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.
“Design of Everyday Things”
“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)
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.
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.
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.
I am happy to report surviving another Global Service Jam. So what is global service jam? Is it some sort of cook off? Are you making jam? What does service have to do with it?
The Global Service Jam is a non-profit volunteer activity organized by an informal network of service design afficinados, who all share a common passion for growing the field of service design and customer experience.
The website goes on the say
As a participant in the Global service jam, you will work through a whole design process in one weekend. Whether you are experienced or completely new to the field, you won’t just be talking about service design, you will be working with others on developing concrete ideas and designs which could become real.
You will learn more about a design-based approach to problems, and about sustainability.
You will pick up a load of new ideas and work practices.
You will meet a lot of cool people at all levels of experience.
Your work and ideas will be reviewed by your peers, and presented to the world, where they can be seen by potential customers or employers, or people who could make them real.
You will design something that may become a real business.
You might get rich and famous.
You will certainly have a blast.
And have a blast I did! It is exhilarating, exhausting, energizing and exciting. I get to participate in activities I don’t normally get to at work. I get to collaborate with complete strangers, who become friends through a weekend of intense team work. I get to flex some UX muscle, and keep skills sharp. I get to explore new ideas and learn about new skills like Service Design Blueprint and Business Modal Canvas. I know it might seem crazy to give up an entire weekend for an activity like this. But I think it is fun and I am always up for a challenge.
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
First, I learned that it is very difficult to write one entry on exactly every single day. So yes I did cheat a bit and write more than one entry a day to play catch-up on days that I missed. Don’t kill me.
Second, though many of the principles I was already familiar with, it was good for me to write them down and work harder at committing them to memory and learning.
Third, its rather nice to have all of these little lessons, from lists, the definitions to UX quotes all in one small UX journal.
Finally, now that my experimental deadline has been successfully met, I plan on continuing to full out my UX journal of learning. My notebook is less than half full, so there are plenty of other pages I can fill with valuable UX lessons and content.
When a UI designer is assigned a new feature to build, it is crucial that you understand this process from the user’s point of view. You might think, “Oh I know all the steps the user will go through. I have it all in my head.”
Well I am here to tell you probably don’t have all of the steps the user might go through in your head. This is the advantage of creating a Journey Map. Call it what you will:
Customer journey map
To me all of these terms are very similar. Yes I know I am bastardizing these terms by clumping them all together as one item. I understand there are difference in these terms and when they should be used. However, the point I want to make is just think about how the user will go through the process and make some sort of illustration to show these steps. You don’t have to use some fancy software like InDesign or Omnigraffle. Go completely low fidelity and just sketch it out on pencil and paper.
There are benefits of sketching the user flow on to paper and get it out of your head:
You think you have thought of all of the options. Well you have not.
You will discover unknown unknowns.
You might leave out a step when it’s left in your head. Drawing each step really fleshes out the process.
There will be additional avenues you have not considered that only sketching will bring to the surface.
It forces you to visually consider the options and how many additional steps those option might provide.
It illustrates how complicated a user flow can get. It’s often more detailed than we thought.
As with all sketches, it provides a great communication tool that you can then show to your team to continue the discussion.
So before you start designing any software, or mocking up any of your fancy ideas in Photoshop of Sketch, take a few moments do perform this crucial step of creating a Journey map / User flow / Flow chart / Task flow / Customer journey map / Experience map. It’s a great idea to get any thought floating around in your head on to paper.
I have taken on a new task. I am challenging myself to keep a little notebook of items I learn for 100 days. The toughest thing will be remembering to enter an item every day. I sure hope I don’t miss a day. But if I do, then I will force myself to carry one until I get all 100 days — or until my notebook gets full. Whichever happens first. I encourage you to take the same challenge. Maybe it’s a notebook of doodles, or a notebook of learning a new word every day. Encourage yourself to take a moment every day to learn.
I think it is always good to try out different ideas when working on a project. I know that time does not always allow for exploration of several options. But I often find that by playing with a few different ideas, a good concept emerges that you did not expect.
If you are tied too strongly to one design, this expansion of ideas in to something better might not happen. So I encourage you to take some time to always try out different design ideas and layouts and see where the journey takes you. It is often surprising that the first idea you come up with, and the one that you thought was “perfect,” might not actually be the best. Play around with design a bit. That’s what makes it fun!
Here are some examples of me trying out different ideas of a page on a mobile website. Though they have the same content, the execution of the design varies quite a bit. Which design do you think is the most effective? How would you improve them? I am always happy to receive constructive and helpful feedback.
I found this graphic in a post written by Megan Wilson on her blog, UX Motel. I really thought it was interesting, though someone difficult to read. Do you spin your computer around or spin your head around? Forget about looking at it on mobile. Nevertheless, this is fun to look at isn’t it?
The Nielsen Norman Group has released an article discussing the importance and flaws of using a huge hero image on the home page. I am sharing the important check list that is included in the article. Read the entire article about image usage “Image-Focused Design: Is Bigger Better?” now.
How to Ensure that You Use Images Appropriately
Follow these steps to make sure you have the right balance of elements:
Identify and prioritize all the goals of the page — both the user goals, and the business goals (including brand goals.) Is the page primarily a marketing vehicle to build your brand? Or are most visitors already familiar with your organization (or at least your industry vertical), and now need specific content or functionality?
Define how each design element relates to the page goals. Images are usually decorative, and support branding goals. Navigation and structured search relate to specific user tasks.
Assign visual weight based on goal importance. If a design element supports a high priority goal, it should have more visual emphasis; conversely, design elements related to secondary goals should have less emphasis. (This guideline sounds obvious, but is often completely disregarded, or gets lost along the way to creating a ‘modern’ looking website.)
Select images that have a strong relationship with brand goals. Remember, the purpose of your site is not just to showcase images (unless you’re Flickr). Instead, the images you select should showcase the purpose of your site.
Choose striking visuals that capture attention. Once you’ve identified the goals of your images and their relative importance among other design elements, and you’ve determined what types of images relate to these goals — only then should you focus on selecting the most compelling images you can find.
Be selective about which trends you embrace when ‘updating’ your site. For many redesign projects, creating a site that looks ‘modern’ is an important goal. But there are many ways to accomplish this goal. Typography, layout, and brand colors — just to name a few—can all be effectively used to create a modern look and feel, while still providing appropriate emphasis on critical site functions.
But if you read the story further, entering the UX field is not really about how old you are, but rather how much experience you have. Don’t let your age intimidate you and keep your for pursuing a career in UX. Just get started today!
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.
How about listening to something education while you are at work? Lynda.com has a lot of great video tutorials on a lot of subjects – like UX, web design and business. I saw this slide on one of the courses the other day and thought it was a great reminder to share. When working on a UX project, one will often go through these phases:
This particular slide was found in “Foundations of UX: Content Strategy with Patrick Nichols” and is often referred to as the product development life cycle.
I find that User Experience and User Interface are often used interchangeably. I was not even sure that I understood what the difference was. So I decided to do a bit of research on the internets and compiled a brief list describing each discipline. I know these are long lists. If you have some comments, please share with the group.
UX is the overall experience one has with a product or service, which can include a UI.
User Experience is how they feel when they look at the site, aka the broad scope.
The interaction itself
Addresses all aspects of a thing as perceived by a person
UX architecture intelligently provides for the user’s interactive experience via features and functionality of a software-based product or service.
UX-er is known as the primary user-advocate on a team
UX informs creative
Developers are building what UX is architecting, and creative provides the visual look-and-feel based on UX architecture and brand requirements
UX design is all the methodological steps that lead you to the conclusion on how to design the UI. They are responsible for how they feel when interacting with the interface or product.
Generally start by conducting user research and interviews. The goal with this is to understand exactly what the users’ needs are.
The wireframes are essentially the blueprints of what the UI designer will use to create the interface that the user interacts with.
One who designs the user experience for applications after doing user and workflow analysis, producing user-centered design artifacts such as personas, site maps, taxonomies, and wireframes. A UX Designer may also conduct usability testing on prototypes or finished products to assess the quality of a user experience.
UI is typically a combination of visual design (the look and feel) and the interaction design (how it works).
User Interface design is the part of the product that faces the user when he looks at the site.
A point of interaction
A means of communicating between a person and a system
UI (aka ‘GUI’) visual design is the graphical user interface of a software product/service
The GUI is the visual layer informed by the UX architecture, but based on branding/style guide and visual design principles.
The design of a GUI should be heavily informed and guided by the problems that were solved during UX process.
GUI deliverables include mood boards, sketches, mockups, visual toolkits, final art assets and even CSS specs.
Interaction Design is the grey area between UX and GUI design.
Interaction, in our vernacular today, refers to the motion between states of controls and states of an interface.
Innately understand and prioritize what is best for the user and also understand the mechanics of physics and motion design; they also understand the capabilities of current dev tools such as CSS3 and HTML5
User Interface (UI) Design generally refers to the user facing side of any type of physical interface
A UI designer is responsible for everything that a user will see on the interface.
UI designer’s responsibility to understand what the users’ needs are. They must be able to arrange the interface in a simple way that allows for the best user experience.
One who builds user interfaces that support the exchange of information between an application’s users and its back-end processes and databases.
UI Developer’s output is functional, testable, shippable code that lets users accomplish their goals when using an application. The UI Developer is also responsible for documentation that allows others to maintain their code.
A UI designer may have the ability to create interactive designs, icons, colors, text, and affect a number of other elements that solve problems dealing with direct interactions to the user. Those elements are fantastic tools to affect user experience but they are only part of the equation.
The very minimum:
Learn HTML & CSS. Learn Photoshop. Learn basic typography. Learn basic color theory. Learn about layout. Get a feeling for producing UX deliverables. Learn about usability evaluation methods. Learn the best practices for web design. Understand the difference between designing web sites, web applications, mobile applications, desktop applications and experiences.
As part of my GluteninBeer app development, I wanted to create a story board. Please don’t judge me on my drawing ability! As I child, I was a pretty good illustrator. Now, as you can see, I am complete crap. Oh well….
But illustrating some ideas, in other words, getting them out on paper, is always a good idea. So I thought creating a story board would be a good step in the UX process.
I drew this by hand, first in pencil, then reinforced it in sharpie. The I scanned it in to Photoshop to clean it up a bit. I also added the color highlights in Photoshop. This will be part of a portfolio piece for the GluteninBeer app development
Since you made it to this blog, it’s very likely that you came here through my home page at www.jenniferblatzdesign.com. But just in case you did not, and came in some special “back door” way, I wanted to emphasize that my portfolio site has a new design.
I opened with my UX portfolio. As you can see, I am accumulating a lot of UX assets and deliverables. One can also view some examples of my visual design work.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my newly-designed site. I would LOVE your feedback if you have any suggestions for improvement.
For CoCo’s redesign, I examined a number of website that CoCo said was similar to theirs, as far as the organization, not necessarily the design. It’s very helpful to see what other organizations that are similar to yours are doing on their website. What CoCo particularly liked about Homeboy Industries‘ website was the prominent “Donate” button that was on every page and was sticky at the top of the screen as the user scrolled down through the content.
It’s competitive analysis time! As part of any redesign, not only is it important to understand what your website is doing. It’s also helpful to see what other organizations that are similar to yours are doing on their website. For CoCo’s redesign, I examined a number of website that CoCo said was similar to theirs, as far as the organization, not necessarily the design. Here’s what Empower LA have going on at their website.
I wanted to create more than one persona since there are a few groups that use the CoCo website. So a part of my Community Coalition of South LA Taproot project, or better knows as CoCo I am working on some deliverables to accompany the project. Based another one of the stakeholder interviews I performed this week, plus additional resources that were provided by the organization, I came up with this fitting Persona.
As part of my Community Coalition of South LA Taproot project, or better knows as CoCo I am working on some deliverables to accompany the project. Based on one of the stakeholder interviews I performed this week, and other resources provided by the organization, I came up with this fabulous Shelia Persona.
The wonderful Strategic Projects team of UXPALA (User Experience Professionals Association of Los Angeles) spent a good part of Sunday afternoon working on the “not quite ready for primetime” uxpala.org website. Though it is still in it’s very early stages, the team came together to get a lot of work accomplished. We have to pull information form the already existing meetup website, plus create new content that must also be included on our formal website. All if this while working with the Information Architecture and structure of the site. Though there is yet a lot of work to be done, we made some great headway.
Though these wireframes are not perfect, and I know that I still need to read the iOs developer handbook to improve upon the standards. I need to make my wireframes a bit more compliant to these standards. However, it is good to explore some visual options and get started by getting some ideas on paper.
As part of my class project, I also had to create a wireframe for a desktop version. Though my concept really focuses on just the mobile app, I was tasked with creating a computer version that would promote the app. Below is the wireframe for this desktop website that would be promotion the app and leading viewers on where they could download the app.
I came across this nice and simple slide presentation called, “The 10 User Experience Principles à la WordPress.” It visually illustrates Jakob Nielsen’s Heurstic Evaulation Principles. The best part of her slideshow is it gives concrete examples to illustrate each principle.
This is a portion of my first assignment for the Cal State Fullerton User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces class. The charts here correspond to my chosen class project: A Hollywood Walking Tour App. I can’t seem to find a good and FREE walking tour app. So I thought about creating one myself.
The charts here discuss what the goals of the business are and what the customer goals would be. Though these charts are not perfect, their are a good first draft for the project.
I recently took it upon myself to compare three online movie ticket purchasing websites: Fandango*, movietickets.com and Arclight Cinemas. By comparing the features, design, content and user flow of similar websites, one can gain invaluable knowledge about their own sites.
When you compare your website to what a competitive website is doing, you will learn:
What your website or experience is doing right
What your website or experience is doing wrong
What your competitors are doing right
What your competitors are doing wrong
This is a great jumping off point in improving your own website or experience.
This graphic only shows some some of the insights I discovered when comparing websites. My brief overview is below:
* At the time of publishing this post, Fandango had not yet released its redesigned website and mobile app. Therefore many of the specific features I discuss here will no longer be applicable. However, going this process was still a great learning tool.
I know that Fandango will be launching a redesign very soon, so the shelf life of my analysis is ver limited. Still, I would like to share with you a few things I learned when analyzing Fandango.com website on the desktop:
If something looks like a button, then it should be a button. The “Find Movie Times + Buy Tickets” looks like a button, but is not. Best not to confuse the user.
Movie posters can be too small and sometimes difficult to read the title. Maybe use a simpler image to illustrate film? And therefore help me read the title of the film.
I participated in the workshop “Physical, Digital, Human: Designing Experiences for Mobile and the Internet of Things” taught by Steven Hoober. It was a mixture of instruction about technology and how it is creeping in to other devices in our lives. With technologies like Nest and Smart Watches, we are accessing the internet and using technology in more and more ways. In between lectures, we broke in to smaller groups and brainstormed a concept or two about our project: integrating all house-hold devices that control some aspect in our house, like turning off the lights or adjusting the temperature. We wanted to create a central location for all of these apps to make the experience more delightful.
On Wednesday, April 2, 2014 I attended the UXPALA event “Demystifying the UX Team: Who are the players?” which was the first event held by our organization this calendar year.
Did I mention that I am a Chair of Strategic Projects for UXPALA? Yes I certainly am! That means I assist with the organizations newly established website and email newsletter. I’ll post more about our organization soon.
So of now, here’s a summary of last night’s event:
Demystifying the UX Team: Who are the players?
Almost every company, be it a UX/UI firm or any industry that has a UX team – all seem to have different team structures and working methods.
UX/UI/Usability is a relatively new field, so we’re getting 5 UX Directors and Managers together from various companies to form a panel and answer UXPALA’s questions and yours.
Though I was completely exhausted from WIAD the day before, I was energized by the opportunity to meet new people and gain new skills. We casually formed teams based on a variety of strengths and job titles. My team contained a front-end developer, a graphic artist, a web designer and seasoned marketing guru. and they were all great.
UX Hackathon took place at General Assembly in Santa Monica and was an entire day filled with UX. My team was called “Interrobang.” What is that? I did not really know either. Here’s more information on Interrobang.
The day after WIAD (World Information Architecture Day) I participated in another day-long User Experience event. This time, I was not a passive observer who had organized the event. I was a hands-on, jump-all-in User Experience designer.
We were assigned the timely topic of Healthcare, so we chose to redesign the Covered California website. We did not feel that there was a clear call to action, so we wanted to simplify the interaction of the website a bit.
We were very tight on time, so we banged through a lot of brainstorming sessions, mind mapping and creative flow to narrow down the scope of the project. Just before the deadline, the team created a few valuable assets for our 3-minute presentation. Some are shown below:
UX Hackathon was an exciting experience and I learned a lot about working in teams, working under very tight deadlines, lean UX and creating deliverables in less than a day.
About a month ago, I had the privilege to not only participate, but also help organize a global conference on a local level. It was an invaluable learning experience for me. I made new contacts, gained new skills and helped produce an event that would best be described as a success.
Weekly meetings keep the group on track.
Always communicate with the group so everyone is on the same page.
If you think you are planning early enough, you probably are not. Work ahead of schedule.
Holidays and time off make keeping things moving difficult.
Anticipate problem and plan for them in advance.
Secure the venue ASAP because so many other factors are determined by booking the venue.
Jennifer Blatz explores the world of UX through words and imagery