Category Archives: Fun

2019 was a great year… finally!

UX Research and Strategy

I like to do these end-of-year retros to reflect on the things I have accomplished and my successes. Hey, we might as well pat ourselves on the back when we can, right? ha ha. What would I say is my biggest accomplishment? Probably co-founding the UX Research and Strategy group.

Co-founders of UX Research and Strategy wrapped up with first successful year with a holiday party.
Co-founders of UX Research and Strategy wrapped up with first successful year with a holiday party.

The group started in May, and has become a huge success. We first crowdsourced the topic to see if there was even a need or interest in a UX Research and Strategy Group. Boy, is there interest! Some of things UX Research and Strategy has accomplished in less than 8 months of existence:

  • 8,000 Linkedin connections
  • 300 Facebook likes
  • 300 Twitter followers
  • 270 Instagram followers
  • Monthly events with over 50 attendees at each
  • Workshops, online webinars and partnerships with other meetup groups

Needless to say I am very proud of how quickly this group has grown. I am beyond the moon excited about the events coming from this group in 2020 too.

Public Speaking

in 2019, I made it my goal, to do some public speaking engagements. Event if it was a local meetup or class, I wanted to make sure I was sharpening those public speaking skills and working on topics that I could share with the UX and technology community.

Jennifer Blatz UX Design WIAD Information Architecture Day
Not only did I organize WIAD Dallas, I also acted as the event’s emcee.

First there was WIAD (World Information Architecture) in early 2019. We had a huge crowd and I would consider this event a success. Read the story abut WIAD Dallas 2019.

Then I spoke at a few meetups along the way. Dallas is really lucky that we have a large UX community, and there are other meetup groups, like those who are interested in agile and product ownership that also have an interest in UX.

Jennifer Blatz Jen Blatz UX designer and researcher
Speaking at the local Service Design Dallas meetup, goofy face and all.

My biggest speaking engagement, and a talk I am really proud of took place at Big Design Conference. My talk, “Keeping Cognitive Biases out of Your UX Design and Research,” was a big hit. Well, at least I think so. ha ha It’s been an honor to also re-purpose that talk to a couple other local meetups and university events.

Jen Blatz on stage at Big Design talking about Cognitive Biases. UX Research UX Design
Jen Blatz on stage at Big Design talking about Cognitive Biases.

Making it through the Big Design talk, gave me the confidence to apply for a few other national conferences. I have already been accepted at the Concentric Conference in January and Connectaha and Convey UX in March 2020. Woot! Let’s keep the public speaking skills in to 2020!

All the things

Aside from the speaking at events and creating a successful meetup group, I had a happy year over all. I got converted to a full time employee and I work on some pretty cool projects. We lost our dog, Peanut in late 2018, and finally found Sadie another brother a few months later. Ricky, the new brother, has brought a lot of happiness in to our household. My health was been OK, but is looking to improve in early 2020 so that is going to be great!

What will 2020 bring?

The UX Research and Strategy group kept me very busy in 2019, and I know it will continue to do so. But I am hoping to off load some of duties so that I can concentrate more on my continued UX education and experience. I want to get familiar with Figma. Also, I want to read a few more UX books and articles that I have been putting on the back burner. I also want to learn a bit more about how to be a better leader. There’s plenty of information on that subject matter to sink my teeth in to. Let’s just hope there’s a bit more time for some of my side interests, like travel and learning in 2020. I hope you find time for things you enjoy in 2020 as well.

Are you a Builder, Fixer or Optimizer UX designer

UX Design Jennifer Blatz

I have been reading Todd Henry’s book “Herding Tigers” recently and read about the three types of drivers for designers and creative people. Sure we’ve head about the different types of personality tests people can take to help them understand their strength and expressiveness. But I found this simple concept to be very helpful for me to understand the type of creative work I want to do.

There are three types of motivations that keep designers happy, driven and flat out inspired to carry on. Not all designers like to work on the same types of projects. I am going to discuss the three types of motivations for create people.

BuildersJennifer Blatz UX designer builder

  • Live for the process of creating something new
  • Want a clean slate, a difficult problem to solve and no instruction manual
  • Not satisfied with tweaking something

In other words, Builders are your “big sky” type of designer who can be very creative comping up with an idea from scratch. He/she doesn’t want you to prescribe a solution. They want to come up with one themselves. So for the Builder, give them complete freedom to go hog wild and build or create the brand new design from the ground up.

FixersJennifer Blatz UX designer fixers

  • Love analysis and diagnosis
  • Can quickly scan a situation, identify what is broken and find a solution
  • Can be paralyzed with a new project. The prefer some parameters

I think that Fixers love User Research and validation. Fixers can look at a website or app that already exists and can see the problems that are there and want to jump right in to correct the problems right away. Unlike the Builder, they may not feel like they can get started on a complete blank canvas. The Fixer prefers a foundation to get started with.

OptimizersJennifer Blatz UX designer optimizer

  • Love to take something good and make it great
  • Look for efficiencies and hate waste
  • Work best with defined objectives and ways to quantify performance

Finally, Optimizers are quite similar to Fixers. A blank canvas is not their forte. They prefer to work in an organized world with some boundaries already set. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is why design systems and style guides exist. Some might even say that Optimizers are machine-like and want to “trim the fat” to make the most efficient user flow and task completion possible.

So what am I? A Builder, Fixer or Optimizer?

I think I am a cross between a Fixer and an Optimizer. I really do enjoy the “fixing up” and tinkering to make a system or interface better, more efficient and more streamlined. I don’t think this is as simple as just “making it look pretty.” Nope. In fact I really do not like that concept at all.

I am the type of person who like to take an older system and improve the process. I like to remove extra steps and bloat. I think the Optimizer also relates to the

  • “make sure you are on time,”
  • “there needs to be some organization and a bit of a plan going in to this” and
  • “don’t miss deadlines”

aspects of my personality. What can I say? I am organized and like an orderly world around me when I can get it. That does not mean I cannot go with the flow. Oh, I would not be able to be a UX designer if I could not adjust on the fly. It just means that I do prefer to have a bit of cleanliness in the chaos when possible.

Finally the researcher side of me also wants data and validation to support my design concepts and theories. I am not that crazy egomaniac that falls in love with my designs. I want to know that I am building the right thing, not just the thing right. I want to test my designs to make sure it is in the right track.

Which approach to you fall under when it comes to a project?

2018, a Year in Review

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to reflect on the goals that I set for myself, and see where I succeeded and where I fell short. Before I begins with my retrospective, let me just toot my own horn for a second and say that I am pretty pleased with how things shook out generally this year. 2018 was for of great professional opportunity and learning for me.

I want to take a look back at the Goals I set for 2018. Sure I did not accomplish everything. But it was a busy year and I did have a few small wins.

Books

Finished two of the 3 books “Checklist Manifesto” and “Sprint.”

Blog

Wrote a good 12, long-format blog posts with valuable content. Plus, I succeeded at writing my series of “UX Tidbits” and “UX Quotes” sprinkled throughout he year.

Social Media

I wanted to increase the account numbers for the twitters that I run.

Professional Development
  • Continue to learn Sketch well enough to mock up several designs to expand portfolio and skill set. – Success!
  • Create UX assets and deliverables to sharpen my skills and enhance my portfolio. – Always a work in progress. So I am going to claim semi-success for this one!
  • Wrap up the “UX Process” project I have been working on. – Failure. But gives me something to work on in 2019.
UX Community Involvement and Leadership
  • Launched the, much-anticipated IXDA chapter in Dallas. As a leader of the group, I’ve helped plan events, bring in great speakers and even moderated a large panel on diversity.
  • Acted as Social Media Chair for WIAD 2018. I guess I did a pretty good job at helping the event that I was recruited to organize the 2019 WIAD Dallas leg on the international event. Stay tuned for a write up about how WIAD goes in February 2019.
  • Spoke about UX Design Laws and Principles at North Dallas Product Owners Meetup.
  • Guest speaker for two sessions for the professional development course “Agile for Patriots.”
  • Worked for 2 charitable hackathons, doing research and design. I participated in BigGive Dallas and Dallas Give Camp. Both events were exhausting, yet fun and personally rewarding.
Personal development
  • Have better work/life balance. – This one is a huge SUCCESS with the job change that happened in April. Much happier in my new work place.
  • 2017 was not a great year for travel for me. This is especially true for international travel.  – Sadly I must say 2018 was the same. Not a lot of opportunity for travel. Being a contractor is touch. But 2019 is a new year so fingers crossed!
  • Read more outside of UX. – I did read a couple of business and professional development books in 2018, so I can declare this a success.

Again, 2018 was a good year for me. I am thankful for my better job, good health, wonderful professional opportunities and great friendships I have made and maintained in 2018. What does a person like me do next? Start to think about goals and opportunities for 2019. Stay tuned.

How to… Explain the difference between UX and UI

How to UX design by Jennifer Blatz UX designer and researcherThere is so much confusion between UI and UX. People, who don’t know better, use them interchangeably as if they are one in the same. You see the terms misused in job descriptions, in articles and in conversations. For those who do understand the difference between UX and UI, it can be quite frustrating when you come across these terms not being used properly. Let me take a few moments to provide some clarity between these not-so-intergangable terms.

How to…

Describe the difference between UX and UI

UX Defintion

According to the Nielsen/Norman Group, “UX, or User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

So what does that mean? Well to me that means it is more than just what that looks like in a company’s website or mobile app. It also means how a person feels when they interact with these elements. And it might not be an electronic experience at all. So keep in mind user experience covers a lot of things: research, visual design, information architecture, micro interactions, content and crafting a person’s journey through all of the touch points.

UI Defintion

Ok so I think you have a better understanding of what UX is. So now what is UI? According to a definition provided by Usertesting.com, a UI, or the user interface is the series of screens, electroinc pages, and visual elements that you use to interact with a device. In other words, the UI is the physical space or location that a person “touches” or interacts with a product or service.

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

Differences and Similarities between UX and UI

So you can see from the above definitions, UI and UX are not the same thing, Yes there are some similarities, but there are also very distinct differences. I view UI as an aspect that falls under the UX umbrella. User interface is just one aspect of the larger concept of User Experience. UX, as you can see in the graphic above, has a lot of pieces and parts. And UI is just one one of the components that build up the larger picture that is User Experience.

In some ways, the user interface is almost toward the end of the UX process. You’ve done research to determine what the interface should look like and how it should perform. You have done usability testing to validate your design and tested it with users. You have done the design and layout to present the information, or create an experience, in the best way you can for your customer. Yes saying it is in the end of the process is a general statement, but hopefully you understand what I mean.

“UX is focused on the user’s journey to solve a problem, UI is focused on how a product’s surfaces look and function.”

– Ken Norton Partner at Google Ventures

IXDA Panel discussion for World Interaction Design Day

Jennifer Blatz IXDA leadership and moderator for UX Design event.
Jen Blatz leads a panel of 10 UX and design professionals and students as part of World Interaction Design Day. That’s me, to the left behind the podium.

The Dallas Chapter of IXDA (Interaction Design Association) participated in the first Word Interaction Design Day. Cities all over the world, in a number of formats, celebrated the day with speakers, panelists and activities to promote Interaction Design.

The theme for the first Interaction Design Day was Diversity and Inclusion.

For the Dallas event, we decided to host a panel of user experience, designers and leadership professionals to talk to students and audience members about how they promote diversity and inclusion in their work place. Since we were holding the event at UTD (University of North Texas Dallas) we knew there would be a number of students in the audience. So we also included a couple of students on the panel so that they could provide their perspective on the topic as well.

Jennifer Blatz UX Designer moderatesWorld Interaction Design Day panel on Diversity and Inclusion.
Side view of the panel on stage from the moderator’s podium.

Sometimes with events, you have more topics you want to cover than time to cover them. I had a ton more questions than I knew we would be able to cover. Plus, with such a large panel, I knew that allowing 2-3 panelists to answer each question, and therefore offer a differing perspective, time would be short and questions would be few.

Some of the topics I wanted to cover included:

Design

  • Why did you get in to UX design?
  • What do you wish you had known before starting a career in design?

Diversity

  • How do you promote diversity and inclusion on your team?
  • How do you promote diversity and inclusion for your customers?
  • Student question: how do you promote diverse perspectives in your projects?

Hiring

  • What are some of the questions a person should ask when going on interviews?
  • Student question: As a student, in relationship to diversity, what are you looking for in a work environment?

Misc

  • What advice do you have team members on overcoming bias? What about teams as a whole?
  • How do you handle the occasions when you aren’t included and should be?
  • How has your work environment changed since you first started your career?
  • Was there a time when you truly felt like you had a seat at the table? What led up to it and what happened next?

Wrap up topics

  • What advice do you have for people entering into this field and may not feel well-represented?
  • What advice would you give to those already in the field, but may not know how to promote a more diverse culture?

World Interaction Day poster design

Of course, I only had the opportunity to ask a fraction of these questions. But as in typical Jen Blatz style, I was over prepared and made sure I had plenty of questions and topics to fill an evening. That is ok though. We still got to cover some really interesting topics in a short night. Students were very happy to learn from the professionals. The pros were happy to share their wisdom and experience. Audience members who were also professional gained a lot from the discussion. Overall, I would say the first World Interaction Design day was a success.

Jennifer Blatz UX designer an IXDA leader and moderator.
This great group of panelists helped to make World Interaction Day a success. That is me, front and center in this picture happy meet the panelists in the “green room” before e got started.

Giving back as a UX Designer – Dallas Give Camp

Jennifer Blatz UX design website
Jen Blatz lays out the sitemap for the Dallas Goethe Center website for all of the team to see.

This past weekend was a busy and productive weekend for me. I participated in my first Dallas Give Camp.  What is Dallas Give Camp you might ask? Dallas Give Camp is an annual event where professionals ranging from UX designers, business analysts, project owners, developers and other technology-related professionals come together with non-profit organizations to design or redesign the organizations website.

Dallas Give Camp’s Mission:

“We support our communities by bringing together motivated volunteers to dedicate their professional expertise, deep insights, and individual talents to further the missions of local charitable organizations through the applied use of knowledge sharing, technology solutions, and innovative design.”

It’s a jam-packed weekend starting Friday evening at 5 p.m. and ended Sunday evening at around 4 p.m. Yes, you do get to go home and sleep. It’s not one of those all-nighter type hackathons (Thank goodness. I am too old for those. Ha!) But I was there, fully-invested for each hour and minute.

What was my assignment?

I was the UX designer helping redesign the Dallas Goethe Center’s website.  I’ll refer to the organization as DGC for short. The DGC is a local organization that promotes German language learning and culture in North Texas. They have two primary audiences: students and parents of students who want to learn to speak German, and members who participate in the cultural events.

What was my role?

As the UX designer, I worked with the team of developers to come up with a technology solution. I also worked with stakeholders to surface DGC’s problems, pain points and needs to understand what they wanted out of the new website. Also, I helped make sure that the project was moving forward, all pages and components were being built, and the content was being added to the pages.

What was the problem?

Their current website platform was on Drupal, and they wanted a platform that was easier to work with. That new platform was WordPress, which is what Dallas Give Camp encourages all teams to work on. Drupal was difficult for DGC’s Drupal-challenged volunteers and staff to update. It was also technologically limited, restricting features like easy “customer shopping” and website customization. The Divi theme on WordPress would help with org overcome these challenges.

Jennifer Blatz UX design website
BEFORE The Dallas Goethe Center website before the redesign. This was the page to purchase or renew your membership.
Jennifer Blatz UX Design Goethe Center website redesign.
AFTER The new way to sign up for membership is much more visually appealing than just a boring table. Now there are interesting icons to illustrate the different levels one can purchase. The purchase buttons are also more interactive.

How did I get started?

As with any good UX designer, I wanted a better understanding of the problem. The week before Give Camp, I talked with three members of the DGC staff to get their perspective of the website. We talked about reasons why customers come to the site, their pain points and goals for the new website. I wanted to do this initial research to get different perspectives on how the website could be improved.

What was my challenge?

I was very new to the Divi theme and have very little experience with WordPress. My experience is pretty much just posting stories to this lovely blog. Nothing too fancy. So I am not in the regular practice of building out pages or components within WordPress. I needed a tutorial quickly on how to work in the Divi theme, where to find things and how I can get up and running asap. I will say, I am really spoiled in working within WYSIWYG programs like Sketch.

How did I collaborate?

I worked with developers to understand our technology constraints. The devs also helped me understand Divi themes, WordPress and basic CSS. Thank goodness I had a basic knowledge of code. It did help me customize things a bit – once I found out where to do that within the Divi theme interface. I also worked with several stakeholders from the DGC who were our on-site subject-matter experts. It was wonderful to have them on site, right there to answer any questions we might have at any moment. The best part is the staff members from DGC were at Give Camp from the start of the day until late in the night. They were just as committed and involved as we were.

Jennifer Blatz UX design website
I put up the sitemap fo all of the team to see and validate. I also included sketches for basic website structure.

Friday

We started Friday evening, with a hearty dinner to get us ready for the first night of the event. We met the team, broke down the problems and prioritized the major issues we needed to solve. We talked about what aspects of the website needed to be improved, what new pages we needed to create and we were introduced to WordPress and the Divi them. But the end of Friday evening, at 10:30 p.m., we had a pretty good plan of the site map, what pages we needed to build and what elements would go on those pages.

Saturday

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we all rolled in around 9 a.m. ready to build out the site. I wrote the site map on the whiteboard so that we could verify that we had all of the content included. I also started sketching out some basic wireframes to further validate that all content was accounted for. Then it was time for me to get to work.

Like I mentioned earlier, I was pretty inexperienced with WordPress, and had no previous knowledge of the Divi theme. So I was pretty slow to jump right in and churning out components. That is what I wanted to do. I am so used to just being able to build things at a pretty hefty speed in Sketch. But this proved to be much more challenging than expected. I wanted to get pages build and templates ready ahead of the team so that they could just plug and play.

A number of pages had 3 cards, in a box, of content to lead the page. I wanted this component to be built and ready to go so that it would be consistent across all instances. But it took the developer and I over an hour to get it built to (near) the specifications I had in mind. Yes we got it built, but it ate up a lot of time. Yikes! Now we were approaching early afternoon and time was pressing against us. We had a lot of pages to build. We had to get components like boxes, buttons, purchasing options and other website elements on the page. We had to get all of the content on those pages. The content was all really, really long, so we needed to edit that content down to digestible chunks. Then we needed to apply some design style to improve the design beyond the basic offering.

Well, shit started hitting the fan in the early evening. We were very behind. We still needed pages built, components added, content added and interactions tested. We started to panic. Well, I did. We did not know who was working on what. We were not really sure what was and was not finished. It was a mild case of chaos.

We called in some help. A floating developer came in and assessed the situation. We had not been using Trello. Hence, we did not know who was assigned to what part of the project and how that was progressing. So we got all the remaining work on the board. That way we got a bit more organized and figured out who was responsible for what. By 10:30 at night, we were running on fumes. We finally got all the pages created, components on them, and basic content on most of them. We had not adjusted the style from the out of the box offering. And we had not even begun to test items like links, shopping cart functionality or other interactions. But that was OK. We still had a few hours on Sunday to do our best to make it to the finish line. At least now the fire was contained.

Jennifer Blatz UX design website
AFTER The events page after the redesign. We could now highlight the major events happening within the org.

Sunday

Bright and early again. It was a calm atmosphere, coming to terms with the fact that not all of our to-do list was going to be complete. Content was on the pages, but it still needed to be edited. Style was not going to be modified, but it was pretty good looking for now. Links and buttons were going to be tested. The shopping cart experience was working. We were very close to a functioning website. The stakeholders were very pleased with the progress we had made in just one weekend and were very excited to launch. We were 90 percent to complete success. And 90 percent is not only good enough, it’s pretty damn good.

We wrapped up the day updating the Trello board with tasks that still needed to be completed after Give Camp. We all gathered again for all of the Give Csamp teams to share their stories and display their much-earned success. We had built a website in just one weekend and it was pretty kick-ass.

What did I learn?

I need to get ahead of the game: I should have worked on the design solution earlier and started constructing wireframes, mockups and structure.

I need to learn the technology: I should have looked in to Divi a bit more. I should have learned the capabilities before hand and thought about how I wanted to tackle some of the design challenges.

I need to track the progress: We were assigned a Trello board well before kickoff, but we quickly abandoned it in the midst of the chaos. But there’s a reason why they gave us access to Trello, and we should use it. Tracking our progress on Trello got us back on line and better organized.

I can do it: I can pick up new technology. I can work with a new team. I can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. I can establish a good comradery with a team and help us get to a common goal. I can do it!

Jennifer Blatz UX design website
Our volunteers and Dallas Goethe Center stakeholders made it through the weekend.

Would I do it again?

Hell yeah! Maybe not for another year. But yes I would do it. It was fun to work on something different and get fully emerged in the website design process. It was great to have stakeholders on hand who were willing to get their hands dirty and pitch in to get things done. It was exhausting to put in so many hours straight. But it was exhilarating to jive through and get it done. Most importantly, it felt really great to contribute my skills as a UX designer in a positive way and to give back to the community in some way. Working with Dallas Give Camp and the Dallas Goethe Center was professionally and personally rewarding for sure. Sign me up for next year – after I get a bit of a nap.

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.

Sketching for UX

Sketching for UX Design Jennifer Blatz

This week I decided to do a double sketch of the same topic. I find that I am having a visual blank for some topics. And the other problem I am having is that I do not execute drawing certain items like gears, people, faces and hands. Oh goodness I am so bad at hands. So I am going to do double the practice to improve my sketching skills a bit more.

So my first sketch is just drawing what comes in my head. The second sketch is looking at icons inline and trying to copy that. I hope that this will improve my skills in a few ways:

  • Think a bit harder about how to visualize things on my own
  • Going online for visual inspiration to help me get over my creative block
  • Using that inspiration to practice drawing while viewing the technique and style of simple icons
  • Thinking of how things can be represented in multiple ways – not just the first way that jumps in to my head
  • Drawing twice as much will hopefully get me to be a bit better. Practice makes perfect, right?

#SketchingForUX

#ISuckAtDrawingHands

#ISuckatDrawingPeople

100 Days of UX sketching

sketch interface design elements for 100 days Jennifer Blatz UX Design
My first day of accepting the challenge to sketch interface design elements for 100 days.

I have accepted the challenge: sketchingforux100

What is this?
  • You get emailed 3 interface design concepts that you are to sketch every day.

Why am I doing this?

  • I need to sketch more. It’s a skill I seem intimidated by, and therefore tend to avoid. But forcing myself to do it once a day, or in this case, 3 times a day, I am hoping to build confidence in my sketching abilities.
  • It’s fun. It’s low investment and it takes me back to my drawing abilities of my youth.
  • It’s a challenge. And I am always up for a challenge.
  • It’s not time consuming. I like that it’s lightweight and not a high commitment. I am hoping that such a small commitment can be handled with ease.
  • I want to be able to have more instinctive design solutions. Perhaps having to draw an idea on the spot will help me develop this design gut instinct.
  • Why not? It need to push myself in the area of interaction design, so this is a great start.

Want to join me in this challenge? Just sign up for Krisztina Szerovay’s weekly newsletter and daily UX sketching prompts at her website: https://sketchingforux.com. I will post my sketches here from time to time to show my progress. I hope to get stronger in my concepts as the days go by.

WIAD DFW 2018 was a success

Jennifer Blatz UX Design World Information Architecture Day WIAD DFW
I was lucky to be a part of this fabulous crew to help plan and organize WIAD 2018 in Dallas.

WIAD, or World Information Architecture Day is an annual event held around the world. This year’s event, which took place on February 24, took place in 56 locations in 25 countries.

This was not my first WIAD rodeo. A few years ago, I acted as the project manager for the WIAD event that took place in Los Angeles.  Planning an even like this is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding once the event wraps.

For the Dallas area WIAD event, I acted as the Chief Social Officer. What does that mean> I was a lean, mean Tweeting machine. ha!

Jennifer Blatz UX Design social media for WIAD_DFW
WIAD DFW Twitter account was on fire the day of the event.

I had the honor of tweeting leading up to the event as well as documenting all of the highlights on the day of the event. We got a lot of retweets from our sponsors and attendees. Though our attendance was less than anticipated due to a huge rain storm that certainly deterred attendees, those who did brave the storm seemed to enjoy the event and said that they learned a lot.

Overall I would say that they day was a grand success. For me, I enjoyed meeting my fellow volunteers and making new friends and connections. I also enjoyed hearing the speakers and seeing the attendees enjoy the topics as well. Events like this are a great reminder of how wonderful the UX community can be! I certiainly hope I can participate again next year. If I have anything to do with it, I will.

2018 New Year’s Goals

Jen Blatz UX designer 2018 goals

First thing I did to think about 2018, is to review the goals I set for myself in 2017. Man, I did knock a few of those off of the list, but I was not nearly as successful as I should have been.

Here are my lame excuses for not accomplishing last year’s goals:

  • I changed jobs 3 times in one year. I had a huge learning curve to  every new job, and I am still trying to understand the new industries I was working in.
  • I was a bit stressed having landed in positions that were empty promises and not career-growth opportunities. Thus, the change in positions so many times.
  • With all of the new jobs, I was devoting any extra free time I had to getting up to speed, and not focusing on networking or getting involved in the local UX community.

OK, OK enough with the pity party. Now let’s focus on what I really want to accomplish in 2018.

Read
  • “Design of Everyday Things” (started in 2017, need to finish)
  • “Checklist Manifesto” (charted for 2017, pushing to this year)
  • “Sprint”
Write blog posts
  • In 2017, I was shooting to post 25 original blog posts.
  • I want to shoot for 12, long-format blog posts with valuable content.
  • Plus I would like to continue my series of “UX Tidbits” and “UX Quotes” sprinkled throughout he year. I enjoy researching, gathering and creating these fun short snippets of info. I will shoot for 18 “UX Tidbits in 2018
Social Media

I have felt so lucky to have the followers on twitter that I have accumulated this far. I would like to continue to grow my Twitter following.

Networking
  • Continue to participate in local Meetups to expand my network and to get to know others in the UX community and other related fields.
  • Have the opportunity to participate in one panel at a Meetup, meeting or class as a person who has some sort of UX knowledge to bring to the table.
  • Give a presentation to one Meetup group. Group and topic to be determined.
  • Attend Creative Mornings events to meet more designers and artists in the local community.
Professional Development
  • Continue to learn Sketch well enough to mock up several designs to expand portfolio and skill set.
  • Understand the industry I work for, cloud computing, better.
  • Learn about managing teams. It might be something I am interested in, so I would like to learn more.
  • Create UX assets and deliverables to sharpen my skills and enhance my portfolio.
  • Wrap up the “UX Process” project I have been working on at work and develop a strong case study on the process of creating it. Continue to visit the project through the year to see how it is going and iterate as needed.
  • Determine what topic I need to know more about when it comes to UX. Perhaps Customer Experience or Service Design? See how these tracks can be explored further in my current work space.
  • Revisit these goals in the mid year to not only track my progress, but to add to it. I feel like I need more concrete goals than just listed here. Stronger possibilities tbd.
Personal development
  • Have better work/life balance. Right now I am spending any extra time I have in the evenings working on “Cloud Computing” or “Leading the UX Team” related tasks and not having any rest or personal development time.
  • 2017 was not a great year for travel for me. This is especially true for international travel. I would like to explore the world a bit more, even if it is in my home state.
  • Read more outside of UX. I would like to learn more about another discipline. Be that fine art, history or social sciences. I would like to increase my knowledge about a field that could be complementary to UX, but is not strictly UX.

Summary of 2017, from UX Researcher back to UX Designer

Jennifer Blatz UX Designer

I’ll do a quick “Christmas Card” summary of how my 2017 year went.

  • Still living in Texas and really enjoy it overall compared to Los Angeles. Sure I miss the food, the scenery, my friends and the road trips to wine country. But living is Texas is a much easier way of life.
  • I left my contract position with a major financial institution as a UX Researcher in April. It was a tough decision, since I liked with job and my co-workers. But the (previous) manager made working there unbearable and I needed to find a healthy environment for myself personally and professionally.
  • I moved on to a security company, which sounded like a golden opportunity. But as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in this case it was. I was promised opportunities that did not come to fruition. The company (and some superiors) were not ready for a UX Designer and wanted me to perform duties that were not in my job description (like front-end development). Though the work was challenging, and my co-workers were great and eager to have a new product designed, my superiors did not see the value of UX and properly designing a product. I could tell it was time to move on, so I did. I was there for five months.
  • Now I am working from home, and adjusting to remote life has been a challenge. I work for a major managed cloud company as a UX designer. Though we have dedicated UX researchers on our staff, I can see how my professional experience in that field is helping me immensely in my new role. First thing about working remotely is that I work way more hours than your standard 9-5 job. I think that this has a lot to do with my newness on the job and often feeling lost. I am devoting a lot of extra time to learn about my industry and products we work on. But I am hopeful in the new year that things will settle down for me and I will work more appropriate hours.
  • My vacations were on the small side this year with all of the job changes. Of course we took the usual trips to Indiana and Vegas.  We even managed to go to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Paso Robles and New Orleans. No international trip this year so I am hoping that can come about in 2018.
  • Overall, I was a happy year and I am pleased with my professional accomplishments. I’ll be coming out with a new 2018 goals write up soon. Until then, keep on, keeping’ on.