App Design + App Development + Research = Success

  

Recently there has been some discussion around how app design can hurt app development. It’s kind of blowing my mind. 

Why?

  1. A app that isn’t designed by folks who have conducted research and understand their audience is typically doomed to fail.

  2. Developers are amazing at what they do. And they are passionate about what they do. And there are even some killer devs who are also killer designers. But most of the developers I know HATE the design phase, and are happy to have designers on the team to handle that aspect.

  3. Creating prototypes and checking in with the dev team throughout the process is key to creating mobile apps in an agile environment. If your dev team doesn’t see, or give feedback on an app until the prototype has already been through the usability testing phase, then of course you’re going to have a train wreck on your hands. That’s not a designer or a developer issue, thats a serious workflow issue that needs to be corrected.

  4. In order to create a solid app, you need an outstanding communication and feedback loop. One tool that makes this pretty seamless is InVisionApp. Both my dev friends and my designer friends love it, because they can give feedback in a matter of seconds without having meetings about meetings all day long. The designers finish a couple screens, shoot the devs a link, the devs reply back with any technical limitations that could get in the way and then the designers iterate. The process loops until they have an amazing technically plausible prototype to test with users. Layer consistant Slack communication on top to clarify details, and you’ve got a beautiful, agile, functional workflow on your hands. 

The best part is that this process flow works for huge teams as well as teams of 2. 

Please, please, don’t try to jump on the designer-less app bandwagon… You’re going to fall off the other side and crush your app’s potential in the process. 

People of Earth: InVision Added Overlays!!!

So yesterday an announcement of epic proportions was launched at the design industry. InVision added overlays!!!! OMG!!!

If you’re not using InVision you def should be. It’s a freaking amazing rapid prototyping and design collaboration tool. And now it’s even freaking amazing-er!

This is functionality that fills a market gap with UX excellence! It was being done here and there by others, but InVision‘s interface for setup is gorgeous and intuitive.

You can see it in action here: http://blog.invisionapp.com/get-higher-fidelity-prototypes-with-less-work-using-overlays/ 

I have used InVision for years now, and have been a giant fan since the first day I touched it. In fact I was such a huge fan that exactly 8 days ago, I started working for them! (First week = awesome!)  I’m so proud of/excited for the team that made this happen!

I just thought I’d toss out this Friday design candy to make your weekend a little sweeter. Enjoy!

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So wait… Why are we building this?!

 

I was chatting with a friend last night, and he mentioned that he’d run in to what seems to be a fairly common frustration. 

He is employed at a startup that recently received series A funding. He’s been on the product design team since the very beginning. 

Last week a stakeholder approached the design team and gave them a detailed description of exactly what they needed build next. 

When the design team pushed back because the request seemed unrelated to the product vision, they were told that they had to add the feature because a competitor was offering it.

Sound familiar? When innovation takes a backseat to mimicry startups rarely survive. If you witness this starting to happen in your company, try your best to push back. 

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MacBook Death Mid Usability Testing Series = Horror!

  
Soooo prior to starting my mega sweet gig at InVisionApp (Yesterday for anyone who wants to keep track of my work schedule. lol), I was wrapping up loose ends and finishing projects at my other sweet gig at Schoolwires. I had scheduled 4 usability testers to come in during my last 3 days of work there.

The first test went off without a hitch. Awesome tester, great feedback (she loved it so much that she hugged me when she was done), all was well in the world. The next morning I was sprinting about getting ready for my second tester. I whipped out my MacBook and… my keyboard was dead.

PANIC MODE!

I restarted 2 times, sprinted around like a crazy person, and finally decided to try connecting my bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I usually didn’t do that until AFTER my machine booted, but it was worth a shot.

It was then that I realized that… MY TRACKPAD WAS ALSO DEAD! I couldn’t even get to the bluetooth icon to sync!

At this point the horror had set in. The client was going to be at the office in less than 15 minutes. None of my coworkers’ machines had licenses for SilverbackApp. I tried one more restart with my bluetooth accessories on… and SUCCESS was mine!!!

The client showed up exactly 6 minutes after I finally got things working. She looked at me a little funny when I opened up te door, I was probably giving her the crazy eye due to the adrenaline rush I’d just experienced, so I explained that there had been some technical difficulties. 

She, also being a Mac lover, expressed her condolences and we settled in to testing mode. When we had finished, she ALSO gave me a hug. I had never met her before in my life. These people REALLY loved our new product concept!

Since I was leaving the company in 2 days  didn’t have the heart to ask for a loaner, so I just suffered through sans keyboard/trackpad. Not having my MacBook function was basically the equivalent of losing multiple limbs. Crazy how much I’ve come to rely on my trustworthy machine over the years. 

InVisionApp (being awesome) ordered me a brand new squeaky clean one. I can’t wait to hold it in my arms. lol

May all of your MacBooks live long healthy lives, and prosper! :)

This Door Design Is Perfect! (If Your Goal Is To Knock People Unconscious)

I attended a mega fab conference last week (UXPA 2015) and literally ran into some awful UX at the hotel.

The bathroom entrance on the conference level had a push plate at nearly eye level, and a door handle much lower. On a 2 separate occasions I tried to shove the door open with the push plate and slammed into the door. I cursed the design each time.

After it happened the second time, I decided to do a little user research study. Because… well… I couldn’t help myself. :) I sat down across from the door to drink my coffee during a 30 minute break, and watched to count the number of times people crashed into the door thinking it should be pushed. I figured at least one other person would do it.

7 people smashed into the door, full force, in half an hour! One of the 7 even muttered something about how stupid it was to lock a bathroom door in the middle of the afternoon.

The door was horribly designed. Get it together door makers, and up your game when it comes to UX details!

UXPA 2015 Presentation: How To Accidentally Create A Viral UX Infographic

I presented my first ever Ignite session at the 2015 UXPA International Conference on Thursday!

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How To Accidentally Create A Viral UX Infographic

Poor UX: When The High Tech Buttonless Elevator Holds You Hostage


A few years ago I attended an entirely fabulous UX conference at a snazzy updated hotel. The place had about 30 floors, was gorgeous and had all the latest tech gadgets.

Sexy Elevators 

When I arrived at the hotel I was given my room card. The folks at the desk explained that it would also function as my elevator delivery card. The hotel was locked down so that you could only arrive on a specific floor if you were in the elevator with a person who had swiped their card and was staying on that floor.  It was odd, and not very secure since anyone who got in the elevator with you could just follow you out, but apparently it gave some people peace of mind. My room was on the 15th floor. I was hauling a 50 lb suitcase behind me, and couldn’t wait to get to the room to crash after my 10 hour flight.

When I got to the elevators I was impressed. They were sleek and sexy looking, and each had a small card slot on a pedestal in front of it, along with a button for the gym. There weren’t even any lighted floor indicators, it was a very minimalist setup. I slid my card in, and a few seconds later the elevator slipped to a halt in front of me. I got inside, and again there were no buttons, other than an emergency call.

Not So Sexy UX

The doors closed, and the elevator swooshed up. I watched the numbers tick by: 10th floor, 11th, 12th, and then started to panic when it shot past 15 and on to 16, 17 and eventually to 30. The panic came from the fact that  I’m a touch claustrophobic and felt like I was being held hostage. Malfunctioning elevators is the stuff nightmares are made from. The doors finally opened and I leapt out of the elevator and discovered that it had ushered me to the fitness floor, complete with a sauna and a huge gym. (If I hadn’t been coming down from a massive panic attack I probably would have been offended.)

There was absolutely no way that I was dragging my 50 pound suitcase down 15 flights of stairs, so I nervously inserted my card in the card slot pedestal, and again the doors opened. Once again it shot past the 15th floor and back to the lobby. At this point I was annoyed. I marched up to the front desk, stood in line and once it was my turn explained that the elevator was refusing to let me off at my floor, and they apologized and explained that the system was new and that they were experiencing quite a few glitches. They “reset” something, and assured me that this time it would work fine.

Long story short, it took no less than 3 attempts and conversations with the front desk to get from the lobby to the 15th floor where my room was located.

The ridiculous elevators had triggered what was quite possibly the worst hotel related user experience of my life.

Sometimes Small Details Make A Big Difference in UX

New and fancy does not always equate to better. I learned several months after my anger inducing experience that the elevator system had been replaced by a more traditional one, at a great expense to the hotel chain.

To this day every time I see a sign for a hotel from that particular chain I experience a flash of frustration. Negative user experiences with your product, even small ones, can have long lasting impressions on your users. Make sure that you’re not letting small, poorly executed details diminish your brand’s good name.

The Art Of Avoiding Dodgy Design Jobs


I get to chat with quite a few designers and UX pros in my digital and real life wanderings. One thing I find fascinating, is that job titles across teams are so bizarrely fluid.

Every once in a while I stumble across teams with matching titles, but upon further digging I discover that the titles mean completely different things in the 2 organizations.

So lets take a look at this.

Part 1: Why aren’t there set standards for job titles in the design & UX industries?

This is one of the most bizarre aspects of working as a UX pro or a designer. Pull up a job board, and search designer. You’ll get hundreds of hits. As a designer, this will fill you with glee… until you start reading the job descriptions and you realize that only about a quarter of them align with your skill set.

Some common descriptions?

  • Designer = Strictly A Graphic Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly An Interaction Designer.
  • Designer = Strictly A Front End Developer.
  • Designer = UX Pro with research, content strategy, IA or a variety of other specialty backgrounds
  • Designer = Generalist who can handle 3 or 4 of the above skills in various combinations

What the what is up with this giant rift of job title understanding? It’s a mess. Even designers argue about what the job titles “really mean.” And the worst part is that companies without previous design experience (Believe it or not, those companies still exist. Seriously) don’t even know how to explain what they want, even during interviews.

This moves me along to part 2.

Part 2: Why do design jobs sometimes turn into black hole, toxic, soul sucking work environments?

So lets say you go in to an interview, and the company rep tells you that they’re looking for a graphic designer. You’re pumped and you dive in.

After about 3 months you want to dive out… a 5 story window. Why? Because what the company described as graphic design is actually light graphic design mixed with tons of interaction design and front end development. And when you try to explain that you don’t have experience with front end dev or interaction design, they get frustrated and claim that you misrepresented yourself during the interview. They say you’re a designer, so you should be able to do all of the things. So you find yourself scrambling around nights and weekends trying to cram 10 years of front end dev & interaction design knowledge into 2 weeks so you can keep your job. (Feel free to apply for other jobs at this point if you discover that you aren’t at all passionate about the other surprise job expectations. As designers, passion drives us to creating extraordinary things. Being forced to do things you aren’t even remotely passionate about can be soul crushing.)

Part 3: How do you avoid landing in a situation like the one described above?

Knowing how to ask the right questions during your interview can help. When a company says they are looking for a designer, ask clarifying questions to make 100% sure that they know what they’re actually looking for.

1. Will this job require me to make graphics in a program like Photoshop or Sketch?
2. Will I need to create wireframes or workflow diagrams in a program like Azure?
3. Will I need to know how to develop front end code?
4. Will I be conducting any research with your clients?
5. Will I be in charge of creating product prototypes?
6. Will I be expected to build (develop) the products I design? (Seriously, this happens.)

You can ask about a million additional clarifying questions, but those are just a few to get you started.

I know this may sound obvious for some people, but folks who are just entering the design field sometimes assume that companies know what they are looking for when they interview for design positions, and unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If the person who is interviewing you says they aren’t 100% sure what the job will entail, you may want to dodge the bullet.

If you  have run in to this situation in the past, don’t feel like it’s your fault. Between the confusion around titles and companies not always having a firm grasp of what they’re looking for, even the most seasoned designers can end up in an interview/job that doesn’t apply to their skill set.

To sum things up, don’t be a afraid to ask in depth questions during your interview. It can save you AND the company months of frustration. And, if you ask all the right questions and still end up in a position where the company is flinging bizarre requests at you that are out of your range of skills (and you aren’t being given time to master them and/or you have exactly zero interest in adding the random skills to your professional skill set), don’t be afraid to exit stage left and apply for other jobs.

Designing with Analytics Insights: Because People Lie

Users Lie

Why integrate analytics in your software designs? Because sometimes, users lie.

It’s not always on purpose, in fact, most of the time it’s not on purpose.

For a majority of people on earth, our memory recall is just straight up flawed.

We have conducted studies in the past in which folks would tell us they use a feature on a daily basis, only to find when we pull analytics that they are using the feature MAYBE every 3-6 months.

Could it be a misunderstanding on the part of the participants around which feature we’re asking about? Yep. Could it be that they just feel like they use the feature way more than they actually do? Yep again.

Analytics It Up

Integrate analytics tracking everywhere you can. Google Analytics makes it extremely easy to record custom click events. Toss some of those click events on tasks you want more information about, and you’ll have a goldmine of data to draw from.

Don’t Limit Your Research Methods

Should analytics tracking be the only form of user research that your company relies on? Absolutely not. Analytics data can answer very specific questions and help you track trends.

It cannot tell you WHY the data is coming in the way it is. You need to perform user research with real, live people as well. Mixing and matching your methods will help develop a more complete picture of what your clients are doing and the problems you need to help them solve.

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