Documentation in Progress: Challenges with Representing Design Process Online

Aug. 14, 2014


Tiffany Tseng, Maria Yang, Alex Ruthmann


Web-based documentation platforms afford lightweight and visually rich mechanisms for designers to share documentation online, yet present challenges regarding representation, particularly for collaborative teams. This paper highlights some of these issues through a descriptive case study based on the use of a new web-based social media tool for documenting the development of design projects called Build in Progress. Undergraduate students worked in teams to design musical construction kits and documented their process using Build in Progress over the course of three weeks. We examined students' project pages to determine trends with how students visually represented their design process, and we gathered students' experiences using the platform through surveys and interviews with select project teams. We found that groups developed their own representations of their design process via tree structures afforded by Build in Progress that present the simultaneous development of distinct elements of their projects and highlight the contributions of each student on the team. The interviews revealed differences between how internal and external documentation are presented and contrasting approaches to creating narrative and instructional documentation based on the intended audience. In particular, we found that students interpreted the tool as one used to help others recreate their design, which led to the omission of several parts of their design process, including experimentation and mistakes. These results suggest the need to further develop tools to support reflection on process rather than product.

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