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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently had the honor of sharing my experience as a UX designer with Agile for Patriots and their 5th cohort to become scrum masters. This group of veterans get to learn this vital career skill in a 2-week class. It is an honor for me to speak to this enthusiastic, and information hungry group of adults who want to better themselves by picking up this fantastic skill. Plus, it is a great way for me to give back to the community and learn something from them as well. I am always blown away not by just their amazing history in military service, but the diverse professional backgrounds that this group of folks have already been in.
Thanks goes out to Greg Gomel and all of those supporting Agile for Patriots for letting me come in to class and share my insights and stories. So proud to participate and meet some of our proud veterans.
On Friday, I premiered on the big stage at Big Design Dallas. My topic was “Cognitive Biases: How to keep them out of UX Research and Design.” This topic us very near and dear to my heart because we all suffer from cognitive biases. You don’t have to hold a psychology degree to know that. The focus of this talk was how to recognize biases in yourself and others. Also what you can do ti fight of the symptoms cognitive biases. Finally, I told my crowd how they can “turn their frown upside down” and how to use cognitive biases for good in your UX designs.
For my first international/national conference speaking gig, I think it went really well. Sure there were a few minor mistakes that only (hopefully) the speaker noticed. My whole goal was to get the crowd interested and engaged in the topic. And I did that by balancing funny images, real-world stories and relatable content.
Since a lot of the slides more more visually driven, I will break down the talk below. But for the full visual effect, please download the PDF of slide deck: “Cognitive Biases: How to keep them out of UX Research and Design.”
Types of bias
- Blind spot bias
- Experimenter’s bias
- Observer-expectancy effect
Self vs others
- Social comparison bias
Aligning with me/my beliefs
- Semmelweis effect
- Not Invented Here bias
- Courtesy bias
Recent vs long ago
- Peak-End Rule
Use in your design for good
- Humor Effect
- Bizarreness Effect
- Default effect
Thank you for those who came to BigD and watched my talk. If you are interested in me giving this talk at your conference, let’s talk!
I am very excited to announce that I have been selected to speak at Big Design on September 20, 2019. My Talk will be about “Preventing cognitive biases from creeping in to your UX design and user research.
I feel really lucky for this first opportunity to speak at a national conference. I will be sharing the stage with some very prestigious UX professionals. This is a great opportunity for me and I am very excited. Read my full bio on the Big Design page. And save the date. My Talk is September 20 at 2:30 p.m.
Another reason why I have been neglecting writing on this blog, aside from all of the events and meetups I am involved in, is because I am helping plan for the Big Design Conference 2019.
As part of that planning, I am helping to populate social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and the blog content on Big Design’s website. Much of my writing efforts will be devoted to Big Design’s website, so don’t expect content generation to be high on my own personal blog. Don’t worry, I will be back. But for now, see content I am working on the Big Design website.
“I heard about a need in the UX community, and I decided to meet it.”
This quote pretty much summarized the inspiration behind how the newest UX meetup group in Dallas got started. UX Research and Strategy, now just over a month old, has had one successful event so far, and continues to grow.
I regularly attend meetups, and while attending those, I heard repeatedly that attendees wanted more resources on UX research. They wanted to learn about different methods, best practices, how to “sell researcher to executives,” and other topics along those lines.
So I reached out to a couple of former co-workers and fabulous ladies, Lauren Singer and Lorie Whitaker to see if they were interested in helping me create a meetup group focused on UX Research, and with Lauren’s suggestion, Strategy too. They thought it was a great idea. First we crowd sourced the idea, to test that it was a valid concept. We posted the idea on LinkedIn to gauge interest in the topic. We got a lot of positive feedback and interest so we decided to move forward with the group’s formation. Thus UX Research and Strategy was born.
Our first meetup was held at Lifeblue in Plano. Our generous hosts provided food and beverages as well as an amazing view from their 12th floor balcony. Crazy storms rolled through just a couple of hours before our event was supposed to kick off. We were not sure if anyone was going to show up. No one wants to drive in monstrous thunder storms. But by the time the event started, the storms passed, the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped (a very good thing in Texas) and the crowd started rolling in. We had nearly 50 attendees which made our first meetup much more successful than we anticipated. Woot!
We first started the night with introducing ourselves and the group. We shared the group’s mission and motivations. Then we asked the attendees to participate in an exercise with us. The leaders of UX and Research and Strategy wanted to make sure that this group is meeting the community’s needs. This goes back to the original ask of what people felt was lacking in the UX community, and how we can fill that gap. What better way to get feedback on the group then have the members brainstorm the direction the group should go?
We asked the members to break in to smaller groups to come up with their hopes, fears and ideas for the group. Again, we wanted attendees to weigh in and help us shape the topics the group would cover through 2019 and beyond.
Everyone was happy to participate in this brainstorming activity. After the groups explored the fears, hopes and ideas for the UX Research and Strategy groups, we then recorded some of the highlights in a shareout so that all attendees could hear the fabulous ideas people had.
We wrapped up the night with a bit more networking and idea exchanging. What were the leaders of UX Research and Strategy planning on doing with this information? Planning out all of our future events, of course!
If you would like to stay on top of what the UX Research and Strategy group is up to, be sure to connect to us on LinkedIn. Also follow the group on Eventbrite to see all of the fabulous events we have happening in 2019 and beyond.
Yes I realize it has been awhile since I posted a blog. I am still alive. I have just been very busy. So what I have I been up to? Busy, busy with organizing meetup events, speaking at events and helping organize the Big Design conference. But yes, I am still alive.
So let’s to a quick summary.
Speaking for Service Design Dallas
I had the opportunity to speak about Enterprise Service Design for a local meetup group. I talked about how I modified the “Service Design Blueprint” framework to apply to creating a report for customers. We then asked attendees of the meetup to apply their own service design analysis to creating a theme park experience. It was a lot of fun talking to this fun group, then seeing how they could apply skills in the workshop.
Organizing IXDA meetups
As one of the co-leaders of IXDA, our responsibility it to create a variety of events that are of interest to UX and interaction designers in the community. We sponsored a portfolio review working session. We called out for seasoned professionals to help new students and transitioner pros coming over to the UX field. The practical tips could be applied directly to a person’s portfolio, and the students found this advice super helpful.
That’s a few of the things that have been keeping me very busy. Stay tuned for more writups of what is keeping me out of trouble soon. ha ha
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
March continues to be a busy month for me with a speaking engagement for continuing-education students. I always enjoy speaking for the Agile for Patriots class. According to their website, Agile for Patriot’s mission is:
Preparing Patriots for Agile careers through focused training, practical experience, professional certification, and employment referral.
I am very fortunate to speak to these hungry and eager students, who are bettering themselves by becoming scrum certified. Not only have they served our country by being in the military, their commitment and drive will propel them in to a new career as an agile scrum coach.
My topic is very similar to the previous times I have spoken to this group. I talked about what User Experience Design is, and how it fits in the the agile process. The group seemed quite intrigued about the topic and asked a lot of great questions.
Best of luck to the next graduating class!
Due to popular demand, IXDA Dallas recently helps a UX portfolio review. Having been a person who had to enter the UX field mid career, I know the value of getting advice and feedback on my portfolio from peers and professionals.
Though we had a lower turn out than expected – typical of any free meetup – I would still hail the night as a grand success. We had nearly 10 lead designers who paired up with students who are graduating soon and professionals interested in transitioning into the field of User Experience Design. The only requirement was that the mentee bring a portfolio to go over – no matter how rough or under developed.
As one of the IXDA leaders, I was the designated floater and social media promoter. Some of the feedback I heard while floating around included:
- Show your process
- Explain the problem you were trying to solve
- Include your name and contact information on every slide
- Don’t apologize for your portfolio
- If you are transitioning from graphic design, omit branding and print design examples
- Don’t just show the final resolution mock up, include all of the rough sketches and interim designs to help tell your story.
- And on that note, tell your story!
An event like this is mutually beneficial for those who are seeking feedback and for those who are giving advice. That’s the wonderful aspect of the UX community: giving back and helping others. We all have so much to learn from each other. Whether you are a seasoned UX designer, or a student ready to break in to the field, events like this provide strength, opportunity for growth and encouragement for all parties involved.
In case you were wondering where I have been for the early part of 2019, it’s been planning World Information Architecture Day in Dallas. After much hard work, planning and organizing, I can say that WIAD Dallas was a huge hit. I am very pleased with the outcome.
Planning and Organizing
Thankfully I did not pull this event together alone. I had a small group of volunteers and a co-organizer that helped me with the logistics. There are a lot of details that go in to organizing an event. And I am proud of myself for taking on such a challenge and surviving to tell the tale.
I worked on the planning committee for WIAD in Los Angeles in the past. I forgot how much work and event can be. Along the way this time, I did learn a few valuable lessons about process, organization, teamwork and myself.
Start early. Even though I got a lot of people interested in volunteering months in advance, it pays to get those people active in duties asap.
Share the duties. I took on too much for this event. I needed to delegate more of the responsibilities to the volunteers who where eager to actually pitch in.
Did I say start early? Get sponsorship locked down and payments submitted weeks, if not moths in advance. Secure the venue and give yourself time to check it out and make sure all is ok. Nail down the details of the meals as to not be worried about these details at the final hour.
Give the volunteers specific roles and tasks. If people are not responsible for a specific duty, they will not do it. That is why a lot of the small stuff fell on me to knock out for the event.
Relax. Everything will come together in the end. We got food ordered. We had a venue. We had a lot of RSVPs and a great turnout. Weather was great (last year we got hammered by rain.) And everyone seemed very pleased with the entire event. Well done you!
- I survived!
- I raised about the amount of sponsorship that had been raised the previous years. Last yeah all funds came from on source. This year we had support from over 10 companies, recruiters and community groups.
- I secured 7 high-profile and reputable speakers that talked about a variety of topics and shared valuable insight. Our fabulous speakers covered several different topics from research, to empathy, to content to Slurpees! Yep Slurpees.
- We doubled the attendance from the previous year.
- We had some pretty cool sponsors like 7-Eleven donated breakfast and brought a ton of cool food and drinks.
- We had fun swag and great raffle prizes to give away like a BigD ticket, plenty of Amazon gift cards and cool UX books.
- People seemed pleased with the diversity of the speakers’ topics.
- Overall, attendees were happy with the day.
Whew! So now that I’ve had a little time to recover and play catch up, I am finally sharing my experience with you. Thank you for all who helped me make WIAD a success. It truly does take a village, and I am lucky to have suck a cool UX village of support.
Check out the details of the WIAD Dallas on the website.
Listen to the Project UX Podcast where Jeff interviews most of the speakers and organizers.
Design is not art. And just because you can design something that looks and works well, does not mean that you can draw to save your live. I, in fact, feel like I have no drawing ability whatsoever. In fact, when it comes to sketching an idea, especially on a whiteboard in front of others, I feel like a complete incompetent idiot.
But it is not something we can escape. We need to be able to draw some basic concepts or screens in order to communicate where the project is going or what we are thinking.
So just how can we get over our fear of sketching?
Get better at sketching for UX
1. Start with the basics: a line, a circle and a box
Nearly all objects, especially on an an interface, is made up of a line, circle or box/square. Take a few moments to practice drawing these basic shapes. Then combine these different shapes in different ways to get more complex objects.
2. Everyone thinks their drawings suck
Get over the fear that your drawings are not going to be a masterpiece. UX is is not at, remember? Sure some people have better drawing abilities than others. But that is OK. Just frame the reason for your sketching: you are trying to communicate a concept. You are not trying to be the next Rembrandt.
3. KISS – Keep it simple, stupid
Do not try to go in to too much detail in your sketching. Sometimes thinking about the finite details too much can cause us to freeze. Think about the basic shapes and structures you are trying to convey first. Then communicate that basic layout. If needed, go back and take a second pass at adding more details. Again if you are using the basic shapes of line/circle/square, then you want to keep the concept simple.
4. Keep it low-fidelity
It’s best to do basic sketching with good old pen/marker and paper. Try to avoid going in to a computer to do sketches. It defeats the purpose of having the rough idea (or maybe many ideas) and then focusing on refining and perfecting. Plus, drawing on a computer just takes more time.
5. Push yourself to the limits
I had heard about this initiative called “Sketching for UX.” An email is sent to you every day for 100 days with 3 topics a day. You are then supposed to sketch out these 3 topics. I like this because I don’t have to come up with the topics, and it forces you to be disciplined. Sure I may had to bundle a few of my drawings in to one day from time to time. But it gave me the opportunity to think about a concept and try to execute that in some sketch form.
6. Identify your weakness
If you know there is something you are not that great at drawing, do it more. This relates to the next point:
7. Practice, practice, practice
If you want to get better at something, just do it more. When I am done with with the “Sketching for UX” challenge I plan on continuing to develop my skills by working on the concepts that I am not good at and what is common in interaction concepts. You know the saying: Practice makes perfect.
Everyone hates to work with a jerk. So how can you do your best not to be the office asshole? I think there are some simple steps to follow that just might help you to be a better person to work with.
I have to give credit where credit is due. I recently read Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get you There” which addresses how company executives should improve their behavior the higher up the corporate ladder they go. This is a great and inspiration book. And I think that a lot of the principles discussed not only apply to higher up executives but to any level employee.
Be a better co-worker
1. Check your ego at the door
No one wants to work with some who thinks their are “hot shit.” Being a UX designer means being part of a team. Yes a team. And that means playing well and working well with others. No one likes a prima donna. And sure, as a UX designer, you might carry some skills that others do not possess. But other team members have skills that YOU do not process. Keep that in mind.
This is pretty self explanatory. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. As Judge Judy says: “God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason.”
3. Adding too much value
This is very close to the “Listen” point stated above. Not only should you talk less and listen more, but what you say should be valuable. That value is gauged more by who is listening than what YOU think is valuable to the conversation. You don’t always have to “one up” the person talking.
- Your story is not always more interesting.
- You example is not always better.
- You are not always smarter.
- You don’t always have the best solution.
4. Claiming credit you don’t deserve
No one likes the person who claims to have done everything. Back to that “UX is part of the team” concept. Make sure that you pipe up when someone has contributed in some say. Not only will the person appreciate the acknowledgement, but it will also show that you are a true team player.
5. Starting with ‘No,’ ‘But’ or ‘However’
This has been a particularly tough one for me at times. You hear a crazy idea or something that won’t work and you think, “There is no way that is going to happen.” But starting off negatively can really harm a conversation. Try to think on the bright side. Or at the very least, don’t shoot an idea down right away by starting off on a negative wrong foot. Keep an open mind and always start with a positive phrase rather than negative. Try to remove No, But and However from your conversation.
6. Refusing to express regret
People like others who are humble. Fess up to a mistake, and that will be remembered. We are human, and we all mess up from time to time. A brave person admits when they have done wrong. UX is all about learning from mistakes. You are no exception. It takes a big person to admit wrong-doing. Be that person. Be humble.
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.
Finished two of the 3 books “Checklist Manifesto” and “Sprint.”
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.
I wanted to increase the account numbers for the twitters that I run.
- On jnblatz on Twitter, my goal was 1,200 followers. I am around 1,800 so, not bad! No complaints since 1,200 was really ambitious.
- On Ladies that UX Dallas on Twitter, my goal was 700 followers. Success!
- Also continue to grow the twitter accounts for WIAD_DFW and IXDADallas.
- 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.
- 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.
I recently attended a Ladies that UX Fort Worth event where Kayla Wren covered the topic “Rose Bud, Thorn.” This research method is designed to surfacing three things: the good, the bad and opportunity and insights. I thought that using these lenses was a rather interesting perspective, so I thought I would share the method with you today.
What is the Rose, Bud, Thorn method?
Rose Bud, Thorn is a “Design Thinking” activity that can be used to uncover and surface insights for a number of topics. It’s a way to proclaim what exists now, as well as explore ways for improvement. Basically, this process asks you to look at something from three different perspectives:
- Rose: Something that is positive or working well
- Thorn: Something that is negative or not working well
- Bud: An opportunity or area for improvement
The “Rose” of this process is a way to showcase the good things that are going on. Hopefully not all things are bad. The “Thorn” is the bad parts of the process/app/etc. You must be authentic and recognize that not everything is perfect, and it is critical to discuss what needs improvement. The “Bud” of this the gold mine because this is where you surface ideas and potential improvements.
You can use this method to explore a number of things. It could be reviewing a process, like traveling on an airplane or onbaording a new employee. You can review an app or enterprise software. It can even be a future concept or something that is not even real yet, like how you might envision a new policy or idea.
Why would a person do this?
There are many benefits of this of this procedure including:
- It is so darn simple.
- You do not have to be a deep subject matter expert on a topic to participate.
- Nor does it take any technical knowledge to work in this method.
- It’s super low-fidelity, so no computer hookup required.
- Only a few supplies are needed: sticky-notes, markers and a wall or whiteboard to accumulate the thoughts and ideas.
- It can be done in-person in any office or online on an electronic whiteboard like Mural.
- You can do this activity with a larger or small group of people.
Who can do it?
Anyone! Of course that is the answer you were expecting, right? Really though, this activity can be conducted by people with any skill levels. You can go through this process through members of your team, or with external clients. Rose, Thorn, Bud can be among students or professionals. All age levels. All levels of expertise. The more diverse the perspectives the better.
If you are working with a large group of people, it might be better to break this larger group in to smaller, more manageable clusters of participants.
How do get ready?
First, decide on the topic. Then determine if that topic can be broken in to phases or chunks so that the activity can be organized in to smaller, manageable portions if needed. Also determine if the problem is too large for this activity. It might need to be refined so that you are focusing on the right part of the problem you would like to explore for improvements.
Then decide who should participate. Are there subject matter experts who can bring expertise to the brainstorming session? Are there customers who can bring a unique perspective? Who from the team should be included? Developers? Designers? Product owners? Anyone else? Like I mentioned before, the more diverse perspectives you can bring to this process the better. This is a time to brainstorm and come up with a lot of ideas. So give your opportunity to do so with a variety of perspectives. Though, if the group gets too large, it might be better to multiple sessions, pending budget and time constraints.
Next deal with the logistics. I won’t get in to those details in too much depth here because those will vary on your circumstances. Keep in mind basic best practices when conducting any research session:
- Define the goal of the research. Also understand the hypothesis and the reason(s) you are conducting the research.
- Make sure that you are meeting the stakeholders’ and requesters’ needs and ask.
- Plan ahead of time and make sure you are organized and ready for the session.
- Run a pilot and make sure the plan that you have runs as smoothly as it can.
How do you do it?
Let’s fast forward to the day of the session. You already have your topic, participants, venue, etc. Now let’s talk about what you will need to do.
- Whiteboard or wall for post-it notes
- Sharpie markers for each participant
- Three color of post-it notes. I recommend pink for Rose/Good, green for Bud/Opportunity and yellow or blue for Thorn/Bad.
- Optional: voting stickers for the participants to vote on the Bud/Opportunity that he team will work on to implement or research further
- A whiteboard segmented in to topics you would like the group to work through
Talk to the group about the goals of the research process. You want them to be honest, open and creative. Tell them about the topic we are going to explore today and how we are going to explore it through three lenses: the good, the bad and the opportunities.
Overview of the process
- Grab three different-colored post-it pad for the phase we are on (pink for Rose, green for Bud and blue for Thorn) and a sharpie marker.
- Step up to the board and start with the (first of however many you have) portion of the process you want to brainstorm about.
- Take 5 minutes to quietly brainstorm the good and bad aspects of that process, as well as opportunities, by writing on the different colored post-it pad. Don’t forget to change the color of the post-it you write on based on whether or not is was a good point, a bad point or an opportunity.
- As you come up with an idea, write it down and then verbally state what it reads as you put it on the board. This is done so that you can inform others of your idea. Plus it might prompt other people to think of something related or different to what you wrote.
- Populate the board with as many good, bad and opportunities as you can in in 5 minutes. Don’t start side conversations or dismiss any ideas. This is the time to brainstorm as many ideas as you can and then capture them on the board.
- If the group is still going strong, give them another minute or two to get all of the ideas out.
- When the time is up, have the group cluster the post-it notes in to themes and similar ideas.
- Let the group take a few minutes to reflect on these themes and have a short discussion about what data has surfaced from the exercise.
- Are there surprises?
- Are there repeated problems?
- Are there issues that are present, have been for a long time, but don’t ever seem to be fixed?
- What are the opportunities?
- Any great ideas?
- Any opportunities that could be easily accomplished? Low hanging fruit?
An optional next step is that you have the group use stickers to “vote” on various opportunities to determine what the group should work on first.
There are so many aspects of Design Thinking. And there are so many ways to build empathy for the user and generate ideas during discovery. Rose, Thorn, Bud seems to be an easy method that provides an opportunity for your group to surface several opportunities for improvement. Don’t be intimidated by this method if you are nervous and feel like you do not have extensive experience to conduct or participate in such a session. Just go for it. If you do try the Rose, Thorn, Bud method, please let me know how it worked for you and what opportunities your team has discovered to work on.
To read more about the method, I found another interesting website that breaks down how to do it on Atomic Object’s website.
There 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.
Describe the difference between UX and UI
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
- Why did you get in to UX design?
- What do you wish you had known before starting a career in design?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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.
This was the third year for attending the local UX conference known as Big Design conference or Big D for short. All I can say that is we are really lucky to have such a conference here in Dallas, and at a pretty reasonable price. This year, Kim Goodwin, famed author and Cooper alum gave the opening speech.
I love attending Big D for a number of reasons. Like I mentioned before, it’s a great conference for any local level, let alone Dallas.
Second, there are so many good topics, it is so difficult to decide what session to attend. That is the most difficult part of Big D: to decide which seminar I am going to attend.
Big D it’s a great place to learn about new topics. I attending Marti Gold’s session about multi modal interfaces. As UX designers, we always need to evolve abd learn about the latest trends in technology to stay relevant. We’ve had to learn how to design websites and software, nd then how to apply that design to mobile devices. Now we need to think about designing for other senses like voice interfaces. Marti’s talk talked about the best practices of multi modal interface design. More importantly, how there are NOT best practices yet because it’s still a very young and emerging field. Her talk was particularly interesting to me.
In between sessions, the trade show or vendor area is a great place to hang out and meet new people. Most importantly, it’s a great place to pick up some swag. I think I have enough notebooks to last me a lifetime. ha. I would swing by there to meet recruiters, grab some energy candy and consult the schedule for the next session.
Finally, it’s a great place to catch up with old friends. I always see old co-workers from Capital One and always get the chance to exchange hugs with them. I also love connecting old friends with new (to them) friends. Conferences like this are a great place to network. Not only can you learn about your trade at Big D, you can also meet new friends and reconnect with old ones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Oh the dreaded job interview. No one likes to have to interview for a new job. But it’s the necessary evil that we as UX designers all have to face at one time or another. I have found there are a few techniques that have helped me prepare for the interview as best as I can. I’ll be honest, I have not landed every job I have interviewed for. Not even close. But I look at every interview as an opportunity to improve my answers and approach.
I encourage everyone, whether they are actively looking for a job or not to take every opportunity to be ready for that next interview. That means having these tips below in your toolbox. That also means taking the opportunity to practice these interviewing skills whenever you can. That may even mean going on an interview even if you don’t want that job. I have certainly done that too.
The question comes back to:
Prepare for a UX job interview
1. Do you homework
Know the basics about the company: what they do, who owns them, how long have they been in business, why they have been in the news recently, what are they knows for, etc. Also know your team members. Find out who you will be interviewing with in advance and stalk them on LinkedIn. Know what their job title is, where they have worked, where they went to school and what their career path has been. Determine if you have any common traits that might be interesting points of discussion. Also see if you know anyone who has worked with your interviewers to get insight on what it could be like working with them.
2. Know the industry and landscape
Similar to the know the business aspect above. But this is understanding a bit more about the technology and how that impacts your job. Also know what competing companies are doing in a similar landscape so that you can ask questions related to technology and trends in the industry.
3. Practice the whiteboard challenge
No matter how you feel about a whiteboard challenge, (Uhg, that’s a discussion for another day.) a company might require you to do a whiteboard challenge as part of the interview process. Love it or hate it, you need to be ready to do it. Be ready to show your UX process and how you would tackle this request in a short amount of time. I am suggestion that you practice this so you don’t freeze under pressure. Believe me, I’ve been there.
4. Have behavioral interview answers ready
Have answers ready to go for questions like:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How do you deal with conflict?
- What would you do with a problematic boss?
5. Have behavioral design and technical answers ready
Not only knowing the Human Resources questions are necessary, you also need to walk the walk. Know your UX stuff. Be able to speak to the projects in your portfolio and how you executed them. Talk about the technology and tools being used by other UX designers. Show that you are keeping up on current trends and practices.
6. Have questions YOU want to ask about the company
A job interview must be a two-way street. You need to also find out if this is the company you would like to work for. Not only does it show that you are inquisitive, it makes you look like you are serious about the position. You want to learn about the culture, your co-workers, their process. I always like to ask “Why are you still working here?” and “What would cause you to leave?” Try to flesh out how happy their are there and if the company is a good fit for you.
I’d also like to include an image that I recently came across on Toptal’s website. though not super in depth, this is a nice visual representation of the difference between UI and UX.
I am so lucky and honored! I have reached the superb level of gaining 1,100 followers on Twitter. I am truly thankful for all of the support I have gained through the years. I am touched that even just one person is interested in anything I have to say or share.
Thank you so much for showing interest in my UX Design and Research tweets. You can imagine how lucky I feel to have reached 1,100. I really appreciate all of the love.
Do you want to see what I post on Twitter too? Follow Jen Blatz on Twitter by visiting my page and joining the club. ha!
Guess who is the latest city to have it’s own IxDA chapter? Dallas!
Guess who is one of the co-founders and leaders of the local chapter? Me!
What is IxDA
That is a very good question. “IxDA, or The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) is a member-supported organization dedicated to the discipline of interaction design. Since its launch in 2003, IxDA has grown into a global network of more than 100,000 individuals and over 200 local groups, focusing on interaction design issues for the practitioner, no matter their level of experience.” Yep, I totally swiped that from their website.
So why does Dallas have a chapter now? Well, quite frankly, it’s time. We have an ever-growing Interaction and UX design community here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There are a lot of major (and minor) companies with a strong UX presence locally. We want a place to gather, share ideas and feel like we belong.
Also, IXDA was created in Dallas to give back to the community. This is our chance, as interaction designers, researchers, product owners, information architects, students or whatever your profession might be to get more involved in your UX community. We don’t want this just to be the same old meetup where you show up, listen to a speaker and then leave. Oh no…. We want you to come to our events to participate, have an interaction with another human being, meet new folks, teach someone something you know, maybe even give a talk yourself. There is a fabulous design community in Dallas, and we want to give everyone a voice and a platform to get more involved.
“All people deserve to live in a well-designed world.”
Who are these leaders anyhow?
Well you know me, Jen Blatz. I feel very honored and privileged to be asked to join the leadership panel with two other great local UX designers. Coby Almond is a UX designer at Pivotal. Rahul Akbar a Design Thinking coach, and Creative Director at IBM. We casually met a couple of times to determine what value we thought this group could bring to the Dallas UX community, as well as how to kick everything off. Once we met, we decided that this was the right time and place to plant an IxDA tree to grow and nurture.
Nice to meet you
So this past week, we had our first meeting. I feel so honored that we had nearly 40 people show up to the event, curious and eager to get involved. We started off by introducing IxDA as an organization, along with it’s values and (best part) lack of membership dues.
Then we gave the mic to Dallas Give Camp. This is a local hackathon that brings together designers, product owners and developers for one weekend. In that weekend, these groups come together to design a website for a select group of charities to help the group better promote their cause and mission. This is also a great way for local designers to give back and help their local community.
Finally we wrapped up the evening with an interactive activity. We asked the room to break up in to smaller groups and grab the old stand-by of a Sharpie marker and a pad of Post-its. It was brainstorming time. We asked the groups to take a few minutes and come up with what they wanted the local IxDA group to be. Specifically, we wanted them to think in 3 themes for the IxDA group:
- Their hopes and wants
- Their fears no dislikes
- General ideas
Then we asked each group to select a representative to speak on behalf of everyone’s Post-it notes. To us, we view these notes as the way we should form and shape the local IxDA chapter. In the spirit of IxDA giving back to the community, we also want this community to decide what their want and need from this organization at the local level.
Overall, the first meeting of the Dallas IxDA chapter was a grand success. Not only did we have a good turnout, we also generated excitement and enthusiasm that some said has been missing from the UX community for quite some time. We hope that this enthusiasm grows as we host more meetings. Thank you to all of those who came out to “check it out.” And thank you for giving me the honor and opportunity to help bring this group to life and lead it to success.
We want you
Are you interested in participating in the IxDA community here in Dallas? Our next event will be World Interaction Design Day on September 25 , 2018. We are still working out the details so the best place for you to stay on top of the latest news is our @IxDADallas Twitter account.
No matter if you are in a large company or small. No matter if your developers are next to your office cubie or in another time zone. As UX designers, there’s always (or at best, often) a point when you need to talk to a developer about the project.
Yes this can be a daunting task. Sometimes it feels like developers are talking a different language. And in some rare cases, you might be working with a developer who is arrogant and condescending. And he/she makes you feel stupid when you try to ask technical questions. Let’s hope that is not happening in your case.
No matter the vibe, we all have to work together to reach a common goal: get the project out the door. So just how do you do that?
Build a rapport with developers
1. Recognize developers are people too.
We are all have hearts, brains and pride and we are using them all to achieve success.
2. You have more in common than you think.
So take the time to listen to them. You might be surprised (but probably not) just how much design knowledge they have.
3. Learn a bit of code talk.
Yes folks, know enough to carry on a conversation. Do you know what a Hex value is? Do you understand what a Div is? Can you explain the difference between html and CSS and know why each is important in it’s own way? I am by no mean telling you become a code expert (that is a heated debate I will fight another day.) But do take a couple of online courses or read some articles to understand some basic coding terms and how those will apply to your designs. Believe me they will.
Developers have great ideas. They might even have a better alternative to what you have thought about. Hear them out and don’t let your “design poodle” ego get in the way.
5. Communicate early.
You have the best design in the world, but is it technically feasible? Maybe it can be done, but the level of work is out of this world. Get ready for a debate, but a healthy one by bringing in developers in to your design early. Find out what walls are up, and determine which walls are worth fighting to break down.
6. Go out for lunch or a beer.
You work with people as much as you sleep. Sometimes you spend more time with your work mates than your family. And that is why I am referring to them at “mates.” Do your best, as a UX designer, to build empathy for your developers. A healthy, happy working relationship will go a lot further than a competitive, ego-driven one.