Category Archives: UX

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Wingspan Art project completion

Wingspan Arts Website Audit Report

As my project with Wingspan Arts comes to a close, I am pleased to  share the results of my Website Audit.

What did I do? I volunteered to perform a Website Audit through Catchafire. For those who don’t know, Catchafire is a website that allows professionals to give back to the community. The professional who volunteers will use his/her skills, be that UX Design, Web development, Graphic design, Marketing and other creative fields. They are providing their exercise to an organization that needs help, and saves that organization sums of money.

What is in a website Audit? A Website Audit report that includes:

  • Outline of Organization’s goals for the website
  • Feedback on current website’s layout, user functionality, visual design, content and other features
  • Recommendations for improvements to help achieve Organization’s desired goals

After I completed the project, I got a wonderful and very lovely review from Rachel, who was my parter in this projects and the representative for Wingspan Arts.

Jennifer Blatz UX website audit for Wingspan Arts after completing the Catchafire project.
My professional review from Wingspan Arts after completing the Catchafire project.

You can read my entire Wingspan Arts Professional Review on the Catchafire website.

Components of the report (download entire report Wingspan Arts Website Audit Summary)

  • Mission statement alternatives (shortening suggestions)
  • Google analytics
  • Surveys (interviews) with stakeholders and users (parents)
  • Userflow
  • User goals
  • Competitive benchmarking
  • Content audit and text review
  • Design analysis and consistency
  • Social media presence and activity
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the site
  • Information architecture and proposal of new taxonomy (navigation)
  • Footer proposal
  • Recommendations for improvements
  • Wireframes (to share with the developer)

What I gained from the project

  • Pride in helping a community center in need
  • Exercising professional “muscles” that I don’t get to “flex” on a regular basis at my current job
  • Learned more about my UX process
  • Working remotely and coordinating meeting and data
  • Synthesizing survey results
  • Content analysis of the current websites (yes they have 2!)
  • Creating a full report summarizing all findings and recommendations
  • Feelings of accomplishment that I hoped someone else out, and used my professional skills to do so.

I encourage you to check out Catchafire as well and volunteer your time. They have opportunities that can take as little as an hour, or as much as a few weeks.

 

 

 

Usability review: talk to your users ASAP

As professional in the User Experience field, we’ve all heard it time and time again:

  • Test early and test often.
  • The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.
  • We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.
  • The sooner you start to code, the longer the program will take.
  • Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect
  • Don’t guess. Test.
Jennifer Blatz UX Design usability review and testing
If your product has a visual representation, and has not been built, go ahead and get user feedback from the visual mocks.

To get early feedback is easier said than done. I know that it takes time to create the visual mocks. Then things are moving so quickly (2 week sprints!) and it feels like we don’t have time to run our ideas by users. Finally, we feel like we know what it best for the product. We have done some user research. Our ideas have evolved as the project has progressed. We have made some decisions, that we think are for the better.

The earlier you test your site designs, the sooner you can find any problems and fix them.

But it’s this type of thought process that you need to take pause and stop in your tracks. Just when you think you are doing the right thing, that is the moment that your assumptions and biases are likely to creep in. So, this is a great point to take a break and get user feedback before you proceed down the rabbit hole any further.

To start with, we sent the wireframes to the visual designer to mock up our concept with more visual reality. We made sure that the flow we wanted to show the users was visually represented enough through our mocks.

Once the mocks were in a state we felt we could share with the user, we needed to figure out what type of information we wanted to gain from our usability review. Next, I came up with a brief list of topics and content we wanted to focus on.

Jennifer Blatz UX Design usability review
Have a script close at hand whenever you are conducting an interview so that you don’t forget key questions and concerns.

I wanted to first focus on the overall presentation and design, as well as have them look at the navigation and taxonomy that we were presenting. Then after getting their feedback on the overall design, I wanted to take them through a specific work flow, and see if it made sense to the user.

I think that a common error in usability testing is giving the person too much information as soon as they see your prototype. Don’t jump the gun!! Take this opportunity to get initial reaction feedback. Let the person participating in the usability review take a moment to take in the design, layout and wording. Let them get acquainted with the page and get that “first few seconds” feedback. Please don’t miss the opportunity.

Jennifer Blatz UX design usability test
Even if you only have wireframes, and not accurate visual mocks, share whatever design you have with your users to gather that valuable feedback on what you have started.

Then after taking a few minutes to talk to the user about the overall design, you can then take a deeper dive in to a work flow. I found that in this instance, the first half of the conversation focused on the website’s design, terminology and assessing if the user understood how to get started on some general tasks. In other words, I wanted to see if the navigation choices made sense. Also, I wanted to see if they had any cognitive dissonance with any of the terms we had used. Next, we asked the users how they would perform a specific task. In this case, it was how they would start to place an order. Along their usability journey, they brought up a lot of good questions and educated us on how they do this process now. It was all very insightful, and helpful to find out what we had done right, and what we needed to improve. That, my dear friends, is the whole goal of performing this usability review.

Want to watch the entire usability review live in the flesh? Please feel free to watch the video. If you have specific feedback on my approach or any aspect of my session, please share your thoughts in the comments. Just like designing a website or software, my research methods are always in a state of improvement and iteration. Please help me make my product, in this case ME, even better.

 

WIAD 2016

WIAD World Information Architecture Day Los Angeles 2016 attended by Jennifer Blatz, UX designerToday, I attended my third WIAD or World Information Architecture Day, established by IAI Information Architect Institute.  A couple of years ago, I acted as Project Manager for Los Angeles’ WIAD. So ai map to see that the torch has been carried and this event is back in the Los Angeles community. It’s a great opportunity to hear some of the industry’s well regarded IA experts, to meet other great people in the field, and hopefully to get fired up and inspired. What is WIAD? According to the website:

World Information Architecture Day 2016 is a one-day annual celebration of this phenomenon. Hosted in dozens of locations across the world by local organizers on February 20th, we focus on telling stories of information being architected by everyone from teachers to business owners; technologists to artists; designers to product managers.

With representation from all over the world, we believe that the power of similarity and the beauty of difference between stories will inspire those who work in information architecture, as well as those who may be new to it. We aim to teach, share, and have fun — all through the lens of Information Architecture (IA).

I would like to share some of my notes and highlights from today’s fabulous event.

  • If you’ve ever wondered where you are on a website, than that is an issue of IA.
  • An aspect of “play studio” is to pick a behavior and design for it.
  • Shift from a designer to a facilitator.
  • Research is becoming more collaborative.
  • Design work is not precious. So it’s good to work on low fidelity objects to keep that true.
  • Design work is not about ornamentation, it is about implmentation.
  • Think about creative solutions rather than what requirements are supposed to be delivered.
  • Designers need to be more collaborative and not worry about people (who are not designers) stepping on their toes and entering their “craft.”
  • Put the work out early to get user feedback, knowing it is an iterative process.
  • Try creating ad hoc personas when you don’ have time to create full-fledged personas.
  • Know your audience. This is so often forgotten. Keep in mind what your user’s current needs and behaviors are. Don’t lose site of who you are designing for.
  • Know when it is appropriate to work with an established design pattern and not reinvent the wheel.
  • Take the information you have gathered in research and shake things up when you need something different.

    WIAD World Information Architecture Day Los Angeles 2016 attended by Jennifer Blatz, UX designerWIAD World Information Architecture Day Los Angeles 2016 attended by Jennifer Blatz, UX designerWIAD World Information Architecture Day Los Angeles 2016 attended by Jennifer Blatz, UX designer
    WIAD World Information Architecture Day Los Angeles 2016.
  • Some corporations appreciate hiring people who will rock the boat and provide a diverse outlook to the company. Get hired to make a change in the corporate structure as well as the product that you will build.
  • Some companies will avoid innovation because of risk. This leads to fast following.
  • Tell the story | Develop the culture | Be the voice of the customer.
  • Innovation requires atriculation.
  • When you work on a design solution, what will people think, feel, do and become?
  • UX designers have great skills like: inter-discipline, like people, empathy and listen to others.
  • Think like a founder, not a designer.
  • Designers inherit problems, founders define them.
  • Design THE business, not for it.
  • Do you expect the world to anticipate your needs? Because you should.
  • The problem you have been given is not the right problem. Discover the right problem.
  • Every designer should have some skill in leadership.
  • What motivates a designer is a frustration with the world and a desire to improve it.
  • As a designer, you see something better.
  • Consider delivery mechanisms that extend your core experience.
  • Leverage what people love, address what they don’t.

WIAD 2016 attended by Jennifer Blatz, UX designer.

Complexity is not the problem
Ambiguity is
Simplicity does not solve ambiguity
Clarity does

Personal milestone: 500 twitter followers

Jennifer Blatz UX Design has 500 followers on twitter

I am very excited to announce that I have reached a great milestone. I have accumulated 500+ followers on Twitter. I know that there are millions of other people that have a much, much larger number of supporters. I won’t attempt to compare myself to their accomplishments. But for little ol’ me, I am very please with having such a big number of followers.

I don’t tweet about what I am having for breakfast.

I don’t tweet about my political views of my favorite TV show.

I do tweet about UX design and digital trends. Considering that my niche is so very specific, I am very proud to have as many followers as I do. If you are interested in following me on Twitter too, please check out my Twitter account and start learning more about the UX world. Thank so much to all my followers. And thank you to those who I follow who provide such great content that I can “tweet forward.” It’s a great platform to learn from, and contribute to. Make Twitter work for you.

Design Space Vs. Solution Space

Jennifer Blatz UX Design user requests solutions to design problems
Users often request a “button” or other feature to solve what they think is the problem.

As UX designers, we have all heard our users or customers offer solutions to a problem.

  • “Can I have a back button at the top left?”
  • “Will you put these 4 item in the pull down too? I use them all of the time.”
  • “I’d love it if I could have a widget to help me build my plan in to a nice organized package.
  • “Can you put a button on the main page for me to easily access all of the uploaded files so I don’t have to click on the menu to go there?

Yes these might sound like good solutions on the surface. But it is more important to really find out what the user is having a problem with. That’s when you try to stay in the “Problem Space.”

The Problem Space is the portion of discovery where the UX designer really tries to understand the user’s problems. It’s good to hear the user out in this phase, even if he is proposing solutions to his problems. A good way to dig deeper, and to gain a better  understanding of the problem is to keep asking the user “Why?” This is know as the “5 Whys” technique and is often used by UX designers to discover more information. When a user gives you an answer, ask him “Why.” And ask “Why” again. And again. This way, he will divulge more information than he might be providing to you. Get deeper in to the problem. Try to get a better understanding of what he is struggling with, what his pain points are. Maybe, when more information is revealed, you as the UX designer will come up with a better solution that the user is proposing. That is the goal anyways. Maybe you will also discover that this user’s problem persists in other areas of your site or application. And a more universal solution would not only solve this user’s problem, but many other problems too.

Albert Einstein put it perfectly when he said:

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

It pays off to devote more time to analyzing the problem than quickly jumping to a solution. If you jump too quickly to a solution, without really understanding the problem, you might not actually be providing the best fix for the problem.

I understand that it is easy to quickly jump to the Solution Phase. Especially if a solution, which seems like a good idea, has been proposed. But by refraining from taking the leap, which requires patience and discipline, it gives you an opportunity to really define the problem. And this is crucial to success.

Remember that residing in the Problem Phase should not express any solutions. Just focus on a complete understanding of the problem before proposing any solutions. Also, clearly defining the problem, can help eliminate ambiguous terms that might be used and to get the entire team on board with the project.

UX deliverables and skills

Jennifer Blatz design UX and UI design clips and work samples

As part of my 2016 professional development, I’ve decided I am going to use my blog to showcase more of my UX skills. A tough decision any designer must make is to only show a select examples of my best UX work. I try to show my diversity of skills, as well as my breadth of design. So since I cannot show all of my clips in my portfolio, I am going to use my blog as my second clips stage.

Feel free to search the word “Showcase” for future examples of my UX work. But until then, examples of my work can still be viewed on my website www.jenniferblatzdesign.com.

Happy 2016 — Goal setting for the new year

2016 UX design resolutions for Jennifer Blatz

We are comfortably in the new year, 2016, and I am glad you have made the journey so far. I guess that people make goals for the new year huh? Here’s my to-do list:

Learn programs

  • Axure
  • Sketch

Improve coding skills

  • Learn javascript, at least the basics
  • Refresh my knowledge about CSS and HTML

Read books

  • “Information Architecture” aka the Polar Bear book
  • “Design of Everyday Things”
  • “Checklist Manifesto”
  • “How to Get People to do Stuff”

Keep learning

  • Start another “100 Days of Learning” journal, but expand it for the entire year
  • Review the “Learning Stuff” journal from last year

Write blog posts

  • I am shooting to post 30 blog posts in 2016

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.

Build out portfolio

  • Improve the content of my portfolio by introducing new clips
  • Present my acquired knowledge illustrating my software proficiency

Ok just 29 more blog posts for 2016. Thanks for reading.

Perfecting the elevator pitch

We’ve all been told to prepare one: the dreaded elevator pitch. Well what is it? According to Wikipedia, an Elevator Pitch is

An elevator pitchelevator speech or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value proposition.

The name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will either continue after the elevator ride, or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting.

While in the process of tweaking my resume, I thought that my summary sentence needed a bit of work. I wanted my summary to be more UX focus, rather than highlighting my design history. Do you have any thoughts?

Old Summary

Building on a strong foundation in journalism, design and graphics, my skills in visual communication encompasses all disciplines including User Experience UX Design, Interaction Design and Art Direction.

New Summary

A User Experience Designer utilizing design thinking, analysis and research to create software, products and digital experiences that are aesthetically pleasing and easier to use.

Granted, this is a bit verbose if I was summarizing what I do in a quick 30 seconds. But I wanted to present something that packed a powerful, descriptive punch. It certainly is shorter than my original summary. And it focuses more on UX design, which I was advised that my resume needed to portray more. I think that the new Pitch accomplishes that task. But if you have any feedback on how it could be improved, please don’t hesitate to comment and share your thoughts.

 

Wrapping up 2015 with 100 Days+ of learning

100 days of learning UX design notebook Jennifer Blatz

As you know from my previous post, “100 Days of Learning Stuff,” I set up a challenge for myself to learn something new every day for 100 consistent days. My goal was a success, and I continued the learning experience through the rest of the year.

Looking back at my book today, I am pleased with myself for taking a bit of time to take note and learn a few things along this year’s journey. Some of the topics included in my UX journal include:

  • Several “Golden Rules” lists for UX
  • Numerous definitions of key terms and concepts
  • Great UX quotes
  • Laws like Hick’s Law and Fitt’s Law
  • Principles and steps
  • Abbreviations and methods

And a lot more. I am going to set a goal to create a new UX notebook for 2016. I encourage you to develop a journaling method for yourself and keep on learning in the New Year.

I hope 2015 was great for you. And best of luck in 2016.

Prototyping tips: What you should know after a session

User Testing recently published a handy guide on prototyping called “Getting out of the office: Testing mobile app prototypes with user”.

Here are a few pointers of what you should know after prototyping your project.

When you’re finished testing at this stage, you should be able to answer these questions to validate your concept before moving forward to a higher fidelity prototype:

  1. What problem does your idea solve?
  2. How are users solving this problem currently?
  3. Can your target market think of another product that does something similar?
  4. How have previous solutions failed?
  5. Do users understand what this product or service does?
  6. How do users feel about the product or service?
  7. Who is your competition?
  8. What is the app for? What can users do with it?
  9. Does your target market actually have a need for this product?
  10. What devices do users imagine themselves using when they interact with this product?
  11. What scenarios can they picture themselves using it in?

Continuing education

Interaction Design Course participants
Interaction Design Course participants

As professionals, we always need to be learning. The times have passed that we can just coast through our careers.

I recently attended an Interaction Course presented by CooperU in Los Angeles. They are often offering classes only at their facility in San Francisco. So I was excited to attend this workshop and to learn to new skills.

What did I like the most?
  • Getting some time off of work
  • Engaging in new activities
  • Jump starting the brain and creative processes
  • Meeting new people

What did I dislike the most?

  • It only lasting 3 days. I could have learned more.
  • Some exercises seemed too “on the surface” and I would have liked to have the chance to dig deeper or try the exercise again on a different topic for more practice.
  • It seemed very “Cooper” focused and I am not sure there would be time to apply some of these tactics in the real-world agile environment.

What surprised me the most?

  • How quickly the time would fly by in the breakout session.
  • People were other disciplines besides UX design.
  • Lunch was not provided as part of the admission fee. (It would have been a good opportunity to have break out sessions on other topics.
  • How exhausted mentally I was by the end of the third day. I guess I was really giving my brain a workout.

User Interface Elements

  • Dropdown list vs. listbox
  • Buttons vs. radio buttons

Sometimes you just forget what each UI term really is called. And it’s good to have the terminology correct, especially when you are talking with stakeholders.

Usability.gov is a great resource when you want to quickly remember the names of those pesky UI elements.

User Interface Elements

When designing your interface, try to be consistent and predictable in your choice of interface elements. Whether they are aware of it or not, users have become familiar with elements acting in a certain way, so choosing to adopt those elements when appropriate will help with task completion, efficiency, and satisfaction.

Interface elements include but are not limited to:

  • Input Controls: checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, list boxes, buttons, toggles, text fields, date field
  • Navigational Components: breadcrumb, slider, search field, pagination, slider, tags, icons
  • Informational Components: tooltips, icons, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows
  • Containers: accordion

Input Controls

Description Examples
Checkboxes

Checkboxes allow the user to select one or more options from a set.  It is usually best to present checkboxes in a vertical list. More than one column is acceptable as well if the list is long enough that it might require scrolling or if comparison of terms might be necessary.

Example of checkboxes
Radio buttons

Radio buttons are used to allow users to select one item at a time.

Example of radio buttons
Dropdown lists

Dropdown lists allow users to select one item at a time, similarly to radio buttons, but are more compact allowing you to save space. Consider adding text to the field, such as ‘Select one’ to help the user recognize the necessary action.

Example of a dropdown
List boxes

List boxes, like checkboxes, allow users to select a multiple items at a time,but are more compact and can support a longer list of options if needed.

Example of a list box
Buttons

A button indicates an action upon touch and is typically labeled using text, an icon, or both.

Example of buttons
Dropdown Button

The dropdown button consists of a button that when clicked displays a drop-down list of mutually exclusive items.

Example of dropdown button
Toggles

A toggle button allows the user to change a setting between two states. They are most effective when the on/off states are visually distinct.

Example of toggles
Text fields

Text fields allow users to enter text.  It can allow either a single line or multiple lines of text.

Example of text field
Date and time pickers

A date picker allows users to select a date and/or time.  By using the picker, the information is consistently formatted and input into the system.

Examples of date and time pickers

Navigational Components

Description Examples
Search Field

A search box allows users to enter a keyword or phrase (query) and submit it to search the index with the intention of getting back the most relevant results. Typically search fields are single-line text boxes and are often accompanied by a search button.

Example of search boxes with various functions
Breadcrumb

Breadcrumbs allow users to identify their current location within the system by providing a clickable trail of proceeding pages to navigate by.

Example of breadcrumb
Pagination

Pagination divides content up between pages, and allows users to skip between pages or go in order through the content.

Examples of pagination
Tags

Tags allow users to find content in the same category.  Some tagging systems also allow users to apply their own tags to content by entering them into the system.

Example of tags
Sliders

A slider, also known as a track bar, allows users to set or adjust a value.  When the user changes the value, it does not change the format of the interface or other info on the screen.

Example of sliders
Icons

An icon is a simplified image serving as an intuitive symbol that is used to help users to navigate the system.  Typically, icons are hyperlinked.

Examples of icons
Image Carousel

Image carousels allow users to browse through a set of items and make a selection of one if they so choose. Typically, the images are hyperlinked.

Example of an image carousel

Information Components

Description Examples
Notifications

A notification is an update message that announces something new for the user to see. Notifications are typically used to indicate items such as, the successful completion of a task, or an error or warning message.

Example of a notification
Progress Bars

A progress bar indicates where a user is as they advance through a series of steps in a process. Typically, progress bars are not clickable.

Examples of progress bars
Tool Tips

A tooltip allows a user to see hints when they hover over an item indicating the name or purpose of the item.

Examples of tool tips
Message Boxes

A message box is a small window that provides information to users and requires them to take an action before they can move forward.

Example of message boxes
Modal Window (pop-up)

A modal window requires users to interact with it in some way before they can return to the system.

Example of a modal window

Containers

 

Description Examples
Accordion

An accordion is a vertically stacked list of items that utilizes show/ hide functionality.  When a label is clicked, it expands the section showing the content within. There can have one or more items showing at a time and may have default states that reveal one or more sections without the user clicking

Example of an accordion