How to become Responsible.

User Experience is about responsibility, I once wrote an article that UX is Responsible design.

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Here is one of my current favorite person’s take on responsibility. Jacques Ellul writes-

In a society such as ours, it is almost impossible for a person to be responsible. A simple example: a dam has been built somewhere, and it bursts. Who is responsible for that? Geologists worked out. They examined the terrain. Engineers drew up the construction plans. Workmen constructed it. And the politicians decided that the dam had to be in that spot. Who is responsible? No one. There is never anyone responsible. Anywhere. In the whole of our technological society the work is so fragmented and broken up into small pieces that no one is responsible. But no one is free either. Everyone has his own, specific task. And that’s all he has to do.

Just consider, for example, that atrocious excuse… It was one of the most horrible things I have ever heard. The director of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was asked at the Nuremburg trials, “But didn’t you find it horrible? All those corpses?” He replied, “What could I do? I couldn’t process all those corpses. The capacity of the ovens was too small. It caused me many problems. I had no time to think about these people. I was too busy with the technical problem of my ovens.” That is the classic example of an irresponsible person. He carries out his technical task and isn’t interested in anything else.

Become interested in people today.

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.

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

Empathy Building: Mental Health Cafe

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A thing I created while swapping feelings & stories on my first day. Guess what it is 😀

“These are the final 12” She said to me pointing at her phone. I was eating lunch and I couldn’t even imagine what she meant. “Final 12 of?” I continued “Xfactor!”, she exclaimed, “final 12 on Xfactor” Oh, I went, it was only my first day at the mental health cafe. She went on to describe the contestants in detail while I asked for pictures. In the cafe, she was just another person with a particular way of communicating and the added skill of describing things in great detail, straight from memory, in the outside world she would be labelled as “handicapped”

This year has been the toughest year of my life and with suffering, it’s easy for us to disappear into ourselves. Imagine how many other people are going through the same or much worse, we end up with a society where hearts are blocked off from each other.

When I got back to London, after many days of rolling in the dark, I resolved that one of the best ways to get myself out of darkness was to reach out to others. Luckily at the same time I had been introduced to a project by a man whom I’d met and helped earlier in the year.

This project is helping people cope with some mental health challenges. While I was researching around how to connect with more people with these difficulties, I met another man who introduced me to the Dragon Cafe, a pop up mental health cafe, that opens up every Monday in Borough. I was so happy.

“The whole point, is to be a complete antithesis to your average mental health service. People like it, because there’s no pressure to do anything at all. They can sing, if they want to. They can write. They can paint. But they can also just collapse on a bean bag and snore”.

The first day was amazing. Over the course of my volunteering I came to see how many were regulars, why they come to the cafe, how it relaxes them and the friends they make. Every single person in the cafe both volunteers and guests have/had mental health challenges so it makes it easier to talk to people. I work at the art table and I get to see how much being able to ‘play’ makes people happy, free and connected.

As a UX practitioner, it was a no brainer to be amongst those I would be designing for, even though I face mental health challenges myself. As a human, I knew it made sense to be able to connect with others, to come out of oneself. For me, going there helps to build my empathy for others, to understand other perspectives like the lady I had an interesting conversation with about Xfactor,  not to be too hard on myself, to accept orders from others, to co operate with people (we pack up the cafe at night)

A wonderful announcement was made yesterday, some people from PWC will be creating a similar pop up in the City. The cafe makes so much sense and my hope is many more such cafes are created, if you aren’t too busy why not pay a visit or donate to the cause.

Cheerios xo

Running UX Workshops for Beginners

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One of my goals this year was to run independent UX workshops for beginners. I’ve managed to run two successfully at the Royal Festival Hall which I’m happy about. Looking forward to more.

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A Design Conversation with John Maeda

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John Maeda is a design partner at KPCB, a VC firm in Silicon Valley with Google and Amazon in their portfolio. It was an honor to hear him speak live about design and hybrids. Big thanks to Poptech for organizing for free and Patrizia of Legoviews for sharing the event.

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Storymaking For a Better User Experience

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Stories are great, we all love a good one. Storytelling is useful in helping us connect with others, companies and brands. We can enhance this by co-creating stories using StoryMaking methods.

“StoryMaking is the engagement in creation of a story with one or more people”

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When you say UX, What do you mean?

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It’s quite nice that almost everyday I get to explain what UX is. It helps me think about it, and refine my understanding. My idea of UX has evolved over the years based on what I read in books, what I have and seen practiced.

In this post I’ll tell you what I’m thinking when I mention User Experience, UX. If you have other ideas/ perspective, let me know.

1. UX is a Mindset

It is a way of thinking, with empathy. When a UX professional gets into a company this is what they will try to infuse through out the company. This mindset will enhance the way people think about other people (users, colleagues, customers, gamers and any other subset ) and how their products or services affect them.

UX professionals are there to remind us, because we all forget, that people satisfaction and delight should be at the heart of all we do. They are also advocates of the (users/customers etc) within the company or organisation. UX says to people, genuinely ‘We are here to help’

2. UX is a Goal

What’s the point of it all?, why are we waking up everyday and doing this. No we can’t actually design the experience, how everyone perceives something differs but we can facilitate a good or bad experience. We anticipate expectations and try to exceed them. How do we know when we get there? Set the goal ( Increased Sales?), set the metric (lower time to task completion?), method (site clarity?) research and validate (RR)

3. UX is a combination of skills and tools

These skills, tools and factors help one achieve 2. Goal but must be in combination with 1. Mindset. One should have a discernible skill along with the right mindset, whether it lies in strategy,  research and/or design execution through interaction design, code or a visual interface.

There’s no one skill that is a UX skill, sketching, wire-framing, prototyping any one can do that. What sets a UX professional apart is the constant awareness of who they are designing for, the implications of the design and taking the right steps to ensure a proper, responsible solution.

Some important skills include 1. Being able to communicate effectively via any medium, 2. Requirements gathering 3. Understanding people via research 4. High willingness to learn and adapt. 5. Ability to balance ( e.g business and customer needs), order, prioritise

Podcasting The Nigerian Tech Scene

It’s interesting to me that I left Nigeria in a year that digital companies started to make themselves known. I haven’t completely been out of touch but most of the Startups people talk about now were not existing then.

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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.

User Experience and Design in 2015

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As a designer my daily life is never complete without looking ahead, thinking of what could be and as we embark on this new year, even more so. But for one to look ahead we must think about what has been and what we can learn.

In looking ahead for 2015, I am writing about things that have been on my mind, things I’ve observed, things I haven’t read anywhere for the year, things that are important for the future of user experience and design.

Back to Basics

I was in a meetup earlier this month talking about mobile payments, and It struck me how much technology happened to be the drivers of what we are creating these days. It seems that though we talk about ‘Users’ all the time we have forgotten who they are. There’s new exciting technology, lots of trends to follow but they just seem backwards when we don’t engage people first and always.

I think it’s important for us, this community of designers to take a step back and ask ourselves who we are designing for and why. In the work we do this is a daily struggle, and one that we should never think is ever done. So do take a step back, think, be thankful that you can design and that there are people to design for.

Accessibility

My sister is a ‘digital lawyer’ currently with the UN. She told me that one of the key tasks for the year in her group was to raise awareness about Accessibility in developing countries. I told her there was still a lot to be done even in the so-called developed world.

Although Accessibility is a part of the Equality Act 2010 (UK),Discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited by law, Designers and developers in digital often don’t realise how the law affects the work they do. Even if companies with a digital presence are not deliberately excluding disabled users, they could find themselves violating the law and the fines are unlimited.

2015 should see us learning more on accessibility not just because you can be fined, but because you have empathy, because you want to help your fellowhuman, it could be you tomorrow. We should be educating others, those we work with and with out.

Let’s talk and design more around this, like Be My Eyes app, I’d like to see A11yLDN revved again. The following videos give a glimpse of what it’s like having impairments, I hope you take the time to watch them

How Blind People access the web

Film by Sea of Change

 

Fight Commoditisation

“Everything that can be reduced to a commodity ends up in the hands of fools”

UX and design consulting seems to be one thing that will keep growing in 2015, as big companies and consulting firms buy digital agencies and UX capabilities en masse.

We practitioners need to stay on guard and make sure we are not acting like commodities ourselves; selling design solutions that are merely cheaper than our competitors which devalues what design is about, offering tools instead of thoughts. All companies might have the same problem, but the design solution cannot be the same. Design is heavily influenced by context and as long as two companies are different they need to have different solutions.

If we are willing to be true partners, putting profits at risk, receiving pay based on the results, seeking to rethink the entire lifecycle of a business not just the app or website which are merely touchpoints for the most part, we can fight commoditisation. Standing on quality and honesty, twingods for this age with guts, the resolve and capability, I’m certain it can be done.

Learn by Prototyping 2 : My Portfolio

When I set out to create a portfolio, I was aware of the fact that a portfolio for user experience is a bit of a weird thing because at least 70% of the work done cannot be shown, and 100% of the work cannot be attributed to just one person. All this in the midst of NDAs and ‘company secrets’.

So I decided to create my portfolio as a project. I was going to use one of my favorite tools, Axure to create it. The portfolio was going to be a fluid, present continuous work. I was going to do user research by observing how people (recruiters, friends, peers, prospective employers) interacted with it. I wrote about the first iteration here;

Learn By Prototyping

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So what did I learn from the first iteration?

1. It is easier on a mobile device to go UP-DOWN than side ways (hold your phone and move your thumb)

2. Carousels don’t work for interviews, because people like to know upfront what options are available to them. Clicking next, next, next can deaden the mood.

3. It is better to stick to a small number of projects which point to certain aspects of work e.g  A mobile project, a desktop project, service design, a project you led, a project you had the most challenge e.t.c

4. Got to talk with really helpful UX leads who advised to add bits like My process and other relevant things which they would want to know about.

5. I left the adaptive framework behind because, most of the viewing was done on desktop and 1024 x 768 tablet screen, (the portfolio was irrelevant on a smartphone)

6. Created illustrations in Omnigraffle (which I will blog about soon) just to show that these tools can be useful for a large number of things.


Here’s the recent iteration, a bit of a change eh, I do prefer a lighter theme, so that might come in the next version.

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Again, can’t wait for next lessons!

In the mean time, I’ve recorded a course with Digital Tutors on Creating Responsive + Adaptive Layout in Axure, check it out!

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The Big Matter of User Research

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Research is a thing that ought to be done with joy. Ask any PhD student. Joy gives you the strength required for rigour and analysis that comes with research. Now, what can be more joyful than the thought that what you are doing will make someone’s life, even if a smidgen, better.

Why does this seem to be missing in many, many places that profess a UX practice? Why are people afraid of User research? As a freelancer when people approach me with projects like the re-design of a web space or an app, and I start to go, ‘why’ they disappear into the ether.

The best of times I’ve had doing User research has been on my Masters course in Design Innovation and independent research on many different things. One could say we had the luxury of time, (we didn’t) or money, (I paid my way through it). So why do companies abandon this very crucial element. As an independent researcher (I’ll research whether you ask me or not) it really grates when UX practices omit the very thing that puts the U in UX.

Michelleux

 

What is User Research?

User Research is the proper way of doing research. Why? services, systems, do not have desires, goals or aspirations. Living beings do. People-focused, not product or tech focused, because products and tech do not have desires or goals.

It doesn’t matter if you are doing market research or usability testing, they must have these basic principles. I was prompted to write this post because of the recent conversations I’ve had on twitter. User research should not just be a step, It is should be a constant.  

The Importance of User Research

No Research, no UX.

This is from Karl Smith

Paying for UX means paying for research, insights, testing and customer requirements. It’s survival of the fittest, some companies should fail in any case it’s normal. If you pay peanuts… and some client companies think you can get platinum by paying for cement. That’s not what the market is for, it’s to offer wider choice, not cheaper brilliance.

 

Also read from GDS a team I respect when it comes to UX, it’s User Research, not User testing

User research: a mixture of usability testing and more, generally trying to better understand our end users so we can make better services for them.

 

The Nielsen Norman Group published this recently, UX without User Research is not UX

User experience cannot exist without users. Creating user interfaces involves intricate and complex decisions. User research is a tool that can help you achieve your goals.

Even the most well thought out designs are assumptions until they are tested by real users. Different types of research can answer different types of questions. Know the tools and apply them accordingly. Leaving the user out is not an option.

They also show you how to choose the right research methods

 

UX is about people, people!

More, Karl Smith.

The real job of UX, find out about the users.

The real job of ux is to align the business with the users, from the user perspective. Users ask “what’s in it for me”, “what do I personally gain”. This means that user research is required by the clients customers, in order to work out what they want for from the business in order to take up their services or buy their products, how they will want to interact and what they will give the business for a relationship.

 

In short, We need to be like Pandas. If you are struggling to see how research fits into other stages of your work, just go and do your research first

 

Stay Bright.

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.

2 Lessons From TWOWS

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It was on an airplane ride I eventually got to watch the movie. I thought it was overhyped and wasn’t going to go out of my way to watch it but here I was, 40,000ft above the ground, with no where to go.

I found myself laughing, crying, being hysterical, I loved every minute of it. After the movie, I wrote in my notebook for about 10mins because I had realised there was so much to glean from it aside entertainment value. A few things;

“If you give people a good enough ‘why’, they will always figure out the ‘how’”

I watched in awe as Jordan told story after story, connecting with others. To me this highlighted the importance of storytelling even in Design. When Jordan asked people to sell a pencil and they went on about the features on the pencil I thought then I had made the connection.

There are a set of pairs that are very important in the proper functioning of the world; Intuition and Logic, Faith and Reason, Imagination and Analysis, Stories and Features, The Big Picture and Details.

These pairs have to work together, anybody that argues otherwise is a fraud. They also have a specific order in which they work, the first of the pair as written must come first. One needs to understand the ‘Why’ before they can appreciate the ‘How’. The big picture/story should sell and help one appreciate the details/features and in turn, the details/features reinforce and make you love the big picture/story more, a blessed circle.

People connect better with stories (See) work on that. They also make it easier for stakeholders to understand and to gain the support for your projects. However it is not a one time thing, it may need refining and you might get to iteration 4, but never forget the pattern. Share the ‘whys’, the big picture and then detail it.

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“When you live your life by poor standards, you inflict damage on everyone who crosses your path, especially those you love”

Not everybody is concerned about standards in the work they do or how it ties to their personal values but because UX is ultimately about people this is very important. Our mindset should be one that always strives for the best way of doing a thing, not just in the artefacts we create but in the way we live, relate and communicate.

Things in your life outside work seep into work and vice versa, there’s really no separation. We should strive for excellence mostly because other people are at stake. Do you love? then show it, be dependable, pay your bills on time, add a little more honesty, appreciate time with your family. There’s so much we can do better everyday. If you don’t know where to start, try laying your bed every morning, I promise that you will be designing a little better very soon.

Stay Bright.

 

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.

 

The Future of Web Design 2014

 

 

The Future of Web Design FOWD is an annual conference which seeks to inspire and educate everyone who is interested or/and works with the web. It also is an amazing opportunity to network with many brilliantly talented people.

I found out in February that a Nigerian-American designer I follow on Twitter was going to be speaking, my interest in going increased a hundred-fold. Last month I stumbled on the call for volunteers needed for the 8th and 9th, I jumped right in. Big thanks to Michelle of Future Insights for giving me the opportunity.

Day 2

Tuesday started out very early, I was at the Brewery by 7:30am, the volunteers got briefed on what they were going to do, there was a schedule and I was expecting to be busy. I think my favorite part at conferences is welcoming people at the front desk, finding their name tags, directing them and generally smiling, it’s fun.

The following sessions made an impact on me ( …and the ones I could attend!)

 

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The Keynote speech by Paul Adams @Padday, the head of product design at Intercom, it was titled ‘Our New Creative Canvas’. It echoed the thoughts I’ve been having about the web recently; it’s fluid, web pages do not do it justice. This is how I see the web in my mind.

According to him, the future of web design comprise 3 things; 1.We will all be designing systems 2. Personalised experiences 3. Designing for change. Now, I’m no fan of personalized content because I didn’t get on the web to be put back into a silo, however, I am on board with the other two.

 

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“UX Comics: How to Share Ideas Through Pictures” by Bonny Colville-Hyde @almostexact of Sift Digital. This was really important because it is something I’ve done (will blog about it) but never thought of putting before clients. She mentioned that comics allow you to generate and explore ideas, I can testify. The 5 Cs of comics she says are: Calligraphy, Composition, Clarity, Consistency and Communication. Her slides are here. In advancing her talk, I thought that one thing to consider is how body language differs from culture to culture, we shouldn’t have a one size fits all approach.

 

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Senongo Akpan, @senongo on Non-Linear Storytelling. This was a must-go for me and I wasn’t disappointed. It was really interesting seeing how one could essentially connect the dots even if they looked different. I saw how rich the web could be if we employed some of the things recommended in this talk. The slides from Senongo’s talk are here

 

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The last keynote of the day was by Stephanie Rieger  “The Emerging Global Web”. Jumia from Nigeria was name checked here, excited to see that. She spoke about the rise of ‘Instagram businesses’ in developing countries. Creativity certainly develops where there are constraints and a goal.

Day 3

Unfortunately I took ill, but managed to get to the Brewery by 12pm. I pretty much didn’t do any volunteer work so I had the chance to listen to a few talks.

 

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Razvan Caliman’s talk was amazing, I saw things I didn’t know were possible yet. The future has arrived. Browser-free web, anyone? You have to experience it because what I write cannot do it justice. Get it all here (controlled environment required)

 

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Belinda Parmar the CEO of Lady Geek talked about how not to alienate half the population in design. She spoke strongly about de-masculinizing  design.

And it was a wrap.

I was happy with what I got to experience, wish I had gone to Rachel Nabors talk, but I’m not twice. Particularly loved that it ended with the CEO of Lady Geek’s talk reminding us that the domain of web, design and development is for all of us.

I feel very lucky to be a part of this community.

“Those who design for the web, internet are extremely lucky to be in the space right now, being able to shape the world” – Paul Adams

The conference was well organised and as a volunteer I’ve had the least to do here. It was true to it’s aim, educating and inspiring those of us privileged to attend. I also got to talk with a few people I will be keeping in contact with. The emerging story for me from this event is redesigning the web through non-linear storytelling with various mediums and the eCommerce applications. I will be writing a post on that soon. For now, cheerios and don’t stop looking to the future.

You can view slides from other speakers here

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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.

UXCampLondon, Spring 2014

UXCampLondon is the first UX (un)conference I’ve been to in a very long time. I was really looking forward to the talks, there’s always something different, unique, compared to the usual conferences with set speakers. I also decided to talk about something I had written about some time ago, UX in big ships: How To Stay The Course.

In UX or even life, I am way more concerned about people than tools or processes, so I seek to understand people and their interaction with work, and other people. In my talks, I hope to appeal to people to think more about the way they communicate and how they might do it better.

The Camp

Basically what happens is that at the start of the day, there’s a board with time and room slots and anyone interested in speaking, starting/facilitating a discussion, running a workshop for 35mins can fill in when they want to do it.

First, started off by attending a talk given by some designers from Ustwo, it was about Making Money Valuable I thought this was a very ambitious talk because anything that tries to cover morals and ethics ends up on a slippery slope. They asked some valuable questions though. Things like, “Do my beliefs match my behavior?” ‘What is your core value?’ because that affects the things you design. One ought to design in human language and with cognitive limits in mind.

Second stop, I went to see a presentation on the Burj Khalifa by Hammad Khan of Entropii. It really wasn’t what I was expecting but it was interesting to see that they were going to get a better online experience. I was expecting something like this, Gas Machine from Statoil.

Third talk was Mine!

Oh boy, I didn’t expect the large turn out. I was nervous.

[Read] UX in Big Ships: How To Stay The Course

Sketchnotes "UX of Big Ships: How To Stay On Course" talk by @tonianni - UX Camp London, 22 March 2014 (Drawn by Makayla Lewis)                                                                                                                                                                    Sketchnote by @maccymacx

I had all round good discussions afterwards. One guy said, the only option he’s had in a big ship was to jump off the ship when things got too hard to handle. We also talked about ways to communicate better, sharepoint, wikis etc. Another guy talked about considering the captain of the ship, which is a very good point. If you have the opportunity to get to know more about your CEO before joining up, you definitely should. There’s also the subject of on-boarding new staff, ways of doing this better.

It wasn’t until after my presentation that I realized I hadn’t even introduced myself! yikes, I’ll do better next time.

After the talk, we had a break and then I had long conversations with two ladies, one a product manager and then a developer transitioning into user experience. We talked more about our experiences in ‘big ships’ and also in startups, the differences, pros and cons. There was an idea of exploring how environment affects the way we work, suburbs vs inner city for example.

I also went to a talk on Introversion and Extraversion, by Kim McGuire. Anything about personality always interests me, however I don’t think the introversion and extraversion scale is sufficient enough to qualify a person. I find the MBTI a better way to absorb this. I am an INFJ via the MBTI. I particularly liked the angle about the implications for user research and the way we user test.

Next, went to discussion about B2B vs B2Cs by Red Gate’s Marine Barbaroux (love her name). She asked what our preferences for projects were.

I strongly hold that curiosity is what drives passion and that’s what any and every kind of project whether B2B, B2C, B2E needs.

I personally like having a variety of things to work on. It could be airport kiosks today, trading software tomorrow or fashion applications next.

The remaining sessions covered Agile. My favorite quote was ‘Silos are for farmers’ talking about how we need to shed the us vs them mentality. I thought there is still a dire need for a proper online collaboration tool.

I’m really glad I went, can’t wait to do it again.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Work with Developers

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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?

Talking in my Sleep: UX/UI

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About two days ago, I had a dream that I was explaining to some people the difference between UX and UI. We were all sat in the living room, watching the telly, when this debate arose and the only thing I could find to explain with (because I love analogies) was the television set we had right in front of us.

I said, look at the telly (but of course I’m looking at it!). What can you see? “The telly is flat screened, black, 40in, rectangular, digital, a few buttons on the side, and has a remote control with many more buttons” There! I replied, that is the Interface, the UI of this product. Do you know what’s in the belly of your telly? I asked. They all shook their heads.

Right so, UI is all that you see but UX is a combination of what you see and what you cannot see. It is the sum of all that you experience with this TV set as you interact with it. For example, you do not know the technology that powers your telly, to give you this sharp clear images that you enjoy, this makes up the UX.

I hope with these points of mine, I have been able to educate you and not confuse you about the difference between User Interface and User Experience.

Thanks

*Television disappears*

Is it just me, or does the word ‘Television’ appear terribly archaic?

Ah well 🙂

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

All I Want For Christmas

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Christmas!

There is something about this season that makes one happy, go on, admit it. In spite of the ‘commercialization’ we rightfully moan about, there is still something that drives you to smile.

Christmas time holds many great memories for me. One of them was the first time we got our Atari 2600. This was in the late 80s. One of my aunts who resided in Canada had brought it for us as a Christmas gift. That was all we could ask for at that point. We quickly mastered most of the games, from River raid to Jungle hunt. Gaming back then was a beautiful learning experience one that seems to have been forgotten in these days.

I remember a weekend ago at a cousin’s house, my little cousins were playing the new Super Mario Bros on the Wii! When I told my 4yr old cousin I wanted to play, he said, ‘it’s too hard for you!’ and they didn’t give me a chance to prove myself after I mistakenly jumped into a pit. I watched them as they frustratingly tried to play the game, stopping to watch the tutorial video built into the game. All this made me think of what we really need in these times.

I would like to see these few things in 2013, as we build games, applications and experiences;

Let Learning be fun. 

Many systems tend to make learning ‘the other’ I wrote sometime ago about this on Gamification and Learning Processes Give people the chance to pick themselves up and try again, that’s what makes people usually feel better. Holding someone’s hands is nice, but the mark of maturity is taking responsibility.

Develop good habits

One thing I think we need more of in this world is patience. It’s amazing how tech and everything has gone towards the system of ‘on demand’ needing things now, now, now. It’s sad when you see kids exhibit  impatience especially as the systems we create enhance that. They don’t want to learn to play Mario because they need to succeed, now! Imagine what it would be like when they grow up, this leads to all sorts of unnecessary stress.

I’m not talking about habit apps, because those things don’t even work for me. I think we need to create systems which nudge people to be patient. There’s the risk that they abandon your application, but I think the earlier the better. If people have spent time learning through your app, the likelihood of them leaving later on is low. This is a better experience, I find.

Whatever you do, enjoy the moment. If you can’t, help someone else enjoy the moment.

And oh yes, don’t forget to go to Winter Wonderland if you are in London.

Best of the Season to you!

A Game Theory On Learning Processes

I’ve been gaming since an Aunt bought the Atari 2600 for us in 1990. We moved on to Family comp, NES, SNES, PC, PlayStations and XBOXs

Gaming has been fun and it also holds a wealth of knowledge. The learning process in gaming is important to note.

For UXBookClub, we had to read Don Norman’s Living With Complexity which expanded some of the concepts about learning processes.

One that particularly stood out to me was, what one undergoes to get a grasp of the complex systems. Learning is not an instant process, but happens over certain periods of time. He writes that for managing complexity, two sets of principles are needed, one for design and another for coping. the rules must all revolve around communication and feedback.

This is exactly what the best games convey, one doesn’t learn all there is to a game in the first stage. From my experience, it involves a learning process that stretches across the length of the game, and this is how seemingly complex games are broken down into simple bits as one goes stage by stage. Challenges are built purposefully into the games and this gives the feelings of achievement and progress, the more you have that, the more likely you are to want to complete and get to the goal.

Sustainable Values in User Experience

These are some of the questions that would be tackled this week at MEX. I choose this pathway amongst others because this is a major interest of mine. We live in a world that nothing is really lost, one thing affects the other. and while on one hand we designers want to create the best for people, the product life cycle never ends where the user is satisfied with the product and has a great experience with it. What happens after? What can we do to create a better cycle.

  1. How do sustainable values influence customer purchasing decisions and the ongoing user experience of digital products?
  2. Is the current average of a 20 month handset replacement cycle sustainable? Could a new business model enable customers to extend the lifetime of their devices for 5+ years?
  3. What renewable materials provide a new aesthetic in device design and respond to users’ desire for sustainable products?
  4. What techniques optimise power consumption in applications and services?
  5. How can sustainable energy sources be integrated into the design of mobile devices? What lessons can we learn from markets where mains power is rare?
  6. How do services uniquely enabled by mobile devices and wireless technology help customers to live more sustainable lives?