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.
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.
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.
With mosts UX projects, you are not working alone. Someone is coming to you with a project in mind. They want a website built, or a new mobile app, or they just need to make changes to an existing project. Whatever the case, you still are working with the person who has “The Ask.” And it’s this person you must tap in to to get as much information as you need to get started on the project.
Awhile back, I wrote another blog post, “Questions to ask your Client in a Kickoff” that lists a number of questions you should have ready to ask for a Client interview. But many of these same questions can be applied when interviewing a stakeholder as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There seems to be an article about every topic these days. In fact, I find that a lot of articles on Medium are kind of full of fluff, and when I read through to the end, I’ve discovered that I really didn’t learn much from the article. I want quick lists, with explanations if I have time.
I’ve decided to start a short- to medium-form series of how to lists of doing things. I plan on covering topics related to UX, careers, working with others and any other topic that I hope others might find interesting.
I say it is short- to medium- form, but let’s see how the project evolves. Thank you for taking the time to read my articles. Hopefully you might learn a little nugget of information from my serious. Please feel free to leave comments on any “How to…” article. Or contact me on Twitter to start a conversation. Thank you.
Have you ever heard of a “Work Breakdown Structure”? Me neither. I was recently reading an article and the subject came up. So, like any curious UX Designer, my curiosity was naturally piqued by a new topic.
A Work Breakdown Structure does not have to have a fancy visual format. It can also be structured in a simple Excel spreadsheet.
So what is a Work Breakdown Structure anyways? According to Wikipedia, a Work Breakdown Structure is often used in project management and systems engineering. It is a deliverable-oriented breakdown of a project into smaller components.
OK that makes sense. So how could this technique be used in UX? I can see it being used in a variety of ways.
First, how about in information architecture?
A Work Breakdown Structure, or I’ll abbreviate it as WBS for short, could be used when documenting the different pages and subpages of a website. This could be an tidy way of showing page hierarchy as well as all of the different components that reside on every page.
A WBS could also be used to demonstrate the different pieces of an application, fromA Work Breakdown Structure. This could surface duplicate places where information resides. This could be especially important to discover if you are dealing with a very complicated application, that just seems to bloat to no end.
Don’t take assumptions at face value.
A WBS could also be used to break down the scope of a project. You could lay out the different portions of a site or app, and include dates the aspect would be worked on and the team players involved.
Not just scope, but a WBS can help a team work through a budget for a project. Use this process to lay out the different pieces of a project and estimate how much each of those pieces will cost to design, build and test.
From a technical side, a WBS could be used to illustrate where different versions or portions of your files reside on different servers. It could be a helpful way to surface where files are being saved and to see if there is any unnecessary duplication or old files that could be purged.
Overall, I find that a Work Breakdown Structure is simply a helpful way to surface information to share with others. Sometimes we assume just how things are structured. By working through this inventory, and truly mapping out in an (ugly) Excel document, we might just discover things we did not really know. As with any project involving UX, don’t take assumptions at face value. Sometimes working through exercises like creating a WBS document might prove very helpful indeed. Not only to show where things exist right now, but also how things can be improved in the future.
One professional goal I am working on for 2018 is to speak publicly more about my craft. I do feel comfortable talking in front of a group. It just takes a bit of discipline on my part to have a presentation ready to go. ha ha
My good friend and professional networking guru, Greg Gomel, reached out to me to ask me to speak to the current Agile for Patriots Scrum master certification class. I was honored that he thought I was capable and a good candidate to speak to his class. I was nervous because I didn’t have a lot of time to throw a presentation together. Yikes! But I knew with a kick in the butt like this, I could get a good presentation together in no time.
I was up for the challenge. I had a presentation I created a while ago for a previous employer explain the basics of UX. So I could use that former presentation as a base. But I wanted to cater this talk to show the scrum masters-to-be how UX ties in to agile.
I know there is a lot of confusion about how and where UX falls in the the agile lifecycle, and in to the developers’ sprints. I wanted to demystify that a bit and prepare them for the future of when they will be leading teams that will (hopefully) include a UX designer. I wanted them to not only learn about UX, but know how User Experience Research and Design works in to the development team.
After I gave my presentation, the asked me to stay and review and critique the website they were building for the class. So I gave them practical advice on some of the design decisions they had made as well as how to improve some things. The students were very receptive to my professional feedback and suggestions. It was a healthy dialog. I helped them to learn about better User Experience and Design. And they helped me to learn about the constraints they were dealing with and the business goals they needed to accomplish for their client.
One point I wanted to emphasize to the scrum masters in training is to always to include the UX Designer in all scrum ceremonies. As a UX Designer, I have been excluded in scrum ceremonies because it was considered too “developer” focused. The value of UX designers being included is so vast:
UX Designers should be in the scrum meetings so that we are “in the know.”
We need hear what is coming down the pike so we can plan our projects and research accordingly.
We can hear when design decisions are being made without consideration from users or the UX designer. (This should NEVER be happening, but it does. Uhg.)
We can provide insight in to how we can do testing on the projects as they are in flight.
Finally, we are part of the team. Make sure we are not excluded, and therefore left out of important discussions and decisions.
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.
“Design of Everyday Things” (started in 2017, need to finish)
“Checklist Manifesto” (charted for 2017, pushing to this year)
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
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.
On jnblatz on Twitter, my goal is to tweet enough interesting content to gain 1,200 followers. Ambitious goal I know!
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.
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.
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.
I attended a talk at BigD (the User experience design conference in Dallas) abut UX Buzzwords. The presentation was by Marti Gold, who is a energetic, snarky and colorful speaker. I love hearing Marti because she keeps it raw and real. She is also a fellow member of Ladies that UX Dallas.
The gist of Marti’s speech was that when UX Designers use a buzzword or phrase, that might have a different meaning and interpretation by the business partner or product owner. In fact, ore often than not, the product owner does have a completely different idea of what your meaning of the buzzword is. The point of her talk was to avoid or stop using these buzzwords all together. So what are the dangerous, confusing UX words?
OK I know it’s pretty far in to the new year. And in keeping my vow to regularly have blog posts I have been cheating a bit by basically re-posting content. So I am going to reflect on my 2016 goals and see what I can build upon and start anew.
First, let’s look at 2016 goals at the beginning of the year. I think that there are a few of theses I can revisit and try to accomplish in 2017.
“Design of Everyday Things”
“How to Get People to do Stuff”
Write blog posts
I am shooting to post 25 original blog posts in 2017
Ok so that’s a good reasonable start. I want to add a few more in 2017.
Become and “expert” in some discipline concerning UX. (Even if I am the only one who thinks I am an expert. ha!)
Mock up pages in Sketch to enhance portfolio
Continue to grow online presence in Twitter
Learn Sketch well enough to mock up several interfaces to expand portfolio and skill set (yep, I wrote that twice)
I recently received this article in an email from Jared Spool written by Dan Saffer. I thought the words were really inspirational. We all get stuck at times. And sometimes a few simple steps can get us out of a rut. Take a look at the suggestions below and see if you agree. Or do you have additional tips to get unstuck?
Here are his tips for how to build a creative habit that sustains you through those dark days when ideas run dry.
Prepare: Build a creative habit. Schedule a small block of time and show up every day.
Find a ritual: Artists often create a ritual around the work they do to get them in the right headspace. It could be listening to music, arranging pencils, what-have-you. Find what works for you.
Keep a list of your top three big questions: Hang them in a visible place in your workspace so you can think about them.
Walk: If you are feeling stuck, get outside. Why? Because even Nietzsche thought it was a good idea.
Be boring: If you are out and about, resist the urge to look at your phone and other digital distractions.
Time: Spend as much time as you can with the problem you are trying to solve.
Solutions tend to come to us when we aren’t thinking very hard about them. Give yourself the space to ruminate over ideas, ideate, and percolate.
I feel so honored that someone has mentioned my blog and one of the best UX blogs in the Los Angeles area. Though many of my topics are not Los Angeles centric, I still appreciate that my blog got a mention.
You can read the original Quora post at What are the best UX blogs and Twitter accounts to follow in the Los Angeles area? I am not sure who mentioned my blog, but I can assure you it was not me. But I thank whoever the anonymous poster is who gave me a shout out. You rock! There are a number of great UX resources, both Los Angeles based and not, in that Quora post. So check it out and learn a bit about your UX community.
I was happy to find out that there is a regional UX design conference here in Dallas. My worry was that I would not be able to find good local events once I left Los Angels. I stand corrected. I attended the Big Design Conference at it was really worth my time and energy. I met a lot of great folks, expanded my UX network, and learned a lot about the UX community here in Dallas and the surrounding area.
For my next few posts, I am going to share some of my notes of the talks I attended during the conference. I hope that more slide decks and notes will be shared from the classes I could not attend. There were so many great options. I had a tough time choosing which courses to take.
I am happy to report surviving another Global Service Jam. So what is global service jam? Is it some sort of cook off? Are you making jam? What does service have to do with it?
The Global Service Jam is a non-profit volunteer activity organized by an informal network of service design afficinados, who all share a common passion for growing the field of service design and customer experience.
The website goes on the say
As a participant in the Global service jam, you will work through a whole design process in one weekend. Whether you are experienced or completely new to the field, you won’t just be talking about service design, you will be working with others on developing concrete ideas and designs which could become real.
You will learn more about a design-based approach to problems, and about sustainability.
You will pick up a load of new ideas and work practices.
You will meet a lot of cool people at all levels of experience.
Your work and ideas will be reviewed by your peers, and presented to the world, where they can be seen by potential customers or employers, or people who could make them real.
You will design something that may become a real business.
You might get rich and famous.
You will certainly have a blast.
And have a blast I did! It is exhilarating, exhausting, energizing and exciting. I get to participate in activities I don’t normally get to at work. I get to collaborate with complete strangers, who become friends through a weekend of intense team work. I get to flex some UX muscle, and keep skills sharp. I get to explore new ideas and learn about new skills like Service Design Blueprint and Business Modal Canvas. I know it might seem crazy to give up an entire weekend for an activity like this. But I think it is fun and I am always up for a challenge.
Today, I attended my third WIAD or World Information Architecture Day, established by IAI Information Architect Institute. A couple of years ago, I acted as Project Manager for Los Angeles’ WIAD. So ai map to see that the torch has been carried and this event is back in the Los Angeles community. It’s a great opportunity to hear some of the industry’s well regarded IA experts, to meet other great people in the field, and hopefully to get fired up and inspired. What is WIAD? According to the website:
World Information Architecture Day 2016 is a one-day annual celebration of this phenomenon. Hosted in dozens of locations across the world by local organizers on February 20th, we focus on telling stories of information being architected by everyone from teachers to business owners; technologists to artists; designers to product managers.
With representation from all over the world, we believe that the power of similarity and the beauty of difference between stories will inspire those who work in information architecture, as well as those who may be new to it. We aim to teach, share, and have fun — all through the lens of Information Architecture (IA).
I would like to share some of my notes and highlights from today’s fabulous event.
If you’ve ever wondered where you are on a website, than that is an issue of IA.
An aspect of “play studio” is to pick a behavior and design for it.
Shift from a designer to a facilitator.
Research is becoming more collaborative.
Design work is not precious. So it’s good to work on low fidelity objects to keep that true.
Design work is not about ornamentation, it is about implmentation.
Think about creative solutions rather than what requirements are supposed to be delivered.
Designers need to be more collaborative and not worry about people (who are not designers) stepping on their toes and entering their “craft.”
Put the work out early to get user feedback, knowing it is an iterative process.
Try creating ad hoc personas when you don’ have time to create full-fledged personas.
Know your audience. This is so often forgotten. Keep in mind what your user’s current needs and behaviors are. Don’t lose site of who you are designing for.
Know when it is appropriate to work with an established design pattern and not reinvent the wheel.
Take the information you have gathered in research and shake things up when you need something different.
Some corporations appreciate hiring people who will rock the boat and provide a diverse outlook to the company. Get hired to make a change in the corporate structure as well as the product that you will build.
Some companies will avoid innovation because of risk. This leads to fast following.
Tell the story | Develop the culture | Be the voice of the customer.
Innovation requires atriculation.
When you work on a design solution, what will people think, feel, do and become?
UX designers have great skills like: inter-discipline, like people, empathy and listen to others.
Think like a founder, not a designer.
Designers inherit problems, founders define them.
Design THE business, not for it.
Do you expect the world to anticipate your needs? Because you should.
The problem you have been given is not the right problem. Discover the right problem.
Every designer should have some skill in leadership.
What motivates a designer is a frustration with the world and a desire to improve it.
As a designer, you see something better.
Consider delivery mechanisms that extend your core experience.
Leverage what people love, address what they don’t.
Complexity is not the problem
Simplicity does not solve ambiguity
First, I learned that it is very difficult to write one entry on exactly every single day. So yes I did cheat a bit and write more than one entry a day to play catch-up on days that I missed. Don’t kill me.
Second, though many of the principles I was already familiar with, it was good for me to write them down and work harder at committing them to memory and learning.
Third, its rather nice to have all of these little lessons, from lists, the definitions to UX quotes all in one small UX journal.
Finally, now that my experimental deadline has been successfully met, I plan on continuing to full out my UX journal of learning. My notebook is less than half full, so there are plenty of other pages I can fill with valuable UX lessons and content.
When a UI designer is assigned a new feature to build, it is crucial that you understand this process from the user’s point of view. You might think, “Oh I know all the steps the user will go through. I have it all in my head.”
Well I am here to tell you probably don’t have all of the steps the user might go through in your head. This is the advantage of creating a Journey Map. Call it what you will:
Customer journey map
To me all of these terms are very similar. Yes I know I am bastardizing these terms by clumping them all together as one item. I understand there are difference in these terms and when they should be used. However, the point I want to make is just think about how the user will go through the process and make some sort of illustration to show these steps. You don’t have to use some fancy software like InDesign or Omnigraffle. Go completely low fidelity and just sketch it out on pencil and paper.
There are benefits of sketching the user flow on to paper and get it out of your head:
You think you have thought of all of the options. Well you have not.
You will discover unknown unknowns.
You might leave out a step when it’s left in your head. Drawing each step really fleshes out the process.
There will be additional avenues you have not considered that only sketching will bring to the surface.
It forces you to visually consider the options and how many additional steps those option might provide.
It illustrates how complicated a user flow can get. It’s often more detailed than we thought.
As with all sketches, it provides a great communication tool that you can then show to your team to continue the discussion.
So before you start designing any software, or mocking up any of your fancy ideas in Photoshop of Sketch, take a few moments do perform this crucial step of creating a Journey map / User flow / Flow chart / Task flow / Customer journey map / Experience map. It’s a great idea to get any thought floating around in your head on to paper.
I have taken on a new task. I am challenging myself to keep a little notebook of items I learn for 100 days. The toughest thing will be remembering to enter an item every day. I sure hope I don’t miss a day. But if I do, then I will force myself to carry one until I get all 100 days — or until my notebook gets full. Whichever happens first. I encourage you to take the same challenge. Maybe it’s a notebook of doodles, or a notebook of learning a new word every day. Encourage yourself to take a moment every day to learn.
I think it is always good to try out different ideas when working on a project. I know that time does not always allow for exploration of several options. But I often find that by playing with a few different ideas, a good concept emerges that you did not expect.
If you are tied too strongly to one design, this expansion of ideas in to something better might not happen. So I encourage you to take some time to always try out different design ideas and layouts and see where the journey takes you. It is often surprising that the first idea you come up with, and the one that you thought was “perfect,” might not actually be the best. Play around with design a bit. That’s what makes it fun!
Here are some examples of me trying out different ideas of a page on a mobile website. Though they have the same content, the execution of the design varies quite a bit. Which design do you think is the most effective? How would you improve them? I am always happy to receive constructive and helpful feedback.
I found this graphic in a post written by Megan Wilson on her blog, UX Motel. I really thought it was interesting, though someone difficult to read. Do you spin your computer around or spin your head around? Forget about looking at it on mobile. Nevertheless, this is fun to look at isn’t it?
The Nielsen Norman Group has released an article discussing the importance and flaws of using a huge hero image on the home page. I am sharing the important check list that is included in the article. Read the entire article about image usage “Image-Focused Design: Is Bigger Better?” now.
How to Ensure that You Use Images Appropriately
Follow these steps to make sure you have the right balance of elements:
Identify and prioritize all the goals of the page — both the user goals, and the business goals (including brand goals.) Is the page primarily a marketing vehicle to build your brand? Or are most visitors already familiar with your organization (or at least your industry vertical), and now need specific content or functionality?
Define how each design element relates to the page goals. Images are usually decorative, and support branding goals. Navigation and structured search relate to specific user tasks.
Assign visual weight based on goal importance. If a design element supports a high priority goal, it should have more visual emphasis; conversely, design elements related to secondary goals should have less emphasis. (This guideline sounds obvious, but is often completely disregarded, or gets lost along the way to creating a ‘modern’ looking website.)
Select images that have a strong relationship with brand goals. Remember, the purpose of your site is not just to showcase images (unless you’re Flickr). Instead, the images you select should showcase the purpose of your site.
Choose striking visuals that capture attention. Once you’ve identified the goals of your images and their relative importance among other design elements, and you’ve determined what types of images relate to these goals — only then should you focus on selecting the most compelling images you can find.
Be selective about which trends you embrace when ‘updating’ your site. For many redesign projects, creating a site that looks ‘modern’ is an important goal. But there are many ways to accomplish this goal. Typography, layout, and brand colors — just to name a few—can all be effectively used to create a modern look and feel, while still providing appropriate emphasis on critical site functions.
But if you read the story further, entering the UX field is not really about how old you are, but rather how much experience you have. Don’t let your age intimidate you and keep your for pursuing a career in UX. Just get started today!
I found a great definitive list of design, tech, web and UX podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts on my drive to and from work, so this is going to be a great resource for people like me who like to catch up on their podcasts on their commute. Yes some are in German, but pick the English ones if that’s your cup of tea.
How about listening to something education while you are at work? Lynda.com has a lot of great video tutorials on a lot of subjects – like UX, web design and business. I saw this slide on one of the courses the other day and thought it was a great reminder to share. When working on a UX project, one will often go through these phases:
This particular slide was found in “Foundations of UX: Content Strategy with Patrick Nichols” and is often referred to as the product development life cycle.
I find that User Experience and User Interface are often used interchangeably. I was not even sure that I understood what the difference was. So I decided to do a bit of research on the internets and compiled a brief list describing each discipline. I know these are long lists. If you have some comments, please share with the group.
UX is the overall experience one has with a product or service, which can include a UI.
User Experience is how they feel when they look at the site, aka the broad scope.
The interaction itself
Addresses all aspects of a thing as perceived by a person
UX architecture intelligently provides for the user’s interactive experience via features and functionality of a software-based product or service.
UX-er is known as the primary user-advocate on a team
UX informs creative
Developers are building what UX is architecting, and creative provides the visual look-and-feel based on UX architecture and brand requirements
UX design is all the methodological steps that lead you to the conclusion on how to design the UI. They are responsible for how they feel when interacting with the interface or product.
Generally start by conducting user research and interviews. The goal with this is to understand exactly what the users’ needs are.
The wireframes are essentially the blueprints of what the UI designer will use to create the interface that the user interacts with.
One who designs the user experience for applications after doing user and workflow analysis, producing user-centered design artifacts such as personas, site maps, taxonomies, and wireframes. A UX Designer may also conduct usability testing on prototypes or finished products to assess the quality of a user experience.
UI is typically a combination of visual design (the look and feel) and the interaction design (how it works).
User Interface design is the part of the product that faces the user when he looks at the site.
A point of interaction
A means of communicating between a person and a system
UI (aka ‘GUI’) visual design is the graphical user interface of a software product/service
The GUI is the visual layer informed by the UX architecture, but based on branding/style guide and visual design principles.
The design of a GUI should be heavily informed and guided by the problems that were solved during UX process.
GUI deliverables include mood boards, sketches, mockups, visual toolkits, final art assets and even CSS specs.
Interaction Design is the grey area between UX and GUI design.
Interaction, in our vernacular today, refers to the motion between states of controls and states of an interface.
Innately understand and prioritize what is best for the user and also understand the mechanics of physics and motion design; they also understand the capabilities of current dev tools such as CSS3 and HTML5
User Interface (UI) Design generally refers to the user facing side of any type of physical interface
A UI designer is responsible for everything that a user will see on the interface.
UI designer’s responsibility to understand what the users’ needs are. They must be able to arrange the interface in a simple way that allows for the best user experience.
One who builds user interfaces that support the exchange of information between an application’s users and its back-end processes and databases.
UI Developer’s output is functional, testable, shippable code that lets users accomplish their goals when using an application. The UI Developer is also responsible for documentation that allows others to maintain their code.
A UI designer may have the ability to create interactive designs, icons, colors, text, and affect a number of other elements that solve problems dealing with direct interactions to the user. Those elements are fantastic tools to affect user experience but they are only part of the equation.
The very minimum:
Learn HTML & CSS. Learn Photoshop. Learn basic typography. Learn basic color theory. Learn about layout. Get a feeling for producing UX deliverables. Learn about usability evaluation methods. Learn the best practices for web design. Understand the difference between designing web sites, web applications, mobile applications, desktop applications and experiences.
As part of my GluteninBeer app development, I wanted to create a story board. Please don’t judge me on my drawing ability! As I child, I was a pretty good illustrator. Now, as you can see, I am complete crap. Oh well….
But illustrating some ideas, in other words, getting them out on paper, is always a good idea. So I thought creating a story board would be a good step in the UX process.
I drew this by hand, first in pencil, then reinforced it in sharpie. The I scanned it in to Photoshop to clean it up a bit. I also added the color highlights in Photoshop. This will be part of a portfolio piece for the GluteninBeer app development
Since you made it to this blog, it’s very likely that you came here through my home page at www.jenniferblatzdesign.com. But just in case you did not, and came in some special “back door” way, I wanted to emphasize that my portfolio site has a new design.
I opened with my UX portfolio. As you can see, I am accumulating a lot of UX assets and deliverables. One can also view some examples of my visual design work.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my newly-designed site. I would LOVE your feedback if you have any suggestions for improvement.
For CoCo’s redesign, I examined a number of website that CoCo said was similar to theirs, as far as the organization, not necessarily the design. It’s very helpful to see what other organizations that are similar to yours are doing on their website. What CoCo particularly liked about Homeboy Industries‘ website was the prominent “Donate” button that was on every page and was sticky at the top of the screen as the user scrolled down through the content.
It’s competitive analysis time! As part of any redesign, not only is it important to understand what your website is doing. It’s also helpful to see what other organizations that are similar to yours are doing on their website. For CoCo’s redesign, I examined a number of website that CoCo said was similar to theirs, as far as the organization, not necessarily the design. Here’s what Empower LA have going on at their website.
I wanted to create more than one persona since there are a few groups that use the CoCo website. So a part of my Community Coalition of South LA Taproot project, or better knows as CoCo I am working on some deliverables to accompany the project. Based another one of the stakeholder interviews I performed this week, plus additional resources that were provided by the organization, I came up with this fitting Persona.
As part of my Community Coalition of South LA Taproot project, or better knows as CoCo I am working on some deliverables to accompany the project. Based on one of the stakeholder interviews I performed this week, and other resources provided by the organization, I came up with this fabulous Shelia Persona.
The wonderful Strategic Projects team of UXPALA (User Experience Professionals Association of Los Angeles) spent a good part of Sunday afternoon working on the “not quite ready for primetime” uxpala.org website. Though it is still in it’s very early stages, the team came together to get a lot of work accomplished. We have to pull information form the already existing meetup website, plus create new content that must also be included on our formal website. All if this while working with the Information Architecture and structure of the site. Though there is yet a lot of work to be done, we made some great headway.
Though these wireframes are not perfect, and I know that I still need to read the iOs developer handbook to improve upon the standards. I need to make my wireframes a bit more compliant to these standards. However, it is good to explore some visual options and get started by getting some ideas on paper.
As part of my class project, I also had to create a wireframe for a desktop version. Though my concept really focuses on just the mobile app, I was tasked with creating a computer version that would promote the app. Below is the wireframe for this desktop website that would be promotion the app and leading viewers on where they could download the app.
I came across this nice and simple slide presentation called, “The 10 User Experience Principles à la WordPress.” It visually illustrates Jakob Nielsen’s Heurstic Evaulation Principles. The best part of her slideshow is it gives concrete examples to illustrate each principle.
This is a portion of my first assignment for the Cal State Fullerton User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces class. The charts here correspond to my chosen class project: A Hollywood Walking Tour App. I can’t seem to find a good and FREE walking tour app. So I thought about creating one myself.
The charts here discuss what the goals of the business are and what the customer goals would be. Though these charts are not perfect, their are a good first draft for the project.
I recently took it upon myself to compare three online movie ticket purchasing websites: Fandango*, movietickets.com and Arclight Cinemas. By comparing the features, design, content and user flow of similar websites, one can gain invaluable knowledge about their own sites.
When you compare your website to what a competitive website is doing, you will learn:
What your website or experience is doing right
What your website or experience is doing wrong
What your competitors are doing right
What your competitors are doing wrong
This is a great jumping off point in improving your own website or experience.
This graphic only shows some some of the insights I discovered when comparing websites. My brief overview is below:
* At the time of publishing this post, Fandango had not yet released its redesigned website and mobile app. Therefore many of the specific features I discuss here will no longer be applicable. However, going this process was still a great learning tool.
I know that Fandango will be launching a redesign very soon, so the shelf life of my analysis is ver limited. Still, I would like to share with you a few things I learned when analyzing Fandango.com website on the desktop:
If something looks like a button, then it should be a button. The “Find Movie Times + Buy Tickets” looks like a button, but is not. Best not to confuse the user.
Movie posters can be too small and sometimes difficult to read the title. Maybe use a simpler image to illustrate film? And therefore help me read the title of the film.