The Quantum Toolkit
I was fortunate to be asked to work on a high intensity research project led by IBM research to better understand quantum researchers, app developers work in the Quantum space and how they need to communicate. We started the project with very little information, IBM research asked that we take an exploratory approach. Our main objective was to understand all of the challenges that Quantum researchers and the app developers who work in the Quantum domain face when trying to communicate with each other. Quantum computing is a highly proprietary and rapidly evolving field; non-disclosure agreements and highly specialized and siloed jobs roles make it difficult for the quantum community to share findings, ask advice of colleagues, thusly hindering a through line of iterative testing for new ideas, Essentially the experimental researchers and hardware specialists needed a way to communicate machine limitations to theorists so they could develop and optimize algorithms together. These researchers then needed collaborate with app developers to find a way for quantum computers to talk with standard computers so that developers could find practical applications for their algorithms. Our goal was to find ways that IBM could facilitate better communication between the people in the community and the tools they work with everyday.
We started the project with two main questions:
How do Quantum researchers derive value from near term quantum computers?
What are the distinct roles of theorists, experimentalists, and developers, and how can iBM facilitate better communication between researchers?
Our aim was truly learn the needs of our users, and the frustrations that resulted from the as-is processes they currently have available. We endeavoured to craft user-focused stories that illustrated the scalable tools that IBM could build and share to promote progress in the Quantum community and make quantum computing more commercially viable.
Jan 2017 - March 2017
My role //
UX & RESEARCH
My team //
Harika Arumalla | research
Dima Hoffman | UX
Miriam Batelli | Visual
Lynne Yao | UX & VIsual
Yeshe Wingerd | development
Eva Dage | Visual
Polly ADAMS | UX & Research
Sasha Williamson | Research
Semur Nabiev | development
Zaid Edghaim | UX
Krystella Raihm | UX
Refined and validated personas
Information architecture diagram
highlighted pain points
Recommendations on tools
We identified the key stakeholders in the quantum research community and gained a deep understanding of their pain points. We illustrated their process and pain points in a narrative structure. We then created a to-be experience that contained actionable recommendations for how IBM can provide resources to the Quantum community in the form of a toolkit and community forum.
Our Quantum researcher stakeholders were thrilled to learn of IBM’s commitment to shared resources. Immediately following the completion of the Circuits project, IBM announced the launch of IBM Q and subsequently developed an SDK kit to accompany the open source IBM Q Composer tool. Several universities are now teaching courses using the IBM Q composer and Qiskit the foundational learning component. IBM continues to promote collaboration through open discourse on quantum computing and its applications in the IBM Q community forum.
20 Sponsor user sessions
1 User survey
2 on-site visits
3 collaborative mural user sessions
Empathizing with our users
This project was a challenge as a designer and researcher because of the incredibly steep learning curve of the Quantum domain. I was lucky to connect with some incredible users who patiently helped to build a comprehensive understanding of the Quantum landscape and the discreet roles that exist within the field. We went through many rounds of research to validate assumptions and clarify points of confusion. We started with generative interview sessions to learn about our users background, their passions, and their frustrations. We then held evaluative sessions where we created and validated design artifacts with sponsor users, such as journey maps, as-is and to-be stories, and persona summaries. Our users helped us to refine our personas and stories so that we could confidently convey their responsibilities, the goals, and their pain points. Finally we synthesised all of the findings that we captured in each of these artifacts into a polished multimedia story that illuminated the distinct pain points for each persona and the opportunity we identified that would address the needs of the user.
We had three distinct personas, but their needs and narratives were closely intertwined. Eventually we realized that it was be higher value to create one story that included all of them rather than just separate journeys. We combined our various design artifacts to create a stakeholder map that included our primary personas as well as the secondary personas they interact with sometimes.
We wrote and filmed an engaging as-is story so that our internal stakeholders could effectively develop empathy for our users. It had a “sliding doors” feeling to it, we showed how each of our users was working in a siloed way and the missed opportunities for connection and potential collaboration.
We created multiple storyboards that each addressed specific user needs. We highlight the pain points addressed and then created a succinct story that showed our idea of how to provide our users with the tools they required.