Here is a nice little article Mike Monteiro wrote in netmagazine.com on how to get the new year off to a positive start.
“Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist.”An opinion article titled, The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain on NYTimes.com Enjoy™
“Count this “guru” as caring less about what’s new and more about what works. (If it happens to be new and works better than what came before, then I’ll be the first to add my praise.)”Mark Hurst, in
Using what you have (and when to change)
Very cool video I ran into while visiting cameronmoll.com. Reminded me of some of my old school projects.
“My current theory is that programming is quite literally writing.”“The vast majority of programming is not conceptually difficult (contrary to what a lot of people would have you believe). We only make it difficult because we suck at writing.” Ouch. This came out a while ago, but it is still worth sharing. This quote came from slashdot user wrook, full post at http://bit.ly/knVOni
Do you rely on users setting up your software just so, and think defaults don’t matter much? Then you’d better read, “Do users change their settings?” (The short answer is No.)
Check out the World Usability Day Bundle on UXPunk. Big savings on some good research and design tools.
An article describing a recent “true intent” study for LDS.org was just posted on LDSTech. It describes how we created an affinity diagram out of over 800 freeform survey responses to help discover why people came to LDS.org and what their biggest problems were. A very informative activity. Some of the high-level results are also reported there, with permission.
“Myth #3: People don’t scroll.”From an interesting “UX Myths” site. Some interesting user experience myths de-bunked. Thanks Christian Smith for pointing me to this!
I liked this illustration of the Knowledge Gap in Jared Spool’s recent newsletter article, Riding the Magic Escalator of Acquired Knowledge.
To close the knowledge gap, you either ride the user up the escalator via training, or you bring the target knowledge down the escalator by simplifying the design. Those are really your two main choices, 99% of the time!
“Managers are assigned; leaders emerge.”From an interesting article by Kim Goodwin on the importance of developing UX leadership and taking initiative.
Although short on details (he wants you to buy his full reports after all), this post summarizing an updated e-commerce usability report by Nielsen/Norman is worth reading if you’re building an e-commerce site.
“Nothing could prepare me for my first trip to Rome. It wasn’t anything like the pictures. I think this is exactly the same feeling that designers have when they visit their users for the first time.”Jared Spool, extolling the virtues of field visits while introducing his most recent newsletter. (The quote is from his email and doesn’t appear in the article itself.)
You’ve been there. You’ve felt the knot in your stomach. You’ve tightened your grip on your iPad ever so slightly after hearing your client say “You know, on that header? I want our logo to be bigger. Way bigger.” And you think to yourself Great. I just found me another do-it-yourselfer. He designed a newsletter for his student club twenty-seven years ago and now he’s ready to tackle his corporate website. He just needs me to run Photoshop for him.
The world slows down for just a moment. You stare down at your notes, half pretending you didn’t hear and half expecting your iPad to feed you your line or something. But nothing comes. Time picks up its lumbering pace again. The street noise outside your client’s office window wakes you up and you realize now you have to say something; something that acknowledges your client’s statement. Something that isn’t “You wanna do this thing yourself?”
Newton, Sumo Wrestling, and Design Iterations
Newton’s third law of motion states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Of course the guy was talking about the physical world. You know, like the pull of gravity working against your overwhelming desire to dunk it, or the tension of your belt working against the fierce push of your expanding gut. But, of course, we can always twist his words to apply them to design. And it’s fun.
In the “very complicated act of faith” that is design, there are two main forces at work: the problem and the solution. Their relationship is a lot like the one between your beer belly and your belt: they mirror each other. One is the question, the other the answer. They’re twin sumo wrestlers in different-colored diapers, pushing at each other with tremendous force. They’re the yin and the yang: identical, but opposite.
This is a fact that designers the world over use to their advantage. Want to come up with a great solution? Understand the problem. Want to understand the problem? Come up with a solution. If you figure one out, you immediately understand the other.
The design iteration, then, becomes a nice, sweaty wrestle between problem and solution. A designer will do a bit of research on the problem, and then propose a solution. That proposal invites feedback (aka more information about the problem), which the designer then takes into account for the next solution proposal. Rinse and repeat. Slowly, the designer’s understanding of the problem and the solution grow together, until finally, voila! We’ve got ourselves a finished product.
Clients Have Brains Too
As designers, we’re comfortable with this relationship between problem and solution. In fact, we use it to make a living. We’ve come to accept the iterative synthesis of solutions as the best way to come to understand problems. And we love it.
Well, it turns out our clients are often doing just that when they blurt out an unsolicited design suggestion. They may see a problem with our design, but instead of describing the problem by saying something like “You know, the home page just doesn’t feel ours enough. It still feels a little generic to me. I don’t think it reflects the personality of our company quite yet” they propose a solution and say “I think the logo should be bigger. Way bigger.”
This is because clients have brains too, and they understand that problems and solutions are like bellies and belts, like crooked teeth and braces, like moobs and manziers. So, perhaps involuntarily, they blurted out a proposed solution instead of a description of the problem.
So why are the solutions they propose rarely great? Because they’re not trained designers. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad clients. They may be diagnosing a legitimate problem, but because they did so by prescribing a lousy solution, you think they’re dumb.
Take a step back. Breathe.
Find the Twin Sumo
Now it’s back to you in your client’s office, iPad clenched in agony. You need to say something. What to say, what to say, what to say?
Well, if you understand that your client’s lousy design suggestion is really the mirror image of a problem he’s trying to diagnose, all you have to do is find the twin sumo. Take the proposed solution and turn it into the problem you think it was designed to solve. Then shoot it back at your client. Hmmmm…bigger logo…what could he be talking about?
“So, what you’re saying is that you think the current design doesn’t really feel like it belongs to your company, like it’s really you?”
Whew! You made it. Now, relax. Wipe your brow and get rid of the poker face. The conversation is ready to go somewhere.
Did you nail the problem on the head? Maybe so, or maybe not. But when you translated your client’s proposed solution into a diagnosed problem, you did something priceless. You let your client know that his input does matter, but you did it without compromising the integrity of your work, or your role as the design expert in the room.
Now you can work to refine your understanding of the problem the client is trying to diagnose. And your client? Not an idiot. Not a deadbeat. Just a guy with a brain trying to tell you something’s wrong. So listen up. You just might learn something.
“Mobile Content: If in Doubt, Leave It Out”Title of Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox.
“Get the company to see what the customer sees. If the executives inside the company could just “see through the eyes of a customer,” it quickly would become clear how to improve the experience.”Great post by Mark Hurst in Good Experience. I am experiencing this right now on a project, and it’s exciting when key stakeholders are committed to “seeing through the eyes of the Church member.”
“There are many recipes for great personas, yet the teams decide to take shortcut, skip steps, or just plain do something that doesn’t make sense. They don’t follow the recipe. Then they complain when the project doesn’t turn out well.”From a great article by Jared Spool titled
5 Ways To Suck Value Away From Your Persona Projects.
Very timely as I gear up to train a team on creating personas.
“If you find that your company buys expensive enterprise software instead of putting your A-team engineers on making awesome internal tools, then they don’t understand what the word ‘leverage’ actually means, and you my friend, likely have a serious and systemic problem.”From John Hitchings, engineer at wealthfront on the importance of internal tools
“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”John Lasseter in The Pixar Story. In his honor, I have decided to start calling all Hawaiian shirts, “Lasseters”.