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Sketching with Wacom’s Inkling

Every once in awhile a new gadget that comes out that makes me go “I WANT!!”. Ok admittedly more often than once in awhile but far less often than spotting new dresses.

Wacom has a new pen coming out that can allow you to sketch and import directly into Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchbook or saved as a JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG & PDF for use with other applications. Oh yes. Almost sounds too good to be true.

As an ardent sketcher this is great news for story boarding and sketching user journeys. I may even be able to get my sketching back to where it was before I became a wireframe machine in Axure/Visio/whatever…

Taking photos or scanning in is ok (minus of course the big downside of the actual scanning)
but nothing compared to having the diagram in a native Adobe format.

 

Coming out this month! Whoo hoo.

View the details on the Wacom Inkling page.

Women in Despair
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Pervasive User Experience (UX)

Pervasive  User Experience is about extending the user experience and connecting it to the world users live in and work in as well the service or product. Pervasive UX is not about the what and how in the beginning, but it does get there.

First it is about the who and the why, understanding the needs of the end users and everything they will come into contact with. There is almost a cascade effect that can occur from user interaction not unlike the Butterfly Effect . Pervasive UX is disruptive. It is likened to a chaos theory. It ignores the silos in an organisation and breaks down barriers. Back-end processes and structures become invisible. Users are broadcasters and promoters of what matters to them.

It is a moving target. Social media, augmented reality and smart devices are driving user experience into uncharted territory. User experience is travelling beyond the traditional boundaries. It cannot be defined by what happens on a web page or within a single application or service.

User experience has gone from being a tactic sprinkling of usability, to keep the hippie mongrels at bay with their wacky usability principals, to becoming a new business model as brands struggle to keep up in fast paced multi-channel world.

Users identify with the method in which they interact with a company, product or service. Companies are only as good as their call centre or their sign up process. To the consumer mobile services are retailers. You walk into a shop or go online and buy. How is this a telecommunications company to the average Joe on the street? It is not. When users are online it is a digital service. This digital service extends beyond the pages or even the site. Digital is now the dominant interface for a lot of businesses.

If digital is now the dominating aspect then social media is the glue. The social media phenomenon extends the reach of the user experience. Every touch point a user has with an organisation should provide a seamless experience. A pervasive user experience strategy forms part of the core philosophy of an organisation.

This has a big impact for businesses as user expectations and perception is rapidly changing. During the Dot.com boom companies rushed in to offer services before the infrastructure and take up of the web was at a mass level. Now it is users who are in charge and the companies need to adapt and understand these new pathways. Business processes need to be re-engineered to become more usable to the user.

An example that comes to mind is my recent stay at the 4 star, La Centre Sheraton in Montreal I experienced the full Faulty Towers Experience, diagram below.


Until I got into my room I was having a mostly positive experience.

  • I asked about the staff about the top floor bar. I was abruptly told it was unavailable. I finally found out it was only available to Elite Members.
  • The complete lack of WiFi filled me with horror. Room internet access costing more than an expensive meal. Business lounge day care centre  gave me a full free 30 minutes on one of their computers.
  • At check out they charged us extra per bag regardless of size to hold them until our flight. Lining up at both the checkout and the porter desk. The porter desk is as far as the hotel management is concerned a separate business unit.
  • The experience was not a good pervasive experience. Everything was about sales. There was nothing about keeping me as a customer, engaging with me or recommending them to friends. It was as far as I am concerned a “one shot deal”. Good bye Sheraton.

 

But something of a paradigm shift is happening. It just has not made it to most companies yet. I wrote in another article on Disruption Innovation that employees of companies are tired of waiting for the company to give them tools to do their jobs better and are taking to the web to collaborate. This is called Shadow IT. But how much money and time have companies wasted and are wasting to replicate what is already there?

Suppose I am applying for a credit reference  to rent a property.

Why is it I am expected to print 6 months of bank statements? Why can I not simply click on a button on my bank site that says “send reference to” and fillout a few details? Surely the renting agent does not to see that I spent £xx on shoes, when all they want to know is whether I have had a steady income and no overdrafts? Surely that is worth something to some one and would help reduce fraud. What happens with those 6 months of printed bank statements that get sent to the letting agent, how do I know they were appropriately destroyed?

Tactical UX starts with a project, a budget and a list of vague requirements and go down the process route of producing personas, wireframes and a solution. By then it is too late for UX to contribute on a strategic level.

Pervasive UX ascends to the Grand Strategic level of an organisation and can give companies a constructive advantage.

The chief role of User Experience strategists are:

  • Bring a customer perspective to problems through deep understanding.
  • Account for and minimize bias.
  • Identify business opportunities promote end user well being.
  • Facilitate a balance between business goals, user needs and technology.

 

The foundations are there, the semantic web did arrive and is silently increasing. Data is more open and augmented reality has taken off. It is all about delivering big connected experiences now.

We are looking at situation where user experience strategy has taken on the task of being a catalyst for positive change and disruption.

Please comment and let me know what you think.

dictare
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Disruptive Innovation, Let the Revolution Begin

Tyrants are having a bad year. Things are only going to get worse. The old style management that is all about control is out. The new style is about “empowerment”.

    • New managers mentor. Tyrants order.
    • New managers ask. Tyrants dictate.
    • New managers are results focused. Tyrants are process focused.

 

I am lucky to have some great examples to learn from. I have also witnessed dreadful managers in action that think that ruling with a fist is the answer.

As a manager I know what type I fall in. I love mentoring and empowering. So it was with great pleasure that I was asked to read and feedback on a report on social learning for teams. It also got me thinking of what I do and my personal beliefs and the views of some of Thought Leaders such as Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab and author of The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business.

A revolution is happening. There is more talk about “disruption” and innovation and changing things for the better. In part this is down to digital and social media breaking down boundaries.

User Experience practitioners are certainly at the heart of the digital media revolution. The social media phenomenon is here to stay, and knowing what’s happening in this space is important for everyone. Social media is the glue.

In politics it is fueling uprisings. In business, people are breaking out of their team rooms and corporate structures and taking their conversations online. The web can be the one place where democracy really can exist and everyone can have a say. It is no surprise that user experience is now such a hot topic. Looking at some of the top brands and their recent marketing offerings is seems that have been quick to jump on the band wagon with messages all about the power of “you”. They know how much power you (and me) have.

This is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with giving people more individual power. Provided people get guidance and use it responsibly it adds a lot of value. Digital innovation is constantly driving new approaches that have huge potential value for our customers, employers and society, as well as ourselves. Greater transparency can foster better relationships with clients.

It has me thinking of what is best for digital teams when it comes to providing information about their industry.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.

Fortunately most people in user experience are very vocal and socially media aware. The “UX cats” are long out of the bags. Putting the cats back into the bags and going back to old style team rooms with spoon fed content is not going work. Team rooms still have their place as a repository for documents and resource files but they are not where we should be having our conversations.

Twitter is fantastic for conversations and event tracking. Add a hash tag #myevent and tweet. It is pointless to duplicate content and functionality when the tools and information are one click away on the web. It is a no brainer. No really. Laynrd does a great job of listing conferences and events. Laynrd has over 3,500 presentations on file. Meet-up is fantastic and has the added bonus of sending notifications of new events.

The key is to influence rather than argue. The value of writing a book report or conference biopsy seems a little odd when it will be Tweeted, blogged and reported by almost everyone. Everything is online and the last time I checked Google was still working.

Today already 40% of business technology users at North American companies report using one of more website (s) to do parts of their jobs that are not sanctioned by their IT department. We expect this number to grow close to 60% in 2011 as frustrated workers work around IT to self-provision technology. How democratization of technology empowers employees, Forrester, 2011

This is a smarter and more collaborative way of working. The only way people are going to learn about digital, their industry and the social media phenomenon is by getting involved. By the time I write that report it will be out of date.

The accelerating rate of change forces everyone in every organisation to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete – Quote from Jane Hart, Impact of Social Learning in the Workplace

The four cornerstones of Social Learning are:

  • Building relationships and joining communities: Learning more from competitors, industry experts, thought leaders and innovatorsthrough blogs, Linkedin, Google +, Twitter
  • Improving productivity: Using tools like Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Twitter, Doodle, Good Reader
  • Finding and using content: Flipboard, Google, RSS, Laynrd
  • Creating and sharing content: flickr, Slideshare, Vimeo, Meet up

 

Tyrants beware, the revolution will be Tweeted #revolution. Jane Heart, The Impact of social Media in the Workplace is good place to start. Jane Hart”s report is now online with more at Slideshare.net

Please discuss as I am always interested to know what people think.

 

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Gorilla User Experience (UX) Using Axure

Experiments in attention and concentration show that when people are concentrating on something and doing a task they often miss other information.  This has big implications for UX design as well as collecting the requirements and running workshops.

Suppose you are running a workshop for a new retail site and you have a group of stakeholders in the room each with their own agenda. It is important to sketch out the end to end scenario first as a walking skeleton. This is so that everybody understands it as a single process.

This is often the situation where a product manager may have an objective of people browsing their products and hitting “add to basket”. For them that is where the journey ends. The shopping basket (funnel) is some else’s problem. But it is not. Statistics will show that it is the payment screen that is the most abandoned. Rarely do you see a product manager care about that.

Most UX people probably know the 200 lb invisible gorilla experiment. When people are concentrating on doing a task a 200 lb gorilla can literally disappear.

What it demonstrates is that people complete the task despite it. This also works in reverse.  Axure is my gorilla. I have used it workshops and have “live” mocked stuff up. The first part of the workshop I explain what I am going to do and how it works and what will happen at the end. It may seem strange to some people at first but as things get going no one pays attention to me they are all focused on the screen and completing their tasks as well.

The sessions still contain all the usual white boarding, post it sessions, sketching and open discussions. What I do is make sure that everything is captured so that nothing is lost. I do this by having some prep work done beforehand to allow me work in real time and turn the outputs into a clickable journey. The tarting up can be done later. After the workshop.

Generally 20-30% of all information from workshops is lost. Those photos of the post it notes boards are often missing key bits of detail. The flip chart scrawlings sometimes need a translator and are open to interpretation. Participants leave unclear whether the output was good or not until they see it later. By then their memories are subject to their view.

By capturing the information in the room I can play it back at the end. People can immediately see what was accomplished and reach conscientious on the value of workshop. Plus I will still have the original photos of all the boards and post it notes to add to the deck and show the process of getting there.

Just in case you do not know the Invisible Gorilla story, read more on bigthink.com.

 

Blue butterflyJ
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Bow Butterfly


Site to be launched. Complete site design and build including the social media strategy: Facebook page, Twitter, Polyvore and other sites. This an early draft and work in progress. As I will be adding new features and iterating the images will be increased and updated. Real work in progress!

 

[slider name=”#” cat=”” slides=”-1″ effect=”random” caption=”false” arrows=”true” arrow_type=”1″ /]

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Is Gamification Just The Latest Buzzword?

Anybody old enough to have had a Palm Pilot in  2002, will remember buzzword bingo. Oh what fun it was to sit in meetings and wait for some hapless person to use the buzzwords of the day. Who cannot forget the dreadfulness of leverage, spearheading, running up a flagpole and so many toe curling others.

But gamification is different. These is more substance behind it. There is the pleasure principal: “People do things that are pleasurable and they avoid things they hate”. It is basic human nature. Addictive games such as Angry Birds plus popular items such as Facebook and the iPad have significantly raised user expectations.

The iPad is a huge game changer. No waiting time to boot up. No annoying start up menus.  A user can turn it on and check for recent messages in seconds. Users want immediately reactive technology. On these devices it is easier to check stats, look for updates, track progress and complete a lot of task based activities.

There is no trickery behind this and no need for more jargon, just basic principals:

  • Making something pleasurable to use
  • Focus on quick delivery in task based activities, (the workflow should be transparent)
  • Use design to make things engaging
  • Keep information light
  • Clever usage of  visual metaphors, icons and data visualisation
  • Incorporate social media behaviour –
  • Incentivise and give the user feedback
  • Make even boring tasks fun
  • Provide feedback – dashboards – performance charts
  • Compare people – engage users in a friendly sense of competition
  • Use rich interfaces while maintaining usability and accessibility standards
  • Consider HTML 5 or develop different interfaces for multiple devices

 

When Gartner starts talking about Gamification, you know that it cannot be ignored.

Unfortunaly it  may be only a matter of time before we start seeing, “I spearheaded the gamification initiative”, on CVs. Oh my.

Gamification experts are not needed. Like Social Media this a trend towards creating better experiences and meeting the evolving needs of users. It is not an isolated skill. Everyone can benefit from understanding the thinking behind it and blending  it in their every day work. For those of us who already have a game design background we are already there.

Blue butterflyJ
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Prototyping to Add Value

Prototypes must deliver value. It is the thinking that is the valuable part not the overall execution or the tool.

Too often discussions get bogged in down in discussions about what is the best tool to use. The tool used for prototyping is just a canvas. A good painting doesn’t take longer to produce than a bad painting.  It is the thinking that goes into it. Not how it is done.

Prototypes are visionary and need to capture the art of the possible.

Rapid Design Visualisation  is emergent. The solution will emerge over time, evolving to fulfil new requirements and take advantage of newer technologies and methods as appropriate.  Some initial modelling is done at the very beginning of a project during “iteration 0”.  This can be part of a white boarding or brainstorming stage.  This will be just enough to visualise ‘the concept’ to stimulate discussions and provide a talking point. This gives everyone on the team more clarity and less room to misinterpret as you can see it, touch and play with it. It is interactive and mimics the behaviour of the final solution.

Prototypes maybe needed at any point in the project life-cycle. They end when it is “Good Enough For Now”.

Creating a prototype  version of  ‘the vision of the future’ may help get funding or a project kicked off.  Later it may evolve into a final GUI design with pixel perfect artifacts and a working model for the actual code base.  At every stage there are artifacts that can be used or reiterated. If it is custom software that is created then any new icons may need to be created  pixel perfect in order to validate usability, for example.

It could start out as one thing and evolve into something else. Prototypes designed in Axure or iRise can be canabilised and re-used. The prototype itself could be kept and used for training or modelling the next generation of the systems features.

 Modelled a little bit ahead and what it necessary. 

Don’t need to model what you know will already work. It is not about making a full scale working model.

If you are designing a car around a new engine to improve performance you wouldn’t want to wast time discussing whether the wheels should still be round. Just say there will be wheels and leave it at that.

Maybe just what it will look like (static model). Maybe not at all. Maybe it is just one problem you want to model so you can asses and test various options. Coding multiple solutions is impractical.

 

 

 

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Sorry Google Says No

Do you have a social media strategy? If you are like most people working in digital you probably do. If you don’t then you are seriously missing out. If anything the recent rioting has proved what an impact social media is having. Both good and bad. No one can afford to ignore it.

Being a user experience expert it is mandatory. We need to be aware of what users are doing and how they are using the medium. It is powerful for gaining insight. Almost all digital experiences now have an element of social media. Social media is often the glue in user journeys. It is not something you can read about it and apply best practice. You need to be involved in it and experience it first hand.

How is it working for you? Does Google say no?

hangman

The Unreasonable Voice

The unreasonable voice is not a voice you hear a user experience person use.  The rare couple of times in (12 years) that I have head it from a UX person, it turned out it was their grasp of UX that was the problem. They were not actually a UX person at all.

It is not in our nature. All our training and knowledge is about the reasonable voice. User experience is about being a people person. We talk to people and seek to understand them; behaviours, motivations, goals, needs, wants etc. in order to come up with UX strategies.

User experience requires us to be good listeners, ask questions, be fair, compromise, suggest, hypothesize, share information, evaluate, analyse and think in order to put the user first.

In dealing with co-workers and other colleagues this usually holds true also. It is probably why the UX community is vibrant and full of events, conferences and meet-ups.

The unreasonable voice demands, judges, talks over people, interrupts, dictates and has to have the last word.  Nobody wants to be around some one who uses the unreasonable voice.

User experience  people who use the unreasonable voice are not really user experience people.

 

 

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The Reasonable Voice

User Experience practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds among them psychologists, designers, Human Computer Interaction grads, Information Architects as well as others.

We share many common traits as well as being big sharers of our knowledge, experience and tips. We care about the end result and about other people.

It doesn’t matter how we got here. What matters is why we do it. Even though we may occasionally be the end user, we know that there are other types. Our opinion as an end user is only one voice among many, many others. In our work we come across a lot of methods, tools and processes but in the end these too are not important. They change and improve with time, so no point being precious about them.

It is being the reasonable voice we need to be precious about.

 

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Philosophies, Strategies and Value Creation

There is a lot of debate whether consumerism has gone too far. The distribution of wealth is to the super, super,  rich. The high street has been decimated and taken over by chain shops and restaurants. These continually buy each other out until it is in the hands of super companies. In the book The New Capitalist Manifesto, Wallmart was referred to as “the Deathstar of companies”. It was reviled and held up as being responsible for killing town centres and turning the locals from merchants to into employees. Stealing their independence and producing more low paid shelf stacker and cashier McJobs. An enslavement to produce higher profits that benefit a few already wealthy shareholders.

Activists fought a desperate battle to keep this greed monster away from their towns.

Wallmart is responding and tying to paint itself as helpful for delivering cheaper goods and promoting their newly acquired green credentials.

People are turning off and tuning out of advertising. To build a brand and develop a communication plan now there needs to be a philosophy. The message can no longer be solely strategic – sell, sell sell and mindless consumerism. The web makes everything more of a leveler. A user can click on negative feedback about a company two clicks away. Here niche brands can thrive as well.

Users now expect a better user experience on the web. A lot of people (myself included) now post complaints directly into Twitter and are getting a rapid response. This is becoming the first choice as users are learning they can avoid having to spend a painfully long time on the telephone trying to get hold of a real person.

Because user experience is so pervasive, developing a good user experience depends on blurring the boundaries of the web page. The user experience now has impacts on how the business sees itself. This in turn could have a positive impact for how companies need to behave if they are going to survive long term. Facebook with all of their privacy issues may pay a huge price when the next social rival site comes along and says to users “we respect you and you can own your content”.

Google has a philosophy that is driven by their principals

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Fast is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There’s always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a suit.
  10. Great just isn’t good enough.

 

Umair Haque is a provocative writer and thinker, who does not believe that government is the answer. He still believes in capitalism and believes we are the answer. I quote from his book The New Capitalist Manifesto.

Constructive capitalists have an advantage in the kind of value they are able to create, not just its amount. Because higher quality value is less risky, less costly, more defensible, and more enduring, it is usually worth more to stakeholders of every kind: people, communities, society, future generations, employees, regulators, and investors alike.

I am putting this into practice and working with our clients to help them develop both a philosophy (what are the principals) and a strategy (how to implement, drive value & positive behaviour). What I offer them is a constructive advantage for the future. That is a valuable proposition.

It is also blurring the boundaries of the traditional User Experience from being “Tactical” to being “Grand Strategic”.

 

competency initiative

Peer to Peer Evaluations Are Here to Stay, For Now

Everywhere you look the web sites are going up which allow people to rate you and comment on your work in your industry.

Most people thought it was a great idea to get all those rouge tadesmen rated. Plumber, builders, plasters are listed and rated by the work they do by how good a job they did. In social media a photo of you looking not so good can up being posted on ‘Hot or Not’ and sent around the office. Warts and all. TV shows like Rogue Traders turns the tables on those dodgey guys who are out to take your money in exchange for shoddy work. Lawyers have ratings too now.

In the world of digital and internet awards have been the boost to many an agency. But not individuals are being singled out and rated on Mixtent, Power UX, Linkedin with more to come .

There is no point hiding your head in the sand and thinking it will all blow over and you can carry on as normal. It might. But right now ‘peer to peer’ and ‘client’ assessments are gaining momentum and that is the wrong thing to do. Your participation is not mandatory. You are already playing the game whether you want to or not. Quitting the game doesnt work either.

We are all part of a big industry now and how that industry sees us has a huge impact our career as well as the clients we attack. People are the company.

In a creative profession seeing is believing. Usually most people can tell good design from bad. Even if they cannot articulate why and know what to do.

In User Experience it is the ‘why and what to do’ you want to know. The casual UX observer cannot usually tell good from bad. Even to the expert user it takes more than a cursary glance. I was asked to check over some work recently and my first impression was “wow this looks good and thorough”. But then as I started going through it I noticed an error, and then another and things went progressively worse. It was a massive specification and it took a full 6-8 hours before the full picture of the horror was revealed.

The problem is there is a skill shortage and with no standards. The bar to enter the industry is very low. Anyone can call themselves a User Experience Consultant. There are no mandatory qualifications. All a person needs is a few skills which mostly have to do with knowledge of how to use the tools. The tools themselves are cheap and easy to use. The methods vary widely.

What do you call a bad doctor who graduated at the bottom of his class? Answer: Doctor

In most professions there is no disctiction between good and bad. That is for their employers to deal with. In the User Experience profession it is highly unlikely anyone is going to die. However the sucess of a business or the sucess of the end system costing tens of millions of pounds maybe just down to the User Experience Practitioner’s skills.

Ford learned the hard way. In a recent article in the NY Times  poor user experience was blamed for the rating of the car plummenting from 5 to 20.

UX is finally growing up. In the early hurly-burly days there were no UX qualifications. Some people dove in head first and others took their time learning to swim. Anybody can learn and grow. There are no barriers to knowledge. I went to College for design, technology and pyscology. If I was in todays times it would be a degree in HCI. Instead it was a seemingly random selection of courses that to my career in UX. I have spent almost 20 years of learning and developing new skills to get to this point.

But while the degree should not be mandatory standard it is not. UX is also option to a lot of misinterpretation What is UX?. White papers are being submitted to professional bodies calling on stricter definitions and education in the industry.

Unitl there are industry standards, the best solution is to embrace it.  Make sure you are counted. Hiding is a huge mistake. You might as well put a sign around your neck that says I am a fraud and a con artist. Put your hands up and assess whether you got what it takes to work in user experience. Network and use the negative feedback to identify areas for improvement and learn. Accept and decide if you really want to be a UX practitioner. If you do then emerge yourself in the workshops, events, books and conferences to build real skills and knowledge. Mentoring could also be an option. Things change fast.

If you don’t, when you do finally take your head out of the sand, you might find that things have moved on so much you no longer have a career. Those that dont keep up are doomed to fail.

 

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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

 

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UX and the Agile Process


One of the questions asked is how UX fits into an Agile Methodology and the simple answer is that it does not automatically slot in. That is because Agile is not a design methodology, it is for development. It is not more useful for UX than it is a process for doing business strategy.

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How do you make room for innovation in a factory.


The Agile process clashes with the UX method to create the user experience before construction begins. To the Agile community this can sound like “Big Design Up Front (BDUF).

Jakob Nielsen suggests that the problem has its roots in the fact that Agile was conceived of by programmers as a way of improving the development process. He has said

“mainly addresses the implementation side of system development. As a result, it often overlooks interaction design and usability, which are left to happen as a side effect of the coding.”

Agile and UX can work together with the right planning

The values of working the Agile way:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The values of Agile are not too dissimilar to UX. UX is fairly a collaborative approach with end uses and stakeholders to visually capture the requirements by producing mock-ups. The end result is usually a key screen prototype with design style guides. The principal is that these are are both lightweight and easily refined as new ideas are introduced.

There is significant differentiation between small incremental projects and large-scale web or software development projects.

UX and Agile in small incremental projects

In small incremental projects a lean UX can work by having smaller UCD orientated cycles a sprint ahead of build or in some cases working with each other to solve nitty problems. These would be aligned to the work stack with a planning meeting at the beginning of each sprint to align the teams.

UX and Agile in larger complex projects

In a larger more complex projects there needs to be a lot more planning with the UX and it is essential the conceptual design is done up front. Conceptual models are not iterative yet they under pin the entire user experience in order to support the mental models of the users.

The gap between what the solution delivers and what end users expect can have catastrophic consequences on a business or brand. The team there for has a duty to ensure they fully understand the needs of the business as well end users so that the end solution is not compromised.

Creating engaging and innovative user experiences requires creativity. We need to allow for creative sessions and thinking so that ideas can be generated to support the brand proposition. Using a divergent and convergent process gives the conceptual phase of design focus and structure.

 

Managing the divergence and convergence when  to find solutions as well ensuring there is a resolution. The conceptual design phase broken into 3 steps.

Trying to capture a complete, accurate and exhaustive list of requirements is impossible. This almost never creates a usable and desirable solution. Without a prototype or model to view people find it difficult to imaging the outcome in order to evaluate the solution. This requires several iterations to get the degree of fidelity and definition.

You cannot refactor the UI as easily as you refactor code. When you change the UI you are changing the way people interact with the program, and you need to think about the impact the changes will have. It’s easy to create confusion, annoyance, and what psychologists call proactive interference (the prior experience with the UI making it hard for the user to learn a new way of doing things). All in all, making UI changes after release is generally unadvisable, so it pays to get the conceptual design right at the beginning. – Dr. Charles B. Kreitzberg

UX Conceptual Design Process

Click to view full steps

Not having a conceptual design up front is a big risk. The end result may be a poor user experience that requires a complete rethink of the user interface after launch. This may also impact how the system functions as the processes may need to be re-engineered and additional functionality to be implemented in order to create a more holistic user experience. In a consumer facing web environment the  impact to users by having a poor product may adversely effect their perception of the brand and have a determental knock on effect to the business.

The good news is that the UX process of  using as UCD methodology is not a full recipe where all the steps must be followed. Not all UX tasks need to be done. It depends on the project and putting the outcome first. It is about getting enough of an understanding to make a start and then continuing to plan, analyse and design.

To avoid the trap of BDUF it is important in the planning to agree the level of what will be delivered in the first “cut” of the detailed design. This should be the key pages of the system and over all structure. Each area can be further broken into chunks by functional themes. On that should be avoided is a page by page approach as this can create inconsistencies as tasks get split.

Using the user stories and creating a map is very similar to the walking skeleton used by Agile. However it is more visual can be used as a base line as well.

An advantage of having a conceptual UX design up front is that with the UX/Design specifications  they can be given to offshore build teams or multiple and less expensive resources for production.  These detailed design can then be done in smaller light weight sprints and concurrently if required. Ideally they could still be working to a sprint ahead.

The trick to making UX and Agile work is to focus on the individuals and interactions and not the process.

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Creating an Award Winning Multi-channel Experience

dance videos

Dance videoes

Award winner- Gold Midas award best integrated campaign 2009. MasterCard ‘Dance Off‘ for Brit Awards Television Presentation.
The campaign, features a website hub at www.pricelessdanceoff.com and people can upload their own clips to the site. In true talent reality show style people will then vote for their favourite dancer via the site.

 

  • User experience design
  • Overseeing creative design and production
  • Writing brief
  • Creating prototype
  • Usability audit and recomendations
  • Project management

 

Home page for viewing the contest

Home page for viewing the contest

 

Video Page with contestant entries

Video Page with contestant entries

Entry form for contest

Full site at launch

 

 

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Do not escalate first & apologise later

Good communication results in less time wasted and zero apologizing. But what is good differs. We all want to be friendly, warm and helpful. Stiff, formal and clear can be detrimental to building relationships. How many times have you read emails that give you too much “over information”, in that they become patronizing?

The key is to try to strike a balance and get everyone on the team to ask first and shoot later. In a dysfunctional team it is shoot first. A quick phone call works best.

One of the first things we  learned was email etiquette. Among the things we we learned was that it was it was very difficult to read the intended conjecture in pure text. Punctuation also communicates a lot. I am sure most people know the pitfalls of exclamation marks and “Eats Shoots and Leaves”. So much information is lost by not having facial expressions, tone of voice,  body language and the ability to respond in real time.

To work around this people adopted a more formal and safe style of communication. But this is impersonal. Talking in plain language and using smiley face etc. to convey winks, frowns of what is sarcastic and what is serious has taken hold again in the workplace.

The problem is even with all these learnings  so much time still gets wasted on email. Here is a translation of email pitfalls:

  • Using “Guys” in a mixed team is sexist. On a team of mixed ages insulting. In these enlightened days probably intentional as well. Keep it generic – Hello, Hi, best regards.
  • CCing: How many people some one can CC for no particular reason. It says; “I just want to big myself up and do not care about the time of other people. I want to F* you over”. If they are in the conversation then CC away. If they are new then simply say “I need to forward this to…X as I do not have the answer to xxxx and then CC” Think first “is this helpful?”
  • Escalate first, “I have no idea what this means and because it might be bad I will escalate. I do not care about you or our working relationship. My intention is to F* you over.”  Phone, email or chat and then once you have the facts raise them in an objective and helpful manner.
  • Not sending an acknowledgement says “F* You”. Say thanks and give an appropriate action of what you will do with it.

 

It is the little things that can make your team dysfunctional or working together for a common interest. Email may not seem like a big deal but if it is wasting time then it is time to go back to Email Etiquette 101.

folio focus

Great Portfolio Design

You never get a second change to make a first impression. So make the best impression you can. You are the brand. Choose a visual style that communicates what you are about. Serious? Creative? Conservative? Looks count. But more importantly is to know yourself and what you are about. Make sure you are presenting yourself authentically.

Sometimes a CV comes in and I think this looks really good and I would like to see how they present themselves online. One of things I am most interested is how they communicate and what they have to say. I want to get to know them and how they think.

In UX it is not just your work that gets noticed. It is your approach and how you conduct yourself that counts most.

Do not talk at people, instead of to. It verges on crazy. “What I can do for your business/you”. Really? This sends a message that screams. “I have no clue and am talking utter BS”. It is arrogant and standoffish. One of the worst things is when I visit a site and the person makes assumptions of why I am there. You cannot possible know in advance. There are so many reasons why some one would land on your site.

The opposite of good design is bad design, not no design.

Tips:

  • Simple or no design is better than bad design
  • Ask yourself whether you want to be highly stylized or more general
  • Use actual screen shots of your work with links to view larger
  • Show samples of wireframes, flows, personas and steps to the finished product as well as actual solutions
  • Do not use logos of your clients
  • Do not post work without permission
  • Make sure images are clear
  • Use a professional photo of yourself or tightly cropped image without background scenery
  • If the site design is not good enough for your toughest client, it is not good enough for yourself
  • Check for broken links
  • Better yet avoid linking to live websites and use large screen shots as websites change
  • Create a navigation system that allows people to browse online rather than download big zipped files
  • Show don’t tell & provide evidence. If you say you are an accessibility/usability expert then do not have a site that does not meet standards with graphical headers or unreadable text.
  • Better to be good at one thing than a jack of all trades and master of none
Visit Folio Focus for some great examples
Reputations are built on what you have done, not what you are going to do.
Cokezone

Coke Zone

UX for Coke Zone. Points system for their loyalty system and to provide a fun Coke branded entertainment and promotions.

  • User research based design and loyalty scheme
  • Information architecture using Axure as a clickable prototype
  • Design elements in Photoshop
  • User testing to ensure navigation and points system worked

The site has since changed.

Persil dirt is good

Persil Dirt is Good

Concept and experience for Persil.

The site was to promote their 100 Years Celebration of Persil and promote the message that “dirt is good”. The site was targeted to mothers of small children and included a competition and give away.

The site included a lot of Flash and has since been replaced.

Curve screen flows
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JP Morgan: New Trading Platform Concepts

Created a conceptual model of a next generation platform using fun and interactive workshops with traders.

  • Prototype and wireframes created using GUI Studio to simulate a Java desk top environment
  • Colours were provisional to aid the visualisations and usability for feasibility
  • Conducted workshops
  • Created task analysis
  • Story boarding and collecting requirements
  • Rapid work to inform the technical streams
  • Strategy for implementation
  • Managing workshops and program of activities
  • Presenting to senior stakeholders managing the expectations

 

Main screen for spot trading

 

Curve screen flows

 

Swap ticket pop up

 

Outright ticket

 

Order list – creating an order

 

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10 Tips for Launching Your Career in UX

Masterclass quote

Quote from Masterclass in Creativity by David O'Reilly

These should be “no brainers” and things every user experience practitioner should already know. However if you are wondering why some people seem to be flying ahead then maybe  it is time to look at the list and see if there is anything you can do.

  1. Do what users do – use the websites, tools, devices, widgets that users use. Know what is out there. You do not need to be a mum to know what goes on in Mumsnet. Surf.
  2. Collaborate, share ideas and discuss with other UX people. Give up the competitive power games and the arguing.
  3. Build up a portfolio that showcases what you are about and shows off your thinking. Do not copy others, be innovative and add value.
  4. Get involved in the industry. You would not want to be operated on by a doctor who has never heard of the medical board, would you?
  5.  Observe people and learn about the decision process and persuasion.
  6. Sketch and use cartoons. Add creativity to your approach.
  7. Play. Explore ideas and other approaches.
  8. Be curious about upcoming technologies and ideas. Read magazines like New Scientist, blogs, technology and product reviews. Good UX requires using lateral and critical thinking.
  9. Practice what you preach.  Think of the end user and do not make assumptions. Measure, get validation and back up design decisions with evidence not opinion.
  10. Put a quote on your site so that you will appear smarter.

Alternatively you can go into advertising. Here is a masterclass in creativity by David O’Reilly. Number 10 was a joke and from David.

erno lazlo

Design for Up Market Skin Care Products

erno lazlo
Design and art direction for a brochure and “passport”. The concept of the campaign was to allow customers to receive incentives through a loyalty scheme. The passport would capture purchase information as well as recommendations from the skin care consultants. The passport would be a record for stamps and free trials that could be redeemed across Canada. This was a campaign in 1992 (pre-web).
  • Overseeing and hiring responsibility for photography
  • Managing print production – attending press checks
  • Design and art direction
  • Production of assets
erno lazlo

Design for Brochures & Print

 

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The Mysterious & Dark World that is Blacks

 

One of the best things I have ever done was to become a member at Blacks. That was over 10 years and the place has only gotten better. While other clubs are flash in the pans. Blacks ages like a fine win. It is in a gorgeous Georgian townhouse with a Dickensian charm. The bohemian romantic decor is the perfect place to have a conversation with friends over a bottle of. Particularly if the conversation is about art, theatre or literary works.

Blacks is the antithesis of trendy and it is step back to the old clubs of old. It is dark, mysterious and poetic. The membership list is full of notable actors, antique dealers, artists, publishers, thespians, musicians and journalists.

Rules: No cell phones, no hats and no chewing gum.

67 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 4QH Map

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Mental Notes for User Experience

Came across these Mental Notes, from Stephen Anderson, and thought they might be great for workshops. On occasion I still find there is a lack of common understanding of what UX or user experience is.

These notes look like a great way to offer a fun teaser as a warm up excercise. I am interested to know if other people are using these and what results you have had.

 

Shopping for documents from the archives

For the British Library I ran a series of UX workshops to capture the requirements into an interactive prototype which would allow researchers, students and librarians to order documents and purchase documents online.

http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/index.html#

 

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Nike Rich Media Banners

 

 

 

 

 

Improving Self Service Tools

The brief was to demonstrate ways to improve a complex decision process such as buying a boiler and booking installation. This was was integrated into a tool that provided tracking and live time information as well as an improved customer account section.

 

 

 

 

At this stage this was to communication the steps and customer journey the user would take, rather than design. The elements are to communicate the strategy and functionality which would be iterated into a design.

 

The account home page with a conceptual dashboard and the order tracking integrated in for a seamless customer journey and to have everything in one place.