How I do UX, partial thoughts: the no bullshit edition

Don’t expect a masters treatise, much in the way of theory, or anything resembling proof that UX Is Right.

Rose_PricklesI’m not interested in changing minds right here, or finding out if you’re a design bigot.  (I already know.) 

I’m also not going to pretend I’m something I’m not.  I’m not going to use a lot of flowery language, cryptic metaphor or industry jargon.  It is what it is.  A rose is a rose.

The important thing for me right here and now is to spell out what I do when I’m applying user experience principles to the stuff I create.  If you look closely, you’ll notice the topics are ordered according to where I spent most of my energy and attention. 

Interaction Design: identify what tasks a user needs to accomplish, understand why they need to accomplish it one way and not the others, and figure out how to provide an obvious/efficient/effective path through the software to successfully complete the task. 

Usability Engineering: identify the trouble spots, understand why that causes problems for people, and figure out how to make it better.

User Research: listen, ask questions, observe, ask more questions, offer unfinished ideas for early feedback, and thank them for their time and input. 

Information Architecture: spell words properly, choose words that users are familiar with, don’t use more words than you need to. 

Visual Design: choose colours that aren’t too garish, use colours and fonts consistently throughout the application(s), make sure things are aligned, don’t make users hunt for the affordances and cues.

Epiphany of Volunteering

Been struggling with the desire to volunteer – to take my skills out to organizations and people who don’t normally have access to the kind of big corporate expertise – and to give myself opportunities to give back to my community.

Only problem is: the kinds of groups in which I want to volunteer (eg. Hack Oregon) are filled with amazing coders who might not feel friendly and welcoming to a “business/product/design” guy who wants to help out but isn’t a coder or database geek.

I’ve been out to a couple of events, and watched the participants gather together in their natural tendencies. I start out feeling self-conscious and a deficit for any group I force myself into, and end up just chatting with whoever it feels like might also be feeling disconnected.

I’ve lost my nerve with such organizations and ended up not finding an outlet for my desire to help, contribute my energy and experience, and effect change.

Today for no explicable reason, it occurred to me that rather than approaching volunteering as a place to contribute, and instead set my goal to “learning”.

I thought of this when Catherine Nikolovsky talked about the number of Big Data and data visualization nerds her organization, and I lit up thinking, “I want to learn about Big Data and Dataviz!”

What if I showed up and attempted to simply ask questions, see how Big Data apps are built, and what kinds of decisions are made in developing an effective data visualization?

Do I have the nerve to show up and insert myself without any ego – without an intention to help, but rather just to listen?

And now, a random picture from today’s Facebook distractions:


Lonergan’s Iron Triangle of Content

I’ll drop the punchline up front: when designing content management systems, you cannot optimize for all constituents, and those disfavoured will find every interaction laborious and frustrating. Choose your priorities – you cannot favour all three parties at once (at least not at tolerable costs).

I have this conversation at least a couple of times a year at work, and every time I do I end up pulling out this simple diagram and give people the pitch. I am convinced of the truth of this for me in all my years of managing, contributing to and designing content management systems and experiences, but I have no illusions: I’m sure the smarter ones reading this will find faults, flaws and a general lack of intellectual rigour in my thesis.  There are probably better ways of framing the problem space, but as I’m not aware of them, and because everyone I’ve shared this with seems to come away enlightened, it’s here to please and to challenge you.

Mike’s Key Takeaway

Continue reading “Lonergan’s Iron Triangle of Content”

Adventures in Git for this new Mac user

…Well, not really a “new” Mac user – I’ve been using a Mac mini for our home theatre needs for six years, so I have a pretty good handle on consumer-level operations of a Mac.
And I’m not entirely new to Git – I was using various GUI Git clients on my previous Windows system, so that I understand the basics of cloning a repo, pulling, pushing and merging.
Let’s be clear up front: I am the Product Owner and Interaction Designer for my team’s applications, not a full-time developer.  Thus, I’m looking for something that makes it quick and convenient to make small changes to the codebase (swapping strings, editing CSS, that kind of thing).  I don’t do this frequently enough to learn the ins-and-outs of Git, nor do I have the patience to fight with command line tools (yet – talk to me in a year once I’ve become more comfortable with the concepts).

Continue reading “Adventures in Git for this new Mac user”