What I learned during the “Sketching for UX” challenge

Jennifer Blatz Sketching for UX Designer
My final sketch in the #SketchingForUX challenge is complete.

I have successfully reached the finish line for the #SketchingForUX 100 day challenge. Overall, the challenge was fun to do. I learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

It’s tough to find time every day
Sketching for UX Jennifer Blatz UX Designer
Finding the time every day to sketch a concept was challenging.

It should take only a few seconds every day to sketch out 3 concepts. But when I added the step of looking up the concept to practice an alternative idea, that added a bit of time to the process. That bumped things from drawing 3 sketches a day to 6. Plus, I am not always willing to hop on to my home computer at the end of the day. There were several instances where I had to clump as many as 3 or 4 days in to one sketching session because I simply got behind. Even with working on multiple days at once, this task was still easy to accomplish and well worth the time and effort.

It was good to do 2 sketches for every topic

Jennifer Blatz UX design sketching for UX
My first attempt to draw the Illustration icon and then after I looked up the item on Google images for inspiration. The top one kind of looks like a lobster claw. ha ha

Many of the concepts were tough to come up with the initial idea. So I wanted to come up with 2 concepts to diversify my thinking. That is why I would first sketch out the concept that came in to my head. Then I would look on Google images for inspiration for the second image. This helped me in a number of ways:

  • Corrected my visual inaccuracy from the first sketch
  • Brought another concept to my mind set
  • Actually, it brought several alternatives to the table
  • Allowed me to “cheat” only after sketching my initial concept first
  • Showed me how to see a complex versus a simple concept could be illustrated

Many were tough to illustrate

Many of the topics to illustrate were not object or tangible items that were easy to draw. Yes some were interface items like buttons, wireframes and upload. Others were more abstract concepts like synergy, manipulation, heuristic evaluation and value proposition. Even ideas like touch and things involving a hand were particularly difficult for me to draw. More about that in the next segment.

I can’t draw hands

Sketching for UX Jennifer Blatz UX Designer
I suck at drawing hands.

Man, I feel like all of the hands that I drew looked really lame. Even if I was trying to draw a simple had with maybe one finger extended. You know, like when you are trying to show a finger touching an object? Well I think that mine looked completely ridiculous. So I am going to extend the exercise to practice drawing hands, which I have particular difficulty with. The good part of this challenge is that it surfaced areas where I need to improve.

My drawing skills did not improve, but my thinking skills did

I was hoping to compare one of the first sketches I did to one toward the end of the 100 days and say, “Look how much my drawing got better toward the end.” That was not the case, and I am ok with that. We all know that practice makes perfect. The good thing about this challenge is it showed me areas where I need to improve upon. Now I know what I need to practice to try to improve my drawing skills. But participating in this exercise did force me to pause for a moment and rally think about the topic. It made me construct how I think that looks in my head, and then translate that to paper. Often times, what was in my head did NOT come out on paper the way I expected it to. ha ha

I want to do it again

Granted, I am not ready to sign up to do this challenge again just yet. But I did like how it pushed me to be on a fixed regiment and forced me to get something done every day. It was not too time consuming and it did challenge me. I will probably take a few months up and sign up for the challenge again.

I want to practice the objects I am not good at

Jennifer Blatz UX design setting for UXLike I mentioned before, my ability to draw hands just sucks. That is not the only thing I am bad at. But I am ok with these flaws. I can now review the sketched I did and determine which ones I want to refine and make better. My ability to draw heads, hands, brain concepts and pretty much any human body part needs improvement. Also, gears are particularly challenging for me as well. But at least now I have a short list of itms I know I can work on and try to make better.

Exercises like this give me a sense of accomplishment

I am the type of person who loves to check things off a list. Getting things done and completed brings me great joy. So naturally completing 100 days of sketching makes me a very happy gal. I am pleased with myself that I stuck with it and gave it a chance. I am also happy that I could share my sketches, no matter how unrefined, on the internet and share my experiences. I got a few likes on Twitter for my sketches, and that was a little confidence boost. I hope that I even inspired someone else to take up the challenge.

Your turn

Now, here is my plug. I would encourage you to visit Kristina Szerovay’s website Sketching for UX and sign up for her daily newsletter. In addition to a daily nugget to test and inspire strengthening your sketching skills, she also occasionally sends out larger concepts that she has been working on. Even if you are not ready to sign up for the challenge. Check out her site for inspirational Sketches for UX.

How to… A new series of helpful hints by Jennifer Blatz

How to logo for serious of career and UX topics by Jennifer Blatz, UX designer and researcher.There seems to be an article about every topic these days. In fact, I find that a lot of articles on Medium are kind of full of fluff, and when I read through to the end, I’ve discovered that I really didn’t learn much from the article. I want quick lists, with explanations if I have time.

 I’ve decided to start a short- to medium-form series of how to lists of doing things. I plan on covering topics related to UX, careers, working with others and any other topic that I hope others might find interesting.

I say it is short- to medium- form, but let’s see how the project evolves. Thank you for taking the time to read my articles. Hopefully you might learn a little nugget of information from my serious. Please feel free to leave comments on any “How to…” article. Or contact me on Twitter to start a conversation. Thank you.

Work Breakdown Structures in UX

Jennifer Blatz Design Work Breakdown Structures in UX
A Work Breakdown Structures looks similar to a way to illustrate a site map for a website or product.

Have you ever heard of a “Work Breakdown Structure”? Me neither. I was recently reading an article and the subject came up. So, like any curious UX Designer, my curiosity was naturally piqued by a new topic.

A Work Breakdown Structure does not have to have a fancy visual format. It can also be structured in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

Jennifer Blatz Design Work Breakdown Structures in UX

So what is a Work Breakdown Structure anyways? According to Wikipedia, a Work Breakdown Structure is often used in project management and systems engineering. It is a deliverable-oriented breakdown of a project into smaller components.

OK that makes sense. So how could this technique be used in UX? I can see it being used in a variety of ways.

First, how about in information architecture?

A Work Breakdown Structure, or I’ll abbreviate it as WBS for short, could be used when documenting the different pages and subpages of a website. This could be an tidy way of showing page hierarchy as well as all of the different components that reside on every page.

A WBS could also be used to demonstrate the different pieces of an application, fromA Work Breakdown Structure. This could surface duplicate places where information resides. This could be especially important to discover if you are dealing with a very complicated application, that just seems to bloat to no end.

Don’t take assumptions at face value.

A WBS could also be used to break down the scope of a project. You could lay out the different portions of a site or app, and include dates the aspect would be worked on and the team players involved.

Not just scope, but a WBS can help a team work through a budget for a project. Use this process to lay out the different pieces of a project and estimate how much each of those pieces will cost to design, build and test.

From a technical side, a WBS could be used to illustrate where different versions or portions of your files reside on different servers. It could be a helpful way to surface where files are being saved and to see if there is any unnecessary duplication or old files that could be purged.

Overall, I find that a Work Breakdown Structure is simply a helpful way to surface information to share with others. Sometimes we assume just how things are structured. By working through this inventory, and truly mapping out in an (ugly) Excel document, we might just discover things we did not really know. As with any project involving UX, don’t take assumptions at face value. Sometimes working through exercises like creating a WBS document might prove very helpful indeed. Not only to show where things exist right now, but also how things can be improved in the future.