.

Your solution may use any combination of web (ASP.net, Silverlight) or application (WPF) components.


  • The contestants must use Expression and/or Visual Studio to develop their solution
  • The contestants may use any additional technologies they wish as necessary, but should be used as supporting technologies only
  • The contestants must stop work on their solutions at 7:55p on June 22nd by the watch of the party organizer
  • The contestants may leverage conceptual work from other projects, but should not leverage any code or design assets
  • Contestants may not collaborate outside of the their team, except with Microsoft support staff

Evaluation Criteria

The contestants will be evaluated in these five areas:

  • Satisfaction of Constituent Needs: How well does the needs of the constituencies as defined by the profile? Is the experience appropriate for the audience? How elegant is the experience?
  • Satisfaction of the Market: How well does the solution address the market needs? Will the solution work across all of the identified constituencies?
  • Uniqueness of the solution: Is the solution unique, differentiated and defensible?
  • Technical Excellence: Was the team able to build a working solution (however limited), or is it purely a scripted prototype?
  • Aesthetics: How visually appealing is the solution?

The presentation loop

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