A picture of the website portion of our prototype, where community members will submit concerns of story ideas

A picture of the website portion of our prototype, where community members will submit concerns of story ideas.

The past few weeks have been fun ones, to say the least.

When Mariah Barksdale and I built a website just randomly one day in the Lab to supplement our publication, “The Constituent,” that was a huge spark of excitement. And this week, Whitney Harris built a design for our prototype, which will give members of our target audience a good idea about what they should expect to see in our product. To make it even better, Whitney is getting her graphic design professor to look at it and offer suggestions for how to make it better — I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again, professors have been great when it comes to working on our project.

The process of building a prototype has probably been the most exciting part of this process so far, because not only does it allow us to be a bit more creative than we have been so far, but we also get to actually build the idea that we have been working on all semester, an idea that has received positive and helpful feedback. Every few days someone in our team group message (appropriately named “Forbes Influential Women”) will say, “Y’all, I’m really excited,” or “I just got some GREAT feedback,” and then our morale builds even more around the project. Just yesterday, Mariah got advertising feedback that has given us more perspective about the advertising aspect of our publication. And she keeps getting more positive feedback from potential advertisers.

Our first step in building a prototype was using the feedback we got from government officials in altering our idea in terms of the publication layout, advertising methods and website submissions. I emailed a government official who was helpful in my research process to ask for story ideas, and I took one of those ideas as a first article to use in the prototype. At first, we were just going to have fake articles in our prototype, but after some guidance from John Clark, the executive director of the Lab, and Sara Peach, the associate director of the Lab, we decided to go all out and actually collect real information. The only way to get the best results from prototype testing will be to give them the clearest picture of our publication.

A part of me hopes that everything keeps going this smoothly, but part of me is a bit worried.

A couple of weeks ago, John told me that there are people who may look onto our idea with skepticism, and there are some who may not like our idea at all. I understand the apprehension; why do we need to make a publication that is built specifically for government officials? This is probably the question running through the minds of some.

That was something I had not thought about, but then I stepped back.

There are things people on local governing boards want to know about, from people they do not know about, and we want to bring this news forward. And there are things that less-vocal people in the community don’t feel comfortable complaining about publicly. This project is focused on bridging these gaps. We are certainly not planning to ignore the voices of the community members who want their voices heard. So though there may be people who are apprehensive, I’m confident we can (and have so far) earned the trust of the people we have talked to about this idea.

After we build our prototype comes the prototype testing. Though I’m unsure about how this will go, the overall desirability of our idea so far leads me to believe it will be an exciting step as well. Every week I have been in the Lab has brought our group new perspectives, ideas and inspiration.

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