What I do

Tue Jul 15, 2008

I thought it was high time for an update on the first two weeks of my contract. As I alluded to previously, the project I’m working on right now involves the design of a new phone. It’s a complex system with many components, and is rather hush-hush at the moment so I can’t really elaborate on it. Thus far, much of the system behaviour has been decided upon verbally, which is where I come in. Through interviews with the project manager and the software engineers, and by gleaning information from what is known as a state table (a map of the information architecture), I’ve been putting together engineering specifications for a product that does not exist yet.

The goal is to provide the engineers with a base line so that they can move forward with the design process. This means I’m also creating screenshots of what the man-machine interface (MMI) will ideally look like. I’ve been doing these in Photoshop, but there is talk of moving to a program called Axure, which offers a much richer functionality and the ability to create master modules (so that you don’t have to re-generate a hundred screenshots every time a small change in the MMI is made).

All in all, it’s very interesting being involved at this stage of product development, although I was hoping to do some end-user documentation as well. At this point that looks doubtful as that’s the tech writer in Oregon’s baby.

Some of the work is a bit dry - for example, today I was determining how many characters to allocate a word for translation. The English interface has to be translated into French and Spanish, but there is a limited amount of pixels on the display screen on the phone, so I had to figure out how much wiggle room to allow the translators, in case their translation of “Answer”, for instance, turns out to be a five words long.

The company culture is quite rad - lots of barbeques and once a month there is a social with buckets of beer and an assortment of greasy food (no organic juice like at alive unfortunately). In the lunch room is a sweet gaming setup -two widescreen hi-def TVs - one hooked up to an XBOX 360 and the other hooked up to a Wii. On the table sits a couple of Guitar Hero axes and steering wheel controllers. There’s also a pool table, ping-pong table, and foosball. Basically a geek’s paradise!

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