Interaction Design

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Career BAMFs: Huge

This is the first in my Career BAMFs series, (“idols” was a word with too much cultural baggage).  Here, I’ll talk about the individuals and groups that inspire me to pursue the stuff I want.  Note:  This isn’t in chronological order (the first people I looked up to, for work, were David and Tom Kelley, danah boyd and Mimi Ito).

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Huge

Tagline: Make something you love.

From their About page: What We Do — We create experiences that transform brands, grow businesses and make people’s lives better.

How my fangirl-ness formed:

I.  I think the first trigger was when I found out that Huge was behind the Think With GoogleNewsweek and the NYC.gov designs.  They were all clean, beautiful and functional.  That time we were auditing and keeping an eye out for different content publisher designs for our office projects.

I also loved their signature — the H that reflects the current project they want to feature.

II.  But there was this one Instagram picture (which I can no longer find) that made me literally follow Huge’s “career” developments.

It was a picture of a slide from an Aaron Shapiro (Huge’s CEO) talk – I’ve been trying to Google it, but the slide said something like “What would your business do if digital were your only channel?” (but probably better written).

That question got me.  For me, that question was exactly what business leaders to ask themselves, in a time where social media campaigns just keep popping up, which I don’t feel executives see as contrinuting to the bottomline.

And digital platforms have that power — of contributing ROI.  Otherwise, it’s just a fun waste of money.

III.  I also love how they organize and communicate their processes and culture.  Follow them on slideshare, and it’s like a crash course on UX and design process in an organization that makes money.

They have fun, meaty presentations on:

Introductions to a Design Community

The Importance of Usability Testing, especially for digital agencies

“The Pitfalls of Process”

Even portfolio tips for UX designers:

And the story of how they branched out and created their own UX school:

They just really put out great writing, and good design.  And their CEO is promoting a great lens for businessmen to look at digital

More, in the next days.

Hooked’s Eyal: 3 Steps to Hooking Users

Nir Eyal wrote “Hooked”, a book on developing strategies to hook users into products.

The first post from him that I came across talked about three (3) steps to make your users form a habit:

STEP 1 – IDENTIFY

Now that you have the requisite site and stats, you need to answer the first question of Habit Testing: “Who are the habitual users?” First, define what it means to be a devoted user. Ask yourself how often a user “should” use the site. That is to say, assuming that some day all the bugs are worked out…how often would you expect a habitual user to be on the site?

Be realistic and honest… you’re just looking for a realistic guess to calibrate how often users will interact with your site.

WHO’S GOT THE HABIT?

Now that you know how often a user “should” be using the site, it’s time to crunch through the numbers and identify how many of your users actually meet that bar. This is where hiring a stats wiz can prove exceedingly helpful. …The best practice here is to get create a cohort analysis to provide a baseline by which to measure future product iterations.

STEP 2 – CODIFY

Hopefully, you’ll have at least a few users who interact frequently enough for you to call them devotees. But how many devotees is enough? My rule of thumb is 5%. Though your rate of active users will need to be much higher to sustain your business, 5% is a good benchmark to being Habit Testing.

However, if at least 5% of your users don’t find your product valuable enough to use as much as you predicted they should, you have a problem.

…Even if you have a standard user flow, how users engage with your site creates a unique data fingerprint which can be analyzed to find patterns. Sift through the data to determine if there are similar behaviors that emerge. What you’ll hopefully discover is a “Habit Path”, a series of similar behaviors shared by your most loyal users.

STEP 3 – MODIFY

With new hypotheses in mind, it’s time to get back inside the build, measure, learn loop and take new users down the same Habit Path the devotees took. For example, leveraging their Habit Path, Twitter’s onboarding process now guides new users to start following others immediately.

LFTD: “Think of storytelling before responsive design”

Useful, well-written post by Jani Modig on Medium.

There are many articles these days on the importance of content, but Modig’s proof seem to be the clearest, and simplest to remember:

“according to the latest statistics (verified by The Associated Press)and even the goldfish have an ability to concentrate longer than us”
 
“I had spent couple of all nighters watching Game of Thrones on my laptop and in the following mornings I realized I was explaining to clients that people are just browsing web, not really concentrating on the content.”
 

Jani Modig is a UX designer.  See more of his work here.

Jani Modig Portfolio (Skype)

Jani Modig Portfolio (Skype)

Shillington Design Blog - MaricorMaricar

5 Ideas I liked (since January): Pie + Creative brainstorming, Google work philosophy, Watercolor Typography, Facebook Userflow

1. One of my favorite ideas in the past year.

Pie + User Feedback or Community Involvement + Design = PieLab

2.  This PaidContent article on the insensitive coincidences of online ads and tragic news stories (e.g. shooting massacre articles and bloody novelty shirt ads).

Screencap by Evan Brown

3.  “Why Google Does Things The Way It Does“, by The Guardian.

Thought-provoking.  Because you keep hearing about how Google is revolutionary, but they’re never as suave at branding themselves as Apple, plus they have weird ideas like Google glass, and annoying decisions like killing Google Reader:

“In its behaviour and vocabulary, Google oozes scientific method. A couple of times recently I’ve heard Google executives say in public, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. …engineers are trained not to act on intuition. You are allowed to have intuition, of course, but you use it to make hypotheses, which you then test. You act on the results of those tests…

When an experiment is completed, you either choose to follow up on it, or you terminate it and move on to something else. A scientist doesn’t get emotional about this; it’s the way the system works, and everyone knows that it’s all for the best.”

4.  I don’t know which I enjoyed more – the Maricor/Maricar watercolor typography exercises…

Or the Shillington Design Blog “I Love These Guys” category page, where they were featured?

Shillington Design Blog - MaricorMaricar

Shillington Design Blog – MaricorMaricar

5.  Facebook sharing its “Report Abuse” interaction flow.

5 apps I plan on getting someday: Cool stuff from CreativeApplications.net

all via Creative Applications Network

Won’t talk too much.  Will let the amazing-ness speak for themselves.

1. Spirits. by Spaces of Play

2.  We Sliders by We Choose Fun

Rainbow gradients and slide-y movements.  You had me at “absolutely lovely“.

3.  Coloroll by soulbit7

Smart-looking color-matching game.

4.  Chromixa by Simon Watson

More color-matching fun.  But this time using the color properties of light!

5.  U-Fields (or Unknown Fields) for the Architecture in Your Hand initiative.

A “mobile book”, created for consuming and reacting to the creator/s’ stream of ideas.

Wes Anderson | The 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2012 | Fast Company

Fast Company 100 Most Creative People 2012: I’m impressed.

I know I am such a fan girl, even of the hard-copy-physical-media magazine.

But, I think this is how a text-rich magazine is translated smartly to web.

It retains the strengths of a text content-rich magazine, plus the way they structured the information, and how to navigate through it, is just practical.

It prepares for and takes advantage of the strengths of web.

On paper or print, a large part of the ease is just being able to randomly flip-through.

I just realized now that I can go through and enjoy an entire magazine without even reading the table of contents.

Not the same for a web experience – people won’t click on things that they don’t feel will have something interesting “behind” it.

Now, that makes it hard because that means every single piece of content you have has to have an enticing way of being found.

Be it through a text link, an engaging image or a meaningful description.

But, what the web has, that print doesn’t, is adaptability (according to your personal taste).  It can allow you to explore a single set of information using multiple systems of navigation – going through something the way you’d find interesting.

And, that’s what Fast Company did for their 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 issue.

The design team for the feature, who I’d like to name and laud if I could (I’ll try to find them), decided to have two ways of wading through the content.

You can either go through:

1) a countdown-type, names-in-order of “creativity” list (similar to the magazine),

2) or through a skill-centered path, where you go through the articles according to what advice or skill sets you want to work on.

The skill-groups are cute, too:

Be Weirder

Do Good, Well

Be More Productive

Think

Rethink

Sell

Lead

See, relevant and concise.

The entries themselves also follow the little guidelines I see on the usability sites, and they help.

Bulleted lists, highlighted text, one-paragraph nuggets of content; relevant hyperlinks.

If they had used the exact same format from the magazine, it would have been so much harder and less interesting to go through.

I think I actually like the information architecture more than the list itself haha.  I shall just leave a comment on their page. Yay, Fast Company!

[Sorry for the really long image, I screengrabbed the entire page.]

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Usability and User Experience: 5 articles that help clarify my job + a fun chart!

I would like to thank my twitter feed, for bringing me links that would help me explain to the clients and managers I work with, the nuances of what they’re trying to achieve.

User experience is some sort of buzzword in the web design and product development circle.  Or at least in the company I work in.

Managers talk about it, and the designers “name-drop” it.

My boss calls me a usability professional.  Sadly, it’s not what I want to be or want to be called, nor am I equipped to be one.

1.  Clarify what you’re aiming for

This piece in UX Matters, entitled More than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience Part I helps explain my predicament.

See, I want to be a User Experience professional.  I want to be a user researcher and, hopefully, an interaction designer.

That is much more than usability.  Usability only refers to the ease with which you are able to do something.  Whether a task can be accomplished or not; whether people make errors and how easily they navigate through a device or interface.

A user’s experience (hence the phrase “user experience“) can’t be oversimplified into just how easy it is to do something (otherwise it would just be called “user ease”).

It has to be enjoyable to use, or give some sort of value.  It’s an entire package of sensations and delivery beyond “efficiency”.

As the article points out, it’s usability + value + desirability + adoptability.

Multiple frameworks have already cropped up I know, this just seems to be the most concise and memorable one I’ve seen (so it’s easy to repeat).

Frank Guo’s User Experience Framework

2.  Acknowledge that it takes a lot of humility, emotional maturity and self-restraint (not just creativity and camaraderie) to make a multi-discipline group work together

Richard Anderson writes, in depth, about the multiple perspectives on “working in silos”.

This strikes a chord because a) there’s this one particular boss in our corporation who loves using the word “silos”, in meetings, to repeatedly refer to why it’s difficult to create successful strategy.

b) Because I’ve realized that product development teams are composed of people from different educational and professional backgrounds, all required to be creative and productive together.

The really really great thing about Anderson’s entry, is that he argues for both the good and bad sides of deferring to each other’s expertise and “leaving your _____ hat at the door”.  Because, that is how complex the UX design team situation is.

On one hand, you do want to respect that the designer knows design best, the developers know code best and the researchers know social sciences best. But, yes, once you’re all discussing “UX”, everybody really tries to stir the pot and get their hands in the stew.

I also like his conclusion, regarding the collaborative process centering on delivering a “good experience” to the consumer.

I wish it were that easy, though.  When put in practice in real life.  But at least, in terms of corporate evangelization, Anderson’s articles and talks (“Borrowing from the field of child development…“) would be very helpful in explaining how team division and conflicts should be dealt with.

Richard Anderson – UX Working team objectives

3.  Dirk from Involution Studios writes about his (seemingly scathing) reaction [“Losing faith in UX”] to a Whitney Hess article, which, to be fair, did seem to put UX designers on a high horse.  Or a much higher horse than she should have.

I sympathize with Mr….. Dirk.  Despite my not having worked in or with as many start-ups.  Mostly because of humility.

I am humbled by my new-ness in this field, and by the fact that, realistically, I am primarily a market researcher and a user researcher.

Meaning: As much as I badger and hammer my digital strategist teammates to refine their strategy (or actually make a sound one), since I’m the one who “knows the user”, I respect the difficulty of what they have on their plate.

Product Strategy, particularly in my team, is differentiated from…my role – user research.  And, as much as, sometimes, I’d like to think I could create better strategy, it isn’t my job to and I honestly wouldn’t enjoy just doing that day-in and day-out.

I’ve always been the one checking how people respond to products or content, or finding out user needs, but it’s a whole other level of responsibility to put a product out there and your ass on the line, juggling business decisions and all.  This is why I particularly dream of becoming an Interaction Designer, not a Product Manager or Brand Strategist.  I’d rather work with systems, framework and evidence, more than price points and competition.

To each his own, basically.  I just hope that people had as nuanced a view about work.

4.  This is really more for me.

I like how this UX matters article articulately differentiated the disciplines behind Agile and User Experience.

Again, being new in a web design team, these are phrases I kept hearing over and over and over during my first weeks of work.

It was almost funny, sometimes.  People would get into lengthy discussions or arguments on what kind of method to use, when, if you really thought about it, it’s not as if they were mutually exclusive.

This article, Agile User Experience Design, communicates how “Agile” is a web development process and “User experience” is a design tenet and methodology.  They can actually work together.  Please read the article if you want to know more; Ms. Janet Six is much more articulate.

5.  On a lighter note, there’s also “How to annoy a UX designer“.

It’s really practical and funny at the same time.  Thank you very much, Peter Hornby, for writing this.
Worst answer—You’re kidding, right? You’re employing me as a UX designer, and you want me to code? Sure, I’ll hack something together. Perhaps we should discuss my hourly rate?

And this really fun infographic! on chart types 🙂

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Innovative Social Media Apps: Let’s make things simpler, tangible and more relevant, shall we?

Ideating in this day and age calls for a whole other set of creativity.

I want to bookmark some of the most relevant (to me) tweaks and ideas that people thought up to harness the stream of social media…stuff.

Responses to oversharing.  No one can deny that individuals with thriving online lives experience lots of clutter.
Every day, it’s entry after entry, stream upon stream of individuals, groups, organizations sending you virtual updates.

So what can we do about it?

1. To combat the overall bombardment, Flavors.me, featured in Fast Company, collects and streamlines your different social feeds into one “page”.  Fast Company writes that it’s similar to About.me, but I’m just generally happy that there are ideas like these that are trying to corral the onslaught.

2.  But then, we also have Shu.ush, which works only within Twitter, featured on Co. Design.  I love how it literally “tones down” the din from talkative tweeters.  Just really amusing.

We’ve also got innovation ideas that make the digital Instagram stream more tangible.

3.  Printstagram takes your Instagram pictures and turns them into stickers.  via PetaPixel

Similarly, you also have Instaprint by Breakfast NYC, which is an installation or a physical photo booth that prints Instagram photos too.  Featured by Creative Applications.

How about letting someone’s Instagram stream give you travel guidance?  Enter Wander.  Featured on PetaPixel.

I think this surprisingly makes sense, since iPhone or Apple product owners would probably frequent places of interest for global counterparts with similar purchasing power.

Damn, I talk in a really boring way now.  Mental laziness.

4.  Also, to make things easier to grasp for the Pinterest generation, Brazilian agency ionz creates infographics out of users’ personal informaton (likes, dislikes, favorites) to create your “digital persona” desktop wallpaper.  Fun idea. via Creative Applications

And lastly, for people who just want to keep their finds to themselves:

5.  Pinry.  via The Next Web

For the people who really just want to collect stuff, without sharing.

Isn’t that great – they even have apps for selfish, hoarding people! Like me!

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Fangirl mode: the barbarian group

I came across the barbarian group through an article one of their co-founders wrote an article on the vulnerability of the social media giants on Beta Beat.

I’ll be watching out for their work.  They seem to be the first massive purely digital agency I’ve seen.  The others usually seem to be under multinational umbrella agencies who started in traditional media.

I also like the navigation set-up of their portfolio – which has a secondary navigation bar showcasing: new projects, case studies, featured projects, greatest hits, lab projects and a client list.

They just made it simple to find things, with clear paths.  Which is just right considering they’re in the business of interaction design.

They have an interesting blog – which both showcases their work, but also reports relevant industry-wide updates.  I found this nice article on managing “content creep” – the social media content strategy of version of feature creep.

Besides that, they have amusing personal (okay, that’s not the right word) projects like Is Pinterest the next ____? , which is their way of poking fun at all the Pinterest hullaballoo.  Although, aside from fun projects like that and a screensaver made of your friends’ Instagram feeds, they have innovation projects like a digital mirror.