Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A post in which I recommend a few UX books

I’m occasionally asked for suggestions on how people might learn more about UX. Usually it’s a pretty general question, but sometimes it’s more specifically for reading recommendations. In order to make it easy for me to quickly answer such questions, I’ve decided to post a few of my suggestions here. And rather than trying to get this perfect, which would prevent my ever getting it done, I’ll treat this as a series of occasional posts.

The series isn’t meant to provide a definitive list, but rather a set of books that I’ve enjoyed and found helpful in my UX work. Some of them will be well known and already widely recommended. Others may be less so, though no less valuable to me. A few might even be eccentric choices for a list like this. And some of them might make for excellent beach reading this summer!

Let’s start with five and see how things go.

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald Norman
This is the first UX book I ever read. Any of Norman’s books are well worth a look, but this one is, for me, his greatest.

The Laws of Simplicity
by John Maeda
Short and simple, as it should be.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (Editor)
Filled with practical guidance that you can start to act on right away, from a pair of Fluxible speakers.

The Elements of Typographic Style
by Robert Bringhurst
This might very well be may favourite book on typography. Smart, detailed, and eminently approachable.

Envisioning Information
by Edward R. Tufte
A beautifully printed book that, naturally, communicates Tufte’s ideas in a compellingly visual way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hey, look! Fluxible 2015 early bird registration is open!

Fluxible 2015 Early Bird registration is open now. That means that there’s some pretty great pricing available for not just our main program, but for some wonderful Friday workshops as well. As I mentioned previously, we’ve made a few changes to our programming this year, and it feels like we’ve found a fine balance that makes Fluxible available to more folks.

Check out the program, and then get yourself registered before we sell out! And feel free to ask me any questions Fluxible — try Twitter if you don’t have my email.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fluxible 2015 program is now online

We’ve announced our Fluxible 2015 program and it’s going to be a terrific three days in September!

This year we’ve expanded things a little with the intent of making Fluxible available to more people. Read all about our changes for 2015, and then check out the details of the program. It’s another great lineup filled with insightful presentations from smart and generous speakers, along with fine food and more than a little music!

Early Bird registration opens next Monday, June 15, at noon EST. Now’s the time to start sorting out your budget and preparing to register. Hope to see you at Fluxible!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Using realistic data in a design prototype

I mentioned code-based prototypes a few weeks back. Here’s a related observation.

I like to put realistic-looking content into my higher-fidelity prototypes. The main reason for my preference is that, in many cases, a design can’t be effectively evaluated if it doesn’t present realistic data and/or information. You need to see how the design handles the real thing.

When I was at Karos Health, I regularly used the names of jazz musicians to create fake patient data that was used in various design prototypes. I did it for two reasons, the first being my preference for realistic data and/or information.

The second is more subtle: while the names looked realistic, anyone who recognized a name like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong would realize that what was being shown wasn’t real real patient data. That was an important consideration in health care, where patient privacy is a critical concern. One of my favourite moments came when someone viewing a prototype noticed that a birthday shown for Miles Davis was correct. (In fact, all the birthdays were correct.) The attention to detail made an impression!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This is a recommendation?

Netflix is a service with which I have a love/hate relationship. Even with the comparatively slim pickings offered by the service in Canada, the monthly fee provides pretty good value. And, of course, the offerings became more compelling since they got into creating their own content, some of which is terrific. And being able to watch on multiple devices is a terrific feature, especially with playback synced across them.

I’ve never, though, enjoyed the experience of finding videos to watch. Scrolling through titles can be slow and imprecise. There’s no way for me to easily recall the videos that I want to watch; the “My List” feature reorders videos, making it hard to find something that I thought I had added. The “Suggestions for You” that it makes can sometimes seem cryptic — what, exactly makes for  “Exciting Movies”? And I regularly find unhelpful recommendations along the lines of “Because you watched [title of video]” where the first listing is something else that I watched recently.

Videos covers for "Stone Cold" and "The Stoning"Here’s a different unhelpful pair of recommendations that I ran into some time ago. Having watched a Robert De Niro movie called Stone (part of it, anyway), Netflix thought that I’d be interested in a movie called Stone Cold, as well as The Stoning of Soraya M. As far as I can tell, the movies have little in common other than similarities in their titles.

I get that this isn’t necessarily easy, and my response is mostly bemusement as the recommendations generally don’t add a lot of value for me. It just feels like discovery of what to watch is an untapped opportunity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I write software code as a part of my design work

Now that the whole designers-coding-stuff thing has died down a little (or maybe it hasn’t?), I thought I’d share some thoughts on why I code on my own design projects. There are a couple of main reasons why I engage in this activity.

First, I believe that it’s important for me as a designer to have a solid understanding of the medium for which I’m designing. Being able to code helps me better understand the things that matter to developers on a software product team, and it enables me to communicate more effectively with them.

Second, creating prototypes is a part of the design process for me. Prototypes, in various levels of fidelity, help me think through what the interaction should be for a particular design solution. Obviously prototypes have other uses; they are great for communicating a design to product team members and, of course, they are central in the testing of a product design with users.

There are many tools available for creating product prototypes. As it turns out, though, because I’ve been coding with html/css/js for so many years now, I can actually work fairly quickly to create a code-based prototype that I can iterate on and refine efficiently. I’m able to create realistic interactions and behaviours that are a big challenge with other approaches. I can start with something crude and wireframe-ish and iterate to something more polished. I like to call late-stage, high fidelity, code-based prototypes “real software with fake functionality”! It might be best to avoid ray guns, though…

Monday, April 27, 2015

User story mapping at Felt Lab

Last Friday I visited the REAP Felt Lab to provide an introduction to user story mapping in a lunch-hour workshop. I’ve been a big fan of story mapping ever since I was introduced to it in a workshop by Jeff Patton back in 2008, and I was delighted when he finally released a definitive book on the topic last year. I highly recommend User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product to anyone who wants to learn more about this powerful technique that can help product development teams focus on users and their needs rather than on features.

The introduction that I delivered comes straight from Patton’s book, and the folks at Felt Lab were thoroughly engaged by the experience. It was a full house, and each team learned a lot during the surprisingly challenging exercise of creating a story map about their morning routines.

Unsurprisingly, the same engagement and enlightenment were visible during a similar uxWaterloo session back in March.

If you missed these events, keep an eye on the schedule for The Boltmade Sessions, as there’s a good chance that we’ll deliver another iteration of the workshop there.