UX + Me

Six years have passed since my last post on this blog and today I’m ready to say that I’d like to give reviving it a try.

Since my graduation from Purdue University, I have gone on to work for my dad’s multiple startups – some in biotech, one in enterprise consulting – and have acted as the sole designer and administrator for these companies. I’ve done one UI, multiple iterations of not-too-great websites, and many, many brochures and posters. Needless to say, I haven’t done much UX design.

It’s a little daunting to be writing again after so long; I fear I am out of practice and will not be able to formulate my words effectively, but I suppose that is my journey. (I’m welcoming back Grammarly to my browser as we speak.)

It’s also daunting to come out and say, “Hi there. My name is Laura, and I’ve been doing so much graphic and print design in recent years that I feel out of touch with UX,” but there you have it. Therein lies another part of my journey: reacquainting myself with UX design and processes.

I don’t intend on taking a bootcamp or formal classes. It will just be me, the mostly-free resources I can obtain from the internet, and this blog to help my brain sort the information. I also plan to get a little help from my friends – Hello, UX Wizards group!

Join me in this exploration of UX as a designer in need of a refresher course. I will be starting from the beginning to discover what I know and what I need to know. Also planned is the redesign of one of my biotech company’s website. After all, I will need a project to practice with!

Do I need a catchy sign off phrase? How about–

To usability and beyond, designers!

Yes? Yes? Ye – no? Ok. Maybe not.

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Good/Bad Design 9: AmazonLocal

If you don’t know what AmazonLocal is, the easiest way to describe it would probably be to relate it to services like Groupon or LivingSocial. Basically, you can sign up to get notifications on deals in your area, and “save up to 75% on local restaurants, spas, entertainment, and more.”

I sometimes get these emails, although I’m not sure why because I don’t ever recall signing up for it. I didn’t bother unsubscribing though; I usually just ignore and delete them. What I found interesting was that apparently Amazon noticed! One day I received this in an email:

AmazonLocal Notification

I’m pretty sure my eyebrows rose upon reading this. They’ll stop sending me emails on their own accord? That’s the first I’ve seen a company do so.

Anyway, perhaps this is a better example of good public relations than design, but the fact that AmazonLocal was realizing that their emails didn’t interest me and acted accordingly made me want to applaud them a bit. Definitely increased my user experience due to their attention to my needs and wants. Nice.

Interesting Blog 3: Cooper.com

Cooper

I don’t know if anyone from class has yet to mention this blog, but I wanted to bring attention to the online journal on Cooper.com Yes, it is from the design firm of Alan Cooper himself!

While several of the posts seem less relevant to design, such as an entry on their Dodgeball Tournament, others are inspiring and provide great insights to what it is like to work for a design firm. (Or at least for Cooper.)

I absolutely love the use of photos in their posts; they really help provide the imagery of all that is Cooper and design. For example, take a look at “Good design is only half the story”, where you can briefly see how designers and non-designers can come together in a collaborative process.

I also recommend looking at the post, “What marketing executives should know about user experience”. It’s one of their longer ones, but really hits some key points as to what user experience design can do for a company.

Thoughts 2: Accessibility Is Not A Checklist

“The principle behind all design is human dignity.”
~ Richard Buchanan, Keynote presentation at Interaction ’11

After last week’s presentations in class, I’d like to share a great video to supplement Quincy and my presentation on Accessibility:

Learn more about Jimmy Chandler: http://www.ixda.org/resources/jimmy-chandler-accessibility-not-checklist

In this video, Jimmy Chandler discusses accessibility problems and solutions in a fun and interesting way. He brings up concepts we’ve discussed in class, but also provides 10 quick tips on how to improve your product’s accessibility. Chandler even suggests a solution for the mean-error-message issue on forms that the class discussed last week. He really does put things into perspective, and his talk is pretty inspiring while still being entertaining, so I would be sure to check it out.

Personally, I find accessibility very important. My interest stems from my grandmother living with my family for most of my life, and I really can’t imagine her not being able to do something. She’s the most talkative and friendly person I’ve ever met; everyone (including guests) at the new health care center she stays at knows her by name. She’s also the reason I wanted to focus my thesis on the elderly.

Good/Bad Design 2: Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans. Two chains: one for the light, the other for the fan. I’m pretty sure at one time or another, we’ve all wondered, “Which chain do I pull?” The fact that we have to think about it demonstrates it’s poor design.

When designing controls, the controls should differentiate from one another in some way. Not only should they look different, but they should reflect their function. As we just learned from Cooper (2007), designers should design to represent the mental model or vision of the user. There may only be two controls, but it doesn’t mean that product designers should just assume that users will remember the function of each. Perhaps one should end with a light and the other with a fan, to reflect their uses.

Thoughts 1

Last week in class, we talked about main ideas from our readings and tried to make sense of all the terms thrown at us such as usability, user experience design, and so on. Many of the terms I have already come across before, but discussion did prove to organize them in a better way.

When told to group the terms ourselves, I tried to look at all the terms we had and group them in some way or another before putting it into any sort of hierarchy. I noticed that we had a lot of principles listed such as visibility, mapping, feedback, etc. We also had specific metrics that could be measured, and different types of design listed that could be seen as different approaches. But left were other items such as user research and personas, that really seem to be part of the design process than anything else.

Before we grouped items together, I had thought that “usability” was the over arching topic. I figured that all these design approaches, metrics, principles were about making a product easy to learn and easy to use. But after grouping, usability ended up being a part of user-centered design (along with other items), which ended up being under design as a whole. My partner and I almost took the entire hirarchy as a process, where UxD was a small branch of design, that led to usability testing, where the final product was a user interface/product. I’m sure there are many other ways to look at it but here is the web my partner and I concocted:

UxD Web

I thought Dr. V really explained it best:
– Goal-directed design is an approach: it is a philosophy and way of viewing the world.
– Design is a process, a recipe. It has certain steps you take.
– User-centered design has a set of principles.