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 >

nasa_logoSpace_apps

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.

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 At Work

I’ve always struggled to tell people what I do. Not that it matters much, but it makes me think a lot about it. At the hospital despite what I say, the doctor still puts down, ‘IT Technician’. My family say, ‘website designer’. My friends say, ‘She does something weird’. Some others, ‘She works with computers’. So what is it really?

What is UX?

UX is short for User Experience. So I am a User Experience designer. The role I play in an organisation or on a project varies, but it is mostly about focusing all efforts on creating an experience for a person regardless of the medium, that should be enjoyable not merely manageable and  definitely not painful.

In the digital space, I collaborate to build applications for the web on various platforms, social platforms like facebook, mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets. I am the interface between the development team (Graphic Design + Code) and the product team (Business + Marketing + Customer Service).

A substantial part of it is User Research and Testing, which involves, taking ideas/products out there to those who are going to use them, getting feedback from their reactions and using it to inform your design.

Sometimes I do the Information Architecture of the application where I decide depending on needs and user goals, the experience we’d love them to have taking into consideration business requirements and available technology. Right from loading the application, signing up to signing out. Applying the full UCD life cycle.

At times I design the User Interface, wireframing or protoyping. Depending on the type/need of project or organization this could be lo-fi, done with pens and paper or Hi-fi, done with a tool like Omnigraffle or Axure. I also decide on the interaction required and the levels we need in the project.

Sometimes I do all of the above on one project, but what I do all the time is think about those who will eventually have to use these things. I also educate those within my organization on the importance of User Experience, because it really is a combination of all efforts in an organization.

To learn more about UX visit these:

User Experience at Smashing Magazine

User Experience by Nielsen Norman group

UX Matters

UX Magazine

Story Cubes

A colleague introduced me to Rory’s Story Cubes yesterday, which I thought would be a useful UX tool, for brainstorm workshops, idea generation and much more. The Graphic designer who showed me, said he uses it, when he has to come up with game concepts and the like.

How it Works

It’s all in the roll of dice. There are nine dice with 6 faces which have different pictures.

You can roll three at a time, and find a way to connect the pictures to what it is you are doing or what you want to work on.

It forces you to be creative by connecting the ‘dots’

Try it.

UXCamp London – B.D.A.

I woke up excited, even though I still had half a slide. I packed my bags because I was going to stay at someone’s house for the weekend. Somehow, I got drawn into an early morning talk which was going to make me late if I didn’t continually glance at my wristwatch. Soon, I was out of the house and then got on the line all the way down to the other end of London where the City University is. Got to the center and began to see a number of familiar faces from the internet and other UX events I’d been at. I tried to get my computer connected (A Bad User experience, I have to say) Finally, I was online and everyone had began to settle in the meeting room.

Boon @boonych, one of the organisers soon began the event, welcoming us, and setting out the agenda for the day. Between him, revealing his iPad lock code and the cup of tea in my hand, it was a pleasant start! After, we had to fill the time grid, at this point I began to have cold feet. I’m not the best presenter, if i don’t have anything set out. I didn’t think my slides were coherent enough but I just decided to give it a go, whats the worst that can happen. So I filled the time slot for 1:40 pm just after lunch, so that people are still energized..hehe. When I looked at the grid later, I realized Johanna Kollman’s Agile UX presentation was on that same time slot, What the heck..I thought, bad move..I would be alone in my room..tough luck.

The first talk I went to was by @Jansru Jan Srutek ”Communicating and Selling UX Design Deliverables” It was a great overview for me. Some of the main insights for me were;

  • Presentation is very important. Visual communication is very powerful.
  • Ideas are the What, Presentation is the How.
  • Engaging your particular audience by speaking their own language.
  • Talk about people’s experiences in relation to the deliverable, not just the widgets.
  • Have the right mindset.
  • Do not impose your ‘solutions’ ask questions.
  • Always have a summary ready.

Some other tips include;

  • Aim for consistency in naming system and visual style
  • Recognition over Recall
  • Design Personas like Posters
  • Create cover sheets for the presentation which shows, Context and Purpose, Deliverable status and possibly a change-log.
  • Try to design with CRAP principles

The second was by, @AlisonW, Alison Wheeler  ”Yes, No, Maybe” I call it,  UX Design Beyond Borders

We have come to a point, where we cannot afford to design for our own comfort zones. Our design, particularly in the digital/websphere has to be culturally inclusive. We have to balance the need to save screen real estate and the need to reach as many as possible across countries. There were various examples, concerning the perception of colour across cultures and translations of words from /english into tother languages, which are too large to sit on the screen.

Some tips;

  • Combine Colour elements and symbols
  • Do away with presumptions..some people really have no clue.

I had a Lunch time Conversation with @Cennydd @MissGreenIT which revolved around, UX measurement/ROI, Sustainability and Epic/Emotional Websites. I also decided to combine my session with @MissGreenIT Takwesha because 1. We were both talking about sustainability (mine was The UX Role; Personality Types and Sustainability) and 2. I was just glad, I wouldn’t be on the same time slot with Johanna 😀

For the  third session, I went to check out ”UXB: the unfashionable older brother” by Nick Dunlavey @ndunlavey, ‘Life in the Enterprise’

”The UX Role: Personality and Sustainability: Sustainable Interaction Design” by me, @tonianni and @MissGreenIT (separate blog post of course :D)

We had a bit of a break here.

Sixth Session, ”When UX Design is not enough, Strategy starts”

this was a discussion about metrics used on UX, it also touched on knowledge transfer between Agencies and Organisations

My last two sessions were on Research and Collaboration

The first one by, @crispjodi ”Recruiting Participants for UX Research” we basically just shared thoughts and ideas, and contributed to the list for Jodie’s project. The second one was on collaboration, using a method based off the KJ method, Interesting one, which allows everyone get their ideas in without discussing amongst each other at the start.

We all assembled for closing remarks and a lottery! of course  I had my fingers crossed..and..I!! didn’t win anything 😦 number just after mine were called, truly disappointing. lol. anyways, I couldn’t stay for the after drinks, had to run with all my luggage. At this point, being the INFJ that I am, I was drained but really glad I attended the event. It was a well-spent day, got to talk in depth-ly with a number of people, some I’d only read about before. The main threads/ideas that came out of this for me, where the role of the UX person and what UX as whole should be focused on, not forgetting the many gaps which we need to have filled.

Big Big Thanks to the organisers and all those who made it happen.

Identified Issue : Train Travel

Working on the Percy Hedley project really stimulated my mind. I had to travel a lot NCL-KGX, KGX-NCL, Family matters and what not. Frankly I am as tired as Thinking ‘outside the box’ but I have been doing my own thinking inside the trains that look like rectangle boxes. And one thing that struck me was the need to have an efficient/effective system of checking train tickets to make sure people actually pay for their trips. Honestly its not funny, when I pay 69 quid for a ticket and someone just saunters in and out on the same trip.

Some cracks I personally experienced, for example there was a time I did sleep off and didn’t have my ticket checked. I could have gotten on that train with none. I know many have done this, stayed in toilets and things like that, but basically travelled without payment of any form.

There are systems in place to check tickets at some of the stations before and after you get on board, while on board, a train employee comes around to stamp such tickets. That cannot be the best of jobs when you have passengers come on from different stops, getting off at different stops, there has to be a way, I would have suggested this as a project we take on in MDI, but alas, I’m done with it..Maybe this years intake could tackle it.

Personally, i have just gotten to understand the transportation methods over the past months i’ve been here. And while this issue is identified, I think its expedient to harness creativity which can tackle this issue. Not only is the Experience of the Users hectic, the companies will be losing money along the line.

There has to be a way. *Thinking* *Researching*

One idea I have is RFID tagging, and also looking at the part Mobile communication can play in this, ensuring a higher UX..coming soon!

Digital Shoreditch: Interaction Lab

I attended Digital Shoreditch on Friday. It was a short time but still packed full with information. The first thing I got up to was Learning how the Microsoft Surface works and the usefulness in design processes and collaboration by interacting with it. We looked at the User issues which include, the Number of Users who can use the surface at a time and the ability to save progress on the device, save sessions or share them on other screens. There are lots of things that be done faster using paper, it seemed really time-consuming for simple tasks. Also the response time wasn’t so great which added to the issue. It was fun at atimes, and I really think it would be a great installment for kids and at use at some facilities, but for personal use or teamwork, it doesn’t rise to the challenge plus the cost is very steep.

Next on we looked at the D-I-Y version of the Surface made by one of the researchers at the Lab. He explained how he put things together but for more details you can see this It was an improvement in functions from the Surface, but the quality of elements must be taken into account. The Surface has better hardware. Still on this D-I-Y form, one could interact throught the internet with the device.

The Second Part, We moved on to the Usability Lab were we looked at devices and systems used for User-testing. I volunteered as the test User for Eye-tracking. It was great seeing how it works and what could be done with it. This particularly was valuable for me as a User Experience Researcher. Later in the day, I had a chat with a UX designer who felt this method of testing was ‘dubious’. It is something I would elaborate on later. We also discussed about how to make the web more inclusive, methods that are already in place and future possibilities. It was a good time out.