I’m organising the upcoming London UX Bookclub and we’re reading Dan Saffer’sDesigning Gestural Interfaces. O’Reilly kindly gave us 20 free copies of the book so to decide who got the free books I asked people to email me what they’ve been reading recently that they found inspiring and the first 20 would get free books. yay.So here in a pretty much un-edited form, is what they sent me – I hope you find something inspiring here too!
The most inspirational recently is without a doubt having discovered the presentations of Stephen P. Anderson (who is leading the design team at viewzi). Triggered by the presentation he gave at the IA summit about “Seductive Interactions“. I had a look at his blog and previous presentations and have to say that he his pretty good at nailing down some theoretical framework of User Experience in diagrams (especially this one) that give a structure to explore the “components” of User experience.
The below quote in About Face 3 sums up my thoughts on designing a user experience rather succinctly: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The most inspiring thing I’ve read lately is the video demonstrating AR implemented as a tool to create 3D graffiti art (included in the post). It’s amazing in the way the AR interface creates an entirely new space for expression and experience. I thought this example was really cool. In general it feels like AR is the next UX frontier. There’s a lot of hype around it, but if the technology delivers what it’s promising to, the UX possibilities it will open up are really exciting.
I was most inspired by this article on remote learning The concept of providing ESL learning via Second Life to me demonstrates an exciting collaboration of learning / gaming. I believe more creative e-learning methods, especially for adult learners, has so much more to be explored.
I’ve started to read quite a lot of books recently helping me to become a better developer, but I think ‘The most inspiration thing you’ve read recently that is UX related’ would have to be Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think – which was one of the first (and admittedly most basic) books, which I found a real inspiration, and really got me started on this journey!
What’s inspiring me the most in this period is not a quote but a movement: I’ve been trying to retrace what the psychogeography movement has been studying and developing since the ’50s. Reinventing the way to explore, live and consume the cityscape, redefining “function” and “play” seems to me like an interesting shift from which we can learn how to (re)design everyday things.
My recent inspirational thing is this presentation by Colleen Jones about the balance between usable and influential (marketing) content. I found it interesting because my day-to-day work (at least until the end of the month) means I often see the tension between design/content that is useful versus that which is out and out marketing-focused.
We’ve just started a project examining community and how best to leverage the social aspects of the betting experience. Whilst doing some research in the area I came across the following two websites, that I think are particularly interesting: A patterns wiki which is a companion to Crumlish and Malone’s book ‘Designing Social interfaces’. And a blog which examines the issues around building reputation systems online and also includes a wiki that is being used to create the book ‘Building Web 2.0 Reputation Systems’.
I suppose the most inspiring thing I’ve read lately that’s UX related is Don Norman’s Emotional Design. Not exactly a revelation, I’ll admit, but certainly changed the way I saw usability.
I have a terrible feeling I may have accidentally archived a couple of other inspirations in gmail, so if I’ve missed yours please add it in the comments below, and if anyone feels like sharing other recent inspirations reads, then please – share away!
thanks to all and look forward to seeing you at bookclub soon!
I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the recent GeeknRolla conference in London and took the opportunity to share some tips for making your business more user focused with the largely tech start up crowd. I do lots of work with start ups these days so I understand that there are all kinds of ‘resource’ challenges in the early days. That said, there really is no excuse for not making an effort to engage your potential end users in your design and product development effort.
This presentation covers what I consider to be the four main areas of user experience, being:
Choosing an audience. Startups (and small businesses in general) are notorious for wanting to avoid this step, claiming that their product/service is targeted at ‘everyone’ and that they don’t want to ‘restrict themselves’ by choosing a specific primary target market. Big mistake – design for everyone and you design for no one. Design well for the audience you’re most interested in and the rest will follow.Another common problem for starts ups is that they are actually designing for themselves (they are their own target audience) but lose focus by trying to design for ‘users’ without defining who those users are. If you are your own target audience, that’s fine. Admit it and go with it. Don’t lose focus.But probably the most common problem I come across is that while the start up makes efforts to be ‘user focussed’ it fails to admit that it’s *real* target audience, for the moment at least, is the investors who may give them more money if excited enough. What investors want to see and what early users of your service want are two very different things. If you are designing for investors, that is fine – admit it and go with it. You can re-focus on the real users of your service later.
Understanding your audience: there are *lots* of ways to get to know your audience but obversational research (sitting down and watching and asking questions) is far and away the most effective in my experience. Yes, get your metrics in place, do your alpha release, watch your twitter stream, but DO find and observe potential users of your service, and do it regularly. Despite the rumours, it doesn’t have to be an expensive and time consuming exercise – in fact, you can do it yourself and you’ll probably learn more than you’ll know what to do with. There’s no excuse for not knowing exactly how users interact with your product, what works and doesn’t work and – most importantly – why.
Applying your research in design: once you’ve done all the research, how do you make use of it in your design? One simple way is to make some ‘personas’ – basically some pretend users who are based on your research and who can sit around the table with your team and be ‘involved’ in the decision making. This is a MUCH better way of getting good user focussed decisions made than asking ‘what users like/do’ which is a totally nonsense question with no answer. Rather, you can ask ‘would Keith (our persona) like it if we added that service?’, ‘would Lillian (our persona) understand that sentence on the homepage?’, ‘what would Frances (our persona) most like us to do in this next development cycle?’. It might sound a little nuts but it really does work.
The other thing I really recommend is that you hire the best designer you can get your hands on as early as possible, but don’t ask them to ‘design your website’ or application or whatever. Rather ask them to design a visual styleguide that you can then give to a less ‘resource intensive’ team member to apply now and into the future. This is the best way to get great value from a good designer – you let them do the work they do best and you get a road map for the future that will protect the design integrity of your service. The styleguide will include a few key templates but also a bunch of information about the grids that should be use, how colour and typography should be applied and a whole host of other very useful information.
Think big and small: Last but not least I encourage you to look at user experience from the micro and the macro level. Do wonder if that button is in the right place ask whether moving it might improve revenue, but don’t neglect to ask whether people understand the overall proposition of your service and if they’re even going to get to that button in the first place. User Experience is a layercake and it starts with your proposition – it is all too easy to get too close to your product and not realise how inpenetrable it is for newcomers. So, think big and small.
Where do I start?
Most of what us User Experience people do is not rocket science – it’s just education and a whole lot of experience and a passion for what we do, much of this you can do yourself and there is a lot of material in books and online that will get you off to a flying start. The two books I find myself recommending most often to my start up clients are Don’t Make Me Think and The Paradox of Choice (the first one is more hands on than the second, but the second explains a lot of why the first one works).
Another thing I find myself doing more and more often is teaching my clients to fish – that is, doing quick training sessions that give them the essential skill set they need to successfully do the four things I set out above, all by themselves.
If you’re interested in learning these skills (or having someone in your company know them!) and bringing User Experience into the centre of your company then perhaps you might be interested in a one day Hands On User Experience training course that I’ve designed. I’d be more than delighted to show you how I do what I do, and I guarantee you’ll see the benefits in many more places than just the usability of your website/application!
Earlier this week I participated in a panel to discuss the perennial question of ‘why aren’t more women involved in tech and what can we do about it’. It’s always a treacherous discussion to get involved in and if you think you know how it would have played out, you’re probably right, except you probably wouldn’t have expected Milo to have been quite as … let’s go with ‘provocative’ as he was.
It is very difficult to engage with this subject area without offending people, people people feel excluded or defensive – the sad thing is that I don’t think anyone who tries to start these conversations intends to do any of these things (and many thanks to Mike Butcher for finding a place for this discussion in the GeeknRolla program).
What we want is something practical we can do about it.
There was on this panel, and elsewhere, a lot of talk about improving the ‘image’ of tech so that is is more appealing to women and infiltrating the education system, reaching women whilst they are still young girls and showing that tech can be a cool, sexy, creative and rewarding career. I think this is probably the best longterm strategy we can put in place and I’d love to help get involved in making this happen (ping me if you’ve got something going on already or need help getting something off the ground).
I also think there are a lot of women who ARE women in tech, but who define themselves as marketing people, or managers, or PR people or designers, or researchers who just happen to only ever work in the tech sector. I’m not sure if there is something we need to *do* about this, although I’m starting a personal (informal) research project to better understand why these women exclude themselves from the ‘women in tech’ label. Perhaps it’s the information architect in me, but I have a feeling that a lot of this is taxonomy / labeling related.
All of these are long term and somewhat philosophical. What can we do NOW?
I have TWO suggestions for what you can do RIGHT NOW that I think will start to make an immediate difference.
1. That woman you know who works in tech, who is really smart and talented and should be doing more. Give her a nudge and say ‘you could do that’, ‘you should do that’. Be directly encouraging.
I know we shouldn’t have to do this, but in my experience we do. Many of the smartest women I know do need a little encouragement to be a little bolder in the way that they present their work, whether that’s just writing a blog, getting up and speaking at a conference, or starting their own business. Having someone pick you out and say – yes, sure, you can do it, you should do it, just a tiny bit of encouragement and confidence building can be the spark that sets people on their path.
You may think it is obvious that your woman-friend/colleague has everything it takes to be ridiculously successful, but all too often the response you’ll get would be ‘do you think so? you really think I could do that?’
I don’t know why and for the moment I don’t really care why. Let’s just start giving individual people who we *know* have what it takes a nudge, a little confidence boost and see what happens.
2. Write & speak about women in tech, and do it respectfully and supportively
Aside from cold hard cash there are two other incredibly important currencies when it comes to professional success – respect and visibility. The way you choose to write and speak about women can make a big difference with regards to their access to both respect and visibility.
Let’s take a case study. Here’s an article that impromptu panel participant and journalist Milo Yiannopoulos wrote for the Telegraph covering the panel discussion and his thoughts on it. Let’s ignore his pretty woeful argument that there is no place for this discussion at these conferences and the way that he referred to women as ‘girls’ throughout the piece. Notice the difference in the way he treated contributions to the discussion from Sophie Cox and myself compared to those of Joshua March and Paul Walsh. Sophie and I get first name treatment only and no links (despite both being very easily Googled), Joshua and Paul get full names and at least one link (Paul gets two!).
On the surface, this may appear accidental, lazy, coincidental, but that fact is that even if Milo disagreed with the points that Sophie and I were making in the way he has presented us in this article we are utterly unimportant, except that we provide the foil for his argument. Joshua and Paul on the other hand are obviously important voices because of the way they are treated.
If you *really* want women in tech to be confident and successful in tech, then treat then a really great way to start is to give them respect and visibility and if as a part of your trade you happen to be writing then:
write about them
use their full names (and try to spell them correctly, ahem Guardian)
link to them
Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a big difference.