think outside the box in vintage wood type

What Good Looks Like

 

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking and discussing with other UXers about where UX is going and how the lines are getting more blurred as UX becomes more pervasive. At the same time I still get dragged into the “UX 101” conversations that should have ended 10 years ago with people who profess to be experts.

The easy answer is that UX is was born about 15 years ago out of the user centred design processes. It was first applied in usability, user research and information architecture. UX now includes design and development skills sets as well as strategy. The principals and core objectives of UX however, have not changed. They have matured. UX is now a huge industry and widely understood. Clients themselves are very sophisticated.

Most people in UX know this and have a common understanding and know what good UX is. I see myself as a UX person first. Whatever deliverable I am producing (IA, strategy or design) I think about the person who is going to be using the end product or system.

What good looks like is the outcome. No one can hold up a sample and say this is good without explaining the thinking the decisions that have gone into it and why these were made and how they came to those conclusions.

To the casual observer a design or an information architecture can look good. Great even. This is why understanding what user experience is and being able to explain and measure it is the only way to avoid costly mistakes or interfaces that do not work.

As an example:

A lot of people think Microsoft does not create great experiences. They proudly share their insanity in a blog post. This has to be the top retweet for the UX community today. Most people thought it was a joke but here is the story about the “streamlined UI” from Seldo.

Orange text may look good to some people but it is not usable by everyone. Yellow on green is even worse. Some usability issues like those are easy once you know them and the reasons why. Skills like developing a taxonomy or using categorization become second nature. All of that falls in the realm of knowing what is best practice. Developing that knowledge is fundamental but that is just the foundation. It takes time and a lot of experience to become proficient in user experience. Picking up the tools and the skills are the easy part. The hardest part is keeping up and staying current.

UX design differs from non UX design by bringing a wisdom and depth of knowledge of what users want from the design as well as understanding persuasion. In some cases every element on the page has a rational that is based on user research and rigorous measuring for effectiveness.

It is not about memorizing or copying. The bar keeps getting higher and this is user driven. What matters most is understanding and studying user behaviour. Think how people do things and what their need state is as well as frame of mind and other considerations. Constant research and measuring the user experience are the only way to ensure a positive outcome.

This is why deep understanding of social media and mobile applications needs to be a part of the UX thinking. Keeping on the edge and looking into the future is the only way to keep up.

A lack of this understanding can make people defensive and get them to promote individual specialties at the expensive of others, often demonstrating a narrow mindedness that is counterproductive.

Good UX does not come in a box.

 

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Participatory Workshops Deliver Higher Value

Participatory workshops are not spectator sports. Participatory workshops are engaging, dynamic and are productive. At the end of the day there is something to show for all that time spent. Progress & value.

It is no wonder some people loath workshops. Sitting in a room for hours on end with a bunch of people not of your own choosing , classroom style, can be pure hell. The problem is that workshops often cater to the opinionated loud mouths who have read the book on assertiveness and have taken it to heart. They are the ones who want to stand at the front and be in charge or heckle from the back. In a workshop no one should be in charge. Moderate or guide, yes but that is different. At the end of the workshop this can result in negative feedback from some one who did not get their say and feels disgruntled.

Consider running workshops aimed at involving everyone and taking a more considered view. Look for innovative ideas to get people engaged.  Participatory workshops involve people and get them actively involved to foster real collaboration.

The principals are simple:

  • Seeing is believing, show rather than tell
  • If you must tell use stories, metaphors and anecdotes
  • Influencing instead of arguing or debating
  • Transparency to foster open discussions
  • Everyone has an equal say
  • Everyone is here for a reason
  • Suggestions are welcome and people are encouraged to speak up
  • We want questions as we seek to understand
  • We do not judge
  • Have fun

 

I use everything from white boarding to sketch pads and make extensive use of sticky notes. Later after a of couple initial workshops I may use clickable simulations and flows to project onto the white board and invite people to draw on top of it or fill in the blanks.

You can also consider projectors to project templates onto a white board from a tool like Axure to provide a talking point with a clickable simulation and capture feedback real time. Get people up drawing and filling in the blanks. Have people take turns presenting their ideas and thoughts and ensure everyone has a say. In workshops interactive tools can be used to great effect once enough initial information has been to bring the user journeys to life. Modifications can be made on screen during “think out loud walk-throughs”.

Activities for a positive outcome:

  • Plan the activities and get the materials – post it notes, white boarding
  • Create a “parking lot” to note ideas and issues not on the agenda for another time to keep the flow
  • Ask “what if” questions to get feedback from people who maybe less vocal
  • Break large groups up into smaller groups and assign tasks
  • Have other people take turns presenting
  • Have a goal and define what good looks like at the start
  • Allow people to take breaks to check messages
  • Capture the information and playback at the end to demonstrate what was accomplished
  • Feedback actions and plan the follow up activities
  • Ensure the right people are in the room – no spectators
  • Choose a comfortable and welcoming room
  • Establish clear goals and boundaries
  • Do not forget the biscuits 😉

 

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Developing a Mobile Application – Gamification

 

Developed a Mobile Frist Application for Betfair

  • Ran and facilitated User Experience workshops
  • Brain storming ideas
  • White boarding
  • Creating a fun atmosphere to stimulate ideas and drive innovation
  • Rapid prototyping

 

Developing Mobile Applications

Developing Mobile Applications

 

 

Creating the interaction design

Creating the interaction design