Spark

Subscribe via Email

Subscribe to RSS feed

Archives

Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Creativity: A Matter of Taste

What’s the #1 quality attributed to designers? Creativity. A creative director literally manages creatives… in the creative department. This isn’t just organizational, it’s procedural. For instance, Lean UX promotes design studio activities in which participants create dozens of rapid-fire sketches. Those outbursts of creativity are great, but what’s rarely discussed is taste level. I feel that good taste is as important as anyone’s ability to brainstorm. Here are some elements of taste for consideration in your designs.

Creativity: A Matter of Taste1. Aesthetics. Visual design and branding are more than creative colors and custom layouts. Studies have linked visual design to users’ perceptions of usability and credibility. The better a visual design, the more users will trust it. Good designers track trends (without impersonating them) and avoid anachronisms.

2. Simplicity. Feature sets grow bloated because teams want to add value to products. It’s much harder to explain what you didn’t do. However, creativity isn’t just about new functions and use cases. It’s about ingenuity in combining and reducing those features. For example, which sounds like a more tasteful checkout UX: a 1-click button, or pop-up ads and pre-marked checkboxes for email newsletters? When I’ve worked on the latter, they always tested poorly.

3. Social customs. Users want ethical, safe experiences. No-nos include vulgarity, invasion of privacy, and moral affronts. For instance, Google Glass is a cutting-edge technology that’s sometimes misunderstood as a 24/7 surveillance tool. Rightly or wrongly, social judgments affect purchasing decisions.

4. Metaphors. Designers often map features to a UI metaphor to leverage users’ mental models. Caution is warranted for metaphors that may look contrived or tacky. As a simple example, horizontal tab UI mimicking file folders is easily understood. But occasionally designers position their tabs perpendicular to the page to be unique. Reading sideways labels is a creative UX, but in a not-so-good way.

5. Accessibility. Small web fonts aren’t sexy, they’re hard to read. Green and red buttons for positive and negative actions? About 5% of the population can’t distinguish them. Sometimes designers fall in love with visuals; I’ve been guilty of this many times. However, it’s poor taste to trumpet a beautiful design at the expense of those who can’t use it.

I hope these ideas are useful not only for designers, but any project member who defines, reviews or implements design. Do you have additions to this list? Please feel free to add a comment.

Posted in Design, Musings, UX

STLUX Recap: Practical Interaction Design for Developers

St. Louis had a user experience conference last month (yes, I am very timely) called STLUX, and I’m starting a series of blog posts to recap some of the sessions I attended.  Instead of the typical essay type of blog post, these will be a more in depth breakdown of my notes, which come in a bulleted format.  Enjoy!

It is the duty of the machines and developers to understand people and how they think. We can absorb the pain, so our users have a better experience.This is the first in the series, covering the session by David Ortinau called “Practical Interaction Design for Developers.”

  • Interaction design is defined as the structure, behavior and the meaningful relationships between people and products.
  • In interaction design, people are the focus, not the code.
  • EVERYONE (on the team) needs to be informed about what the design is trying to do.  Designers and developers need to work together.
  • Developers don’t know everything, and should constantly be questioning themselves and their solutions.
  • “How did I come up with this answer?” Question yourself. Your brain can often trick you with your first answer.
  • It is the duty of the machines and developers to understand people and how they think. We can absorb the pain, so our users have a better experience.
  • Bill Verplank’s Three Questions (for interaction designers to answer in regards to their users)
    • How do you do?
      • Push that button
    • How do you feel?
      • I messed up
    • How do you know?
      • Way finding
  • Don’t make your user figure out and understand how your product’s system works.  Your system should understand how your user thinks and expects the system to work, and your system should work accordingly.
  • Slow is a bug
  • Cognitive dissonance is a bug 
  • Cognitive dissonance is when the user expects one thing to happen, and something else happens instead.

All in all it was a great presentation.  I always enjoy listening to David speak, because he has a fantastic presence and passion for the topics he presents.

Stay tuned for my next session summary on fixing your website’s performance!

The Dynamic Customer

At the recent Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, one of the most interesting presentations I saw was delivered by John Bollen of MGM resorts. As the Chief Digital Officer for MGM, John is responsible for supporting the guest experience through technology. During his presentation, John brought up an interesting challenge. At MGM, they realize that their guests are never the same guest twice. What that means, is that a single customer might visit an MGM resort multiple times under different circumstances. For example, they may visit on an outing with their friends, then again on a business trip with colleagues, and later on a leisure trip with their family. The key to delivering a great experience for each visit, is understanding which mode a guest is in, and providing the appropriate interactions. 

The challenge John described is what I refer to as The Dynamic Customer. While you may have a good understanding of your customer’s needs, behavior and motivation, you can’t expect them to engage with you in the same way every time. Customers are people. And people are dynamic. They are emotional, sometimes irrational and largely influenced by their environment. To provide the right experience at the right time, you need to take into consideration the customer mindset and provide interactions that are appropriate for the situation.

Take for instance, my experience with our local drugstore. I always seem to find myself running to the store with my kids to pick-up a gallon milk, a prescription, or whatever last minute item I need. However, when I have a sick child with me, the last thing I want to do is get them unbuckled, drag them into the store and then try to get them back into the car. On one such visit earlier this year, I was going to the drugstore to buy some Motrin for my son, who was with me in the car. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could just get the medicine that I needed through the pharmacy drive-thru window? Surely that makes perfect sense. So I tried to do exactly that. Unfortunately, my store did not offer any OTC medicine through the pharmacy window. Needless to say, I was not a happy customer that day. The drugstore did not consider my situation and provide an appropriate experience. On the other hand, all of their other customers did get to experience a sick, screaming child being carried through their store…

In this instance, it seems that my situation was not unique. The drugstore has recently added some of the most common over-the-counter medicines to drive-thru pharmacy window, including children’s Motrin. Now they’re thinking about The Dynamic Customer, and so should you.

 

Barbie’s Dream House: Engaging with Simple Design

I took my daughters to The Barbie Dream House Experience at Mall of America the last weekend. The experience is a 30,000 square foot life size doll house created with 20 pounds of glitter and 100 gallons of pink paint.

Barbie Dream House Experience
Read the rest of this post »

Posted in Design, UX

Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game Plan

As a B2B marketer with a previous organization, I was tasked with consolidation of websites for my division. My CMO set the goal of having a unified brand experience for the entire company and my division was the first to adopt the “one-company” brand.  To provide a bit of context, my organization was a large company that had grown through acquisition. We had 20 websites to consolidate for my division — some of which had not been touched for several years. It’s also hard to admit this, but we had no meaningful plan to effectively engage with our online customers. This is something that’s a big “no-no” in marketing today!  I needed help building a game plan – something that would provide the strategy and technology processes I needed to drive success – but I didn’t know where to find that. Fortunately there are some options for marketers today.

Adobe Summit | Laying Out Your Digital Experience Game PlanAt Adobe Summit this year, the Perficient booth will be focused on building compelling marketing “Game Plans” for both prospects and clients. The goal is to find those key components and critical next steps that clients must take to enhance their digital marketing initiatives – whether they are focused on customer experience or on the technology that glues the experience together.  As a marketer, I find our solution expertise unique. Our in-house digital agency and web content management practice work in concert to help marketing and IT stakeholders work effectively together. We accomplish this by providing these stakeholders with key insights and analysis which supports the creation of digital marketing solutions that enhance customer engagement and drive revenue across all channels and touch points…something I could have used several years ago!

Robert Sumner our WCM practice director said it best, “If marketers want to truly understand who their customers are, what those customers want from the company and how to provide value, aligning their digital marketing strategies with their customer experience management strategies becomes crucial to achieving solid ROI results. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Adobe Summit as the desire to address this evolution is native to Adobe’s approach with its Marketing Cloud solutions, and specifically with their Adobe Experience Manager solution.” Read more here.

If you are at Adobe Summit, I invite you to join us at  booth 208 to help layout your digital experience game plan. We’ll have our experts on hand to demonstrate how we’ve helped our clients to create a more compelling, personalized digital experience across touch points including legacy websites, mobile sites, social networks, customer transactions, and in-person or contact center interactions. Visitors to the booth can learn how best to integrate the right digital marketing tools with traditional web content strategies, including Adobe Experience Manager.

See you in Utah!

Invitation from Google to become a Glass Explorer

Earlier this year, Google had launched +Project Glass contest and offered a unique opportunity to experience Google Glass in-person. I entered into the contest as well and my submissions can be found here. Approximately eight thousand winners were selected and I was not one of them.

Recently, I received an email from “Glass Support” with an invitation to become a glass explorer! See email below:

Google Glass Invitation

I have not yet decided if I will join the program and purchase the Glass Developer Kit which has a price tag of $1500. Trying to figure out business value for Google Glass; from an enterprise IT perspective, I’m not sure how we can use Glass currently. In addition, I don’t think any of our largest partners are working/developing for Glass – example: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.

Since I am a technology enthusiast, I would like to get Glass for personal use anyway; it would create nice blog posts to share my experiences with especially how wearable tech is transforming user experience.

I would like to hear your opinion – Should I invest in Google Glass? Why or Why Not?

Three Lessons Learned from HealthCare.gov

I have been following the rollout of the federal governments HealthCare.gov website and the subsequent healthcare exchanges. I have been reading many articles outlining the challenges that the team has faced with such a massive implementation, in a limited timeframe. There are many lessons to be learned from the HealthCare.gov story, but I would like to share three take-a-ways that struck me as important for EVERY software deployment, no matter how big or small.

goodfastcheapLesson #1 – Good, Fast or Cheap: Pick Two

It would appear from statements made from both HealthCare.gov contractors as well as the secretary of health, that there were a number of issues that should have either held back the deployment of the website, or a reduction in scope should have been applied, and possibly, additional team members should have been added to the project.

This reminds me of a simple project management quote:

“We can make it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”

Expert project managers know that very few real-life projects stay on track throughout the entire project cycle. A good project manager also understands how to make all three project constraints adjust to each other in order to maintain project quality. Some of the methods to keep projects within constraints are purely political: preventing stakeholders from changing the scope and maintaining boundaries around financial and human resources. Other solutions require classic project management techniques: keeping team members focused and adjusting milestones when necessary.

Read the rest of this post »

The Rebranding of Yahoo!

 

Marissa Mayer has been making headlines across the web for her efforts in trying to turn around the Yahoo! brand. In February a memo was sent to all remote employees telling them to report to work…in an office. In May, the internet was buzzing with the purchase of Tumblr. This month, Marissa Mayer was featured posing for Vogue. The stream of news coming out of Yahoo! headquarters is seemingly endless.

There’s a lot of change happening inside those walls, so it makes sense that there would also be a change in branding. Since it’s founding in the 1990’s, Yahoo! has changed its logo twice, but with Marissa Mayer at the helm, they decided to take a decidedly public approach to their newest logo redesign.
21 days ago, they started using a new logo every day to grow excitement and engagement around their new branding. Sure, this helps to build excitement, but it also doesn’t hurt traffic to their website.

yahoo

 

On to your burning questions:
Will the logo still be purple? Yes.
Will it still have an exclamation point? Yes.
All other questions will be answered on September 5th when they make the big reveal.

Well…almost all questions will be answered, because nobody can ever predict what Marissa Mayer will be up to next.

 

IT Pros: Visualize tech industry news using Pinterest

The title of this post by CIO.com caught my attention immediately this morning:

How IT Pros Can Use Pinterest for Career Growth

Pinterest launched in 2010, and since then I have kept my eyes on its growth and how people are using it for sharing and posting visual content. I never thought that the visual aspect of industry news in the enterprise IT space would take off on this social network, which is mostly known for sharing recipes, crafts and other media that lends itself to compelling images more than the enterprise IT space.

pinterest

Technology infographics on Pinterest

But this post really gives some great reasons why Pinterest makes sense as a place for IT professionals to spend time:

  1. Find and follow influencers – they’ve had 3 years to find their way to the platform. Now there’s on Pinterest, and you should see what they’re up to here, just as you do on Twitter or LinkedIn.
  2. Pin helpful articles and books – you can post an article link and Pinterest will find a related graphic/image in that post to use as the main image.
  3. Find useful infographics – It seems to me that 2013 is the year of the infographic – there’s no shortage of them on Pinterest!
  4. Track information on specific topics – just use Pinterest’s search function to find helpful articles in the area of enterprise IT that interests you most.
  5. Webinars and events - TED Talks is on Pinterest, for example.
  6. Get career and talent search help

 

Read CIO.com’s post here.

 

Open Sans, possibly the most popular font you don’t know about.

If you’ve never heard of it, the Google Font directory is an online repository of free, open-source fonts that have been web optimized and ready for your use.  There are hundreds of them from Display to Handwriting, Serif to Sans Serif.  The Sans Serif is the home of Open Sans by Steve Matteson.

http://www.google.com/fonts#Analytics:total

With the release of Analytics data on each fonts use, Steve has staked his claim as king of the free fonts by taking a commanding lead for both first and second spots for most used fonts….he actually has the number four position as well. If you select the one year time frame you can see Open Sans has 61 Billion views over the past year.  Now that’s some big numbers.

GoogleFontsAnalytics

We’ve used the Google Webfont directory for quite a few projects now.  The selection is massive, the reliability is high (with Google doing all the hosting) and most importantly it saves our clients time and money.  Have you used Open Sans or any other font in this directory?  Which is your favorite?