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W. W. Norton—Prospero Research

UX · W. W. Norton & Co, Inc · 2017-2018

W. W. Norton publishes a large number of textbooks and ebooks for a variety of disciplines every year. W. W. Norton also produces quizzes, activities, media, and other content which is available on the book website. Unfortunately, the digital content gets separated into their top level categories. Grouping the content like this makes it cumbersome for students and instructors to reference multiple types of digital content during their work. Our task was to design an assignment tool to help editors and instructors mix and match this content to creating custom homework assignments that fit their teaching style.


The stakeholders came to us with a list of requirements they created while conceptualizing this project. The initial requirements helped us understand where they wanted the product to go. Some requirements appeared to be making design choices early on, so we ran a workshop with the stakeholders to clarify and prioritize the requirements.

We used the MoSCoW method to sort the requirements into “must have,” “should have,” “could have,” and “won’t have.” A lot of the requirements ended up in the must and should have sections. Having a lot of things in those sections wasn’t helpful as a starting point. We wanted to have a handful of top features to create so we could begin work. To do this, we handed each person four stickers and asked them to dot-vote. Dot voting made the stakeholders seriously consider which features they wanted to focus on while also prioritizing the must-have category.


These meetings gave us a better understanding of digital publishing workflows, how and when content gets created and added to our products. We now had a prioritized list of requirements and a better understanding of the editors, instructors, and students that will be using this product.

Comparing what we learned in the workshop and contextual inquiries clarified the editor’s goals for teaching their material and gave us insight into how instructors are using this content. This information provided us a direction to start our work, but we knew we had a lot to confirm with the instructors using these tools for their classes.

We wanted to know how much customization of assignments the instructors wanted. Would instructors use assignments created by W. W. Norton? Would they use these assignments as-is, edit them to fit their needs, or create their own from scratch? We also began writing our user testing script at this point to ensure that even if we made assumptions about the design, we could test with real users.