Defining Project Goals
When starting a project, it’s important that all team members have a clear understanding of the core project goals. To that end, we highly recommend drafting a formal overview of your goals. This overview should focus on what needs to be done, not on how those things will be done.
Those who manage projects for a living often speak of a “minimum viable product” (MVP), or the minimal set of functionality that completes a project’s fundamental requirements. If you haven’t done so yet, try drafting your own idea of an MVP. Once your draft is complete, ask a colleague if there’s anything more that can be removed. Iterating on this process over a period of time can help you identify the fundamental goals of the project.
For help articulating and prioritizing goals, you might look at the Digital Humanities Lab’s project tool kit:
- Lean Canvas – This worksheet focuses on establishing the project vision beginning with the high level concepts, the research question, as well as the audience and goals.
- User Analysis – This will walk you through key user experience research methods for defining the user stories as well as mapping the user scenarios that will drive the key design decisions for the project.
- Ideation – These are designed to translate your user scenarios into a series of sketches that will lay the foundation for the MVP and can be very useful for collaborating with designers and developers. For additional templates, you might search online for a "software requirements document."
Identifying Project Timeline
Collaborators on a digital humanities project should have a shared, manageable timeline within which to complete the work. It’s therefore helpful to sketch out early on an overview of all of your major project milestones along with the dates by which you need to achieve those milestones.
If you’re working toward a conference presentation, are on a grant cycle, or otherwise have a date by which you need to wrap up all project work, try working backwards with your timeline to determine whether your full project vision can be achieved in your available time. List all of your project goals along with conservative estimations of the time required for each — build in some time for project iteration and back-up plans. If you need help estimating timelines or identifying your project’s core milestones, stop by the Digital Humanities Lab so we can discuss your project together!
User Experience Design
Designing with the user experience in mind involves thinking carefully about the usability of your project. User-centered designs aim to create efficient, enjoyable experiences. One way to evaluate success on this metric is to conduct user testing at different stages of your project.
One of the first steps in a user-centered design cycle is to identify key use cases and then gather requirements. Who are the primary users and what tasks are they being asked to perform? What constraints might a user face? What information do you most want to convey?
With the information collected during the requirement gathering phase, sketch out the views of the users’ steps for each task (also known as user flow). Be attentive to how your designs will change when viewed across different platforms — the screenspace changes dramatically when moving from a desktop screen to a mobile phone.
For best results, prototype your ideas with pencil and paper first in order to try out a range of design iterations before committing your resources to prototype development. After you’ve selected the leading design, begin prototyping and selectively iterate based on feedback you solicit during the process.
Once you have a working prototype, move on to the user-testing phase of the project. Bring potential users together to try out the design and make notes for immediate and longer term changes.
Finding On-Campus Collaborators
Many digital humanities projects are the result of generative, cross-discplinary collaborations. Reach out to people from different fields with varied interests and skillsets to see if they might be interested in collaborating. To identify potential partners, you might email relevant listservs and/or contact people directly.
If you’re looking for Yale students who might be interested in joining your project, we recommend sending out calls of interest to department registrars on campus. For instance, if you would like to work with a programmer, you could send a job call to the Computer Science registrar. Or if you’re looking for a literary dataset to visualize, you might email the English Department listserv.
The Digital Humanities Lab can also post job calls to our Student Jobs page.
How do I get started?
If you're new to digital humanities and are interested in starting a project, stop by the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory in Sterling Memorial Library during our Office Hours.
We also highly recommend looking at existing digital humanities projects to get a sense for what's possible. In addition to projects at Yale, we recommend checking out projects at other digital humanities centers, including:
- Stanford's Literary Lab
- Northeastern's NULab for Maps, Texts, and Networks
- Maryland's Institute for Tecnology in the Humanities
- DHCommons Projects
In addition to on-campus support, there are also off-campus and online resources that you might try. The following programs all offer opportunities for researchers to learn different digital humanities methods and theoretical approaches:What we offer