Category Archives: Industry

Notes from Google UX Masterclass – day one

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Conferences, Industry, Process, Talk notes

Yesterday I attended day one of the Google UX Masterclass. Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

The UX process

The introductory presentation covered UX and UCD.

  • Personas can help drive the focus to a User Centered Design process. We did an exercise where the same brief gave very different results when designed for different personas.
  • You can use UX principles to validate your assumptions, and to bring you back to simplicity. It can help you establish a clear story for your product.
  • User Centered Design is an ongoing, repeating, process. Your customer journey map is an important artefact: refer back to it frequently to help keep you on course.
  • Paper prototyping is great for idea generation. (Since there are no interactions, though, it can suffer in usability testing because it relies on what the users say they would do rather than what they actually do.)

Flow’s case studies

Philip Langley and Chris Metcalfe from Flow interactive gave a(n excellent) short talk discussing some projects they have worked on, and the UX processes and tools they’ve used.

  • Search trumps navigation on mobile. (I’m interesting in seeing where this line is crossed: how about tablets? Where do users draw the line, and how is that line moving?)
  • When doing an affinity sorting exercise, it can very useful to bring users back into your thinking. Rather than just labelling groups with a word, add “People want” or “People struggled with” to the front. Then add three “because” statements to each group. You can refer back to these later to check a proposed solution or idea.
  • “Above the fold” still matters for feature phones and BlackBerry devices because scrolling on them is hard.
  • Chris and Phil both stressed the importance of a cross-functional team that worked in close collaboration throughout the process of designing, building, and shaping a product. (One of the reasons I was sad to leave Flow was that we were starting to get this right.)

Notes from UXSA 2014 – day two

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Conferences, Industry, Talk notes

Day two at the conference was a little quieter, but the crowd was just as energised. Here are my notes from the second day of talks: a few things that caught my attention. For each session below, I’ve tried to find one SMART To Do item.

The Elephant and the Dassie

presented by Kerry-Anne Gilowey (Slides; Twitter: kerry_anne)

  • It’s important to break down the silos between roles in our teams and organisations. The edges of our roles and responsibilities are already blurry. This includes the client, who should be a collaborator in the process.
  • Lenses > Roles. Even on problems that aren’t specifically part of your role, your lens can bring new and different insights to it: shifts the prominence of things in your view. Don’t be afraid to use tools from other roles.
  • The focus of our work is changing from the organisational structure to the customers’s cross-channel journey.
  • Kerry-Anne promoted openness and sharing. She encouraged attending, sharing, and speaking at meet ups. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing: a six person get together over dinner can work really well.

To Do

Typography and improving user experience

presented by Justin Slack (Slides; Twitter: urbanrenewal)

  • We should care about typography because so much of the web is about reading.
  • Optimising typography optimises many things: readability, accessibility, usability, overall graphic balance.
  • Typography should be involved as early in the design process as possible: settle on a typeface as early as possible; test type in the browser as early as possible; organise your design with readability in mind.

To Do

  • Review the typography of sites I work on, with an eye for readability. Update the typographic scale.

Product Management, Cognitive Bias and You

presented by Carlo Kruger (Slides, Twitter: ironicbuddha

  • Carlo talked about the human brain, and System 1 (fast, instinctive and emotional) and System 2 (slow, deliberative, logical) thinking from Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
  • He talked us through The Ikea Effect, the Sunk Cost Fallacy (also know as Irrational escalation), and the Bandwagon Effect, and (with very wry humour) talked us through how they had applied to a project at Unboxed. The case study really helped to bring into focus how easy it is to fall victim to these biases.
  • UX practices that bring measuring and the scientific method in to our work can help overcome these. Usability testing can help combat the Ikea Effect. A/B testing gives you metric you can use to get around emotion-based arguments. Cheap prototyping can help avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy. However, there are cognitive biases mess with these practices too (like the Hawthorne effect, Fundamental Attribution Error, and Confirmation Bias)!
  • Despite the fact they our brains have adapted to let us tell each other where the good fruit is, we can fight back by measuring things, evaluating things, and practising mindfulness.

To Do

  • Review some recent (and upcoming) decisions the team has made, looking out for evidence of cognitive bias, and discuss with the team.

Applying design principles to software development

Presented by Adriaan Fenwick (Slides, Twitter: adriaanfenwick)

  • Your users are the most important aspect of building a product. Personas let you figure out who your users are. We’re good at remembering abut users’ needs, but we shouldn’t forget about their wants too.
  • Adriaan also talked about breaking down silos and working in cross-functional teams.
  • The User Review part of a process must contain real world users, not just someone from your team. Take the team along to usability tests: it helps create empathy for the users. Take some time to evangelise UX and educate the team around you.

To Do

  • Set up one usability testing session and get some of the engineers to come and watch. This seems like a good first step to the “Set up regular, small, usability tests” To Do from my notes from day one.

UX South Africa 2014: day one

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Conferences, Industry, Talk notes

I spotted an article the other day (Getting the most out of conferences and events) that caught my attention because I was about to head off to UX South Africa. The bit that I particularly liked was ending each bit of session notes with a To Do item. I like the idea of having and doing something tangible from each session, rather than the more hand-wavy “I got smarter.” Here are some of my thoughts and notes from today’s talks.

UX in SA: any second now

Presented by Phil Barrett of Flow

  • UX and software takes time, and it’s an ongoing process. Phil summed this up very nicely by saying: “Digital products are soap operas, not movies.”
  • It’s important to build prototypes. Usability testing using them and iterating on them can lead to breakthroughs. Breakthroughs can also come from asking “stupid” questions.
  • Phil referred to the market several time during his, talking about how exposure to real users is very useful. “Making stuff is the new strategy.
  • He talked about changing requirements into assumptions and hypotheses: doing this provides you with a metric for proving it worked.

To Do

  • Look at existing user stories and see about changing them to be more like assumptions and hypotheses.

The ROI of UX Design

Presented by Werner Janse van Rensburg

  • Measuring can justify spending and prove the results of UX work. You can measure effectiveness, efficiency, satisfaction.
  • The cost of making changes to a product ramps up dramatically as you progress through the Software Development Life Cycle. I think that this is mitigated a little if you’re using an agile process.

To Do

  • Set up measuring of various stats (for my work, that will be Front-end performance and accessibility metrics). Do this first, before making any changes to the system.

How can UX work with agile teams?

presented by Samantha Laing and Karen Greaves of Growing Agile

  • Sam & Karen also talked about the market, and the value of testing with real users in real life rather than just in the lab. Get feedback from the market, then rework your product.
  • Do ongoing, short usability tests. Spending more time with real users is good for everyone on the team: developers, designers, and everyone in between.
  • “Get as close to your user as you can.” If you can’t reach the user, but you can talk to someone in customer support: do that.
  • They also reminded us that in Agile only the the final working product counts as “done.” They talked a lot about making slices of pieces of a product.

To Do

  • Set up regular, small, usability tests.

Launching the Contiki Agent Site Redesign

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Industry, Talk notes

At last night’s UX Craft meetup, Carlo Kruger and Rich Archer from Unboxed Consulting gave a great talk about launching the Contiki agents site redesign on time and on budget. Here are my notes from their presentation.

The design team was at Contiki in London and the development team was at Unboxed in Cape Town, so they needed to work harder to establish good communication and to have good knowledge transfer. One of the things that led to their success was their focus on design as a process rather than an artefact.

The process

A previous project that redesigned a different part of the site relied heavily on using Photoshop documents (PSDs) as a starting point for development and discussions: not so this time. They started very lo-fi: sketches. The discussions around the sketches let them establish a shared vocabulary, clear up scope, and uncover things that hadn’t been thought about in detail. It also let them see areas where this wasn’t “just a reskin.”

They moved from there to Axure prototypes that the design team built, to the pleasant surprise of the dev team. The lo-fi nature of the prototypes meant that they were quick to make and quick to change, and that they could experiment easily. The design team were asking more questions and figuring things out at the prototype stage after spending a few days on it, rather than asking questions after spending a few weeks working on PSDs.

Getting sign-off

This lead to one of the more interesting aspects of the talk for me: about sign-off from management. On the previous project, the bosses had only been willing to sign-off on PSDs of whole pages. On this project, they signed off on (black and white, fairly low fidelity) Axure prototypes. It’s interesting that the aspect they were willing to relax was fidelity rather than clarity of layout.

(A few bits of further reading on the hairy topic of responsive deliverables: Responsive Deliverables by Dave Rupert; Delivery Logistics by Laura Kalbag; A Maintainable Style Guide by Ian Feather)

Front-end Style Guide

Once the prototypes had been signed off, the design team moved on to Photoshop to flesh out the designs. The dev team jumped into HTML and CSS at this point, rather than waiting for the finished PSDs. They built up a Front-end Style Guide, using a system similar to Atomic Design by Brad Frost. They also convinced the design team to work on modules rather than pages, meaning that pieces of pages could be built as design work was continuing.

Another interesting thing was the use of the style guide for states: the steps in a user journey. The style guide would display each step in the log in process, for example, next to each other on one page. This let the team check for correct styling and consistency across the steps.

Measuring the effect of the change

Perhaps the best part is that by deciding on metrics up front, they were able to measure and demonstrate a link between improved user experience and increased sales and between improved site performance (in terms of speed) and increased sales. that is pretty awesome.