Being BROWN in tech

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Photo by DISRUPTIVO on Unsplash

Often times working in tech has seemed like I stumbled into a boarding school for white boys with the odd tyrannical headmaster. But it wasn’t always so.

Expectations

I left Nigeria in my early twenties to pursue a dream of becoming a holistic designer in the UK. All I wanted to do was apply my skills for the benefit of mankind. I did not think there would be other things to consider other than doing my work well. I also never planned to work in the UK, much less work in technology.

So when I finished with design school and began working, believing the system was at least 80% meritocratic, I threw myself into it.

Reality

I discovered systematic racism and sexism at the same time I discovered the realities of work in the UK and my struggle with anxiety disorders.

It started with simple statements, the admission of my boss that a man had applied for my role demanding double my salary, the audacity, I had thought. (In my next role I asked for double my previous salary and got it). To another boss telling me in very clear terms that he couldn’t give me more responsibility when I asked for it because it was not expected. They also seemed to think my work was great but thought I needed to be more social, which meant I had to show up at the pub at least 3 times every week. I got to learn that cultural fit generally meant you had to fit in the pub.

The reality was, I was a minority of minorities, a woman, black, Nigerian, expat “Your accent might make people think you are backward” someone told me recently. Still, I’ve managed to find work but I never understood I had to work 4-6 times as hard as a white man with the same qualifications and experience ( I never did this extra work though lol).

Now, I find that it’s easy for me to recognise sexism, because I’ve always been a woman, but I haven’t always been black.

In my last permanent role where I was chastised for wearing headphones and my white male colleagues weren’t amongst other nonsense, I experienced my first clear cut racist experience and sought legal advice advice afterwards. Once, I was sat in a room with a team of 8, working, and one of them makes a statement “Africans do this terrible XYZ thing”, being one who is unable to shut up when I see things that are wrong and the only African, I told him to be careful of his statements. He had asked the silly question of whether I spoke African some days before this, which I shrugged off. It certainly didn’t make me popular and I resigned shortly after.

Solutions

Having learned all this, I began to see how much of a distraction racism, sexism and most -isms are. I talked to some other black women and their stories made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this but also made me want to help others much more. These points below helped me navigate the workplace and I hope it helps too.

Faith – You need to believe in something greater than yourself. You cannot place your core identity in something that changes like a job or career, it will kill you. Your core identity which is where you will draw strength from especially in times of hardship must be in something that is unchangeable and unshakable and that’s only God. That I am loved no matter beyond measure is enough for me.

Do the Work – Keep your head down, hone your skills and do your work, please see Serena Williams as reference. I cannot stress the importance of this, please don’t get distracted, the technology industry changes very fast, keep your skills up to date and just keep moving.

Other things:

  • Find a mentor
  • Find a support system
  • Learn to speak up

It is important that we don’t set limits for ourselves, because only then can we rise and start to affect change from positions of influence. We need to love our enemies like Jesus said, seek allies and support from anyone genuinely willing to help.

2020

I wrote this piece in 2015 ( can’t remember why I didn’t post it) although I’m no longer ‘active’ in the tech space, I’m sad that we are still facing these issues but glad that some change has happened along the way. It’s good to see more brown folk in tech, diversity schemes all over the place, lots of conversations and people really pushing forward (Well done to all who do the work!)

I’ve taken my skills elsewhere and I am discovering more things I love to do along the way, like nannying!. I still do not tolerate hate/injustice and will continue to speak up about and delight in what is true.

The UX of Teams

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It’s a great opportunity to be able to work with myriads of people, across oceans and cultures and  the quality of connections within a team makes or breaks the product or service they are creating together.

This made me start thinking about what we do within forming and bonding of our teams especially as someone who uses UX as a design approach. Last year in December I also gave a talk about how we need to think more inwardly about our colleagues and coworkers. How are they experiencing life? How are they experiencing the team?. I don’t have all the answers, but a few observations that might help


The one who does not have empathy for colleagues and coworkers they see, how can they empathise with ‘Users’, they have not seen.

Paraphrased, 1 John 4:20 (Bible)


I currently work with two main teams one in the UK and the other abroad as a design lead. Working with the team abroad offered a bit of a challenge because I am remote. One thing I decided to do was think about my motives for joining the team and staying in the team. I also considered making clear the following as we began the process of forming (Team of 8)

Genuine desire to see the team succeed – We tend to think this should be obvious, but even common sense is not common. We have to keep reevaluating our purpose in the team because this shapes our attitude to our colleagues. For example, if we want to see our team succeed we won’t always insist on our own way because that creates discord or we would find a better way to explain why certain things need to be done. Assertiveness is developed in the process.

Shared vision – We use basecamp as our project depot and communication base, and this has helped us in forming well. I asked everyone to write down what they thought about the team and put it up on basecamp; what they saw themselves bringing into team, the values that were important to them etc. We had this all written which was great, but it has been important that in our daily standups and informal meetings these shared vision and values are reiterated.

Openness – As the team was being introduced, this was a key value that was made evident in all the communication channels. Creating an environment where honesty is valued, where team mates can critique a piece of work without the other party feeling attacked. My teammates know they can challenge my design ideas because this frankness has been encouraged from the get go. In an environment where everyone feels free to be themselves, a better version of themselves, higher quality work is almost guaranteed.

When I traveled to meet with my team this month, the outpour of love was overwhelming, and they welcomed me ‘Home’ with music, cake and balloons. This boosted my confidence that we were on the right track and I intend to keep doing what I can to make sure we do not lose sight of ourselves and the vision ahead.

Emotional Sensitivity is a business asset

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Every business wants to achieve flow. A state of high quality productivity that is effective and efficient. However, every business is made up of people, who get things done, this is where emotional sensitivity comes in. Continue reading

Clients From Hell: Stop Creating Them

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It’s all in memories now, but the lessons linger. Luckily only 5% or less of my projects have been hellish. However, too many of us designers moan about clients we say were born and brought up in hell.The truth is, we create a number of these issues ourselves, or the enabling environment for Frankenstein-like situations to flourish. Continue reading

Gratitude-Thinking: A business approach?

Thanks-Thinking, that’s what I was going to call it, that’s how it was told to me in my dream and then I read the etymology of ‘Thanks’ On second thoughts, maybe that’s not too bad. Think-Thinking Continue reading

Design and UX in your kitchen

I like food a lot, mostly from an academic view point. I see so many concepts in the act of feeding that apply to other parts of life. So, naturally when I’m about to explain or share my thoughts on Design, Design-Thinking and UX, this comes to mind, also because we can all relate.

Design is the conceptualisation and creation of something. It is the process of converting ideas into a thing and actively shaping it into desired reality.

The first point to remember about design is that it’s a method of solving problems, overcoming challenges. Continue reading

How to run remote User Interviews

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Every now and then, you might have to interview people where it is not physically possible because working on global projects require global input. If you cannot get on a train/bus/plane to your users the following tools might help you get going. Continue reading

Becoming the face of Tech Nation Visa UK

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I cut my hair on Christmas day 2015. Partly due to a dye job gone bad and mostly to trichotillomania an anxiety disorder, this means I had pulled out almost 1/4 of my hair. It had flared up due to much stress after the summer. I needed to get the entire hair off. Continue reading

Q & A : How an INFJ survives the 9-5

Pro Tip

A big challenge for the INFJ in working 9 – 5 is the constant ON required to work this way, but this is unavoidable some times, so what can an INFJ do to keep themselves from imploding?

Continue reading

Before Design can lead..

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Before we start thinking of how Designers are going to lead, we must learn to care, communicate and collaborate, properly, with ourselves (I’ve seen a project almost destroyed due to a misunderstanding of design terms and artifacts) and others (developers, change managers, sales, technical architects etc). This includes speaking their language not ours if not, it defeats the main idea of UX.


The one who does not have empathy for colleagues and coworkers they see, how can they empathise with ‘Users’, they have not seen.

Paraphrased, 1 John 4:20 (Bible)


It’s sad that a lot of us get into companies and silo ourselves. One time at a previous job, a man asked me what we, the ‘Digital’ team did, I told him about UX and asked what he did. I got to know that he was an associate partner for Change Management in the company. I ‘face-palmed’ myself and told him it will make no sense if we don’t collaborate with his team as there are so many overlapping touchpoints and skills we need.

Thing is, companies have always designed, problem is, they have designed irresponsibly i.e without much thought to people they design for, wasting lots of money in the process. This is where Designers with UX competency can help but we have much to do.

Some challenges Designers face and what we can do

1. Education

We aren’t educating properly in schools and in the workplace hence the influx of designer salespeople. What this means is companies will panic hire these salespeople and when things don’t work, the idea of ‘design leadership’ will be discarded and we are back to square one. Let’s not flood the market while the foundations are still shaky, it might destroy the entire edifice altogether but there’s always hope, Please read Death of a UX Salesman

Like I wrote 3yrs ago in UX Matters, We must take on the role of educator, regardless of our position. Let’s make sure that everyone knows for example, that UX is not about post-its, prototypes or wireframes (communication tools) but about people. Find a way to educate the next generations of Designers. One good thing about the graduate school I went to was that, we were a multidisciplinary group (Business Dev, I.T, Engineering, Product designers etc) doing design and we had to learn to communicate with each other. I hope we encourage more of this.

2. Skills

We aren’t linking up with other parts of business and/or expanding skillsets, which will make us again, highly discardable, when those people start to gain competency in UX. We need to call in the experts, engage and learn from them. There’s no thinking we can do it all by ourselves.

Be proactive at work, get these people involved in the design process from the start. Get mentors who are in QA, Technical Delivery, Sales, Marketing etc, (speaking from experience this has really helped me). Attend courses/talks/workshops which are not design-focused.

3. Language

We love our language a bit too much. Businesses are finding it very difficult to drop £50k for a 6 week project for design exploration and concept development because we have been doing a very bad job of telling them in their own language how Design will be of value i.e Increase sales or reduce costs.

Let’s make sure we understand their context and vision first. This also guards against commoditisation. One way to do this is to involve them in the design process, carry them along, it’s not magic, we can help each other.  Please read How Communication Drives Innovation.


None of what I’ve written is new but it’s so important as we endeavour to transform, positively, products and services in businesses. If we are truly on the user’s side, we must consider the users within our business and those in other businesses.

Being a Designer is not an elite thing like one HR manager told me, let’s not allow our egos get in control. Design is great, it’s wonderful but it is service to life, first, and I believe we can really change our world for the better. It is a daily struggle but one I’m happy to have signed up for.


Currently exploring the intersections of personality, design and the workplace (work, teams, environment). Interested or have anything I can learn from, please contact me!

How to increase empathy for users

In User Experience we are fond of talking about empathy, but what does it really mean?

“Empathy is an important aspect of user-centered design (UCD) as it allows people being seen and understood from where they stand, not as test subjects but as persons with feelings” 

Vanhuysse, S & Hall, L. (2004) 

No one asks you to have empathy for your son or lover, we seem to do it anyway. Empathy doesn’t just come out of no where, it is founded on love and requires action, here are some that may help you increase your empathy.

Participate in User research as a User

While I was in University I took part in User research as a user (still do). The most memorable one was a Diary Study for a Scottish University. I had to sign into my specially created online diary and log my sleep habits daily. This ran for a couple of weeks, the incentive was £50 and a copy of the research findings. After the initial week, I got weary and bored. There wasn’t any update from the researchers (until the end ) and I frequently felt neglected, but still got to complete it because I like to finish what someone asks me to do.

As I began to conduct the interviews, research and studies on the job this experience became very useful. Knowing how I felt when I was a user helped me take better care with the people I meet for research, making sure they are comfortable if running an interview or usability study. I have made mistakes, made someone cry once but hopefully never again.

“We must remember that people live beyond our research and approach them with that in mind” 

Antonia A.

With this experience you’d know what it’s like to be interviewed, recorded, prodded, you know where it hurts and where it makes you sing. This is standing in the user’s shoes.

Put up Personas on your wall

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I’ve seen a number of articles which question the need for personas. I have questioned it myself because no one seemed to really ever use it, except as a deliverable. But it struck me one day how necessary it was to have them, empathy. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself as well because I don’t do enough of it.

We invest time in our relationships, we do things daily that affirm to the people we love that we love them, why do we think it will be any different to the one’s we design for?. What if you never had a note, a picture, the reality, of the person you are starting a relationship with, what kind of relationship will that be?

Personas help us connect to those we are designing for. Personas tell us the user’s story and stories engender empathy. Personas should be present when we have our daily or weekly catch up project meetings because like we do in Nigerian weddings sometimes, if the persons getting married cannot be present, they will be there in picture and spirit because the party must go on.

“Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends ” 

Ambrose Bierce

Some Useful Links on Personas

The Use of Comic Strips to Encourage Empathy in Design

Five approaches to creating lightweight personas

Persona Empathy Mapping

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I’m keen to know what actions you take to help increase and strengthen empathy.
Stay Bright.

UX is Responsible Design

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“In this age of mass production when everything must be planned and designed, design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself). This demands high social and moral responsibility from the designer.”

Victor Papanek (p. ix, Papanek, 1985)

Responsible Design

The idea around responsible design was ignited when I was in a Bible study about love and it’s responsibilities. At the same time, I had been working on a responsive design piece for the web and I thought to myself, to design responsively well, we need to be responsible designers first. And just like love, design should not merely be responsive (firefighting approach), it should be pro-active, given to ‘take care of’ concerned about others, finding out real problems and trying to solve them.

I read Victor Papanek’s book, Design for the Real World (highly recommended) a few weeks later and the ideas began to really gell.

Responsible design takes into account a number of things; Culture, Accessibility, Sustainability, Empathy, Ethics. Responsible design is holistic, accountable, creative, caring, visionary, quality conscious and forward thinking.

The relationship with User Experience

I read an article recently that attempted to split UX and design, it drew me back to Papanek’s words that we are all designers, but how we design is another story, UX is how I design, for example. We are all teachers in the same vein, whether we teach professionally or teach using a particular method, is something different.

A friend of mine had a stint teaching maths to children at a secondary school in Lagos. Many of the children appeared to be dull and didn’t seem able to grasp what he was teaching. My friend had been using the prescribed textbooks and examples, to describe percentages, additions, distance etc. and he got frustrated. The children were frustrated as well and they turned to buying and selling of items in class.

One day, it hit him, he describes it as an epiphany. He quickly changed all the textbook examples into things the children could relate to and see in their neighbourhood and the class began to liven. The children were happy and learning, he was happy and wondered how blind he had been.

I told him it was the same with design, any attempt to leave behind the people we are designing for will end up in frustration, for one party at least.

Can you design without UX?, sure! But UX is a better, responsible way to design, whether in visual, technical or development.

UX is a combination of skills that derive from the responsibilities we have as designers.

If we care, have empathy for people, we will involve them in our design process through co-creation, user research, usability studies etc. These skills must be applied to take an idea from pure fiction safely into the hands of users.

If you are in the business of design, you need to decide which way you fall, take up the responsibility and consider the above, build the necessary skills, it’s a daily struggle! Don’t think you will be able to master all skills, so better to ‘know thy self’.


Next Post: The Responsible Designer & Culture

I gave a little speech about Responsible Design and Culture at work, which went down quite well. Culture falls into 3 categories, Culture Within, Culture Without, Culture Transpositions (from/to)

Culture Within is about the character, values and experiences that are allowed to flourish or wither within a design team/org. It is foundational to how one designs.

The next post on Responsible design will explore ‘The Responsible Designer’, how the designer contributes to culture within, and it’s effects on the designer/designer’s work in turn.

For now, stay bright.


Essays on Responsible Design

UX For Rookies

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Picture by Steven Lewis

A number of questions about how to get into UX and what it is, have come to me over the years. The things detailed here are fundamental, I try to remind myself constantly and keep them close to my heart. I am a UX Rookie in many ways, there’s just so much to learn! Some are words of wisdom learned from those who have gone before me. These things form the basic foundation of a person who will make good in user experience.

About UX

” User Experience is involved in; defining who the audience is, what they can do, how they can do it and matching the aspiration of the content provider with the desires of the audience” – Karl Smith

User Experience is complex. It has such a weight of responsibility that you constantly have to assess the why of it. ‘Why am I doing this? when it would have been more straightforward to be a doctor’. User Experience is about systems and the interactions within and without. User Experience loves and looks to the future while, at the same time considers strongly what the past has been, what the present is and how to get there. If this does not appeal to you, might be best to consider something else.

About You

“Curiosity undergirds Passion, so stay Curious ” – Antonia

There must be an in-depth desire to understand and love your fellow humans. How do they interact with each other?, work together?, make use of objects? etc. This role requires Initiative, Objectivity and Humility. One must be able to practice emergent leadership, taking ownership and responsibility for a number of things. The ability to say ‘I don’t know, but I am willing to learn’ Where you can be confident in what you do without arrogance. Humility enables you to work in a team which UX thrives on. It’s not about not stepping on toes, it’s about being able to say, ‘I’m sorry, Pardon me’ when you do so.  Objectivity helps you in the constant negotiation UX is involved in, balancing constraints, contexts and solutions.

Do you delight in creativity? a spot of original idea? The need to validate intuition with data? An intense desire to understand and communicate the essence of things? This could be for you. While the top personalities in this area of work, have the N, T and J component (MBTI – See recent survey by Jonathan Shariat) Any ‘type’ is valuable to the process ( I am INFJ )

Ways To Learn

“Experience is the source of Wisdom” – Leonardo Da Vinci

The best way to learn is by practice and experience. Theories are great, I love theories but they are much better when validated through work in the real world.  There are a few good schools which instill the principles of design and design thinking around the world.

Experience by proxy is also important which entails listening to/ reading about what others who have been there have to say. In the mean time and after, start by visiting Karl Smith’s blog. Karl Smith is a renowned User Experience consultant and has been honoured by the British Computer Society for his eminence and significant contribution to the fields of UCD and User Experience with a Fellowship. What I love most about reading his writing is the honesty on UX without any fluff.

Some posts I particularly enjoyed and are good to start with

Getting into User Experience 1 and Part 2

The difference between UX and Design

Never Bring a UX portfolio to an interview

In the next 5 years the term ‘UX’ as a role might be out of fashion but if you have these as your foundation, I don’t think you can go wrong in whatever creative endeavor you partake in. It is also very important to pass knowledge on.

“…Give as freely as you have received” – Jesus

Amen.

Research: Mere Users or Real People?

This post is partly inspired by a tweet and by a profound moment that happened over 2yrs ago. In many ways it’s about the ethics of user research. It also ties in with my recent thoughts on empathy and stories. First of all, I am a big advocate for getting rid of the term ‘User’ but that will be addressed in another post.

The big questions are, Who are these ‘Users’ Do we think of them beyond the task at hand?. Do we see them as having lives interconnected with other products and services or just as the sole user of ours?

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It was a lovely cloudless Monday so I decided to go to the garden near my office on Piccadilly street to have lunch and sit in the sun. There was also a project on my mind. I had done a round of guerilla interviewing during the weekend and didn’t mind continuing if I got the chance. A few minutes after I had settled on a bench and my food, a lady sits by me and opens a book. I thought this was an amazing opportunity to have a chat to her. My project was on redesigning the reading experience, how lucky I felt. So I asked if she had a moment to chat and she burst into tears.

I was taken aback and genuinely sorry, I didn’t know what to say. She quickly got herself together and apologized for the outburst. She mentioned rough times at work and how she tried to escape for a few moments in the garden. I was doubly sorry, here I was in the name of User research encroaching on what little time she had for solace.

I had never really thought about the lives of people beyond the projects I had been working, this was a real eye opener. We still had the chat about reading and what it meant to her but this only came after I just sat and listened. As we talked, I found myself empathizing with her.

I remember walking back to the office and thinking, wow we need a Book Spa/Book Lounge, where people can read in public without being disturbed.  Most importantly, I thought about how we interview. People do not use products in isolation, some times they use your products/service in combination or in comparison with others. We must remember that people live beyond our research and approach them with that in mind. As a researcher its also important to just sit and listen. People’s stories engender empathy and that’s what you need to design better.

 

User Experience in Space

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I got the opportunity last month to speak with two talented designers/engineer/design-thinkers who are heading up the design team at SAC in Harwell, Oxfordshire. I was very curious as to what User Experience looks like in this ‘industry’, so I took a trip to Harwell.

First of all, I was impressed by the Diamond Light Source on the campus.

Diamond is UK’s synchrotron. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce beams of light 10,000 times brighter than the sun that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

You can visit the Diamond on an open day

Now, when it comes to space technology there are three main areas of application; Navigation, Communication and Earth Observation. The designers at SAC were very keen on showing how space technology can be applied commercially. The facility will be handling a variety of projects from different industries. They would be pro-active in problem solving and they will be providing specific solutions for particular companies.

I have no doubt that this is one of the most important areas of development. We have years upon years of data that can be pulled into useful products. It is no wonder that it is one of Innovate UK‘s priority areas, find out more here

As a User Experience designer, it would certainly be an amazing opportunity to work in this industry, there’s so much to learn here and it opens one’s mind to the different possibilities and areas of application in everyday living. Innovation is certainly not far off, given that it usually occurs at the point where various fields meet, in this case, <Space science, User Experience/Design, Business, Engineering, Art >

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I’m also very happy that the Space Apps challenge by NASA made Lagos and Calabar, Nigeria, a part of this. I love that people from my side of the world are involved in global challenges for products that would benefit all of Earth’s citizens.

Learn by Prototyping

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For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of prototypes. Each time has introduced something new to my knowledge bank. I also did up a portfolio recently which is live. I decided to create it in Axure, a protoyping tool so there will be no question if I can use the application amongst other things. It was something that was quite quick, after sketching out what I wanted to do, i went straight into prototyping. I also went responsive with it, which was quite the challenge. I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did while doing this.

It is important to test assumptions. I thought I understood responsive layouts, but this showed me how much was lacking in my knowledge, and I’m going back to the drawing board now.

It’s in the details. Again and again, you’ll find your mind straying. The ability to bring it all back together, whether by talking to people, meditating or reading something is a necessary skill to have in design. This comes easy to me but we all forget things.

Skills depreciate or appreciate, work on them. As much as we have talent to do something, it is skill that makes it productive and takes it to the next level. Always find the time to work on your skills.

A world of opportunity. While working on this, I realized there was hardly a thing I couldn’t prototype in Axure, and as for content, it challenged me to start working on new things, which I will be uploading as I go along.

Is this perfect? no, but  I am committed to lifelong learning.

A successful prototype is not one that works flawlessly; it is one that teaches us something

– Tim Brown

Stay positive. Have hope.

Ladies That UX

UX Ladies

The Beginning

It’s hard to remember when I first got to know about Ladies That UX but I remember being really happy about the idea. When an opportunity to meet up in London came, I got a ticket immediately.

Ladies That UX aims to help grow a community of like minded women who support each other. It was started by Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley in Manchester. You can read about their story Here and Here. It is women-focused not women-only, yes, men are invited.

The Meetup

The event was at a nice bar in Holborn for 7pm, organised by Sophie Mitchell, Lizzie & Georgie. I didn’t know what to expect other than a room full of ladies that are in UX. Given it was the inaugural meetup, I was going to be in observation mode. Before and after getting a drink, I got to speak with Lizzie and Georgie, both interesting, enthusiastic and committed ladies. They came down to London just for this.

Aside talking to each other, we got to write down our ideas for Ladies That UX London. A number of people did not want recruiters to be involved, which I found hilarious. Some ladies wrote about themed events, mentor/mentee programs, organised workshops, advice on tackling workplace issues e.t.c. Things I’m really behind as well. I’m not very good at hanging about, small talking so there has to be a challenge, activities that we get involved in.

I thought it was a good start, there were about 30 ladies in total that made it there, maybe more…Looking forward to the next event and would be wonderful to see if any of our ideas went into making it happen.

Why Ladies That UX is Important

As long as women still have less than 30% representation in the UX community, this is necessary. It  gives women the opportunity to meet and be around more women in UX than they would at a standard UX event.  It can become a good source for conference speakers. As we build each other up, we get to offer mentorship to a wider community communicating the fact that women make great designers as well.

Next Event

Ladies that UX  will hold on March 26 2014. Get your Tickets Here

We’ll be meeting in at the centrally located Square Pig Pub in Holborn from 6.30pm until 9.30pm.

The pub does food and has plenty of drinks to choose from.

Coping with Misophonia at Work

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What is Misophonia?

Ever since I was a child, I found certain sounds absolutely life-threatening. Hearing them made me very angry (up to murderous rage) and anxious. I recently realized that there is a name for it, misophonia and it was such a relief knowing I wasn’t alone.

It is described by American Neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff as

A neurological disorder, in which a person feels anxiety, and even rage in response to certain sounds, which may be loud or soft

It  puts you in a fight or flight mode instantaneously. One of such times was the day my sister asked me to go shopping with her. She had come to London for the first time and we were on the tube heading to Oxford street. Along the way, a man chewing gum loudly and noisily came into our carriage. I was immediately angered and also at myself for leaving my headphones at home. I looked around the carriage and no one seemed bothered, this even enraged me more. I really wanted to hit the guy but as the train came to a stop at the next station I jumped out, thinking my sister was going to follow me, but she didn’t…

The Work Place

Open Plan offices might be straight from the devil. As someone who is largely introverted and with misophonia, it can be hellish. The continuous stimulation for over 7 hours is a massive drain on all my faculty.

Daily triggers at work include; loud voices and sibilation, furious keyboard typing (surprised the keyboard hasn’t broken), slurping and chewing noises.

One particular day I was in a rage and thinking seriously of quitting my job. Thankfully, it was a Friday, so after work, I got some comfort food and watched a movie. As I lay on my bed, coping ideas began to materialize in my brain. I told my friend I was so glad that depression hasn’t been added to my anxiety and misophonia!

Coping Strategies

Noise Cancelling Headphones – These work a treat, I use them all the time and because I love music, it’s an amazing solution. Now, I need to rest my ears every now and then so to fill the gaps the next solutions come in.

Ear Plugs – I am currently testing a few I got from Amazon, 3M makes some called earfit, which I am using right now. It is ok, but the level of comfort could be better. It tones down all the sounds, which is good enough. Only issue is having to take them out often because you have to talk to people.

Regular Breaks –  I try to take a 5 min break in a quiet place every hour, or 10 mins every 2 hours. This not only helps my misophonia but all the other stimulation which gets overwhelming fast like movements, lights, sounds etc. Definitely helps to stretch your leg so you can avoid deep vein thrombosis.

These are the things that help me cope at the moment. It’s hard talking to people about this because for the most part they can’t change ( voice for example ) and they can’t understand.

If you have some other ways which you use to cope, please let me know! all the best.

oh..I did not lose my sister forever, thankfully, she was at the next station.

Support for People With Misophonia

Misophonia UK

Misophonia.Com

Misophonia Treatment

To learn more about Misophonia, here are some related articles

Enraged by Everyday Sounds – Psychology Today

When a Chomp or Slurp is a Trigger For Outrage – NY Times

The Chewing Sound and The Fury – New Republic

Boyfriend Chewing Makes Me Want to Strangle Him – Daily Mail

How Sounds Trigger Rage and Anxiety – Daily Record

Living With Misophonia – Tribune

Developing Your Core Competencies

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It’s that time of the year again, you have to set performance goals. There’s a tendency to go along with what is popular at the time but it’s way more beneficial to question and listen to your self and sometimes, people who work with you. You should be thinking about your core competencies.

Core competency is defined by Search CIO as

 Fundamental knowledge, ability, or expertise in a specific subject area or skill set. The core part of the term indicates that the individual has a strong basis from which to gain the additional competence to do a specific job

Ever since I’ve known myself, I’ve known how to draw and tell stories. I remember vividly when I found out not everyone could draw like I could. This opened my eyes in seeing the unique aspects of people. While working in the UK, the 5 UX managers I’ve worked with have had 5 different core competencies (From my first at 1. to current manager at 5.)

1. User Research

2. Visual Design

3. Information Architecture

4. Strategy

5. Technical (Code development)

I thought this was quite interesting, because they seem to cover all the important aspects of UX design, I am one lucky person. They have all been good at what they do, but these were the competencies they built their practice upon.

A Unicorn is still a horse at it’s core.

While we strive to acquire many skills, these core competencies are what differentiate us. In addition to the personal stamp we put on them, they give strength to the other skills.

Some Steps to Development

1. Take on personal projects – Especially if you aren’t able to use these skills at work

2. Teach people This is a tried and tested method of solidifying and expanding a skillset, do more of this.

3. Find people with similar core –  Look at what they have done to excel, they should give you a good example of what you can do as well.

4. Find a way to work it at work You should bring yourself to work, it’s that simple.

If you feel like you don’t have a core competency, even after heavy soul searching, find one. Find something that interests you and that you will be committed to. Build on that. Like that tree in the picture, that’s how you want to flourish. You want a strong trunk and root that will support all that you branch into. If that root is shallow or trunk thin, the whole edifice will come down soon enough. Those who have excelled do not have seven heads, you can too.

Best x.

UX in Big Ships: How To Stay The Course

Ship ahoy!

When most people think of UX, it’s shiny surfaces and snazzy interactions that come to mind.  You think, start ups and the Airbnbs of the world, but it isn’t always so.

Some of us have the opportunity of doing things much different but with the same principle, yet no one seems to talk about this. Sometimes you work on internal software that will never be shown to the internet, yet you have made your customer service agents or your developers work a lot better. Sometimes your work consists mainly of making incremental changes to existing software. The little things that matter.

There was a bit of culture shock when I had to move from a big start-up company (300+ people) to a real big one (13,00o+). From one were I could clearly see the chain of command and I was  number 5 from the CEO to one where I’m number 30, 50? A place where a color change to a single button can take days to get signed off, yet we have to work, and we work under such circumstances without pulling our hairs out. How? I think these are some of the important things to know when working in such places.

These principles are from the Shipping industry.

1. Big ships cannot stop on a dime. 

Ships may require as much as 5 miles to stop (with gears in full reverse). The solution is simple: stay out of their way.

In big companies, User Experience would ideally cover Platform, Content Tools, Fraud + Risk Mgmt, CRM/Loyalty Tools, Payment Processing, Marketing Content, Back Office operations where if one of these goes down, UX is compromised. There is a lot at stake, and big ships which have been operating on legacy systems cannot simply stop one day and migrate all systems. You need to have patience, understand the background of the system and focus on creating something worthwhile in the area you find yourself or just stay out of the way, you could be crushed by the politics.

2. Big ships do not turn very well. 

A 500 foot, 8000-ton ship needs over a third of a mile to turn around.

Most organizations will claim that they work in an Agile way but the reality is the best you get is a hybrid of systems. Even when a particular team has migrated to a certain technology, relics from the past show up every now and then.  Don’t be discouraged, the ship is still on the move and on the sea.

Sometimes, people will fall off the ship during the turn, it pays to keep an eye out on them, throw a lifeboat or just make sure they are safe but there’s still a ship and many other people to attend to. UX managers need to stay positive but realistic with their team, protecting them from the ongoings of the wider company. There’s no way anyone can do their best work in a negative atmosphere.

3. Often, crew do not speak your language.

Do not assume anything.

Too often we go into organizations filled up with terminology, designer jargon that makes no sense past the Jared Spools of the world. Legacy mindsets are often more of a hindrance than tools or processes. Try to get into how people understand things and what their needs are e.g speak figures and numbers to business people so you can communicate better. When people are on the same page there’s hardly any limitation to the things they can get done.

One last thing

Never stop caring about people. You may have to care much more in such organizations, but when a UX professional loses their empathy, hope is lost. The big ship will turn eventually, Once such a ship commits to a turn, it will not waiver. Maybe not in one year, two or five years, but one small step for a User Experience designer can lead to a giant leap for an entire organization.

Making Carousels/Ads Work Harder

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Almost everyone who has access to the internet has come across a carousel. They are also called sliders, rotators, mostly used for advertisements, images with CTAs (buttons). They recently came under fire in the design and UX community.

Carousels are condemned here, herehere and tracked here

Personally, I like them and I think they are a good design pattern when used correctly. Many, in their web design trend speech for 2014 want to see the carousel dumped and replaced by a huge picture banner, which might be worse. A user recently said that for an ecommerce site having just one image banner feels like there’s not a lot of options in the store.

“If people cannot see it, they cannot buy it”

I acknowledge that carousels can be very tricky to work with and many have a high bounce rate. This is tied to content that does not appeal or just isn’t useful to people.

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But since, people are going to look at the carousel anyway, why not make good use of it.

Making The Carousel work Harder

Basics

  • Make sure the carousel is appropriate for your content.
  • Don’t use flash. It is bad for SEO as search crawlers cannot find it. There are many other options available to implement, HMTL5, Javascript.
  • It should not be automatic. Keep the user in control, let them know the number of slides available and and an idea of what’s in them.
  • Four slides max.
  • Update Content regularly, daily. For ecommerce sites, you have ALOT of things on your site to sell, make use of it.

New Direction

  • Don’t make Carousels dead-ends or a call to action to a dead end. If you are advertising a product, insert the options if any, and a ‘Add to Cart’ button, instead of making them click the banner and dumping them on a page where they still have to look for that item.
  • Experiment with different content and sizes. You can make your carousels responsive, so that they are useful to your different pages and manageable by your CMS team.
  • Consider making them interactive enough, so your users can favorite, bookmark content.

Some sites that work it!

Airbnb

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 14.41.57The images have a profile and price, which makes me think, oh wow, this beautiful place is actually affordable! or maybe not and It’s a real picture. My only gripe is, the carousel is automatic

Protest.eu

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The images are massive, and the navigation of the site might be a bit confusing but the image has a drawer which gives you the option to buy the actual products being advertised in the image.

As always, test, test, find out what works and what you can discard but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Best xx

Hiring UX people

I remember his face; dark hair and round brown eyes, Greek. He had applied for a junior UX designer role. I asked him why he wanted to leave his current job, and he launched into a super story of politics at his work. I felt sorry but work is political, no getting away from that but the extent to which politics affect you and how is another thing. It was clear I wasn’t going to hire him over the other candidate who showed a lot of creativity and…spirit, the desire to just get on with things. Ultimately we want a worker in our cabal not a whiner.

If I were to hire a UX intern now as someone recently asked me, the two questions I would ask would be;

Why UX? You’ve got to have a story, even if you are drifting, looking to just try it out, honesty makes for very compelling stories. They are important because we remember them and there’s so much you can get from the unsaid. It also lets one into how you value people, value your experiences and how they have shaped you thus far.

The second question is What Skills they have. Life skills and useful competencies for the job can’t be stressed, foundational elements that cut across company fields. In UX you cannot afford to be a specialist, everyone has to step up and take the reins at one point or the other. One has had to take on graphic design, front end development, project management, story management, just to get a product out. The idea of ‘this is not my job’ has to go. As a UX professional it is your responsibility. If you don’t have the capacity to stretch yourself in this way, you will struggle.

As someone who will also be interviewed in future, I hope I will, along with other things like humility and passion, take my own advice.

Host the Party: The Importance of UX Strategy

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The Party

Most people love parties, I do. Actually I love the food and the music. More than that, we love being invited especially by those we know. Most of the time, all you have to do is show up and you will leave well fed, perhaps drunk, but mostly happy. It is comfortable.

As a User Experience Designer in the working world, the party could take the form of a service or product your company is providing, it could be a project meeting, it could be a planning meeting. When parties are thrown there are some key roles people need to take on to make the party a success.

Invitees

It doesn’t matter how beautifully planned a party is, if people do not come it is a failure. Being invited to these parties, your role is clear cut, your stake low, it’s easy to go. Not much is required from you. You have to accept what is available, and take what is given  to you. You are crucial in the wider scheme of things, but easily replaceable. Your work as an invitee-UXer is limited to what ‘Business’ dictates, it usually takes an extraordinary person to influence the party at this level.

Party Planner and Host

Now, every party has a planner(s) who decides what the party should be, what people would eat, the theme if any, so on and so forth. The host makes sure everyone is comfortable, everyone has enough to eat and that they are having a good time through out the event and beyond.  They can make or break these events, it is not a comfortable position but it is a very influential and powerful role.

The party planners and hosts I’ve worked with in recent past have been Business Owners, Products Owners, Marketing Execs e.t.c They usually have a clear idea of what they want and have low tolerance for a deviation from their plans. Some have excelled in this role, by taking everyone along the way, keeping an eye on things from start to finish and beyond, truly leading in the best sense of the word.

Fireman 

I love firemen and the work they do. Saving people from themselves, from others and from death. With all the good they do, who thinks of them when planning a party? No, you don’t, until something starts to go wrong. Cat on the tallest tree? Trigger-happy cooking? Fire-starting demented neighbours? (who you did not invite), stuff hitting the fan? It gets messy.

Many times working in UX I’ve had to do a lot of fire-fighting, which is essentially trying to revive a product that UX was not invited to take part in at any level of the process but has gone LIVE but with so much UX-fail that everyone is wringing their hands and feet.

Don’t leave UX to the fireman role, sometimes it is too late.

The crucial thing

While every role above is important, UX needs to acquire skills which move us into position of influence within companies. We need UX leaders willingly to suffer the lion bites. UX is bigger than the UX designers or Architects, everyone involved in a product or service needs to own it.

However it is far easier to share or direct a vision when one is at the top, when one has the ability and capability to plan, strategise and host the party.

Have Fun with Axure

A recruiter once asked me “Why would you create interactive prototypes…” it seemed he had never heard of it before.

I used to be well bonded with Omnigraffle but given that creating interactive prototypes was one of my objectives for the year, I had to turn to Axure to help me out. After asking some colleagues to get me on the way, It wasn’t until a specific project to redesign a mobile microsite came up that I fully immersed myself into it.  Now, I had tried some other software both web based and stand alone because I wanted to avoid Axure, but I didn’t find any that made me as comfortable as Axure.

Why Create These Interactive Prototypes?

1. A lot of people don’t have the time to read through your annotations. Seeing how things work, or how they go from A to B is usually much more valuable. You can get people on the same page without spending many man hours actually building the product.

2. You get to test early! If you want to work AGILE, you don’t wait till a product has been built before testing it. You can iterate between sprints.

3. For some reason, not only is your work interactive, your communication also becomes more interactive. When people catch an idea visually of what it could be like, it’s easier for them to give input.

4. You can generate UI specifications and annotations which are easily updated.

5. People can view your work on their own computers without you having to physically guide them through the process

6. You can view your prototypes on any device and have it work accordingly, tapping, sliding, clicking. Drop-downs, tabs, accordions, all basic functionality you can think of.

7. It helps you focus on the important bits, you would quickly see what works and what doesn’t.

8. There’s so much more benefits, you might start off slow, but you would be creating these things in an hour.

Examples on Axure Site

Annotated Wireframes still have their place, they are useful for documenting iterations and versions. The better you become at using Axure for prototypes, there is no doubt that wireframing on the platform would be fluid. I had thought I would have to switch between Omnigraffle and Axure, but that hasn’t been the case. I haven’t touched Omnigraffle for almost two months now.

As with all tools, there are Pros and Cons. One of the cons of Axure [for me presently] is the inability to create responsive prototypes. You could probably hack it, but I don’t think It’s worth the effort.

I really like Axure and I can’t wait to use the newest version, 7 that would be released pretty soon.

Forming Voltron

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Some time ago I described the process on a project as trying to ‘form Voltron’. My colleagues shook their heads, not understanding what I meant. They googled it, and still didn’t have a clue. Voltron is an anime that ran before I was even born, but I spent a lot of my growing years watching it with delight, I thought the whole world watched it. Voltron (Defender of the Universe ) is the name of a giant robot which is formed by robot lions piloted by space explorers.

What Are Voltron projects ?

There are two main types of projects I have worked on. One is the ‘Big Bang’ project (built from scratch) and the second is, the ‘Voltron’ project which uses existing applications, components or systems to build something new. The Voltron projects can be built entirely on existing ‘Live’ components and they can also have a new component brought into the process. All of these have their challenges, however the Voltron project which looks like the easier route can be the trickiest.

How do you make Voltron work?

Working in a large organisation these projects are fairly common, as with any project these should not be missing.

1.  A clear goal/vision – Voltron was never formed without a ‘Robeast’ it had to defeat. The goal and vision of your project must be visible to all involved parties. Everyone should be able to own that vision and understand it. Even if you inherit a project, it is your responsibility as a UX-er to get into it. Ask questions, talk to people, research, own the goal.

2. Strong leadership – The robot lions had a clear leader who gave direction for any of their undertakings. The leader should inspire people to work on the project despite the difficulties it seems to introduce, it is about blending the right skills with the right attitude. As a UX-er it is valuable to own the product. When in doubt, take responsibility.

3. Communication – This kind of project requires a high level of collaboration. It is easy to assume that stakeholders already know what’s going on, but usually these people have many other projects they are looking after (esp in the case of inheritance). Go after them, ask questions. Bear in mind that a change in one of the components you need might affect other products which use them. As a UX-er you have to have your eyes wide open. Sometimes there will be compromises, but everyone has to be on the same page.

These are just a few things I have learned and experienced but the UX-er’s work is never done.

Stay Bright.

Make Useful Annotations

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Example by JMparada

The Challenge

Wireframes. UX professionals are quite used to and comfortable creating these, however annotating meaningfully is still a major challenge for many.  This is extremely valuable when the development team is not a few feet away. In my context, they are thousand of miles away in other countries.

Learnings

Now, I love to tell stories about how everything connects in the world, but a developer who has a deadline has no time for this, maybe after work in a pub. Learning how to write useful annotations has been under the guidance of very helpful ‘bosses’ who would edit my work, and we would extract what was most valuable depending on the audience or context.

Things to be mindful of;

1. The Audience – Who am I communicating to? What do they need the wireframes for? are some questions to ask yourself. One good rule is to drop technical speech and describe things in the plainest way possible, in a language that most can understand.

2. The Use – Currently some of my wireframe documents double as a technical documentation for developers, so there’s a lot of revision being done constantly. These updates are necessary and very helpful especially when a new developer or designer takes over a task. You should be prepared to make any change and keep a note of it.

Going Further

I started to think about how to make annotations work harder after an issue that made me point the developers to a particular implementation solution which was done via email. I thought I would have saved everyone’s time if I had just put this in the wireframes.

So annotations go from just describing the interaction but also suggesting possible ways to implement the interactions. Even if they cannot build it that way due to one reason (technical constraints, time limit, low resource ) or the other, It creates an open and collaborative environment where everyone learns to help each other.

An example would be a scenario where you want replicate the Amazon flyout menu. You can describe it, but it would be useful if you can point them to an implementation method like Ben Kamens’s breakdown 

Stay Curious.

Mid-Year Learnings.

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Sitting where the Black Sea meets the Bosphorus

Mercury is in retrograde and as a Virgo I should be having a very hard time communicating. I am taking this chance.

I love mid-year, it is summertime! good for relaxing and reflecting (two chief pleasures of my life) So I’m here looking back on the first half of the year

1. Choosing Happiness

This might sound like a self-help manifesto, but it is the dammm truth. At the end of last year I was wrought with anxieties (which give me physical symptoms and are a pain to cope with). As I got into the new year I shed all of that through God’s help, *focusing on the important stuff* and went on holiday while being jobless. Got a new job before I came back to the UK. Even if I didn’t, I was well equipped to handle whatever life was going to hand me. Worry does nothing but disrupt your life negatively.

Think positive, Do positive. These things add up, don’t let the negatives stack up against you.

2.  Cure Your Boredom Today

I realised quite strongly that when I am feeling bored, I should be doing one of two things. Sleeping or putting my hands to good use. Someone said that curiosity is the cure for boredom. Someone also said you can’t be moving your arms, legs, head and have time to be sad or bored. So whenever I feel like I’m bored and I’m home, I just take a nap and feel the better for it, my body thanks me. Otherwise, I will  have to move my body. I have taken up a number of things this year, I started tinkering with WordPress, started knitting, I’m writing more, read here Sketch Story (Had my first spoken word performance!) and I posted a number of handwritten letters and postcards inspired by a project online. I’m reading more ( I have a challenge to read 100 books this year, I’ve read 53 already, woohoo!)

There’s just too much out there to involve your self in, don’t waste life on being bored.

3. Leave Assumptions behind

We spend a lot of time assuming things, it’s good to think but there is a fine line. If you don’t know, just ask. Ask, Ask. Read, Ask, Think. I can’t even quantify how important this, I remember a project I inherited, when a lot of questions came out towards the end of implementation, I realised that I was wallowing and wringing my hand because I had just assumed the early parts had been signed off. Even if people don’t do their jobs, tighten your side of it. Good work, adds up, it adds up.

4. Acknowledge Your Guides

Before you were born, life has existed, knowledge has been built up, so don’t ignore those that came before you. Guidelines are usually put in place not to restrict you but to give you a backbone at the very least. Guides can be family and friends who look out for you, don’t ignore them. Even if you will not do what they say, never forget that their hearts are in the right place.

5. Trust Yourself

People are a blessing to have no doubt, sometimes you just have to admit that there’s nothing they can do for your present situation. In those times, the way forward is to find something to do for them, we all love people who bring us some kind of value. Trust that you can get things done, trust that you can help someone else and do it.

Guilty

A look back at last year in my old job.

Diary of a UX Designer

I Annoy People

Since I started getting called ‘weird’ in secondary school, I knew that this was going to be my lot in life. I don’t *try* to be different, it’s in my make-up and I really do like a simple life. I dragged myself to work this morning and into a situation I’d rather not have gotten into to. My face was hurting as the hole in my mouth tried to heal,  I could hardly concentrate on what the man was saying before me. Just maybe, maybe I have an issue understanding where boundaries are drawn, I don’t like vague boundaries, flexible not vague. So I am guilty, I am guilty of annoying people and tomorrow I will find out where this leads to.

I Collaborate With People

My normal routine has somewhat been disrupted by certain prevailing issues and the hole in my mouth, so I can’t have normal food and get…

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Effective Workshop-ing

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How to run an effective workshop and stop people from cursing you out for holding them hostage

I’ve been privileged to attend, co-host and run UX workshops in the past couple of years, and I’ve noticed a number of interesting things. People have stuff to do, and time is a limited resource. The only people who like meetings are usually those who have no work to do any way. Sometimes they spend their whole day setting up and attending meetings to set up meetings. If you have to use someone’s time, don’t make a mockery of it. You can waste your time with no repercussion, but if you waste another’s they might never forgive you.

Most workshops are 1hr + and that is a lot of time. There are a few things you can do, watch out for, while trying to run a workshop.

Prepare Prepare Prepare – Seems like an obvious thing to do, but many have fallen foul of this and then they realize time goes by, fast. Let the space you are going to use be ready and set up one hour before the set time. If that isn’t possible, get ready anyway and get help if alone. You need to be calm, and exude some confidence in what you are going to do. Nobody wants to be at the mercy of a disorientated, bumbling person. At the very least, make the point of the workshop as clear as possible.

Let There Be Food – I assure you, they won’t get distracted. There’s a higher chance of distraction if they are sat attempting to listen to you and wondering about Tikka Masala or Goat Curry. Water, biscuits, try a variety of things, not everyone loves Jaffa cakes or Haribo. Let it convey an atmosphere of concern and care. People will respect you for haven thought of them and it’s more likely they listen to you. Don’t take so much food that it turns into a “Work-Chop!” Chop is a Nigerian-Pidgin word for eat.

Involve Involve Involve – No workshop should be run without including activities for your participants. They can’t spend a whole hour listening to you without  boredom setting in. I have realized that bored is a sign of  two things, 1. You need to sleep  2. You need to be actively Do-ing something. And except it is a sleep workshop, number 2, will be your best bet. Given this is a UX workshop, get people sketching, writing down ideas, sorting cards e.t.c. There should be no thought for a nap.

Finish Well – People usually spend a lot of time doing the above but they forget that the conclusion of the matter is also a big deal. After all, it is the last impression people will take with them as they leave your presence. You don’t want people sighing with relief. You want to leave them excited, upbeat about what comes next. Since we cannot please all the people all the time. Those who haven’t been impressed with the red velvet cupcakes or a bout of card sorting, could still take a golden nugget with them, if you can nail this last bit. Get people’s feedback as part of the workshop. Let them tell you want they have done, and how it makes sense to them, there and in their work/life. Much better when it’s a Value-Added Workshop – VAW

And you are done, now go on and be great.

Becoming Copy Cats

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I don’t know whether content is King or Queen anymore, but copy is VIP. A few weeks back, I was going to fly. I had booked my flight and everything except that the website refused to mention a little clause about a little matter of my visa. I had called the airline, I got to speak with a man 4,500 miles away, who didn’t help, and then to customer service agents in their office on ground. They told me it was what it was. Anyways, £400 was at stake here, and I could only hope and pray.

You really don’t want people coming to your site, to hope and pray, besides, not everyone believes in any type of god. Most of the issue with content comes from un-definition. Who owns it? Who writes it? Who strategizes around it? Who is responsible for it? It’s too easy for UX professionals to pass the ball, I’ve seen it happen, many times, usually it is not their fault. Business wants to own the content but sometimes they forget to do what they need to do and somehow down the line,  a site is released to the wild with your service being described as ipsum.

Here are some things you should be doing with copy;

GET IT

Lorem Ipsum is only popular because you can easily get it. As early as possible in your project, make content as important as the frameworks you build. People are not coming to your application to play with buttons and click on things. If the roadsigns are wrong or unclear no matter how beautiful, they will do wrong as well, have an accident or something. Don’t downplay the importance of great copy, if there is no one to give it you, as a UX professional you should know the folk you are designing for. So, you should be able to write meaningful things. If  all fails, cry and beg someone or something, by all means get your copy in early.

DESIGN IT

No doubt, changes happen. Copy might be affected as the project undergoes the flux. You should design to accommodate whatever will go in, and you must have had a good idea of what it would be or written something in place that makes sense. It also makes what you design, a little more realistic. It feeds into the general perception of the project as it passes under the eyes of stakeholders.

OWN IT

One of the first questions I asked on a project at my current gig was, Who owns content? Depends on the project I was told. If you land on a project where there seems to be no copy writing resource, or you can’t get hold of the persons(s) take responsibility for the copy. When project stakeholders start asking about things, don’t point your fingers, be responsible for what you have designed for goodness sakes, give them the rationale behind the things you’ve written. Even when the copy writer has put something together, if it doesn’t go with the whole vision of what is being created, speak up, make recommendations.

Let’s be clear.  People read on the web. They just do not continue to read things that make no sense to them. When you write, be specific, be direct. One of my favorite-st quotes is “When in Doubt, Take responsibility” I think that is something that we UX folk have signed up for, so let’s be a bit more thoughtful in getting copy, designing it and owning it. Oh yes, I didn’t lose my £400, thank God!

How to Work with Developers

image (6)

As a UX professional, it is inevitable that you will work closely with software developers in your career. You might also have coding skills, but this is about how you relate with developers while in a UX role. A talented developer I have worked with before called me up some days ago and told me how he was applying UX skills and practices that he had learnt from me at his new job and role as a development manager. Highlight of my week.

I have come across three main types of developers in my experience and the way I’ve learnt to relate/work with them differs.

1. Code-Alone

The ‘code-alone’ type of  developer is one who just wants to get on with their work. Sometimes they say things like “I am not sketching anything, it’s not my job” or “Just tell me what to do” At first when I encountered this, I was taken aback, all they wanted to see was wireframes and didn’t care about the ideas or concepts behind the wireframes.

I learnt that it is best to leave them be, respect the work they do. It is likely that by the work you do, they will come on their own to ask questions. Don’t count on it though, supply them with as much information as possible (Annotate wireframes properly and in detail!) and let them get on with their work.

2. Code-it-All

These ones never forget to tell you how great they are at what they do, and what they can do. Usually, they can back up their claims, but it can be grating where a person attempts to tell you what your job should be. I appreciate them, because they add to the collaborative effort, however it gets to a point where you have to put your foot down. They might understand UX principles, but they tend to see it only from one point of view, theirs. This is where a UX professional shines because you should be able to bring together multiple viewpoints, ‘connecting the dots’

A good rule is to, Listen to what they have to say, but always do what is right. It is easy to be driven by technology where two or more of these are gathered, but being the UX professional you are, never forget that your users come first.

3. Code-Open

Some of the best developers fall into this category and it is not because they write the best code. They are open and curious about what UX is and how it benefits their own process. They contribute constructively and spark ideas in others around them. They genuinely want to solve problems creatively.

Never forget to tell them how much their efforts are appreciated, teach them more about UX and how best you can work together.

Work well anyway

Now, none of these categories are rigid, I have had a good friend switch from a Code-It-All to  Code-Open recently. Neither do they cover every single type of developer out there. In my experience these are the ones I’ve come across and how I have learnt to work with them.

It’s always rewarding when people attempt to understand each other, how else are we going to work productively and delightfully together?

Who is on your team?

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I love teams because usually, you get a great mix  just by virtue of people being different to one another and coming from various backgrounds. Going one step further as a team lead/manager e.t.c is to identify what each person can uniquely bring to the team. Qualities that enable creativity, growth and productivity. If two people have the same strengths and weakness, it means one of them is not needed.

My profile as identified by the MBTI personality type methodology is the INFJ. I was introduced to this during my Masters programme in a module called, ‘Developing Self’ one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken in my life. The University paid for our assessment and I can confirm that it is 90% accurate.

So what do people like me bring to the table, at the basic level.

http://www.bestfittype.com/chartthecourse.html

CHART-THE-COURSE
INFJ

The theme is having a course of action to follow. People of this style focus on knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or the project on track. They prefer to enter a situation having an idea of what is to happen. They identify a process to accomplish a goal and have a somewhat contained tension as they work to create and monitor a plan. The aim is not the plan itself, but to use it as a guide to move things along toward the goal. Their informed and deliberate decisions are based on analyzing, outlining, conceptualizing or foreseeing what needs to be done.

So far I have realized most of these from my experience working, both in an agency  and client-side. I enjoy being able to plan and give structure to a project, I don’t believe that innovation is hampered by structures. We need structure in our lives, if not, chaos. Creativity in itself is neither good or bad, the outcome of such ‘creativity’ is what matters most.

One particular thing I love to do is document. I  would create a project initiation document which details things as we begin, and we use it as a guide to outcomes as the project progresses. I think it has been successful in the times I’ve done this, because one thing people don’t realize is, how easily they forget things and how much is forgotten.

Some other links which give more detail of an INFJ’s working style

> INFJ on a team

> What makes an INFJ tick?

Think more about the people on your team. Don’t be driven constantly by the work they have to get done. Most times the key to unlocking their productivity is understanding their personalities and where they are coming from.

Women 2.0 in London

women 2.0

By MyBeautie

I had the opportunity of attending a Women 2.0 event, Founder Friday yesterday. Founder Friday seeks to promote the creation of new networks among aspiring entrepreneurs, current entrepreneurs and investors in innovative cities globally. Both men and women are invited to attend Founder Friday.
Read more at http://www.women2.com/category/founder-friday/#KZUq7zvw58rWFE7D.99

I can’t remember how I got to know about this event, all within a number of clicks, and I’m glad. I was going to just attend, but then I saw the option to volunteer and I told myself, why not? One of the things I’d like to improve on this year is connecting with people professionally, and usefully. So I thought this would create a great opportunity for that. I learnt bits about those coming, those I knew already and those I would like to get to know.

I got to Google Campus, early enough to set up the space with the other Volunteers and the coordinator, Shruti. I had alrady spent some time getting to know one of the volunteers, an American lady who was also my age and involved in Business Development which a very good start. At about 6:05pm people began to come in, and we made sure to welcome them.

I just loved being there, in the midst of all these women doing great things. Not only was I thinking of the various opportunities that this event was inspiring but also thinking of how to extend this initiative back home in Nigeria. The tech space might be saturated by guys but I think there is still a lot of wide open space for us to occupy.

Shruti gave a brief introduction to the event at 7pm. After a couple of minutes. Gerlinde Gniewosz, CEO of Ko-Su @zuztertu @kosumobile gave us 20mins of her time, telling an interesting account of her life story, “Life is never a straight path”. Her journey began all the way in New Zealand, and as an accountant but is now a Tech founder, developer and innovator. Some salient words she gave; “Passion– choose something you truly believe in” “You will always hear NO.. Make up your own mind”

I loved every bit. After the talk, it was networking, networking all the way. I talked to a few people, gave my UX pitch and just went with the flow. By 9pm, it was time to say bye, but there were still a number of ladies chatting away. I smiled at the connections that were being made, collaborations and possible businesses formed!

NEXT UP

The next Founder Friday event is on February 15th! I may or may not be in London, but it would be brilliant either way, I promise.

Now, another event I will be going to this month is sponsored by GDG London and GDG Women it is called Design in Action, a hackathon held over two days at the Google Campus. Get your tickets here

What UX do.

Wikipedia - Elvis Presley

I wrote this article, The Role of UX: Learning From Sustainability  on UX Matters before I got my last job, 16months ago. I think it is crucial for me to revisit it as I take stock of what I’ve done in those months. Some ideas and thoughts are still very crucial.

Focusing on what people do, not titles.

UX magazine recently released an article Stop Explaining UX and start doing UX which gives practical points on validating design and things UX professionals could do in ‘doing UX’. I had written in my article;

…there are a couple of things UX design professionals do agree on: design is good, design is essential, and people should benefit positively from their interaction with any design. So I began to focus on what people actually do rather than what their title says, because titles don’t get design done, people do.

So I am particularly glad that this is being rehashed in the community. I had identified four areas where a UX professional can function, as an Educator, an Innovator, Disruptor and Partner. Now looking back on my work, what have I actually done in terms of these functions.

Educating People

I had the opportunity of talking to people who were curious about UX at work. Sometimes they would ask me in the kitchen, at their desk, sometimes in the toilet! Yes I had to do a 1min UX pitch to an illustrator as we exited the Ladies!. Telling others about what my little team did was also beneficial for my team, because the better the understanding a person has of what you do, the better the collaboration. Respect, Trust follow and they really really matter.

I was also able to educate through the use of work shops. The first one I ran was with the Marketing Acquisition team, and I am certain that they left the meeting that day with more understanding of how we the UX team could help them in doing their job better at the least.

Another aspect has been in my blogging to a wider audience, my UX diary and also participating in UX camp and facilitating two talks; Developing Healthy UX Teams and 50 shades of UX, which I will blog about very soon.

Partnerships and Collaboration

Across the year, I partnered with more people than I could have imagined. I learnt from QAs, infact a whole load from QAs, getting a mentor in the process, I think I’m ready to be a Games producer! I collaborated with developers who write Python, Java..technologies I had not been involved with before. Partnered with Marketing and became bosom buddies with Customer service officers. It has been so rich and rewarding, not only do you learn about what they do and how to work with them, you see possibilities and how much what we do interlinks, gives you a new level of respect for every one else. I got to work in sustainability again. At the moment I’m exploring more partnerships and collaborations that can be fostered in the community. Watch this space 🙂

So these are the two main areas where I have functioned as a UX professional aside my regular work. I will be taking this up a notch this year, with so many opportunities arising, all I can pray for is more hours to my days!

Even if you don’t take me seriously because you don’t know me, take Elvis seriously! the guy was genius.

“A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark”

-Elvis Presley