Jacob Chan

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Jacob Chan

Notebook Widgets

Built quick and easy-to-use widgets for (millions of) teachers.


At SMART Technologies, I was a Software Developer Intern. I worked on building Notebook Widgets to be used worldwide by 3 million users, as well as a core feature for debugging and troubleshooting the Notebook software. By the end, we had built 5 of these widgets (redesigning the top 5 most used Flash widgets).


The Notebook Software, which is the core of SMART’s software fleet that comes with SMART Boards, is used by many teachers around the world. This provides an active and dynamic learning environment for kids and a way for teachers to utilize the powers of the computer vs. traditional whiteboard/blackboard teaching. Many of the widgets that come with SMART Notebook, used greatly by teachers to quickly and easily set up a lesson, are written in Flash and in desperate need of a redesign, both in its implementation (i.e. use HTML5) and its visuals.

Old Flash Clock Widget

Old Flash Clock Widget

Spinner Widget - Action

New Spinner Widget in Action Mode

Spinner Widget - Configuration

New Spinner Widget in Configuration Mode

User Research

We had the opportunity to interview our users regarding these widgets, and to get to fully understand the use cases that these teachers undergo, as well as their desired workflows and features.


With this specific development, we had to keep in mind two very key user experience challenges. One of which was the actual usage of the widgets. SMART Boards behaved like a giant touch whiteboard, so we had to keep the interfaces usable for this environment. This included (1) dragging should behave intuitively and smoothly, (2) mouse hover did not exist, and (3) large targets and icons should be used to avoid mis-clicks. The other paradigm to keep into consideration was the primary use case for teachers. Through user interviews and cross-functional collaboration, we discovered that teachers set up these lessons at their desks on their computers, and then used them on the board with their kids. This workflow impacted our interfaces because when playing with the board, the settings should not be visible to the kids. On the other side, the settings should not be hidden when the teacher is setting up these lessons.

Timer Widget - Action

New Timer Widget in Action Mode

Timer Widget - Configuration

New Timer Widget in Configuration Mode