This year (2014) in September I will be speaking about the importance of embracing the ‘messy middle’ of a problem at EuroIA in Brussels. The talk will be about how it is vital to understand the whole of the problem to deliver the simplest solution on the surface. This comes as a reaction to working with colleagues who have tried to solve problems via the interface and uses real world examples and system theory into what will be a very condensed 25 minute talk.
Here is a quick overview of by Jay Thrash on Design Prototyping using Facebook’s Origami. More on this later.
This is a big problem at the moment, that is UX being confused with just interface design. User Experience is not the same as User Interface Design, UI design is a small part of UX. If you’re just designing interfaces you are NOT designing the UX.
Startup Diary 2: First Sketches and Big Admin
The picture above is a snap shot of the chaos that was the dining room table a couple of weeks ago. It shows some of the scribblings related to getting [Moodotron] out of my head and onto paper. This marks a point beyond the hold pattern of occasional thought about the project I’ve been in for years. Last year a dalliance with Google’s Startup Weekend taught me a truck of things and also taught me most current Startup thinking was for the young and engineer minded. I took a lot away from this but am trying to keep things more, well, UX.
Those who know the UX process well may be wondering why I’m starting with sketches. That’s a good point, surely I should start off with research.
Startup Diary 1: Rabbit Holes, Rockets and Rock Bands
This is a first blog post about my startup, sharing some of the thinking that’s going into it and mixing a lot of metaphors together in the process. This is some of the lessons learnt in the preamble to actually putting together what, for now, I’m calling my Moodotron. Let’s set the scene.
Like it’s 1999
I was there at the time before the first bubble burst. I was in San Francisco, New York and London witnessing, from a desecrate distance, the dot com boom. History will tell many stories about it and my often internal view is blurry.
A different view on the Engineering Mindset from a Graphic Design Angle.
Silos: good for grain, awful for understanding customer behavior. Just as we favor the research tools that we find familiar and comfortable, large organizations often use research methods that reflect their own internal selection biases. As a result, they miss out on detecting (and confirming) interesting patterns that emerge concurrently from different research silos. And they likely wonât learn something new and important. IA thought leader Lou Rosenfeld explains how balance, cadence, conversation, and perspective provide a framework enabling your research teams to think across silos and achieve powerful insights even senior leadership can understand.
UX and the Engineering Mindset (Evidence Based Design)
In the past creating software, websites or products has been treated like a technical challenge, the task of designing then creating something that will work and can be sold through marketing. In many cases it was business and engineers coming together to create something. The process often looked something like this.
Even now in the world of startups we still see the same thing. Concepts like Lean Startup are essentially this process with shorter timescales, more iteration and more marketing style research. It is very easy to feel that by speeding things up you are solving the problems quicker. In reality if the process is not effective at delivering software you are doing more work to try and make it effective rather than fix the process.
Recommended UX Books.
Here are some recommended User Experience Books.
Speaking Appearance: UX for Skeptics:
2pm Brockwell Room, Conway Hall, Saturday 24th August. WC1R 4RL.
A very quick post to say this weekend I’m giving a talk as part of London skepicamp focusing on the evidence side of UX. I’ll be talking about why systems designed without talking to users often fail and the good and bad of user research.
My talk will be one of many around general skeptic type stuff - which ranges across a number of topics related to evidence based thinking. None of the others will be UX related as this is not a UX event. The skeptic movement does draw a lot of technical minded people, so I’m expecting a bit of banter in the Q & A section.
My talk is at 2pm in The Brockwell Room. (just after lunch - I love a challenge)
Saturday the 24th of August. starts at 9.30pm Tickets £5.
Conway Hall 25 Red Lion Square, London, Greater London, WC1R 4RL
Full details: http://skepticamp.co.uk/
Lean Lean UX
Lean UX is not totally new, but it helping refocus user experience, although not without it’s problems. Here is my take on good and bad of Lean UX as the version in Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden’s Lean UX Book (amazon).
The Good Stuff.
- Not delivery focused - it focuses on getting the right level of deliverable, even if it’s just a whiteboard sketch. Less quarter of a million pound powerpoint presentations (I’ve been there).
- It’s quick - no need to get everything ‘right’ first time. Solutions evolve. *Iteration leads to a lot of ideas being tried out and keeps a heartbeat to a project. There is always something to discuss and talk about.
- It encourages all team members to validate work with end users as much as possible.
This may sound like heresy but UCD is not always the best approach. My preferred approach is more Activity-Centred Design (as I have just discovered other folks call it). Here’s an interesting article on this.
“Must be a ninja in Illustrator and jQuery.”
A quick post about this. Being a contractor I keep an eye out what else is out there Job wise just to keep up with how the market is going and also what kind of skills are in favour. Being a bit of a veteran I do now and again see job descriptions that make me think ‘these guys don’t quite get it’. Tell tale signs include going through a list of various UX techniques including things like eye tracking (snake oil anyone?) and card sorting rather than saying something to indicate an understanding of how UX fits with the work they’re doing.
Many ads are like a box ticking exercise of things UX people may use, but often don’t and often don’t even tell you what kind of work the company does – is it creating campaigns, developing software or maybe creating an online property – each require a different skill set. For example folks who work at the advertising end of the market are more likely to be visual designers who do a bit of UX as opposed to folks like me who would be feel like we’ve committed a sin if we open up Photoshop.
Embrace the messy middle (or ‘put that sketch book down’).
When asked to design a new interface for a website or other project do you reach for a sketchpad? If asked for a redesign do you first think about what new features and jquery tricks you could add? Do you have a desire to redesign each interface you see after a couple of screens? Then I suggest you are not doing UX properly.
Here’s my issue. Too many people are ignoring how the overall system works (what I call the middle of the system) and focusing upon the end interface. It’s a natural thing to do but still doesn’t justify doing it. Web site projects suffer from home page fixation and there is so much talk about sketching these days you’d be lead to think that it’s a noble thing to do to start working out what goes where. In my view people have forgotten and overlooked what makes things really work – and that’s the overall system. Time to name and shame.