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.
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.
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!
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.
Today, 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.
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.
Complexity is not the problem
Simplicity does not solve ambiguity
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.
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.
I found a great definitive list of design, tech, web and UX podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts on my drive to and from work, so this is going to be a great resource for people like me who like to catch up on their podcasts on their commute. Yes some are in German, but pick the English ones if that’s your cup of tea.