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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
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Posted in Design, UX

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.

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New Class of Prototyping Tools

If you believe you are a good software designer, the great news about creating mobile applications is that with mobile apps: design is everything. Time and time again, it has been show that users value good design and its impact on usability. As with everything else in life, we’re all individuals, with different preferences and ways of approaching design.  There are a number of mobile developer/designers who don’t believe that “paper is dead”, instead, take the position that they come up with more fluid layouts when not in front of a computer.  Other designers prefer to work in Photoshop, creating designs that seem ready for the App Store.  For me, one is too hot, and the other, too cold.  In the case of Photoshop or Axure, I would find too much attachment to the work I put in to the screen mockups to readily change them based on user input.

In my case, I find rapid prototyping beneficial to meet the following limited goals:

  • Investigate the key points of the proposed solutionbalsamiq
  • Test the navigation and overall content structure

This is the point of this blog post, to call attention to a new set of rapid prototyping tools for the creation of mobile applications.  Using my favorite screen prototyping tool, Balsamiq, I was able to export my mobile screen mockups to *.png files.

Using the tool InVision, I uploaded the *.png files into the Build Mode. From there I was able to identify clickable zones in my screen layouts and link them to the other screens that I uploaded. From there, I can export a link to the screens to a smartphone and bring up that link in the smartphone browser and navigate through my screens testing the application navigation.  Other features include the ability for other users of the functional mockup to make comments to specific points of the screens.  The tool supports both the Android and iOS environments.

Once you use the tool, the benefits become immediately apparent when users can touch and navigate through a facsimile of the proposed app.  If your tool of choice is something like Photoshop, you users could touch and play with what would seem to be the real app. Either way, having an app that could function on a phone is considerably better than looking at screenshots on a computer or looking at wireframe documentation.

SxSW Day 3 – Behavior Change as Value Proposition

At the end of the third day of SxSW, I sat in on a session about Behavior Change and how design can use that as a value proposition. Chris Risdon, of Adaptive Path, was the speaker, and it was great to sit in on this topic again and see how much it’s matured since the last time I got to see Chris present on it. The market today is becoming filled with products and services that are designed to not only track and monitor our behavior, but provide insight into how we might change that behavior for the better. Chris covered many of the concepts and principles behind this new breed of products during his talk.

Below are the notes I took during the session, please note it is mostly a stream of consciousness so please forgive any spelling or grammer mistakes.

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SxSW Day 3 – The Best Interface is No Interface

The third day of SxSW started off with a provocative session given by Golden Krishna (website) on the concept of No UI and the invisible interface. On the surface, I really enjoyed the presentation and the material that Golden covered, but I didn’t “fall in love” with his argument as many others did. In fact, since the presentation several blog posts have been written that argue against the concept of No UI which aligns to my way of thinking.

Scott Berkunhttp://scottberkun.com/2013/the-no-ui-debate-is-rubbish/

Timo  Arnallhttp://www.elasticspace.com/2013/03/no-to-no-ui

Below are my notes from the session, please notes taken with my handy iPad mini and Evernote. Read the rest of this post »

#IdeaNotebook: More on the UX of LEGO

I’m not alone in my admiration of the UX of LEGO®. Shortly after my post about the contribution of user research for LEGO designers, I came across this UX Magazine article by Josh Tyson: POP UX! Lego Teaches us About the Power of Near-Perfect User Experience.
IdeaNotebook Art

Tyson asks a couple of intriguing questions at the end including “Is there value in a digital interface that takes the basic elements at-hand and configures new ways to produce rapid, rewarding results that seem limitless, or is that a messy pile of bricks?” My first thought was of graphical programs that rely on widgets or stencils such as Axure or Visio. I have built custom libraries in both tools using basic shapes as well as creating end designs.

Recalling the programming language for the original LEGO® Mindstorms® (possibly NXT 2.0 as well, but I haven’t used that yet) led to the thought of code libraries and snippets. Not graphical and for more specialized users, but definitely creating limitless results rapidly by comparison. I particularly like commenter Leigh Arredondo’s response: “Minecraft.”

The other challenging question Tyson poses is “If you create amazingly fluid and effective software, will it automatically imbue a brand with its core traits (for better or worse)?” Read the rest of this post »

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Posted in Design, Musings, UX

Building a better monster: User research by LEGO designers

I am a lifelong fan of LEGO© toys and games and of J.R.R. Tolkien. So when LEGO began to release The Lord of the Rings sets, I was delighted. I then came across this video about designing Shelob™ Attacks while reviewing the new sets:

A frame of the designer video showing Shelob's wheels

Shelob’s wheels from the “Designer Video: Shelob™ Attacks” (© 2012 The LEGO Group)

As a user experience researcher and designer, I enjoy learning about the design process fellow design professionals go through to come up with brilliant products. The designer shared the unique challenges in creating an organic shape like a spider. With such well-known source material, it might have been easy to assume that once Shelob looked right, the design was finished.

However, the LEGO design team did not stop there. Read the rest of this post »

#IdeaNotebook: User Response Bingo

Since my last post about making emotional response part of the design process and a defined focus of research, I’ve been wondering how you help make user responses, not just success, matter to a design and development team and get them to focus on it. One idea I came up with is user response bingo.

Bingo grid with user response terms Read the rest of this post »