All posts by Jennifer Blatz

UX Tidbit: Dieter Rams and Good Design

Dieter Rams is known for his approach and belief in "less but better" design. Jennifer Blatz UX Design
Dieter Rams is known for his approach and belief in “less but better” design.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Have to share this again.

According to Dieter Rams, good design:

  1. Is innovative
  2. Makes a product useful
  3. Is aesthetic
  4. Makes a product understandable
  5. Is unobtrusive
  6. Is honest
  7. Is long-lasting
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Is environmentally friendly
  10. Involves as little design as possible

UX Tidbit: Understand your user’s needs

user experience research cartoon Jennifer Blatz UX design

There are several ways that you can do a better job of understanding your user’s needs. Understanding what your user really wants starts with research. There are a variety of quick and easy research methods every UX designer can use to understand their users better.

  • Get users to complete a diary to give you insight in to their world.
  • Interview users to better understand the problem you are trying to solve. Make sure you are solving a real user problem.
  • Find the “job” people hire your “product” to do.
  • Ask for a story about the user’s context.
  • Have the user create a photographic “Day in the Life” of their work area to understand their environment more.
  • Learn “trigger” words. Trigger words are simply words used by the user. It might be useful to include some of those trigger words in your product or website. Speak the user’s language.

UX Tidbits: Affordance

Affordance illustration Jennifer Blatz UX design

An affordance is a perceived signal or clue that an object that an object may use to perform a particular action. We applications and sites use affordance to push users to make an action. It is very important to understand the types of affordances a UX designer can use.

Explicit affordance is signaled by language or an object’s physical appearance.

Pattern affordance are design patterns objects like logos, navigation ages, links and the magnifying glass to show search. Users are used to these items being symbolic and expect them to do certain functions.

Jennifer Blatz UX design
How do you think you should open these doors? Do you push or pull to open?

Have you ever seen a door like this? Have you ever pushed when you should have pulled? Or pulled when you should have pushed? Sure we have all been there. And we all hate that feeling of making a mistake and feeling embarrassed in public.

Keep this type of scenario in mind when you are designing something. Never assume that the user will know what to do with your design or control. And more importantly, NEVER make the user feel stupid.

UX Buzzwords: the same meaning?

Jennifer Blatz UX designer buzzword confusion

I attended a talk at BigD (the User experience design conference in Dallas) abut UX Buzzwords. The presentation was by Marti Gold, who is a energetic, snarky and colorful speaker. I love hearing Marti because she keeps it raw and real. She is also a fellow member of Ladies that UX Dallas.

Anyways, back to Marti’s talk, which she called “Buzzword Landmines: Ten Phrases That Can Undermine Your Best Ux Efforts.” Like I said before, Marti is a very entertaining speaker. And this presentation was no exception.

The gist of Marti’s speech was that when UX Designers use a buzzword or phrase, that might have a different meaning and interpretation by the business partner or product owner. In fact, ore often than not, the product owner does have a completely different idea of what your meaning of the buzzword is. The point of her talk was to avoid or stop using these buzzwords all together. So what are the dangerous, confusing UX words?

Here’s the list of UX buzzwords to avoid:

  • Iteration
  • Design thinking
  • UX
  • Disruptive
  • Content Strategy
  • Responsive
  • MVP
  • Brand standards
  • Challenges
  • Buy in

Big D Conference in Dallas 2017

Jennifer Blatz User experience designer Big D Dallas Design Conference.
Passing the time between conference tracks by chatting with the one and only Alan Cooper.

I recently attended the annual BigD conference right here in Dallas. We are really lucky to have such a wonderful conference right here in Dallas. It seems like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York always seem to get the love of big conferences. So Brian Sullivan, a UX institution here in Dallas, set up our own local conference.

BigD has been held in Dallas now for 10 years, y’all. Like the locals would say. ha!

This year was a milestone year of BigD. The conference celebrated 10 years in existence. Yay! We had some great presenters and attendees this year including:

  • Alan Cooper
  • Jared Spool
  • Steve Portigal
  • Christian Crumlish
  • Along with several local UX “celebrities”

Th best part of me for this conference to to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. BigD is a great opportunity to meet other UX talent from the Dallas community and beyond. A lot of people do not have the time or interests to participate in local Meetup events. So this is a nice way to meet other UX folks and to expand my network. Plus, like I sad before, it’s a good opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues and coworkers. Oh, and it’s always fun to get a big of swag.

Jennifer Blatz user experience designer UX and BigD design conference Dallas

 

UX Tidbits

100 days of learning UX Design journal from Jennifer Blatz

Back in 2015 I pushed myself to learn a little something extra about User Experience for 100 days. Granted, I did skip a few days, but for the most part I was pretty consecutive. I got over 100 entries of quotes, laws, terms, principles, lists and more.

The practice was simple: keep a User Experience-focused journal and write down things that you learn. Force yourself to seek out some information every day. And keep a record of your findings.

As I am re-reading them today, some of the things have been forgotten. So I decided it would be good practice for me to resist and share some of the UX tips, tidbits and terms I am rediscovering. My new series called “UX Tidbits” will be in addition to my regular writings and insights. Please enjoy the new series of “UX Tidbits” and let me know what you think.

Interaction design vs. User Experience design

Yes, folks, there are still many industries and companies that do not understand the difference between interaction design and User Experience design. You would think that major corporations would have grasped the differences between the concepts by now. Alas, through my recent review of job descriptions, there are many companies, especially in the Dallas area, that say they are hiring a UX designer, but what they actually want is an Interaction designer.

Jennifer Blatz UX design. User Experience Design is not User Interface design.
UX is not UI

Many in the field of User Experience are familiar with the above chart. Perhaps, like me, you had to include this in a presentation to educate your client or co-workers. Despite the fact that there is some level of maturity in the field of UX, there is still a lot of confusion between the two.

As I mentioned before, I was recently perusing job descriptions for a UX designer in the Dallas area. I was noticing a trend:

  • The job title said UX Designer
  • The job description listed skills like research, strategy, wireframes and usability tests
  • It also said they company was looking for deliverables like personas, user flows and wireframes

However, upon further investigation, I discovered that these companies do no really want a UX designer, they actually want someone who is specifically a UI designer.

Jennifer Blatz UX design. User Experience Design is not User Interface design.
Interaction design actually falls under the umbrella of UX design.

It is completely OK to want a UI designer. Nothing wrong with that at all. But I feel like these companies are just copying other job descriptions and applying them to their own organization. (This is the same reason why you don’t just copy someone else’s design without understanding the context and reasoning as to why they came to the solution they did.) To me, just swiping a job description from another company and finessing it slightly so it sounds like your own is just lazy. I think it speaks leaps and bounds to the level of UX Maturity within your organization. Even if you are a large corporation with thousands of employees, or a highly respected agency with many high-end clients, you should know the difference between UX and Interaction design. If you don’t, shame on you!

My advice to companies is this: if you are looking for an Interaction Designer, just say that. Ask for skills like visual design, user interface design and interaction design. It is OK to be that specific. No need to pad up the job description pretending you wants skills like research, personas and task analysis. You, Dear Company, don’t really want those things. So be specific in your requirements and you will get the ideal candidate that much sooner. You will not waste your time or a potential job candidate’s time if you are more accurate in your job descriptions.

800 followers on Twitter

I am so thankful and shocked that I have reached the huge milestone of gaining 800 followers on Twitter. Yes I know there are people who have a lot more followers than I do. And those people always will.

Thank you all for showing interest in my UX Design and Research tweets. I feel so lucky to have just one follower, let alone having reached 800. I really appreciate all of the love.

Do you want to see what I post on Twitter too?  Follow Jen Blatz on Twitter by visiting my page and joining the club. ha!

Cross functional collaboration: UX Design and Dev working together

UX Designer and developer working together.

Working in the field of User Experience is rarely working alone. It is a highly collaborative environment and this means that oftentimes developers and designers must work together.

There was a time when designers would just mock up designs and “throw the designs over the wall” to the the developers who would then put the designs in to code. This led to a lot of tension; mostly because there was little communication. Now I find that better designs come as a result of communication across disciplines and areas of expertise.

I love talking with my devs. There are so many benefits of doing so:

  • Devs are aware of design decisions on the table,  they feel more involved
  • They can point out potential technical issues and constraints
  • They often have great suggestions
  • It’s their product too, they will have more pride in their work if they are involved in the process, not just pulled in at the tail end
  • Talking together builds camaraderie and and stronger teams
  • They can fill in knowledge gaps or holes you might have

Basically, early communication between UX designers and developers gets everyone on the same page. And let’s face it, we work with these people the majority of the day. It makes for a better work environment if you get along with your co-workers.

So I encourage you to talk with your developers, several times a day if you can. Do this to build stronger relationships, learn from each other and have buy-in from all members of the team so you can build better products.

Blog is back

Are you wondering where I have been hiding? Me too!

I had some technical difficulties because my website got hacked. And because the main website was hacked, I lost access to my blog.

The good news is that I am up and running again… for now! The bad news is I lost all of the images that accompanied my blog posts. I am slowly trying to restore most of them. But some may never be replaced.

Never the less I learned a few valuable lessons from this experience:

  • Back up your files. Sure I tend to think I save often. But backing up your files is just as important. And I really neglected to back things up.
  • Know a great developer. My good friend Anita Cheng cleaned up my files an got me up and running again. I would not have a website again if not for her.
  • Did I mention to back up your files?

Thanks for your patience. I will post more UX-related stuff soon.

Persona feedback session: deck and summary

The personas I worked on for a major financial institution took months of research to create. I wanted to involve the company’s interested stakeholders so that they were involved in the creation process as well. At the very least, I wanted their feedback on what they needed in personas so that I could meet their needs.

When I shared the personas with my colleagues for the first time, I did not want it to be a “Big Reveal.” I wanted to reflect that I had taken the stakeholders’ feedback and suggestions on board. I had researched and built a first draft of the personas. And I wanted my persona presentation to reflect that these were not just “my” personas, but in fact, they belonged to the whole organization.

Some of the Persona Feedback session included:

  • Sharing the stakeholder feedback I had gathered
  • Explaining what a persona is
  • Showing the difference between UX persona and marketing segments
  • Illustrating the persona development journey
  • Showing the first draft of the personas
  • Presenting the components and portions of the personas and describing the purpose of each part

After I explained the process of creating the personas, defining them and sharing them, then I asked the groups to critique them. I wanted feedback on four aspects about the personas:

  • What they liked
  • What they did not like
  • What they needed more information about
  • What they needed less information about

After gathering their feedback, my intension is to roll that feedback in to my next round of qualitative research. I want to make sure I am meeting the users’ needs. In this case that is the stakeholders, including designers, design lads and product managers.

View the entire Persona feedback presentation workshop. I would love your feedback on what I talk about in my slides. Do you agree or disagree?

A surveys does not have to be the dirty ‘S’ word

Jennifer Blatz User Experience UX design and research
Surveys can be useful to supplement empathy interviews.

When it comes to user experience research, there are several methods to gather information. One of those research methods is a  survey. Now, a lot of UX researchers might frown upon the use of surveys. It’s true, they are a great way to gather quantitative information. And that is great to gather in a lot of circumstances. But when it comes to user experience, quantity is not as important as understanding the “why” someone does something. That is the value of qualitative research over quantitative.

So a lot of “pure” UX researchers choose to not even entertain the idea of sending out a survey. I think this mindset is because a survey may be an opportunity to gather some insights, but they are not always very helpful insights. And for those who don’t know any better, a person might interpret these survey answers as gospel. Again, they don’t provide the “why” someone is doing something.

For the survey portion I am sharing above, I used a survey as a supplement to a recent empathy interview session I performed. I was interviewing people on their recent car-purchase journey. Instead of asking participants what kind of car they bought, or what automobile features were of the utmost importance, I chose to gather some of this information in a survey. I gave the participant this survey to fill out before we had our interview. And in case you are worried, I did ask a lot of the same information about why they bought a car so that I could dig deeper in to the “why” they bought what they did. Also, this gave me an opportunity to see just how consistent people were in their answers. Thankfully all of them were.

So, the lesson here folks is that as a user experience researcher, don’t completely rule out a survey. You can gather a lot more information you might not have time to find out in just an hour interview. Remember, as a good researcher, you should have a lot of tools in your tool kit. And yes, a survey should be one of them.

Service Design and creating a Blueprint

Is your organization doing Service Design?

It seems like it’s one of the hottest new trends in the User/Customer Experience arena. Where I work, not only have we been introduced to the concept, we are being encouraged to carry out the process on our products.

What is a Service Design Blueprint?

Yeah that was my question too when I first heard the term some time back. Does it have to do with architecture? Is it only for the service industry? How does this play in to UX? Yes I had all of these questions and many more.

OK, really, What is Service Design?

According to Wikipedia, Service Design is:

  • Involves the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service.
  • To improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers.
  • May function as a way to inform changes to an existing service or create a new service entirely.
  • The purpose is to establish best practices for designing services according to both the needs of customers and the competencies and capabilities of service providers.
  • The service will be user-friendly and relevant to the customers, while being sustainable and competitive for the service provider.

Ok, this all sounds good right? So how do I get started? I am lucky enough to have attended the Adaptive Path Service Design seminar which gave me a grand introduction to the value and process. I am going to share a great asset they provided to me so that you can share it with your teams. (PDF is attached at the bottom of the article.)

Service Design blueprinting building blocks.

Now that you have a bit of foundation of what it means, I suggest you start creating Service Blueprints for the various products and services that your organization produces. You would be amazed the opportunities and caps you will discover from a Service Design blueprint exercise. Give it a try!

Service Blueprint block Example layout

Persona share out: stakeholder interviews

I know there are many ways to build personas. Sure, you can build them on assumptions and guesses and just throw something together quickly. But actions like that just leave a bad taste I’m my mouth. I want personas to be based on research, not assumptions.

One major project I am working on now is to create personas for vehicle purchasers. Where I work, one of the products we are working on deals with the consumer automobile buying space. One things we don’t have is personas. An even bigger flow of our organization is that we are designing products without having personas to consult for our design validation. I won’t dwell on this aspect too much. Let’s just say our organization is coming to light and recognizing the importance of having personas.

My task is to build kick-ass personas. I am up for the challenge.

One of the first steps I took in building personas is to talk to several stakeholders who would have interest in these personas. I talked to designers, design leads, product managers and researchers to find out one thing:

What information do you need from a persona?

I asked a few other questions as well, but this was my primary goal in this phase of my research.  I am sharing the information about “What do stakeholders need from personas” is in the attached deck.

Persona Jennifer Blatz Stakeholders 2017

700 Twitter Followers: Thank you!

I am so excited to report that I have reached a huge milestone. I have accumulated 700 Twitter followers. I feel so honored and humbled to have even one follower, let alone 700.

Twitter has become a great avenue for me to stay on top of the latest news in UX, and to share that with the broader UX community. I have to admit, when I first started on Twitter, I thought it was lame. I thought, “I don’t care about what people had for breakfast.” “I don’t care how long they had to stand in line to get their stupid Starbucks coffee.” Now I understand that i you follow the right people, Twitter is a very valuable resource.

Granted, I understand how volatile Twitter can be. You can read this blog and then go on to my Twitter account and it has dipped below 700. I know this can happen at any moment. But my larger hope it so keep this grand number of followers (Wow, 700!) and continue to expand it in the future.

For me, it’s not just a vanity number. I’d be kidding myself to not feel excited and honored to have any followers. But it is as much about being part of a great UX community. And this community expand the world. I feel honored to learn from people all over the globe from who I follow. And I hope to expand my network as well.

If you would like to follow me on Twitter too, find me at jnblatz on Twitter. Thanks.

P.S How cute is that dog in the image? Yep, I am a dog lover. He’s a cutey patutey!!

How do you stay on top of things?

How do you stay on top of things?

Ahhh the golden interview questions that I am sure every UX designer has heard at least once.

  • Where do you go for resources?
  • What Websites do you visit to learn more?
  • What tutorials or other resources do you use to learn a new software or service?
  • How do you stay on top of the latest trends?
  • What software are you using for (fill in the blank)?
  • What is your “best practice” for (fill in the blank)?

Yes, we have all asked these questions, or heard them asked, or wanted to sleep but could not because these questions are bouncing around in our heads.

So I would like to open this post up for discussion. Because I feel like I am wounding about these types of questions all of the time. I want answers. Can you provide some of the answers to the above questions? Or do you have a resource that might answer them? I know I don’t get a lot of traffic on this blog, but if you do swing by and feel like chatting about this topic, I would be forever grateful.

Now: Let’s talk!

Peak-End Rule and User Experience Design

Have you ever interviewed a user, after the fact, about an experience and they had nothing but positive things to say about it? But you know that they struggled or had pain points along the way. This phenomenon has a name, and it’s known as peak–end rule.

What is the peak-end rule?

Peak-end rule is a phenomenon where people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak. The peak is the most intense moment. In other words, they forget about all of the feelings and emotions they were experience throughout the entire event. And thy seem to just “remember” how they felt at the peak, whether that is good or bad. This model dictates that an event is not judged by the entirety of an experience, but by prototypical moments (or snapshots) as a result of the representativeness heuristic, according to Wikipedia.

Why does it happen?

The peak-end rule tends to happen more on emotional events, even though people are not usually aware of their motional involvement at the time.  Also, people tend to remember how things turned out overall. If they had final success in the process, then their memory is going to be more positive and they tend to forget about the struggles they had along the journey. People just tend to think more positively of themselves when they have accomplished something, and therefore forget the negative aspects. One way to think about this is, if people think too much about it, and focus on the pain they went through, then they are likely to feel that pain again. So perhaps this is a instinctive defense mechanism? Without obtaining a psychology degree, I will leave that question open for debate.

How can you avoid it in your research?

The best way I can think of avoiding the peak-end bias is to observe participants in real time instead of relying on their account of it after the fact. This is why ethnographic research is so important in User Experience design. People are not even aware of some of the actions they perform. But if you are there to observe them in person, you discover all sorts of nuggets in behavior the user might not be aware to share. When you observe a participant, you see things like pain points, struggles, repetition, redundancy, mistakes, hacks, work arounds, cheating, confusion and all sorts of gold nuggets of user behavior.

I have seen it time and time again, a participant is trying to complete a task, and the software or website they are using does not perform as expected. The participant is frustrated. Maybe she expresses a slight sigh in displeasuer. Maybe she even tries to accomplish the task in a different way. Maybe she concedes and relies on the “hack” she has created as a work around. When confronted on an obvious frustration, she makes comments like:

  • Oh what to you mean? Did I make a face? I didn’t even notice.
  • I always have to do this.
  • It’s no big deal, it’s just part of the job.

These comments are a tell-tale sign of actions that would likely not be reported in an interview after the fact.

The bottom line: Get out of the building and observe your user first hand. You will get much more context witnessing them in their environment rather than just “taking their word for it.” Observation is king!

New Year, New Goals – Go 2017!


OK I know it’s pretty far in to the new year. And in keeping my vow to regularly have blog posts I have been cheating a bit by basically re-posting content. So I am going to reflect on my 2016 goals and see what I can build upon and start anew.

First, let’s look at 2016 goals at the beginning of the year. I think that there are a few of theses I can revisit and try to accomplish in 2017.

Learn programs

  • Sketch

Read books

  • “Design of Everyday Things”
  • “Checklist Manifesto”
  • “How to Get People to do Stuff”

Write blog posts

  • I am shooting to post 25 original blog posts in 2017

Ok so that’s a good reasonable start. I want to add a few more in 2017.

  • Become and “expert” in some discipline concerning UX. (Even if I am the only one who thinks I am an expert. ha!)
  • Mock up pages in Sketch to enhance portfolio
  • Continue to grow online presence in Twitter
  • Learn Sketch well enough to mock up several interfaces to expand portfolio and skill set (yep, I wrote that twice)
  • Grow my UX network in Dallas
  • Learn more about Service Design

Getting Unstuck via @odannyboy

I recently received this article in an email from Jared Spool written by Dan Saffer. I thought the words were really inspirational. We all get stuck at times. And sometimes a few simple steps can get us out of a rut. Take a look at the suggestions below and see if you agree. Or do you have additional tips to get unstuck?

Here are his tips for how to build a creative habit that sustains you through those dark days when ideas run dry.

  • Prepare: Build a creative habit. Schedule a small block of time and show up every day.
  • Find a ritual: Artists often create a ritual around the work they do to get them in the right headspace. It could be listening to music, arranging pencils, what-have-you. Find what works for you.
  • Keep a list of your top three big questions: Hang them in a visible place in your workspace so you can think about them.
  • Walk: If you are feeling stuck, get outside. Why? Because even Nietzsche thought it was a good idea.
  • Be boring: If you are out and about, resist the urge to look at your phone and other digital distractions.
  • Time: Spend as much time as you can with the problem you are trying to solve.

Solutions tend to come to us when we aren’t thinking very hard about them. Give yourself the space to ruminate over ideas, ideate, and percolate.

Honorable mention: best UX Los Angeles blogs

I feel so honored that someone has mentioned my blog and one of the best UX blogs in the Los Angeles area. Though many of my topics are not Los Angeles centric, I still appreciate that my blog got a mention.

You can read the original Quora post at What are the best UX blogs and Twitter accounts to follow in the Los Angeles area? I am not sure who mentioned my blog, but I can assure you it was not me. But I thank whoever the anonymous poster is who gave me a shout out. You rock! There are a number of great UX resources, both Los Angeles based and not, in that Quora post. So check it out and learn a bit about your UX community. 

2016: Year in review

Jennifer Blatz UX Design 2016 year in review

Seems like everyone has a year in review. What celebrities died this year? What were the biggest news stories? What can we expect in 2017? Well I am not going to recap all the biggest news for 2016. Instead, I would like to reflect on the crazy year it has been for me and to see if I actually accomplished ANY of my goals. ha ha.

To start with, I took a look at my mid year post “Mid Year: Revisiting My Personal Goals” to see how my goal accomplishment were stacking up there. Well, as you can see from the article, I missed few and hit a few. That’s ok, because my career to a huge shift in the middle of the year that caused me to quickly start a new job and move across the country.

Accomplished
  • Re-learned Axure. I did, but I have not practiced it as much as I should have so I probably forgot a lot of the actions.
  • Continue writing blog posts. I wanted to hit 30 blog posts this year. I am pretty sure I did that. I want to continue this practice in the new year.
  • Join a side project. I helped out with Wingspanarts. As of today, the site has not launched their redesign. But I hope they will find a great developer and do so early in the new year.

So those were my major accomplishments. My list was much shorter than I hoped. But I am OK with that. Like I said, I had some major career shifts this year and I needed to focus on sharpening new skills needed for the job. My plan is to think about my new goals for the new year and write a post soon.

Until then, I hope you had a wonderful year. I hope you accomplished some goals, and don’t beat yourself up about the ones you did not knock off your list. There’s always next year to revisit those goals and to make new ones.

Like we all know in UX, it is ok to learn from your failings. Also, it’s ok to pivot in your goals when life hands you changes. Just go with the flow…in 2017.

Research Lab vs. Wild: which do you prefer?

Are you a UX designer or researcher who has the luxury to do some research in a lab? Not every organization has an on-site facility where things like empathy interviews and usability tests can take place. But for those that do, let’s explore the pros and cons of the lab and working in the wild.

I have had the ability to work in both a professional usability lab and perform ethnographic research in a person’s natural environment. I have my opinions about both, but I will reserve those until the end. First, let’s cover a bit about the difference between working with users in these environments.

Working in a Lab

A lab is a great set up. The tables and chairs are all set up for you. It’s quiet and protected from outside noises a person will usually encounter in a public place. The lab can be technically fitted with luxuries like video and audio recording capabilities. They usually have power sources, so users can use in-house and already loaded equipment like computers and mobile devices. When an organization has a lab, they often have a budget for fancy recording devices like a sled for recording mobile actions or eye tracking software. A lab is a great place to get controlled, scripted and qualified studies and act as a calm testing environment.

But a lab is not real. It’s not a person’s real home or office. It’s not the actual place a person would be performing an action like shopping online or texting with friends. A lab is a fake set up requiring a person to suspend belief and pretend they are in their natural environment. And this can be done to a point. But if people surf the web with their feet up on the table, with a tablet on their lap and a mobile device in their hand, using pre-described lab equipment will not realistically record a person’s natural behavior. Plus, just being put in a lab setting puts a person on edge and makes them feel uncomfortable. We all feel strange when we know we are being recorded. We probably even act differently and are not even aware of it. Yes, knowing these factors, we as researchers should try to combat these fears and make the environment feel as homey as possible. This just cannot be completely done since it truly is a false environment as far as the participant is concerned.

Despite a lab having many technical and environmental luxuries, you can see why many people opt to view people in their natural environment. Not to mention that most companies cannot afford to have an on site lab or pay to use external lab facilities. So for those who have no lab, it’s time to talk about jumping in to the wild and observing people in their natural habitat

Working in the wild

Observing participants in their natural environment provides many advantages. First, it is cost prohibitive. We won’t have to pay for lab facilities to see a person work in their home or office. Second, people feel more comfortable if they are on their own turf. It’s their home, so they know where to sit, how they work and where they normally do things. Also, the beauty of performing a contextual inquiry, or observing someone in their natural environment, is that you can take note of the items around them. How do they sit? What is their set up? What items do they have around them? What items do they use while interacting online? What is around them that is distracting? Who are they interacting with? And so much more. When you are in a person’s place, you can see the special notes and shortcuts they keep handy. Do they have their password written on a Post It note right on the computer monitor? All of these little environmental clues are golden nuggets that cannot be copied in a lab environment. Finally, one more benefit of people working in their own space is that you are getting a much more accurate picture of who they are and how they fit in to their space. You can never gain this kind of insight when they are sitting in a foreign lab using foreign equipment and getting instruction on how they can do things rather than exploring an interface on their own.

Despite the many advantages of entering a person’s real world and viewing how they really work in this context, there are also issues in working within these surroundings. Going to someone’s home many not be the safest situation because you don’t know exactly what you are getting in to. Make sure you travel with at least one “note taking” buddy to ensure your safety. Also you are very likely to encounter obstacles like noise, distractions, space limitations, and inaccessibility that can make researching in an environment tricky at best. Plus, when observing people in their surroundings, they can fall victim to The Hawthorne Affect. Basically, that is when people modify their normal behavior when they are being observed. Just keep in mind that this could happen with any, if not all participants so plan accordingly. Keep these factors in mind, and cater your research to accommodate such potential pitfalls. However, don’t let these deter you from going in to the wild. From my experience, I have gathered much richer insight by seeing a person reacting to their environment in real time, as opposed to the comfortable, staged lab setting.

What do I choose? Lab or Environment?

As is the classic answer to so many questions. It depends…. Obviously if you don’t have a lab, then that decision is easy: go out in to the wild. But if you do have a lab, I would encourage you to still go out of the building and see people in their natural space. It clearly provides a context that you will never get in a lab.

Rapid Prototyping with Tom Chi

Jennifer Blatz UX Design presentation
Sharing with your team when they cannot participate in an event or workshop is a good skill to have in your UX Designer toolbox.

Our office recently had the honor of hosting renowned GoogleX prototyper Tom Chi. He came in to our office to work with Product Managers on learning the value of testing fast and testing now! I had a chance to participate in the session as both a user, working through prototypes, and as part of a team building the prototypes for testing.

I have to admit a lot of what Tom covered was not completely new:

  • Find the quickest path to the experience
  • Test early and test often
  • Don’t guess. Learn
  • Don’t “fail.” Learn
  • Stop talking and start doing
  • Get in front of your users and get their feedback

But there were a couple of concepts that really resonated with me and thought they provided value to the session.

Drive conjectures to experiments. Experiments drive decisions.

Conjectures are the same thing as guesses. In other words, people tend to get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and over talking about the situation. In fact, a lot of these discussions are not reality based and is a process of throwing out personals opinions. It might be driven by the best intentions. But these conversations often go on for too long and are never backed up by actual user research. So encourage your group to stop talking and start doing.

The way we did this in the Tom Chi Prototyping session was to stop talking and we each sketched ideas quietly for 3 minutes. They key here is to sketch individually in silence. There should be no talking during the sketching exercise so that each person is exploring individual ideas without the influence from others. After sketching, the ideas are then shared with the group. One or more idea is selected as the “champion.” And this this rough sketch is what should be tested with users. No need to create a higher fidelity version of the sketch. Just show them the rough sketch and get quick feedback before you are too emotionally and technically invested.

Focus on people’s energy

Whenever there is energy, that means something that matters is happening. This energy can be positive or negative. When a customer gets exciting about something, pay attention to that. And the same is true when they show angry excitement as well. It’s these magic “energy” moments that really improve or ruin an experience. So tweak those energy points to make them awesome. One particular example Tom Chi mentioned was Uber. Most of the Uber experience is just like riding in a cab. It’s the few seconds that are different in that experience is what matters.

Don’t lead the witness

Finally, I want to talk about one lesson I learned by going through these sessions. Most of the people participating in our sessions were not researchers. In fact, there were product managers and designers. These are empathetic people who are excited about getting great feedback from users. But they don’t understand that the way they ask questions can skew the response from the participant. It is better to ask broad, open-ended questions rather than helping the participants by giving them examples. It is these tactics that researchers know how to do, but others might not know. They don’t understand that by providing examples for the person to think about, they might be blocking other examples they could possibly come up with on their own. With a little coaching, I know that product managers, designers and other non researchers can learn effective ways to ask non-leading questions.

Take away

I thought the most valuable aspect of bringing Tom Chi in house was to empower non-designers. I think he gave everyone confidence that they can explore ideas, sketch the ideas, and get quick feedback from customers. I hope this process takes off and continues well in to the future.

To read more of my notes, read the Tom Chi Prototyping Workshop presentation that I shared with my team.

 

Card sorting for more than navigation

I recently had the opportunity to practice a research method that is often used to help organize a website’s navigation. Card sorting is a research method used to help structure a site, product or other system. Card sorting helps you to get better insight in to the user’s mental model, as well as how they expect things to be structured and organized. I have written about my experience using card sorting before in another article titled, “UX Deliverables: Card Sort.”

Today I want to discuss using card sorting as another way of understanding how users organize information. Again, card sorting seems to be primarily used to organize navigation. In this study I used card sorting to have customers prioritize and sort education topics based on their interest in that topic. In other words, I had them show which topics they had an interest in, and those they did not.

“Card sorting is a user-centered design method for increasing a system’s findability. The process involves sorting a series of cards, each labeled with a piece of content or functionality, into groups that make sense to users or participants. http://boxesandarrows.com/card-sorting-a-definitive-guide/

The Reason

A customer is signing up for a new loan account. This is a great opportunity to give them more information about loans and finances. We wanted a better understanding of the types of information a person would want in the onboarding process. And as important, we wanted to know the types of information a new customer did NOT want.

The Method

No need to get all fancy and high tech. The great thing about card sorting is you can do it in the dark – well sort of. You don’t need a computer to gain great insights from your participant. Just use some index cards (or regular paper) with words or phrases typed or written on them. Have a flat surface where the participant can lay out the cards. Have a few extra blank cards and a marker just in case the person wants to create new cards. This happens more than you would expect. Do your best not to provide too much information or any definitions because you want to simulate a natural experience. In the context of her home, she would not have anyone explaining the terms to her. So we need this situation to be as realistic as possible.

The Process

Present these cards – in no particular order – to the participant and have him/her organize them in to categories that make sense to him/her. In this case, the categories were predetermined for the participant, but then he/she could create more if needed. In fact, in this study, one participant did create his/her own category. While the person is sorting out the cards, encourage him/her to talk through the process and explain his/her rationale. It’s this information that is actually much more valuable that the final results in many ways. To get a better understanding why he/she is putting items in to groups helps you to understand his/her mental model. This will help you to create a better structure and design. If you know why people group things together, you can anticipate future groupings if you need to add more choices later. Also, customers tend to organize things much more differently than the business would. It’s better to see the customer’s point of view so that you can make his/her journey successful.

The Results

What I love most about a card sorting is two things that will often surface: the surprises and the trends. Both ends of the spectrum are so wonderful when card sorting. As the administrator of the study, you want to see common themes emerge and bubble up to the surface. This helps you to organize topics cleanly and in a way the customer will enjoy. If multiple people expect things to be grouped in a certain way, that makes your life as an Information Architect easier.

The other side of the coin is items that surprises the research team. This could be especially helpful if you use a term that the participant does not understand. Most likely it’s industry or technical jargon – which should be avoided at all costs! If you do come across terms that confuse the participant in any way, consider changing or modifying it. In fact, you could ask the person what term they would use instead. Again, asking the person for feedback will often enrich your research and aide in creating a better experience.

The End

After the study, share your insights with the team. It’s even better if members of the team are sitting in the research session with you so they can see first-hand what the participant said and did. But if you can’t have those team members who are involved in the product directly observe the card sorting session, sharing a brief, insightful report is the next best thing. The lesson here is to keep the card sorting method in your pocket for potential use in the future. Card sorting does not have to be reserved strictly for determining navigation. It’s a versatile tech-agnostic method that can be used to organize information quickly and easily. Try it out next time you need to organize and structure information.

BigD Conference: Demo tips

Ken Tabor shares his tips on how to over come imposter syndrome and give a presentation to peers.

He used emojis to illustrate a story with humor

  • Be authentic
  • Open your mind
  • Be a servant to your community

Why speak publically? So many good reasons:

  • Influence
  • Advance your career
  • Teach others go to events for free
  • Meet new people
  • Learn more

1. Point of view

  • Don’t measure yourself up to an imaginary gauge

2. Preparation

  •  People worry about preparing
  • This leads to procrastination

3. Presenting

  • People are worried about others judging them and things going wrong

Over come your worries, fear and doubt

  1. Find your voice
  2. Sharpen your understanding
  3. Give knowledge to others
  • Be authentic and smash the idea that your point of view is not valid or good
  • Don’t wait for your opinion to be fully formed
  • You don’t have to be a subject matter expert
  • Think about your skills and experience that you can show others
  • Pass your expertise to the next generation
  • Find a crowd that doesn’t know
  • People are open to learning because we must to survive
  • Write down all of the things you know – brainstorm
  • Delete the things that you hate
  • Keep the ones you think that others would want to know
  • Keep topics that would work at a conference lanyard.com for conferences
  • Write a great title
  • Write a great description
  • Drop names of other speeches
  • Put in skills and credentials
  • Add something personal and fun so the person can bond with you

Submission Checklist

  • Title
  • Description
  • Personal bio
  • Speaking history
  • Blog, twitter, apps, websites
  • Headshot
  • Video sample
  • All stuff is reusable and you can build off what you have created
  • Always be writing
  • Give yourself time to write and don’t creativity
  • iAwriter is a not frills word processing program to help you write. It eliminates all the distractions of MS Word
  • Trello is good place to organize projects and notes
  • Create a custom design (for your slides) so it has a unique look
  • Examples: speakerdesk.com slideshare.net

Practice

  • You can even practice in front of an empty room
  • Make sure you are speaking out loud
  • You need an idea of pacing
  • Check out the room before you speak
  • Be open. If you are rejected for a talk, do a workshop. Just do anything.
  • Speak to Teach. Present to learn.
  • Start with a story
  • Take us on a journey
  • Don’t thank organizers
  • Don’t give bio
  • Don’t say you are nervous
  • Your audience wants to learn from you and they want to succeed.
  • Square breathing technique: inhale/exhale for 4 seconds. This will help calm your nerves.
  • Look at Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk for body language
  • Our behavior can drive our beliefs.
  • You’re empowered to be awesome, so show them that you are.
  • Use cheat mode/ speaker notes in software to help you remember what you want to say.
  • Make everyone around you feel better.
  • It may seem strange, but give away “trade secrets” or share what you know.

BigD Conference: Research in UX

Design thinking and UX research go hand in hand with Jennifer Blatz, UX Designer and User experience researcher.Design thinking

  • Consumer insights and rapid prototyping
  • Quickly get beyond assumptions to know if we are building the right product
  • Get beyond assumptions that can block effective solutions
  • Good design is a competitive advantage.
  • Understanding your user is the competitive edge

Discovery phase of User Research

Stakeholder and customer interviews

Business Model Canvas

  • Trends in tech and social
  • Efficiency >> Value
  • You can compare your business to another competitor or benchmark in each box

Value Proposition Canvas

  • Products and Services
  • Gain Creator
  • Pain Remover
  • Understand the customer profile
  • Pain reliever – already exists
  • Gain creator – something new
  • Compare value map and client profile to see where they align

Journey Map

  • Visualize your research
  • Done create one just to make one
  • Tailor it to the project you are working on
  • Usually it is printed out so you can see and discuss
  • Put the timeline of the vision across the journey
  • What are the patterns you are seeing? Use those as quotes
  • Thinking, feeling, doing
  • List the opportunities: ways the process can be improved

Story mapping

  • At the end of the discovery phase
  • More concreate about what we are creating
  • What are the jobs and tasks that people have to do
  • You can use the story map to guide your agile sprints

Growth hacker

  • Marketer / front end coder / hacker
  • Run a/b tests
  • Create versions that can be quickly tested and changed

Usability Testing

  • Do this to understand why people use or don’t like your site or service
  • Get a better understanding of their behaviors
  • We need to understand who we are building for.
  • We need to be cure that we are creating value for that user.

 

BigD Conference: Visualizing User Feedback

Jennifer Blatz UX design treemap data visualization
A treemap is a visualization method I learned about as part of Big Design Conference talks.

Another good class I took as part of the Big D Conference was presented by Eva Kaniasty, the founder of Red Pill UX, and a research and design consultancy.

The role of the UX researcher is an important one. We, as UX researchers, need to design our research studies for analysis. Obviously when we perform a story, we are trying to gather important data. This data we gain in our research efforts need to be analyzed and our findings need to be communicated to others. We need to think about how to visualize our research.

Get your stakeholders to empathize with their customers and users. One way to do this is to take photos of the real people using the product. Don’t use fancy stock photography with posed fake models. Use your smartphone and take pictures of people using the product. And take more pictures of the person, sort of posed, to use as your persona image. This makes the persona more realistic and will provide the opportunity for your stakeholders to see the real person behind the persona.

I learned about the website UI Faces where you can go and get more “realistic” photos that are free to use in your personas or other needs. Granted, I checked this site out, and there’s a lot of avatars from people I follow on Twitter. But hey, your customer probably does not follow them and therefore they won’t recognize the images. So go ahead and check out the site to see if it needs your image needs for personas.

The problem with personas today is that many people just make them up. They don’t generate them using interview data or base them on real users. People often create personas based on “ideal” customers which is not accurate. Be sure that when you create personas, create them based on real research. Also make sure that they represent real people and customers, not ideal ones.

Additional notes from this talk

  • Pie charts are poor visualization tools much of the time.
  • Icons can be used to visualize data, but don’t over use them.
  • After you have a research session, write a quick summary right afterwards so you don’t forget the important details. The longer you wait, the more you will forget.
  • Videos are time consuming and become outdated quickly.
  • Quotes can be very powerful and easier to generate than video clips.
  • Look for patterns in your data.
  • Don’t use a word cloud to summarize data.
  • Word clouds are hard to read, noisy and the colors used can be confusing, portraying a confusing hierarchy.
  • A treemap shows the frequency of terms used in a combined bar chart.
  • Make any color coding meaningful and explain what it means.
  • Test with color blindness tools to make sure that color can be seen.
  • Do no over aggregate that data. That happens when you smooth and combine data together too much. When this happens, the data can lose its meaning. Don’t combine much because if you do, you can lose where the problems are.
  • Use words instead of illustrating with a bunch of repetitive icons.
  • Don’t use statistics for something subjective like severity ratings.
  • For “Ease of Use” ratings, use a bar chart, not a pie chart.
  • Stars are not good to rate the severity of something. People think more stars means “good” and that is the opposite mental model for the severity rating scale.
  • Dot voting is good to give everyone a chance to vote and it surfaces up the problems that need addressing first. The most votes wins!

Top visualization mistakes

  • Implying statistical significance
  • Over aggregation
  • Comparing apples and oranges
  • Leaving out context

BigD Conference: Design for Real Life

indifference-jennifer-blatz

The keynote speech of the first day was given by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. The topic covered designing to avoid biases and exclusion. It was really interesting and inspiring. Here are a few highlight from her speech:

  • Think about how your app or message could make the user feel alienated or as if they don’t belong in some way.
  • Make sure the voice of your product does not push people out or make them feel like they are not part of the “crowd.”
  • When a person has to choose his/her race, think about how that makes him/her feel. What if they don’t identify with the choices? What if they are more than one race? Making a person choose a race could make them feel “flattened” and generic. This is especially true if they do not identify with the categories you have presented.
  • Security questions are not for everyone. Some people have never had a pet. Some people went to many schools and don’t know how they should answer. Let people create their own security questions that they can identify with.
  • We are used to defining our audience and we think it’s easy to do. We see what is “normal” or “like me” in the media and TV. We forget how diverse the world is.
  • We must own up to our biases and consciously work past them.
  • Stress cases normalizes the unexpected.
  • Talk like a human and add some delight. But delight might not always be appropriate. You can fail to see what could go wrong when you decide to add delight.
  • If you are not asking yourself “How could this design/text hurt or exclude someone?” you are not thinking about it enough.

 

Big Design Conference

I met many great folks and learned a lot oat the Big Design Conference in Dallas.
I met many great folks and learned a lot at the Big Design Conference in Dallas.

I was happy to find out that there is a regional UX design conference here in Dallas. My worry was that I would not be able to  find good local events once I left Los Angels. I stand corrected. I attended the Big Design Conference at it was really worth my time and energy. I met a lot of great folks, expanded my UX network, and learned a lot about the UX community here in Dallas and the surrounding area.

For my next few posts, I am going to share some of my notes of the talks I attended during the conference. I hope that more slide decks and notes will be shared from the classes I could not attend. There were so many great options. I had a tough time choosing which courses to take.

UX Deliverables: sketching ideas

Jennifer Blatz UX Design sketch ideas for enterprise software.
It’s helpful to sketch early ideas in paper.

I cannot emphasize this enough: sketch out your ideas before jumping on to a computer and starting your design. Sketching is good for the body and it’s good for the mind. Not to mention, it’s kinda fun to live like a kid again and practice those rudimentary drawing skills. But you certainly don’t have to be a fantastic illustrator to create a good idea. If you think you can’t draw, don’t let that hold you back. I can’t draw either, as you can clearly see from my photograph at the top of this article.

To be honest, I don’t sketch enough. I have been guilty of jumping straight on to the computer, trying to come up with the best design idea as quickly as possible. But I do see great value in sketching out a few possibilities before exploring ideas on the computer.

Some of the advantages of sketching out your design solutions are:

  • Brain dump. Get the ideas out on paper.
  • Explore several idea possibilities. And build the ideas off each other. Variety and iteration are great skills in UX.
  • Force yourself to not settle for the first things that comes to mind.
  • Writing it out helps so that you are not forgetting a key component.
  • It gives you a prop to facilitate a discussion.
  • Seeing it visually on paper really is drastically different than what is in your head.
  • It helps you to communicate to another person by having the visual to discuss. Having the idea just in your brain could be misinterpreted.
  • You can refer to dismissed ideas later. You might find new inspiration or that one of your alternative ideas might actually be a better one to develop.
  • You can include as much or as little detail as you choose.
  • You can do it without electricity. If your laptop has died or the power is out, you can still be working. Your boss will love that!
  • Sketching makes it easy to dismiss an idea without be too emotionally or technically invested.
  • It helps you focus your idea, from the abstract thought in your head, to the real world scenario on the screen.

So as you can see, sketching has many advantages. I encourage your to sketch your next design solution first, without ever turning on your computer. You would be amaze how many ideas you can create if you devote a bit of time and effort. One of those second or third ideas just might become the winner. Give it a try.

UX Deliverables: wireframes

VCA Wireframe for Travel Sheet

Wireframes are a good step between touch sketches and final design. There are times that sketches on a napkin just aren’t polished or sophisticated enough to communicate the design. And there are times you are just not ready to mock pages up in Photoshop or Sketch because the design still needs some tweaking. That is why wireframes are a great intermediate step between sketch in higher fidelity mockups or diving straight in to code.

There are several benefits or wireframing your designs:

  • They are easy to produce. You can be created quickly once you get the hang of it. You are skilled in the software to produce wireframes, and there are many, then and experience UX designer can usually create them with great ease.
  • Wireframes allow for design exploration and easy iteration. You can change and update designing without being too invested in the design.
  • They allow for focusing on what’s important. Instead of focusing on fonts and colors, the user can function on the layout and placement of items on the page.
  • Gives an idea of the design without being fully invested. This makes adjustments and changes low cost and without be too committed to the code or design.
  • Clients understand the designs are not fully baked. They see that the designs are rough. There’s no color or images. There might even be squiggly lines or other clues that it is in a rough state. But being in this preliminary state the user or stakeholder is more comfortable making suggestions or providing feedback for changes.
  • Wireframes help developers understand relationships. Without requiring the developers to create things in code, a wireframe can help them easily understand the page, the design, and how things relate to each other. In that way, wireframes are a great communication tool.

I understand there are cons for wireframes. And not everyone is onboard with the concept of wireframes. But I wanted to highlight some of the benefits of working wireframes in to your work flow.

UX Deliverables: card sort

Jennifer Blatz UX design is using a card sort to organize the taxonomy of a virtual travel sheet.
Card sorting can be used for more things than just a website’s navigation. This card sort was done with Post-it notes in person with the user.

Cards sorts can make many forms. They can be low tech with index cards or Post-it notes. Or they can be a higher fidelity done on a website or with other card sorting software on the computer.

Jennifer Blatz UX design card sort of taxonomy and information architecture.
An online card sort can be performed with remote users.

 

If you have access to users in person, you can use a physical card sort. With this, you can use index cards or Post-it notes to have the user organize the items written on the card in to more general categories. If you do not have the opportunity to to meet the user in person, it’s ok to use a remote card sorting service or software (second image above) to do a card sort.

The major things that a card sort is used to accomplish is:

  • It is cheap and easy to do. Yes it takes a bit of time to create one card for each topic and make sure that all assets are covered. But once that is done, all you need to do is hand the cards to the user and have them organize them. Take a picture of the results with your phone or a digital camera and save for analysis.
  • It is user centric. It truly is from the viewpoint of the user since the user is the one organizing the cards in the best way they see fit.
  • It can be done in person or remotely. As shown in the images above, card sorting can be performed in a variety of ways.
  • It is a valuable and reputable source for gathering information. Car sorting and taxonomy have been used in a variety of ways for years. And if done correctly, it really works!
  • It can also help create labels and navigation titles. If you leave the card sorting open (without providing categories for the user to organize the cards) you can have the user not only group like items, but give them intuitive titles as well.
  • It provides insight in to the user’s thoughts. If you are able to talk with the user as they organize the cards, you get great insight as to WHY they are organizing the cards in certain ways. This helps you get sone context as the why and how the user is grouping like items.

Don’t be afraid to perform your own cart sorting exercise to help organization for your website or app. Feel free to leave comments and share your experience with your own card sort.

 

Mid-year: revisiting my personal goals

2016 UX design resolutions for Jennifer Blatz

I am revisiting the goals I set for myself in early 2016. I need to see if I have accomplish any or many of what I set out to do and if I need to reassess my goals based on my new career path. My notes are included in purple after the original list item.

Learn programs

  • Axure Re-learned in Spring but need to practice skills to keep them fresh
  • Sketch No I have not learned this other than watching online tutorials. Not pertinent to my current job, but still would be good to learn.

Improve coding skills

  • Learn javascript, at least the basics No I did not do this. Removing from the list for now to focus efforts on learning more about research methods and best practices.
  • Refresh my knowledge about CSS and HTML No I have not refreshed my knowledge on this. Not pertinent to my current job, but still would be good to learn.

Read books

  • “Information Architecture” aka the Polar Bear book Yes! Accomplished
  • “Design of Everyday Things” No, still want to.
  • “Checklist Manifesto” No, still want to.
  • “How to Get People to do Stuff” In the process of reading
  • I am adding these two books to my list, which I am in the process of reading and are more related to my new job: “Observing the User Experience” and “Research Methods.”
  • Also adding “UX Strategy” since I got it as a going-away gift. Thank you Kristin Kazamaki for the very thoughtful gift. 

Keep learning

  • Start another “100 Days of Learning” journal, but expand it for the entire year. I have partially done one. It’s not as developed as last year. I would prefer to review last years, and this year’s and focus on writing notes as I see some important content.
  • Review the “Learning Stuff” journal from last year I still need to do this. 

Write blog posts

  • I am shooting to post 30 blog posts in 2016 Well I have 23 right now so I am in a good place to meet that goal.

Join a side project

  • I would love to join another project. If you know of any short term projects that need a UX designer, please let me know. I am success at this as I was a UX consultant for Wingspan Arts in NYC. It still needs to go through the redesign, but I helped them organize content and surveyed users and stakeholders to build a better redesign plan. 

Build out portfolio

  • Improve the content of my portfolio by introducing new clips Did this and also acquired a Dribble account to also showcase my designs.
  • Present my acquired knowledge illustrating my software proficiency I have an opportunity to teach an online course in the pipeline, and if it works out, this would help me to meet this goal.  Fingers crossed!

Long time no post

Jennifer Blatz UX designer and researcher moves from California to Texas
I am very sorry it has been so long since I have posted anything on my blog. Nearly 2 months! I normally would not have such a large time gap between posts. My apologies, but I have good reasons:

  • I have left my previous position as a UX designer and researcher at the veterinary company
  • I have accepted another position as a UX researcher with a major financial institution
  • I moved from California to Texas
  • I had to juggle changing jobs, selling a house, buying a house and moving across the country all within a few weeks

So as you can see, I have had quite a bit going on. Now that I am a week in to my new job, I hope to get the opportunity to get back on track and start posting at regular intervals again.

See UX samples on Dribbble

Jennifer Blatz's UX design work can now been seen on dribbble.com
Jennifer Blatz’s UX design work can now been seen on dribbble.com.

My portfolio can only hold so many work samples. I like to edit my work down to a small representative sample so that hiring managers and other UX designers can get a quick taste of some of my UX design capabilities. But there’s so much more to my UX design skills than I can showcase on my website. That is why I love alternative websites like dribbble.com and behance.net so I can show some of my latest works in progress and finished projects.

Dribbble is a great platform for inspiration and sharing your latest work. So I was honored to get an invitation to join the exclusive group. Who knows the true value of sites like Dribbble and Behance? But these sites seem to be an important part of a UX designer’s web presence. So I guess I’d better get in the game as well.

Please take a look at my clips and let me know your thoughts. I always love feedback.

UX Deliverables: personas

Personas as a UX deliverable for Jennifer Blatz User Experience Design

 

What is a persona anyways?

Different people, be it a User Experience Designer or someone in the Marketing department of your company may have a persona. So what does a “persona” mean in the UX world? Wikipedia defines a person as: a fictional character created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. In other words, a user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users.

How do you make a persona?

No you don’t just make it up. Pick a fictitious name, throw some random facts on a page and say “This is our personal Sally Student.”  No, no, no. You use actual user research to develop a persona. As mentioned before, a person is created from combined data based on interviews and other research methods. The most important factors in a persona are generally not demographic information like age, political interests, or what type of car a person drives. Though some of these types of factors can be used to give the persona some human characteristics and personality. They key is to use information that is important to portraying the persona. They type of driving habits a person has, would not be important for a persona representing a user of medical software. But that information would be important for an app that tracks a person’s mileage and gas consumption when they drive.

Generally personas consist of:

  • The user’s name
  • Age or level of expertise
  • Title or some occupational reference
  • Goals
  • Behaviors
  • Painpoints
  • And perhaps a quote that summarizes the user’s goal, feeling or general outlook about the product or process

Persona advantages

There are many advantages of using personas. Some of these include:

  • They simply provide a “face” for the user story.
  • Provide an emotional link to the person so you can build empathy with that user.
  • Promotes surfacing a real goal, pain points and motivations rather than just making them up as the discussion evolves.
  • When you need to play out a use case, the persona is a true character to use as reference, along with all of her data and behaviors.
  • Keeps the “facts” of the user more concrete. If it’s recorded on paper, traits of the user are less likely to morph and change.
  • Gives the team a focal point of on person to discuss rather than a theory about a group of users. You can specifically reference how “Sally the Student” would use the product so you make sure you are meeting her goals.
  • To focus the design on a “real” user rather than what we “think” is the best solution.

Now that you have a better understanding of personas, I hope that you will use them on your next project. If you are using personas now, please share your process of how you develop them and how you use them with the team.

UX Deliverables: competitive analysis

Jennifer Blatz UX design researches competitive software for the virtual travel sheet.
Performing a competitive analysis can help you in your own design project.

One of the first steps I take in the discovery process of a new project is to get a better feel for what the competition is doing. Why would we care what the compassion is already doing for the same feature or app? Oh there are so many good reasons.

Why do a competitive analysis?

  • So you know how the major competition in your software, product or digital space is handling a similar feature
  • Understand where your product stands in reference to its competition
  • Idea generation on how to solve various usability issues
  • Get an idea of what you can do to gain a competitive edge or make your product better
  • No need to reinvent the wheel. Understand what already exists you you don’t have to start anew.
  • To know what the trends are in your industry and on the web
  • Identify best practices or patterns. Then you can make improvements on what exists.
  • Seeing what already exists can spark new, and even better ideas.

They key benefit of performing a competitve analysis is to identify strengths and areas for improvement. You have to see what already exists out there before you can do this for your own product.

 

Winery App Prototype

Winery App UX prototype by Jennifer Blatz UX Designer
It’s never too late to revisit a project that you have put on hold for awhile. I am inspired to breathe new life in to my Winery App.

This was an old project that I have put on a virtual shelf for a few months. I think It’s time to revisit it and think about doing some user research to assess if there is a need for an app of this nature.

The Temecula Winery App came to me one time when I was wine tasting in the region. I wanted to know which wineries in the area had some of my favorite wines: merlot, viognier, maybe some zinfandel. Now, as a dog owner, I am interested in what wineries are pet friendly. Specifically, I would like to know which wineries allow dogs inside the tasting room, vs. which ones prefer that they stay outside.

When you are cruising through wine country, is not the time when you want to try to search several (often not updated) winery websites, looking for what wines they have for sale. And most of them (if any do) do not mention if they allow dogs.

So I thought this app might be helpful to people visiting the area. But even if I think it would be a good idea, I need to validate my idea with others. I need to do some user research and to see if others think their is a need for the winery app. This is an important step that too many startups, and founders to not take the time to do. They think their idea is in high demand because it’s their idea. Or they ask their friends and family, who ever so politely indulge them and say, “Yes that is a great idea.”

My goal is the next time I go to Temecula, I am going to talk to some other wine tasters and assess if there is even a need for an app like mine. I am sure after visiting a winery or two, approaching strangers and asking questions about this topic will only become easier. ha!