Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. Notes from UX Advantage

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    I had the opportunity to attend UX Advantage (put on by Jared Spool of UIE) last year, and I forgot to write about what I learned. This is what I wrote down. I’ll write more soon on what I learned and how it has affected my work the past few months.

    This is just rapid-fire notes transcribed from my notebook at the conference. It was super helpful and enlightening to see other teams at other large corporations having the same struggles we are. I apologize for the frantic sound-bite nature of these notes.

    Main takeaways:

    “Soak the team in customer feedback.”

    “Always be getting reality from customers.”

    Results and problem-solving is easier to sell than the visuals of design for design’s own good, or for the pretty factor.

    “Colocation is hugely important, so a team feels like a team.”

    “Schedule is king -> Customer is king”

    Get legal in the room at the start, not tack it on at the end. Make them understand the project, not just put a boilerplate at the end.

    Find out “Who is saying no and why are they saying no?” Don’t let empty “no’s” stop you from making something you know is better.

    ​”Understanding the users is catnip for executive teams.”

    Anyone who has product influence should spend 2 hours with users every 6 weeks.

    Product roadmap should be problems you will solve, not features you will build.

    People have empathy, but there is no structure in our culture for empathy. Need to engage ourselves with users.

     

    Bill Scott, PayPal

    Create a shared understanding between design, engineering and marketing.

    Have the humility to improvise.

    Get legal in the design process early and explain the problem. Get them involved in the solution, not just tacking on the disclaimer.

    “Soak the team in customer feedback.”

    Note certain people that you can’t change and work around them.

    “The UI layer is the experimentation layer.”

    “Change from a culture of delivery to a culture of learning.”

    Create tweetable moments when talking with executives. You don’t get much time, so make your conversation and points memorable.

    They will start to repeat them and you want them repeating the right things until they start to believe them.

    RITE usability testing (1-2 week sprints): MTW – Build, Th – Test, Fri – Report, feedback, decisions

    Old system was 3 months -> usability test

    New system was 1 week live coded testing

    12-week sprint of tests

    “If you make other people successful instead of policing them, they’ll come to you for advice, not avoid you.”

    “Always be getting reality from customers.”

    “We really sucked. Here’s how we got better.” (re: PayPal over time)

    Nuisance distance architecture

     

    Steve Turbek, Fidelity: Design-driven UX Team

    Results and problem-solving is easier to sell than the visuals of design for design’s own good, or for the pretty factor.

    Getting developers involved in a project before it’s an official project can be transformative.

    “Funny thing is silos are meant to protect the corn from birds.” – balance of silo vs. full collaboration & productivity

    Device lab is in a prominent place in the space – establishes the importance of the mobile shift. Investment in tools to properly test for all contexts. Put it in front of yourself as a reminder to build for real context.

    A modern office send a message to existing and new/future employees that you have a cultural understanding of design.

    The creative director role for low-level designer development, as more and more moves to code – deliverables are fuzzy.

    They created the track of Senior Individual Contributor, instead of a forced management role to move up. SIC’s roles spread and their influence on projects can be more broad. Long-term effect of faster/cheaper projects.

    Senior IC’s spend time mentoring and diving deep into their expertise.

    Distinction between innovation space and design space – innovation encourages more collaboration and invitation.

    When an agency isn’t involved in how things are built, it’s hard for them to do something that can be built/integrated.

    Usability testing shouldn’t be done by the people designing the experience – too much bias in designing the test and the conversation with the user.

     

    Scott Zimmer, David Baker: The Role of Outsiders

    ​If you hire the brains, let them do the work. If not, the in-house team will be uninspired to build it. (#loyalty)

    “The only thing that terrifies firms more than a conflict of interest is incompetence.”

    “Colocation is hugely important, so a team feels like a team.”

     

    Samantha Soma, Bringing UX to All of GE

    They inserted their team into the hiring process, after learning that friends got form letters from their recruiters. Took over the process to get the team they wanted.

     

    Mark Rettig, Organizational Becoming

    Observe. Reflect. Make.
    Open attention & dialogue.
    Quality of attention -> quality of result.

    Design Capacity is not Design Culture.
    (an innovation lab does not by existing create an innovation culture)

    “Cynicism is a product of repeated disappointment.”

    “To remove cynicism, move outside of yourself.”

    We all care about quality.

    “Schedule is king -> Customer is king”

    “Research brought back orange.
    Management sees orange.
    ‘Hang on, we only do blue. Take what you learned from orange and use it make better blue!'”

    Ask “Who do we need to become to do orange?”

     

    Yes Lawyer

    Get legal in the room at the start, not tack it on at the end. Make them understand the project, not just put a boilerplate at the end.

    Understand the actual rules and the spirit of them, so you can push back when you understand it.

    You shouldn’t be given solutions to build. You should get problems to solve.

    Find out “Who is saying no and why are they saying no?” Don’t let empty “no’s” stop you from making something you know is better.

    Have empathy for legal and they will have it for you.

     

    Christ Avore, NASDAQ

    A deliverable is something you pass off as a spec; An artifact is something you just throw out there for consideration.

    “The prototypes aren’t optional.” re: devs not building what you intend

    New title being used, UX Prototyper

    ​”Understanding the users is catnip for executive teams.”

     

    Adam Cutler, IBM

    ​”Empathy, not ego”
    1,200 designers by 2016 at IBM, 10k applications

    Onboarding at IBM for new hires is 6-12 week process – boot camps

    Design is the expression of intent. ​So anyone can design.

    “You’ve sucked for so long and now design is here to save the day.” is not the way to win hearts & minds.

    Senior Executives are invited to design reviews. Quick run-through of all visible work, even sketched in the project.

    Moveable, transportable whiteboards. On hooks to transport around to different rooms/walls.

     

    Jared Spool

    Stages of becoming design-infused:
    – Dark ages
    – Spot UX projects
    – UX Effort
    – Embedded teams
    – Design-infused culture

    Customer satisfaction surveys are not the best way to learn.
    Anyone who has product influence should spend 2 hours with users every 6 weeks.

    UX should be where the decisions get made. IT if IT-led. Marketing if marketing-led, etc.

    The UX Tipping Point in a design-infused culture is when more than half the projects ship when the design is ready and not before.

    Successful Design-led companies have these in common:
    1. Exposure to users
    – 2 hours with users every 6 weeks
    – “I think” turns into “we saw someone…”
    2. Vision of the experience
    – what will the whole experience look like (regardless of technology) look like in 5 years
    3. Culture of continual learning

    Product roadmap list problems, not features
    – problems you will solve, not features you will build
    – stories of those problems come from users

    People have empathy, but there is no structure in our culture for empathy. Need to engage ourselves with users.

    We have to design how we make UX a competitive advantage.

  2. Make People’s Lives Awesome

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    My boss laid out a mission for our company at our last retreat — “Make people’s lives awesome.” Everything we do at work has the same goal to improve both our lives and the customers we make stuff for. So as a reminder to that mission, we decided to slap it on the wall in really big awesome letters.

    I set it in Acropolis, one of my favorite typefaces lately for chunky, character-soaked type. Pun definitely intended. I love the Ks and the Es especially.

    Not sure if you can tell from the photos, but the letters are made of foam. Yep. Styrofoam. I know, I know, not the most environmentally-friendly material. But we thought it was a really interesting option for a low-cost material. And (other than the meticulous alignment and kerning attention) it was fairly easy to mount on the wall.

    We’ll be adding a grid of frames on the right half of the wall later today. We’ll be putting customer testimonials and memorable staff photos and jokes in the frames to give people (and staff) a quick look at our company culture when they walk in the door. Cory and I have been talking a lot about injecting our company culture into our space in creative ways, and this is kind of the first real representation that we’ve tried. Once it was all up, I was definitely happy with the final result.

    We laid it out in the Div and considered painting the front white to give it an extra bright pop off the wall, but we tested it on one of the letters and didn’t make much of a difference.

    I kinda want to just get this part of it recut and put it in my office at home above my computer.

    The alignment was the hardest part. Kerning everything by eye with Matt keeping everything level. Worth the extra effort though to see it complete just as I imagined it.

    I was really happy with the dimension of the final piece.

     

  3. The Div

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    I’m going to make an effort to post more about the projects I’m working on. I haven’t posted much since I started working at iThemes in January 2010 (full time June 2010). I’ve done a ton of really exciting work, but it’s often hard to showcase it on here. But I’ll do my best to keep a more updated log of the cool stuff I’m involved in at iThemes.

    I’m really excited about the most recent project I’ve been a part of — the <div> [pronounced The Div].

    “The Div is a tech community hub dedicated to innovation, creativity and training for a better Oklahoma,” according to the web site we launched yesterday. A <div> in HTML is basically the place where something starts. It’s an open container ready to be filled. The purpose is to create a place where people can create. Part co-working space, part educational facility, part event space — The Div is a place we’ve set aside to promote learning and innovation for both students and professionals.

    The Div will be officially open on August 25th. Floors and furniture are going in soon. We’re excited to get people in there! Go check out the site, and follow @thedivorg on Twitter to learn more.

    The logo is a modified mix of Futura and Neutraface elements. The DI is in Futura, and the V and <> are modified from Neutraface. League Gothic is used for the web site headers and Droid Sans is used as the body text. I used iThemes Builder (obviously) to create the WordPress theme structure and the design from there is a totally custom theme.

     

  4. April? Mix

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    Thanks to the whining of Matt Danner, here’s another monthly mix.

    This month’s theme is uncertainty and questions. Specifically about God. I am a Christian. I have been in a Christian family my entire life. But I never want to pretend I have things figured out. The more I learn, the less I know. So, I have questions. And that’s healthy. No one should ever stop questioning things, especially those things you profess to be guiding truths in life. So, these songs are about people asking questions about God, country, Christianity and life.

    Enjoy. Because of the lateness of this mix, you might get another one in the coming weeks before May. It may or may not be inspired by a CD I found at my house in Edmond from the summer of 2006. And the cover may include a pair of cargo shorts, as did most of my clothing choices in that period of my life.


    Click this link or any of these images to download.

    [download id=”1″]