Being BROWN in tech

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Photo by DISRUPTIVO on Unsplash

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

Expectations

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

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

Reality

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

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

Other things:

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

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

2020

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

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

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.

Designer, Design Thyself

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This was a completely different post when I started writing a week ago. I wanted to critique the Design and Exclusion conference that I attended. Talking about inclusion, exclusion, diversity etc is tough because the attempt to include every single point of view in every single space is futile. However a discussion was started which should be commended. Even though I felt excluded in some areas of the conversation, I trust that design doesn’t give up, (I discovered someone also!), so I look forward to a better conference next time.

As the ideas and words for the critique percolated in my head, I came across Ayse Birsel’s book, Design the Life You Love and it was exactly what I’d been thinking, but now on an individual level. We have with us a powerful tool, design, that can bring about positive change even in our own lives and that’s what this book seeks to help us to do.

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Basically, while we attempt to design the world around us, we should not neglect ourselves and our lives. Being able to stop and assess what is, ‘deconstruction’, as Ayse calls it, is the important first phase of the process. This also fits well with the Appraisal theory and to an extent, mindfulness, but it also provides the tools to help in the ‘reconstruction’ process.

“Deconstructing and breaking current reality is necessary to enable us to shift our perspective to see the same things differently in order to reconstruct a new reality that is more than the sum of it’s parts “

I got my copy a few days ago, and I’m excited about going over it. I need it so much in my life right now as I deal with so many moving parts, and I don’t want to lose the ability to see myself in relation with others (partly why I decided not to go ahead with the critique, I needed to take care of the plank in my own eyes).

This is not just for professional designers, it’s for anyone ready to take a step to becoming a better person and having a life where you love and love.

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Enjoy.

 

Going Offscreen

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Last year I was lucky enough to be contacted by Kai Brach the editor of Offscreen Magazine. He featured me in issue 16 but more importantly I got to know about the magazine, and the amazing work he had been doing with them.

From the website:

“Offscreen celebrates the human elements of technology and the web. Through intimate conversations and introspective essays we bring to light the creative struggles behind innovative ideas”

I just got my first copy in the post and highly recommend you go out and buy yourself copies. I don’t know how he does it all but he blogs about the process

As someone who doesn’t buy magazines, this doesn’t feel like one. It feels like an intimate collection of thoughts and ideas, carefully curated just for you.

In the mean time, join the newsletter to get a taster of what Offscreen has to offer

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.

Clients From Hell: Stop Creating Them

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

Gratitude-Thinking: A business approach?

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

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

Design and UX in your kitchen

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

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

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

How to run remote User Interviews

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

Becoming the face of Tech Nation Visa UK

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

Research, Axure, and Gender

Over the past couple of weeks, got the opportunity to attend a few UX-focused events.


Remote Research Tools

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This was organised by The Research thing . We got to learn about three ways to carry out remote research; What Users Do, Session Cam and Nativeye which is the much needed tool for testing via mobile. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Games UX Research with Kids: A Primer

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Gaming means a lot to me, not only was it my introduction to the digital world, it gave me a sense of belonging as a teenager. So any opportunity I get to work with game creation, I tend to throw myself into it, and so with research as well.

This post is about some of the important tips, observations and experience I’ve had while running a research piece with kids. Continue reading

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”

Continue reading

Support a Woman in Tech platform today.

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Platforms for Women

I know too well the challenges that arise in being a minority in a minority in a minority, and I only started to experience this a couple of years ago. It is one of the reasons I try to support organizations that cater to marginalized groups.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Before Design can lead..

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


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

Paraphrased, 1 John 4:20 (Bible)


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

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

Some challenges Designers face and what we can do

1. Education

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

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

2. Skills

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

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

3. Language

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

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


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

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


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

How to increase empathy for users

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

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

Vanhuysse, S & Hall, L. (2004) 

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

Participate in User research as a User

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

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

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

Antonia A.

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

Put up Personas on your wall

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

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

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

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

Ambrose Bierce

Some Useful Links on Personas

The Use of Comic Strips to Encourage Empathy in Design

Five approaches to creating lightweight personas

Persona Empathy Mapping

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

UX is Responsible Design

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

Victor Papanek (p. ix, Papanek, 1985)

Responsible Design

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

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

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

The relationship with User Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Next Post: The Responsible Designer & Culture

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

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

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

For now, stay bright.


Essays on Responsible Design

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.

What You Read in 2014

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A big shout out to the readers of this blog, the lurkers, thanks for deigning to read my blog. Your comments and emails make me want to do much better.

Here are the top 10 popular posts, it seems a lot of people are interested in people, I’m glad.

1. Coping with Misophonia at Work: When I finally recognised I had massive auditory issues, I could do something about it. I no longer work at the company I spoke of here so it’s gotten a bit easier but having a better mindset towards it certainly helps.

2. An INFJ Designer:  Boy o boy, I cannot get over figuring out personalities, and it seems you guys can’t either, so I will be doing more work in this area. You will appreciate this comic if you are INFJ too >> INFJ The Rarest type

3. The Future of Web Design 2014: Glad I could volunteer here and get to listen to some amazing people.

4. You are INFJ so what: Yes, you all do like this personality thing 🙂

5. How to Create an Owl in Omnigraffle: Can you imagine that the CEO of Omni actually retweeted my tweet on twitter when I posted this. I look forward to doing more with omnigraffle, can’t wait!

6. Forming Voltron: Here I talk about type of projects you will encounter and how to deal with the voltron type.

7. Wearable Tech for Introverted Intuitives: I will be looking into more of this for sure!

8. UX for Rookies: My attempt to do a basics on UX, thanks for reading, really.

9. Make Useful Annotations Good practice for documentation and communication

10. Developing Your Competencies Prioritising your development path

Happy New Year: 7 Favorite Things in 2014

Another year past, despite the ups and down of the year, I’m really glad to have reached the end of it, thank you God!.

So much happened personally, and worldwide, it is certainly one of the most dramatic years ever. I quit my job midway through the year, read 55 books, down from 101 in 2013, travelled to 15+ cities, travelled long distances on very very short notices, went back to UK North, connected with long lost friends, saved friendships, close friends lost people dear to them, weddings of wonderful people I know and so on.

These are some things I’m grateful for.

Nieces

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I got two new nieces this year and one is my month mate, ooh hooo!! more beautiful girls in the house. I’m very happy about the safe deliveries especially because one was getting complicated. Now I’m the proud Aunty to 5 precious little girls, what a blessing 🙂

The Philosophers

I read a lot of philosophy in 2014 and Soren Kierkegaard is my man of the year, he stands out by miles and miles.  His mind was so clear, sharp and precise. I can’t get enough of his words. He is one of those I will surely love to have a conversation with in the next life. Notable mentions include Blaise Pascal, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

iMac 

Finally got myself an iMac, can’t imagine why I’d been putting it off for so long, and yup I used it to type this post. I’ve become more productive and it looks good in my room.

Hot Water Bottle

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When I first landed in the UK, 2009, a friend back then gave me a care package, a hot water bottle, chocolates etc. I never appreciated just how amazing the thing is, but this year it’s proven to have been one of the best things someone’s ever given me.

Wireless Headphones

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This is the most exciting piece of technology of 2014 for me, I’m so happy to have it. There was a guy at a restaurant who had to ask me where I got it. It makes me ecstatic, the freedom…being able to dance around my house without hindrance, everything should be wirefree!. It is easily my favorite purchase of the year.

UCD14 – UX Conference

“UCD2014 is a unique User-Centred Design conference in London. “It’s the Goldilocks of conferences; not too big, not too small” Jonty Sharples. UCD2014 explores how User Centred Design is applied in a variety of disciplines”

” It was my first time here and was really looking forward to this, aside the posh venue, I had spied some really interesting talks in the line up.

The Best things – The variety of speakers, it didn’t have your regular UX speakers who manage to be everywhere at the same time and the food by caterers to HRH, was yummy. The goodie bag also did not disappoint.

Big Themes and take away – it got me thinking again about Design Ethics, Closure experiences, accessibility and internal company collaboration.

Looking forward to 2015’s version.

New Job

I feel very lucky to be doing the things I love on a day to day basis and getting paid for it. It is hard work, especially having to work with people, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

I quit my job not knowing where I was going to end up, but it is exactly what I’ve been looking for in paid employment, and I couldn’t be happier, I look forward to doing more in the new year.

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With these few words of mine, I welcome you to 2015, may the year be filled with joy and laughter, and when the going is tough, remember you are surrounded by love, give it and it will come back to you.

Cheers X!!X!!

Design Management Lessons from Carlo’s Bakery

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Cakes and Design, a winning combo? Yes! I found out recently that my favorite TV shows are reality shows where there’s some form of creation and/or competition like Cake Boss and Next Great Baker. At first it was all about passing time, entertainment and cakes, then I noticed the design process was similar to what we do on projects in the digital space.

There were a few points I picked up in the process which will be helpful on any design project. Enjoy.

Have Client Conversations

You will get all kinds of clients, aim to have a relaxed friendly conversation no matter how ‘corporate’ they seem. Very often this turns into some sort of battle where you have to get on the defensive but clients go to you because they trust your abilities or want to trust you, show them they are before the right person.

Meet in a comfortable place, ask about their vision, feedback on the spot with ideas. Your expertise should be what takes the conversation forward.

Share the Vision

For leaders, be honest. If it’s going to be a gigantic cake, if it’s something you have never handled before, tell them. Let your people buy into it and push themselves to achieve it.

For those who are led, if you still don’t get it, ask questions.

Sketch or Prototype the Ideas

When I saw the lo-fi sketches and 3D animations, I smiled because this is a no brainer. A good designer thinks visually and a part of that is being able to communicate the ideas in mind. It also enhances collaboration and helps one figure out what could or isn’t working. Paper and pen is all you need.

Building the Idea starts with Building the right team

After the high level vision and ideas have been shared, it is important to break up the goal in chunks that can be handled by every member of team, depending on the scale of the project. In the Bakery, everyone is known to be excellent in particular areas, and they are called to handle that area especially where there’s a large piece of work to be done.

Again, it is very important that everyone sticks to their strengths – a live client project with constraints is not the place to start learning, let the tasks be assigned according to what the individuals are good at.

Call in the Experts

“Sometimes you have to go outside your field of study to find the right people.” – Temple Grandin

You might be a design or baking expert, but it’s important to acknowledge you don’t know all things. The bakery has a number of relationships with experts in other fields outside bakery that help them achieve their goals. One time they even had to bake the cake in the FX expert’s workshop! Designers must form such relationships with others. Collaboration outside of the team is very important for excellent work.

Have Some Fun

“No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!” – Buddy Valastro

Yes it’s work, but like Temple Grandin said, “my work is fun”. Remember to remember that design is fun, you are creating things into the world that never existed before, c’mon, have a laugh! 😀

Panic be Gone!

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Ewww. Every now and then, there’s a disaster at the bakery. Someone might have done some shoddy work or the cake melts faster than they can deliver. The number one thing they do is curb panic. The leader, Buddy makes them understand it’s not about ‘you’ Think of the work, think of what can be done to rectify the situation. No time for blame games or hysterics.

It’s a bad thing to do work that is below par, it becomes disastrous when you can’t see what is wrong. Leave ego at home.

Details & Delivery

Details in design cannot be overemphasised, it is what separates brands, products and services, though they might be offering the same things. Everyone on the team needs to know how important this is. Sloppy fondant work for example, can destroy a well baked cake.

Delivery is very important, what happens if attention is not paid to this and the beautiful cake is damaged right before the client’s eyes? Let the details in your work be end to end. Have no rest until the cake is firmly lodged in your client’s stomach.

Leaders Lead by Example

Buddy is the clear leader of Carlo’s Bakery, but he is the type of leader who is hands-on which I like. Because design is a practical thing, It’s great to know you have a leader who can fold up their sleeve and get to work.

Stay Challenged

Carlo’s Bakery constantly tries to push the boundaries, baking bigger and more complex cakes. They take on these challenges from clients because it is important for imagination, to build skill and the team. It also exposes the cracks and helps you make provision for training etc.

Eat Cake.

Everyone I know likes cake, so why not get some to celebrate the end of project. Your team will like you, I promise.

“Cakes are special. Every birthday, every celebration ends with something sweet, a cake, and people remember. It’s all about the memories”

– Buddy Valastro

Connected Brains: The Internet of Thoughts

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Recap

After writing about wearable technology for introverted intuitives, a lot of interesting discussions came out of that, so in a way this is a part two of that post. The initial idea stems from the experiences and the challenges of the INFJ. This is what it feels like for INFJs I discussed with.

“It happens so many times having valuable insights in my thoughts, and as they usually appear in the middle of a daily task, I don’t always have the time or mood to take notes, and because of this, in the moment I finally write down on paper, those insights will not be the same anymore, it happens the same when verbally communicating those insights to other people”


“I have often thought there should be a device that can capture my thoughts in real time, so I don’t have to write down the jumble of thoughts that go around in my head. I often have creative ideas I would like to store, but when I try to write them down even a few minutes after I have thought them, I cannot seem to recreate the exact same thought. The ‘magic’ is gone”

So that’s what it is about, Braintext will capture thoughts in real time and send them to your designated device, converting it to readable modifiable text.


This is a good post to read when thinking of wearables

Wearable Technology Design Principles


Going further, the discussions morphed into actually connecting brains to each other, of course there is the danger of brain hacking but I’ll focus on the benefits of this.

Connect Our Brains, really?

When I told a friend about this (He is ISTJ) he said that the internet as we know it could be seen as an internet of thoughts, because it is the products of our brains and thoughts that are connected. Fair enough I thought, with a smile, if I didn’t know personality types I may have gone into an argument with him. It is a valid thought, however IOT is specific to situations where the thoughts are connected ‘raw’. Thoughts will connect with thoughts directly.

What I imagine is being able to limit your thought transmission to certain people i.e the device you have (Braintext 2.o) will have to pair with mine, like how Bluetooth technology works. Will it still be hackable? as with all technology there is that possibility, but the mind is more powerful than we give it credit for. I think this might enhance our natural ways of communicating.

Possible Applications: Ability Bridge and Empathy Transfer

This is one of the thoughts that came from the original idea.

“When I initially saw the two persons facing each other wearing the devices, I imagined that the device could be both emitter and receiver, it would be like mind reading, which could be so useful for example in a situation where a person is unable to talk, imagine the benefits for disabled people. Second idea is related with empathy and mirror neurons, imagine if your device could “capture” or “process” somehow the information from those neurons and transmit them to someone who lacks them, for example, autistics.”

The Future

I do think the brain is the final frontier, once we get to understand the workings of it, this world will be something else entirely. For now, as my friend said, “IOT is a nice slogan, I’m waiting for a product that deserves it” We will wait with hope.

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.

Autotune, Sharks, Breaking Feminism and More – Weekly (3)

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SharkWeek

It’s Shark Week on Discovery TV this week. As someone fascinated by the creatures, this video I watched last week was pretty amazing. The real thing is far more terrifying than Jaws.

Ebola

Ebola is still a major issue in Western Africa, and one thing that had been neglected was actually informing people in the rural areas about what it really was. This lack of information or misinformation leads to panic which is more likely to kill people than Ebola. In fact misinformation was so rife that it led to a number of people dying from false preventive methods.

A friend and I got to make some posters in Pidgin to be distributed. You can find Ebola posters in english or pidgin, black and white or colored here Also got to engage with local radio personalities to send the message across. And it is always heart-warming when you see many people have actually survived

Check out this model of the Ebola Virus from Visual Science

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Human-Human Interfaces

I finally got to post my thoughts on Wearable Technology for Introverted Intuitives. One of the conversations that came out of it was the importance of having more human-human interfaces. We should be thinking of enhancing the natural human to human interaction instead of having to always face a machine interface. I can’t wait to post part 2 of it, there will also be a connection to the internet of things.

Technology Life Cycle – Autotune

On my entrepreneurship course, I was introduced to this amazing video of the autotune effect. How autotune went from being an oil finding tool to the music industry’s darling.

The Effects of Poverty 

A discussion on the effects of poverty came up sometime ago, we talked about how being poor affected people, their DNA and even in the long term. The piece below shows that it’s not just a poverty of physical needs but a poverty of mental needs.

Some Useful Tools

Accessibility is  UX and this tool could help make your site better 

You might want to check if your job ad is woman-friendly 

On Feminism

Being open-minded should be one where you can entertain a thought and try to see it objectively. I thought this article on feminism was worth reading. By James Kalb, an American writer and Lawyer, Breaking the shackles of feminism

Interesting Links

Obligation and Doubt are poor motivators

The Nigerian ‘Development’ scene is growing up and I’m very happy about it

Why we should believe the dreamers—not the experts – Vivek Wadhwa

The best Coconut Oil in the UK

Working Monogamy

Event to go to

September 6th and 7th – Attend the world’s first Afrobeats musical, Oliver Tweest. If you are in London, it will be lots of fun, I promise you 

My Language – Uneme

I’m from a very small ethnic group, Uneme, our numbers are not up to 100,000 peoples existing. I spent some time years ago doing research and opened a blog to document our origins, culture etc.

This is the only recording I could find of my language on Youtube

Quotes of The Week

“Intelligence with wisdom is reason. Intelligence without wisdom is rationalization”. – Mark Yuray
“We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place for those who love us”. –Bernard of Clairvaux
“Most want success at a discount, look for shortcuts. Greatness costs what it costs. Get excited about paying full price, worth it” – 
“The smell of fried eggs is called Good Morning” – Antonia Anni
“You want me to help you improve my account experience? But I’ve never experienced an account!” – Uzo Agu
“You don’t fall into love. You commit to it. Love is saying I will be there no matter what.” – Tim Keller
“When you keep oil away from your cloth, you should also endeavour to take your cloth away from the oil” – Edoid Proverb

Till next week – Stay Curious.

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.

 

Empathy Needs Stories

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“The shortest distance between two people is a story.”

 In April more than 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in the North East of Nigeria. When the media began to carry the news I knew something was wrong. They kept talking about the numbers and even though I am Nigerian, I could not relate. The reports were so sketchy I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. It bothered me for a while and suddenly I was able to put my thoughts together one Saturday in April. I sent messages to my friends one of who’s father grew up in Chibok and hails from Borno state. “Thinking about the kidnapped girls, the story feels unreal, there’s no human face, we don’t have pictures, names, of the girls, of parents, family”.  We then took to twitter and joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign

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Psychologists Deborah Small and George Loewenstein have shown that our empathy wilts in the face of statistical reasoning. Their research suggests that people can empathize deeply with identified individuals, but wanes when confronted with statistics of mass suffering.

 “In one study, people were more likely to give to charity when told the personal story of a single hungry girl than when confronted with statistics of millions like her. The hungry girl’s story by itself even induced more generosity than when it was combined with those statistics.”

This is important in fields like User Experience, because what makes the difference is empathy. Stories are told using many forms; Personas, Comics, User Journeys, all these things engender empathy and must not be dismissed instead we should seek to do better with these tools. We need to relate with and remember the people whose stories we tell, they aren’t just mere users but actual living and breathing people.

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Related Paper

Sympathy and Callousness: The Impact of Deliberative Thought on Donations to Identifiable and Statistical Victims,” Deborah A. Small, George Loewenstein, Paul Slovic; Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, March 2007.

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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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

How Do You Think of the Internet?

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When designing for people on the internet it is important to understand how they think of/perceive it and also, across devices. Searching myself, I find that I see the internet as a constant stream of consciousness, always on, regardless of my state, or the state of my devices.

The devices I use are like windows which open up to the stream. The bigger the window the more I can do. I prefer to use my desktop to do everything, but it is not always convenient. Sometimes I just want to lie on the couch, sometimes power is out (in Nigeria). Also while using the desktop it’s hard to do other things, it demands most of your attention. Meanwhile using my mobile products ‘smaller windows’, it’s like I’m being offered glimpses of the web, while leaving me free enough to do a host of other things at the same time.

Strangely I do think I don’t have the full/real version of the internet until I get to my desktop. Shopping or any financial transactions, writing etc I usually leave to my desktop, while my mobile devices are enough for me to consume bits of information.

How do you think of the internet? What does it mean to you?

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.

Mid-Year Learnings.

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Sitting where the Black Sea meets the Bosphorus

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

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

1. Choosing Happiness

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

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

2.  Cure Your Boredom Today

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

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

3. Leave Assumptions behind

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

4. Acknowledge Your Guides

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

5. Trust Yourself

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

Things To Know About

Aya – Graphic Novel Series by Marguerite Abouet.  #Storytelling

Gestural Interfaces: A Step Backward For Usability?   #UX

Pre-Colonial African Illustrations  #Illustration

Lost Nigeria: A Nurse with Wanderlust by Senongo Akpem #Storytelling

Fashion By The Way of Naija: Ikire Jones #Fashion

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?

Who is on your team?

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

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

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

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

CHART-THE-COURSE
INFJ

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

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

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

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

> INFJ on a team

> What makes an INFJ tick?

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

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!

Growing Up.

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My boss called me into a meeting room and said to me ‘Antonia, you need to grow up’ I was stunned, ofcourse I don’t give a believable poker face and he quickly added, ‘No’ *chuckles* ‘You are no longer a Junior here’ The first I thought of was ‘Already? Have I improved that much?’ Apparently, he thought so. Pleasing a German is no mean feat *pat pat* but I have pushed myself, not just in the quality of deliverables but out of my comfort zones and quality of engagement.

I started out learning the ropes and I stuck to one project at a time. I had to deal with people who use our products, Customer engagement officers, Developers, Product owners, Business Analysts, Gaming Analyst, Quantitative analysts. Some times I thought, ‘whoa the graphic designers have it easy’ But the beauty of my responsibility is being enable to bring all these elements, these resources to work together for the greater good.

Am I the best I can be? Not even close. I’m having to stepup every single day plus there are skills that I left behind I need to pick up again.

What are my strengths now?

Sticking to my word. If I state I’m going to deliver something, I deliver it. Sometimes you have to underpromise and over-deliver.

Handling Pressure. My boss said he was pleasantly surprised at how I managed to keep going and thinks it’s really good on me.

Listening to others. We should never ‘own’ projects. The result is always a collaborative effort. UX is never down to one person. But my job as a UX-er is to listen to what others are saying, and filter according to the vision of the project. It is not ‘my way or the high-way’ I particularly love how a project comes together and you know all who had an input, we are all proud.

Next Steps?

Again, I need to up my pro-activeness. I got feedback recently that I was too quiet in the boardroom. While I will never be ‘the voice’ because I’d rather absorb information and then go to work, I can make better preparations before meetings so I understand and absorb much faster, and actually say my thoughts on the matter.

Using information. The UX team is lucky to have people who solely analyze user behavior and feedback off applications and our websites. These bits of information and research really go along way into our designs. I have to utilize this at every chance possible.

Maximizing time. One of our team members had to leave recently due to unfortunate circumstances. Right now, my workload has doubled even though we’d get replacement. I’m not sure it will ease but I think it’s a good thing. I need to learn better how to spread products out and use my time wisely. Seek out the right people who are involved on the projects, get questions out there, iterate and feedback.

Exciting Times!

So I am officially a Middle Weight UX-er now (Can’t wait for April, so my salary would reflect this. lol ), I got to interview possible junior candidates and even though I did feel a bit odd being on the other side, I was excited that I’d be able to mentor someone in this role.

Finally, I need to give credit where it is due. Yesterday I was at work, after dark and went to the kitchen to get a meal before heading out (long story). I met my CEO in there and he asked me how the six months have gone. ‘Really ok’ I smiled. ‘Your Boss’ he said, ‘Your Boss is the best, you are in good hands’ I laughed and replied ‘Oh yeah, He has set a real high standard, but I’m getting there’ ‘Your Boss is the best, and it is good for you’ ‘Yes’, I thought, ‘I want to be like him and better when I grow up’.

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.

Don’t Leave the Experience With Sheeple

Friday. Got to attend UX People which was held at King’s Place, King’s Cross..awesome venue. The main aim of attending was 1. To get some learning as a team, bonding time haha (went with my senior UXers and PM) and 2. To get more insight on UX in an Agile environment. I had earlier put forward in some discussions, that I didn’t find it necessary going to all day events and conferences which didn’t include workshops. This event clearly wasn’t going to upset me.

The talks kicked off with Agile UX delivered by James O’Brien which was overall very informative. The presentation was well thought out..well not quite, because the speaker assumed we all knew ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ which was what he used to illustrate a number of his points. Getting past that, I was able to get to the crux of the matter ‘Build The Best Minimum’ which you can get to by various ways, Making BAs your best friend, using the Fail Fast pattern or just using mapping Agile terminologies unto UX’s e.t.c. This is worth a second look, you can get it here

The second presentation by John-Henry Barac took me a lot of time to get into, I just didn’t ‘get’. But there were useful nuggets in it. While Print is obviously not like Digital, at the end of the day their purposes do not differ. The aim of either designer is to put out a usuable product. The beauty of digital is that you can actually take a leap without any form of metric to measure success, and see how people who use it, shape the product to what it could unlike print. The Situationist app which was designed is one of such things. He gave pointers as to how to design for mobile.

Mo Syed of 10CMS gave the third presentation and he talked to us about the psychology of engagement and how to use it to deliver on design goals. While the presentation/presenter wasn’t very engaging, I tried to get past and hold on to valuable aspects of it. I could immediately see how I could apply some of what he talked about in my present projects at work especially the ‘Framing’ Effect. Good stuff.

Last up was Leisa Reichelt talking about Strategic User Experience. I particularly enjoyed this presentation because maybe, she was the only female! and it helped that she made  concise clear points with a little bit of fun. Her talk echoed the thinking going on in my head. Again, I could see how some of what she said could be directly applied in my life at work, even though i’m on the lowest rung of the ladder at the moment (they don’t make me feel that.lol) What we kept discussing at work after the event, was her point about the UX person being a facilitator. I wrote an article about UX roles some time ago and it did include that, I may just have to put it up here soon. One other important thing was strategy in the ‘brainstorming’ room, being able to get everyone to agree on the decisions made, and then write/sketch it out before dispersing. You can get the slides here

I got to attend two workshops. They were not very productive, I have to say. It was just interesting to meet other people, and see how they think around the same issues you consider. I learnt two things; 1. Think about what you do and how it will influence others 2. Mental Models..Try to work from the positives. Go from Don’ts to Dos.

Overall, it was interesting and had some really good lessons to go home (work) with. I learned that it is important to stand up for what you believe and work hard to create an environment where the value is plain to see. UX is too important to be left to sheeple. We can’t afford to go with the flow, We must be willing as Leisa put it, to say NO, for the better reasons.

Now, what I really wish for is for at such events/conferences is a warm lunch (hehe), and more work! I think the real value in meeting up with people in this manner is being able to share ideas, learn directly and see how people deliver solutions to problems.  Will I go again? Hopefully.

Empathy: Thoughts That Count.

First impressions matter, most people say and many have come to accept it. Why should it? really?. It’s been tried and tested out that our ‘impressions’ are always filled with known and unknown bias. It is like someone who goes to search for an image of a banana on the internet. The search engine turns up all sorts, obscene, rude, vulgar images from the internet database you may have to see, before you come across the actual image you want. Our brain is like that, a database of information collected from any and everywhere knowingly and unknowingly. So when you meet someone or see something, most of the image associated with that thing that you have encountered, your brain throws up and then you begin to make your jugement. Does this really portray who you are or what the thing is, no. This tells me that there is a need for some kind of control. This is why filters exist on the internet search, so you can hone in quickly on what you are searching for. We need to have filters.

 I just finished reading Blink! by Malcom Gladwell and he really did drive home the point. There are only two situations where first impressions matter. One, where the ‘second’ impression validates the first and two, where one has learnt to control the first impression. Basically, our snap judgements/decisions must be controlled and well-informed. This would only come through filters that help us focus on the important things which in turn, form our decisions. The book shows that these filter are built up by experience, it will come easy for some people and not so easy for others. It may not be easy to explain, but one has to have an awareness of this.

As a UX person and citizen of the world, the need to build and use these filters  is necessary. I always have to interact with people both directly and indirectly, if this is an inevitable part of life, I think it makes sense to spend a good deal of time in understanding these people one has to interact with. Also, the more one understands something, the less likely one is, to abuse it. The more one understands the people they are designing for, the less likely to abuse the privilege e.g by designing an unusable for product. I have to make snap decisions lots of times, while designing e.g going for a particular feature over another. I now know that my ‘gut feeling’ is being informed by something I have encountered or experienced in the past. To harness this ‘gut feeling’ I definitely have to do a lot filtering to make sure, that my gut feeling is well informed and objective in the situation.

While I continue on this journey,( because practice makes perfect) I realize that Empathy is one key filter. Empathy helps you to focus when you encounter a human being. On the most basic level, you know this person is just like you. I think this is a quality that UXers cannot afford to skimp on. We’d be lying if we say that our first impressions don’t matter. First impressions are formed by our experiences and environment, this means we can indeed control/change them. We have a choice. We can choose the experiences, we want to be a part of or how we process these experiences if inevitable. This article, “Using Empathic Listening to Collaborate” by Stephen Covey adds salient points. Empathy will go a long way in helping us build on the thoughts that count making us better designers and better human beings.

The UX of Fine Dining

I was out last night to help celebrate a new friend’s permanent job status (kind of looking forward to mine). The restaurant of choice was Inamo, which was perfect because it is a few steps from my current place of labour lol. I was really excited because of what I had read about the restaurant and just exploring asian cuisine.

The Good

Interactive tables! woohoo, Really really nice. You can order your food and drink from the table, plus you can call the waiter, play games or watch a clip of the chefs working their magic. While waiting for our food, we got to play a battleships tournament, boy was I confused!

The Food was great, I think everyone enjoyed their dishes, between us, we had Cinnamon chicken, Pork Breast, Turkey and Traditional Japanese rice. It was also filling, I looked pregnant at the end of the day. When I got home, I went straight to bed.

The whole ambience of the restaurant was wonderful, I was thinking while we were all sat, how much dining out is really about the atmosphere and company, if the food is good, thats the cherry on the cake.

Ok, I also have to mention the toilets, they are the best public toilets I have ever seen (there’s only a slight issue if the toilet refuses to flush automatically lol)

The Not-So Good

Ok, we were all used to touchpads, being able to touch items directly, but the system at Inamo, works like a traditional mouse and screen..not too bad, but it made us a bit confused sometimes. It would be great if this is possible and also the ability to lock the screen, because I mistakenly ordered extra food!!

I failed miserably at using chopsticks, had to order a spoon. I mean how do people use this. I will be trying again but not soon and definitely not when I am hungry.

Also, a barman crashed into me, with no apology, not even a glance back and I was left muttering ‘I’m so gonna sue. I’m gonna sue’ Anyway, no damage to me except bruised pride. I understand that humans can be mental sometimes.

Funny grammar.LOL

The End

It was a nice night out and I would do Inamo again, because I’d love to try the dishes my friends ordered..woohoo!

A Bookey Study Week: UX bookclub

First stop, it was the UX Bookclub hosted by IG Index and moderated by Leisa Reichelt. The book we were discussing was The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier 

I first came across the book during my time at Northumbria University. My masters course was centered around ‘Design-Thinking’ I never got to read much of it, so I was glad the opportunity came around.

My first major thoughts were mostly: Yes! Right On! Exactly! Could Try this! then I had a feeling that this book couldn’t have been targeted at Designers, because I had the ‘Preaching to the choir’ feel. Surely, this book is targeted at those who own companys, and invest in them. I’d say mostly those who are stuck in the old way of doing things.

My second significant thoughts came when I began reflecting on some aspects of the book. I particularly loved this quote ”The problem with consumerism is not that it fuels desire, it’s that it doesn’t satisfy it” If there is anything designers need to think about in this book, it’s this. I instantly got this picture of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in my head and brought to mind the event I attended at the RSA.

Now back to Maslow’s. It dawned on me that as a whole, society especially in the ‘First World’ countries had reached the ceiling of the ‘Esteem’ section. To go/grow any further, we must begin to take on Self-Actualization. If this doesn’t happen, we will continually keep reaching for things (consume, consume, consume) with no satisfaction and I strongly believe Design can play a huge part in helping curb these excesses and creating the environment for Self Actualization.

Another importance is that, countries in the ‘third world’ can then focus on the important things, because as much as we don’t like, we keep struggling to keep up with the ‘first world’ neglecting the basics, this too is why Design is important. If the leader and the environment err, what can the follower/inhabitant do?

Lastly, My discussion group at the Bookclub did raise issues around the fact that businesses have too many people to answer and would not like to bother about things they can’t predict or grasp. But the truth is, if people cared enough about things on a larger scale, mindsets towards Design will be changed and this is what is particularly needed for those at the helms of companies, a change of mindset.

There’s only so much a designer can do to contribute to the outlook of the company as a whole, significant change needs to come from the top. Designers definitely need to get to the top, if those at the top refuse change.

If indeed the foundation is faulty what can the Righteous do?

Gamification: Beyond Gold coins and Dead Koopas (II)

My sister and I (She’s in Ukraine and she speaks Russian to me!! sometimes) We were arguing about ChronoTrigger the other day. She absolutely loves it and thinks its ace. I have not been able to play it, in that, I tried and didn’t like it much. ‘But!’ my sister argues ‘It’s got great stages and level-ups, you can time-travel and end the game in 13 ways!’ Oh well, that’s all chipper, but I’ll stick to Final Fantasy, thank you very much.

Our conversation, made me realize that despite Chronotrigger having such fantastic gameplay with great Challenge/Reward loops, it didn’t appeal to me. Right now, I don’t even know what the goal of the game was. This is an element that must be put into consideration for any design. ‘Are people interested in achieving this goal?’ ‘What kinds of people?’ If I’m not interested in getting to a particular place, despite the ‘enablers’ I would more likely drop out of the process. I must really want to get there first.

I read this article –> The Newsonomics of Gamification and Civilization some days after my sister and I spoke. The comment by Kathysierra really drives home the point. It cannot just be about making things fun, or introducing reward/challenge loops, people have to first want to do a thing otherwise it ends up being manipulative and forceful. And it’s great that we can have these options because well, variety is the spice of life, I didn’t play chronotrigger, I played Final Fantasy instead, I achieved my goals and had fun.

The main points of learning I’ve taken from all this is

1. There must be a goal we want to achieve, not one that someone wants you to achieve. And if designing a gamified system, make sure you cater to this need.

2. It may not all go according to plan. Games provide a safety valve (Reset, Save, Extra Life, ‘Cheat’ mode ) incase of the unexpected happening ( Mario falling into a pit or NEPA switching off power just in the middle of killing off Raiden) In life, when designing make allowance for ‘Safety valves’

3. Rewards must be tangible and should contribute to actually helping to achieve desired goals. (A better gaming pad over badges, any day!)

4. It is a life-long learning process, we shouldn’t design like we have all the answers. Design to enable the users learn something along the way. Make the experience as wonderful as achieving the goal would be.

Eat Pray Intern

Once Upon A Time

It’s been 2 years since I began my UX journey, though there were lots of enablers and pointers to it which began long ago. I could always draw, Illustrate and tell stories since I can remember, but the desire to design in my earliest memory would be when I looked at the way companies communicated their products through billboards and thought ‘This could be way better’. It took me to learn Corel Draw and Adobe Photoshop by myself while I was an Engineering Undergrad and then my first Internship as a Designer.

My UX Internship came about because I really wanted to work hands on after undertaking a Design Masters programme, and in a design agency in the UK, I needed the experience. Previously, I had been learning all I could, wanting to ‘find myself’ both online and offline, through workshops and seminars. I had tried to apply my learned skills and my talents by freelancing and consulting on UX matters. This taught me alot of valuable lessons and also taught me that freelancing wasn’t the best approach for my level of experience hence the need to get under the guidance of middle to senior UXers. Another factor has been the lack of Junior UX roles in the market.

Getting Into It

I got my Internship through Twitter. I searched and saw an opportunity in London, so I sent my CV and went for an interview later on. I was really happy about this particularly, because it wasn’t just any digital agency. Salterbaxter has a focus on Sustainability and Corporate Reporting. Sustainability, I am all for,( and have tried to start up an initiative along that line). Corporate Reporting, I had no clue. It also didn’t hurt that the it was a nicely paid internship.

My main goals for this Internship was to have, at the end of the contract, more confidence in my work and better communication with people. I wanted to be exposed to different kinds of tools and processes while adding value to the company.

On my first day, I got to eat at a Thai restaurant, it was very enjoyable, never had any Thai food before so this was a really good first. Through out my time, people were always leaving nice and yummy treats on the kitchen table. It created a sense of ‘one for all, all for one’ amongst other things.

Before I got on the job, I prayed that even if I was only going to be getting bagels and coffee for people, I’d be able to present/learn good User Experience through it. Luckily, even while I had to do tea sometimes, 99% of the time I was on actual work. I was teamed up with the Digital Team, which had two developers, a Lead UX (who doubled as my mentor) and Head of Digital. I got to work with FTSE 100 clients and learn on the job. One of my first assignments was to research for a Social Media seminar focused on corporate communications we were going to hold for some clients. I also got to put together some parts of the presentation.

I got to learn much more about sustainability and the parts companies play, can play in the wider scheme of things. Attended events like the RSA seminar and a whole day event to launch SB’s CR initiative. I really liked the Beer O’Clock sessions which tried to promote knowledge share within the company. Different teams would get to talk about their work or any interesting topic on a Friday evening over drinks. Knowledge share is really important to me.

The End Of The Matter

Overall, It really did feel like I was a part of the team. Most of my goals were accomplished (even got to do a photo-shoot!) and I have to say, it really saddened me to leave because I could only see the potentials for the company and wanted to be a part of it. I’m going to miss SB.

I’m glad at this point, I can say it was a really valuable experience, I’ve got so much to put in my portfolio, I’ve got to understand people better, some of my ideas are in use. I am more confident as a UXer and I’m able to continue my personal projects in a new light. Good times! I would most likely give more in depth insights about this and in addition to my UX journey later on. Now, I look positively towards the future.

Gamification: Beyond Gold Coins and Dead Koopas (1)

Gamification?

I got to attend a talk (July 28th) organized by Sophie @wickedgeekie the speaker was @bengonshaw. I attended because of three reasons.

1. I wanted to see or learn more about how it has been applied in the UX community

2. I wanted to get ideas, and ways I could apply to my current projects.

3. It was free (amazing huh, big thanks to City Uni)

The title of the talk was Gamification: Loops & Ludology. You can see the slides here > http://www.slideshare.net/BenGonshaw/loops-ludology

Humans have always played games to amuse themselves and or other reasons. But it’s only been recently people have begun to apply the principles behind gaming to other aspects of our lives.

One major characteristic of games is control. Unlike Life, our control is minimal, we can plan all we want, but unexpected things happen. I planned that one day I would visit the World Trade Center. I even had dollars saved for it, and I had it all mapped out. But right now, the towers no longer exist and with it went lots of lives, sadly. In a game world, I would probably be able to reset, or go to last save…and possibly save the world. People play games because they can control it.

But more importantly, why do people keep on playing, because even with control, it gets boring. People usually want more, a challenge, that’s why life can be very interesting. This is the reason why the Challenge/Reward Loop is the basis for great game design.

What is THE LOOP. As identified by Ben, in video games for example, it all started with a simple feedback loop which typifies a control loop. You, Press a button –> Character Moves —> Game world updates —> Press a Button and something else happens. In Mario World for example, Press B to fire —> fireballs come out of Mario —-> Koopas die/ vanish. This feels great! But as one goes on, this becomes redundant hence the need for other loops like the Challenge/Reward Loops which keep the user motivated to complete the goal of the game. In Mario World, we see the loop in forms of more powerful ‘enemies’ and difficult stages with Mario also being able to level-up or upgrade to meet them. None of this takes away from the overall goal of the game, it only makes it seem more rewarding to go through.

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.

Can Modern Capitalism Satisfy both Profit and Sustainability

We-first.

I got to attend a talk by Simon Mainwaring on We-First Capitalism, yesterday. It covered the topic of capitalism, sustainability and basically human responsibility. Simon talked about how his mindset got changed drastically, when he missed his fathers’ last calls because he was ‘busy’. It forced him to think about the important things in the world. Many times, situations force us to re-think what we spend our time and money caring about.

In the light of this, he mentioned that we need to redefine a number of widely used terms. Classical advertising tries to fabricate emotional connections between brands and consumers, but social media only broadcasts these connections which already exist. In essence, this technology is enabling us to remain human.

But being Human comes with a lot of responsibility. We have moved from the days of blissful ignorance to the point we can’t afford to take notice of things that we should humanly respond to. I personally think this message isn’t new, and Jesus even talked about it, when he said ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’

It doesn’t strip away self-interest. It is even because of self-interest we need to be aware that our actions affect others, which in the grand scheme of things also affect us. We need to have an expanded definition of self-interest, a broader and longer view.

Ban Ki Moon made a statement at a summit. “The world’s current economic model is an environmental “global suicide pact” that will result in disaster if it isn’t reformed” We need a new economic model. Prosperity or Profits should be about the well-being of all not the wealth of a privileged few. The future of profits is purpose.

Sustainability has to also be re-framed. We shouldn’t give a damn after taking our profits, but give a damn from the very start. The evolution of revolution is contribution. We need to emphasize a better world, over better gadgets or widgets. It should not be ‘the thing we did’ rather ‘the thing we are’ This is the same argument i push for UX. UX should not be a box that is ticked, it shouldn’t be a subset..but it should be in the soul of every company and our mindsets.

Right now, people everywhere are wondering ‘where is the trust’?

 Simon and We First have devised three pillars of We-First capitalism.

  • Private sector pillar of social change: Brand/Consumer partnerships. – Promoting creative collaboration.
  • Contributory consumption: Retail, Credit Cards, Online Virtual, Gaming. Inspire social activism
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration: Global Brand Initiative. Shareholders + Stakeholder

Some questions/discussions that came out of the talk revolved around

Building trust. How do we build and maintain the trust between ourselves and then corporations

The Role of Storytelling. Advertisers have much to do in bringing his message out to the public.

Where is innovation in all of this? For companies like Coke which drive social change and community collaborations, how is it rethinking its actual product. Soda is a cause of obesity, so perhaps corporations need to innovate around their current offerings.

The role of family in driving the change in behaviors. The onus falls on family in helping shape behaviors that we individuals take into the world at large. A learning process which starts with a whole different mindset will go a long way.

Personally, I can’t say I have never heard this kind of concepts and ideas before, but it is always great to have reminders and ways in which we can go about implementing these ideas. But to answer the question, ‘Can Modern Capitalism satisfy both profit and sustainability’…it’s not possible. There has to be a change as stated earlier. The way we currently operate will lead to our downfall as a specie. But my dears, all hope isn’t lost. Be  optimistic, WE can cause change!

To view the presentation it’s on Slide-share >> http://www.slideshare.net/smainwaring/rsa-we-first

To watch the We First Video, it’ on Youtube  >>>         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZloSRGIzRc

To learn more about WE FIRST, go to >> http://wefirstbranding.com/

You can also buy Simon’s book.

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.




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?

Why UX? Passion.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Steve Jobs

Digital Shoreditch – Behind the scenes of a usability and creativity lab

I am going to be attending this event! Anything that gets me closer to my goals, I will partake in. It would be a great learning experience, and I hope I get to interact with UX people.

Friday 6th May 2011 from 12:00 PM – 4PM

Come and see how digital media can be analysed via usability testing. City Interaction Lab have a host of cutting edge technologies which can be used to evaluate how people interact with digital content including eye tracking, mobile testing, multitouch interaction and more! Our creativity pods and various other cool installations will be available, plus some fun exercises to flex your creative brains!

This is an open studio event as part of Digital Shoreditch.

 

Update!

I went and I saw,  blogged here Digital Shoreditch Interaction Labs

Website Review – Njorku

http://www.njorku.com

When I was first asked to review this site, it was still in the testing phase and hadn’t been launched, so there were a few issues which I brought to light. I love simple minimalistic websites and this was the first thing that struck me about Njorku.com which I liked. From the logo to the palette choice, it worked for me and it was easy on my eyes.

What?

Njorku.com is primarily a job search engine.

Why?

There are existing job search engines like Indeed, Monster, SimplyHired, Njorku is targeted specifically at the African job Market and attempts to cater to the needs of Job seekers and Recruiters across the continent. This is a very good attempt at solving the challenge which I have personally encountered in the past while looking for jobs where one has to filter through a lot of info before getting to exactly what you want. Njorku acts as the filter and takes one directly to what they seek.

How?

This site works by pulling out job postings from different other job sites and boards which are for the African market. There is also direct posting of Job vacancies on the site.

Content

On the site, One has the option to SEARCH or just BROWSE.

One can browse by Country available or by popular searches. Obviously what is lacking here is the ability to browse by profession, Job titles, Field, salary estimate e.t.c

Testing the search function, I input ‘Design’ and I get returns in the thousands. What I do not like is that there is no option to arrange the postings by date or relevance e.t.c. This gives me added stress of plodding through to find those which are still current. Its good that the search function has an option of where to search for jobs.

Added features like the email and sms alert is really good and keeps one updated on the move. The downside is the inability to share these postings with friends on Twitter or Facebook for example. Given the nature of the web and social media now, I think this is something they really have to include.

The blog and tutorials also help Users get the best of the search engine, its always great to have some support and I think this feature works! as long as content keeps flowing.

Accessibility/Usability

I reviewed the site on five browsing platforms, Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Rockmelt browser and Mobile Browser for Blackberry. It worked well on the browsers but on the Blackberry browser, it didnt turn out right.

The site makes use of HTML, CSS and Javascript technologies. For Search Engine positioning, the use of Meta data, keywords and the like is used and also the inclusion of the blogs using the Blogger platform will help the site because of its ‘google-friendliness’

The site is generally fast loading and simple enough for users to access and use.

Google’s UX principles

Is-This-Google-s-New-Logo-381554-2

Google is one of those companies that no one saw coming, but it kept growing innovatively. Everywhere it saw an opportunity, it yearned to offer a service. One has loads to learn from Google. There’s something that really stands out, and it’s the approach to users/people. It is the reason why I LOVE its UX principles.

To view the latest principles click HERE

The Google User Experience team aims to create designs that are; Usefulfastsimpleengaginginnovativeuniversalprofitablebeautifultrustworthy, and personable. Achieving a harmonious balance of these ten principles is a constant challenge. A product that gets the balance right is “Googley” – and will satisfy and delight people all over the world.

Ten principles that contribute to a Googley user experience

Focus on people their lives, their work, their dreams.

The Google User Experience team works to discover people‘s actual needs, including needs they can‘t always articulate. Armed with that information, Google can create products that solve real-world problems and spark the creativity of all kinds of people. Improving people‘s lives, not just easing step-by-step tasks, is our goal. Above all, a well-designed Google product is useful in daily life. It doesn‘t try to impress users with its whizbang technology or visual style – though it might have both. It doesn’t strong-arm people to use features they don‘t want – but it does provide a natural growth path for those who are interested. It doesn‘t intrude on people‘s lives – but it does open doors for users who want to explore the world‘s information, work more quickly and creatively, and share ideas with their friends or the world.

Every millisecond counts.

Nothing is more valuable than people‘s time. Google pages load quickly, thanks to slim code and carefully selected image files. The most essential features and text are placed in the easiest-to-find locations. Unnecessary clicks, typing, steps, and other actions are eliminated. Google products ask for information only once and include smart defaults. Tasks are streamlined.

Speed is a boon to users. It is also a competitive advantage that Google doesn‘t sacrifice without good reason.

 

Simplicity is powerful.

Simplicity fuels many elements of good design, including ease of use, speed, visual appeal, and accessibility. But simplicity starts with the design of a product‘s fundamental functions. Google doesn‘t set out to create feature-rich products; our best designs include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals. Ideally, even products that require large feature sets and complex visual designs appear to be simple as well as powerful.Google teams think twice before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less important feature. Our hope is to evolve products in new directions instead of just adding more features.

Engage beginners and attract experts.

Designing for many people doesn‘t mean designing for the lowest common denominator. The best Google designs appear quite simple on the surface but include powerful features that are easily accessible to those users who want them. Our intent is to invite beginners with a great initial experience while also attracting power users whose excitement and expertise will draw others to the product. A well-designed Google product lets new users jump in, offers help when necessary, and ensures that users can make simple and intuitive use of the product‘s most valuable features. Progressive disclosure of advanced features encourages people to expand their usage of the product. Whenever appropriate, Google offers smart features that entice people with complex online lives – for instance, people who share data across several devices and computers, work online and off, and crave storage space.

Dare to innovate.

Design consistency builds a trusted foundation for Google products, makes users comfortable, and speeds their work. But it is the element of imagination that transforms designs from ho-hum to delightful. Google encourages innovative, risk-taking designs whenever they serve the needs of users. Our teams encourage new ideas to come out and play. Instead of just matching the features of existing products, Google wants to change the game.

Design for the world.

The World Wide Web has opened all the resources of the Internet to people everywhere. For example, many users are exploring Google products while strolling with a mobile device, not sitting at a desk with a personal computer. Our goal is to design products that are contextually relevant and available through the medium and methods that make sense to users. Google supports slower connections and older browsers when possible, and Google allows people to choose how they view information (screen size, font size) and how they enter information (smart query parsing). The User Experience team researches the fundamental differences in user experiences throughout the world and works to design the right products for each audience, device, and culture. Simple translation, or “graceful degradation” of a feature set, isn‘t sufficient to meet people‘s needs. Google is also committed to improving the accessibility of its products. Our desire for simple and inclusive products, and Google‘s mission to make the world‘s information universally accessible, demand products that support assistive technologies and provide a useful and enjoyable experience for everyone, including those with physical and cognitive limitations.

Plan for today‘s and tomorrow‘s business.

Those Google products that make money strive to do so in a way that is helpful to users. To reach that lofty goal, designers work with product teams to ensure that business considerations integrate seamlessly with the goals of users. Teams work to make sure ads are relevant, useful, and clearly identifiable as ads. Google also takes care to protect the interests of advertisers and others who depend on Google for their livelihood. Google never tries to increase revenue from a product if it would mean reducing the number of Google users in the future. If a profitable design doesn‘t please users, it‘s time to go back to the drawing board. Not every product has to make money, and none should be bad for business.

Delight the eye without distracting the mind.

If people looked at a Google product and said ”Wow, that‘s beautiful!” the User Experience team would cheer. A positive first impression makes users comfortable, assures them that the product is reliable and professional, and encourages people to make the product their own. A minimalist aesthetic makes sense for most Google products because a clean, clutter-free design loads quickly and doesn‘t distract users from their goals. Visually appealing images, color, and fonts are balanced against the needs for speed, scannable text, and easy navigation. Still, ”simple elegance” is not the best fit for every product. Audience and cultural context matter. A Google product‘s visual design should please its users and improve usability for them.

Be worthy of people‘s trust.

Good design can go a long way to earn the trust of the people who use Google products. Establishing Google‘s reliability starts with the basics – for example, making sure the interface is efficient and professional, actions are easily reversed, ads are clearly identified, terminology is consistent, and users are never unhappily surprised. In addition, Google products open themselves to the world by including links to competitors and encouraging user contributions such as community maps or Google gadgets. A greater challenge is to make sure that Google demonstrates respect for users‘ right to control their own data. Google is transparent about how it uses information and how that information is shared with others (if at all), so that users can make informed choices. Our products warn users about such dangers as insecure connections, actions that may make users vulnerable to spam, or the possibility that data shared outside Google may be stored elsewhere. The larger Google becomes, the more essential it is to live up to our “Don‘t be evil” motto.

Add a human touch.

Google includes a wide range of personalities, and our designs have personality, too. Text and design elements are friendly, quirky, and smart – and not boring, close-minded, or arrogant. Google text talks directly to people and offers the same practical, informal assistance that anyone would offer to a neighbor who asked a question. And Google doesn‘t let fun or personality interfere with other elements of a design, especially when people‘s livelihood, or their ability to find vital information, is at stake.Google doesn‘t know everything, and no design is perfect. Our products ask for feedback, and Google acts on that feedback. When practicing these design principles, the Google User Experience team seeks the best possible balance in the time available for each product. Then the cycle of iteration, innovation, and improvement continues.