Good Designers vs Great Designers

 
We’ve all been there right? A client or stakeholder stomps in and tells you exactly what you need to make. If you’re new to the design biz, your knee jerk reaction may be to make it. On command. Immediately.

The longer you spend in the design world, the more you realize that building on command never, ever ends well. People usually ask for things they want, not necessarily for what they need.

Case in point, a buddy of mine works for a major design firm. They have a program in which senior designers mentor newbie junior designers when they first come in the door. At the start of his career, about 10 years ago, my friend was that newbie designer.

His first week, his mentor had a meeting with a sizable client, and invited him to come in and shake some hands, and observe the kick off session.

As soon as they all sat down, the clients immediately whipped out a comp that outlined exactly what they wanted, down to the colors and fonts. They basically predesigned the entire project.

My friend’s mentor looked over the comp, looked up and simply asked, “What are your goals?”

The clients looked a little confused and taken aback. They responded with something along the lines of, “Um… we haven’t really given that much thought.”

My friend the newbie admitted that the sudden left hand turn in the conversation made him squirm a bit. He said the clients were visibly very uncomfortable, and he was sure that they were going to storm out of the room.

His mentor smoothly responded with, “Ok, lets talk about it.”

After an hour long discussion, his mentor had a full list of goals to take back to the rest of the design team, as well as the client’s blessing on taking a week to brainstorm the best possible solutions to meet those goals.

When my friend the newbie designer caught up with his mentor in the hall after the meeting, he told him he couldn’t believe that he “stood up to them” like that.

The mentor just grinned and said, “I wasn’t standing up to them, I was making sure that I clearly understood the problems that they need to solve. Good designers take orders and hand over exactly what a client wants. Great designers dive deep to uncover what a client actually needs.”

My friend said that those 3 sentences completely changed the trajectory of his entire career. He knew at that moment that he wanted to become a great designer. And as it turns out, he did.

Stop Letting Your Garbage Onboarding UX Destroy Your Company

We’ve all been there right? A company advertises their product as “free”. You get all excited and run out to their site to sign up. You provide your name and email address, maybe even a bday, no big deal. Then you hit next only to find that they want your #$(%&*$ credit card number!

Why? Why do companies do this? They are CRUSHING their onboarding conversion potential! This is the LAMEST UX on the face of the earth. Other than, you know, nuclear reactor buttons being poorly arranged.

Horrible practice though, seriously, especially when your target audience is even remotely tech savvy. You need to gain user trust before folks are going to fork over their credit card numbers. By asking for it too soon in the workflow you alienate people who could have become paying customers over time. Not only did you alienate them, you just completely obliterated any semblance of brand trust that could have existed straight out of the gate if it weren’t for your shady, lame onboarding UX.

So in a nutshell: Stop it. Right now. If you’re guilty of this, fix it. You’re brutally murdering your company’s sales potential at the very first user touch point.

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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.

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