Chromecast: Awesome For Homework Help… Who Knew?!

 

So I finally bought a Chromecast.

I know, I’m about YEARS behind the times on this. I’d been planning to get one for ages, and then tonight I was meandering around BestBuy and decided to take the plunge.

It was the best 35 bucks I have ever spent. As soon as I got home, my kiddo hooked it up to her laptop. She asked me to proofread her art essay. Instead of me cowering over her shoulder, stressing her out, she cast it up on our TV. I proofread and she made changes as I went! No stress, no hovering, no elbow banging discomfort, just parental homework assistance without encroaching on personal space. Frustration levels went from a typical 90 to about a 10 on her part.

Next up was Spanish homework. She has to listen to these insanely fast dialogs and translate them. On the laptop they’re fuzzy and weird and garbled sounding, but in our living room surround sound through the Chromecast HDMI connection, you can hear EVERY syllable.

Next came Math. She had a question about an equation. Instead of me having to yank the laptop out of her hand to review the question and then scribble down an answer to get my thoughts together before handing the laptop back to her (which takes forever, and takes time away from her being able to continue trying to solve the question herself) she just cast it up on the TV. While she kept working, I jotted down the solution. By the time I was done, she had already figured out the answer, and we were able to compare notes. She totally nailed it.

From a parent usage perspective Chromecast is pretty sweet too. I’m currently rocking out to Spotify through my surround sound! (Yes, the bass is shaking my entire living room.) I had been dreaming of the day that my Blu-Ray player would integrate a Spotify app, but no dice. (Aside: Is it just me or is the SmartTV/Blu-Ray Player app market moving along at a slower than snail pace? They’re KILLING me right now. And the SmartTV apps that DO exist? The UI typically makes me want to stab out my eyes with hot pokers. Let’s not even go near talking about the UX, AKA Nightmare material.)

Now I don’t have to rely on brand dinosaurs to catch up with tech… I can just cast whatever I want through my home theater. SmartTV apps are officially dead to me. :P

As an added bonus, Chromecast UX is fab. You click the little icon to shoot things from your device to your TV, then control them with your phone/laptop/tablet. No more hunting around for the “right remote.” Also, you can plug it in to your HDMI Port, and then plug the charging cord into the Chromecast and the other end into a USB port on your TV! So no annoying cords/scrambling around to find another wall outlet to charge it! So easy!

To sum things up: Chromecast is freaking amazing and if you don’t own one, you should def run out and buy one right now. Unless you’re on the east coast… It’s 10pm here, so you may have to wait till tomorrow. But my west coasters? Gotta get on this, especially if you have kids. It’s definitely well worth the tiny investment!

Then: I don’t care how it looks, just ship it! Now: Ship quality, or your product is dead in the water.

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“I don’t care that it looks like trash, just ship it!”

Ok… let’s chat about this, like rational adults.

Back in days of old, when no one cared about UX at all, users just wanted a product that worked most of the time. This was the case because typically there was only one product on the market that did what they needed it to do, so this attitude was fine. Folks continued to buy relatively lame products, because they didn’t have a choice. In fact, it was an industry standard to just shove things out the door regardless of quality. It didn’t have to look good, it didn’t have to be very usable, it just had to kind of work.

Fast forward to the present. UX is the foundation of product design, and the industry is moving at break neck speed. You can no longer afford to ship a garbage release, because it gets easier every day for users to migrate to a new, better executed product.

Innovation doesn’t just mean creating something brand new, it can mean making something that already exists more extraordinary. Why did I mention this mid article? If your product releases are shipping half baked, a company that is more agile than you are is going to sweep in and clean out your customer base. By the time you catch up and fix your mistakes it will be too late. The other company will have moved on to adding even newer, more fabulous features, and you’ll be eating their dust. (If you can even afford their dust at that point.)

It’s 2015. You can no longer ship trash. If features in your upcoming release are a hot mess, YANK THEM FROM THE RELEASE. Give yourself time to clean them up, and pull them into the next release.

The general public is not going to put up with ancient product release attitudes anymore. If you want to stay in business, get on board with the quality comes first mentality.

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Wait… Which Bathroom?!

  We def should have taken a tally of how many people nearly walked in to the wrong bathroom! 

I covered the hotel name to protect the (not so) innocent, but yeah. UX Fail! 

(Good eye Kelly!) :)

UX Win: Amazon Fire HD Packaging

So my kiddo entered this international festival singing contest (record a song, send it to the festival selection committee, 16 finalists are picked, then they narrow it down to 3).

She won 3rd place! I was mega pumped for her. What exactly does this have to do with UX?

Today, an Amazon Fire HD magically showed up at our doorstep. We had no idea that 3rd place came with fun tech perks!

So the Fire arrived, she freaked and started opening it. Then something MAGICAL happened.

A ray of light shone down from heaven on the box. Amazon has PERFECTED the art of keeping parents and kids from accidentally amputating fingers while trying to get their packages open! The UX was so epic, in fact, that I made her stop mid tear to take this pic!

Her response? “Only you would stop to take a picture of this, mom… but it is great UX.”

Ah the joys of raising a tech loving kid who gets me. I will cherish this exchange and recall it 2 years from now when she hits her teens and is embarrassed to be seen with me. ;)

Thank you Amazon for rocking my UX world with your killer packaging (and de-packaging) setup. It caused unexpected delight all over the place here tonight.

It was also a fab reminder to always pay attention to the little big details. Positive experiences with your brand can start way before a user even touches or downloads your product. Take advantage of every single touch point, no matter how small, to make your brand shine. Paying attention to little tiny details can make a great big impact.

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MVPs: Minimum Viable Product Mutants

Over the course of the past few years, MVPs have begun to mutate. I’m not talking fun, turtle power mutations, I’m talking product stomping, Godzilla style mutations.  People are managing to completely skip over the “V” in MVP.  Why is this occurring?

True MVPs

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. The concept seems to have really taken off in the tech industry when Steve Blank and Eric Reis started talking it up.

The basis is that an MVP is a way to get the most bang for your buck when you’re marketing a new product concept. The idea is that you invest the least amount of money and effort possible to give your product idea a market test run, to see if your target audience is even remotely interested. If they aren’t interested, no harm no foul, because you made a very small investment. If they are interested, it gives you a green light to invest more time and cash to build out a more substantial version of the product.

Thankfully MVPs are not required to be partially developed versions of a product, because quite a few companies can’t afford that kind of investment.

There are tons of MVP options out there, I’m going to talk about 4 of my favorites in this article.

Types of MVPs 

The type of MVP your company should select depends on resources (staffing, time and finances), your audience, and the scope of the project.

The most common types of MPVs are:

1. Wireframes

Wireframes are a great MVP choice if you’re short on time and cash, and you’re presenting your MVP to a tech savvy, creative audience. If you’re targeting people who can really visualize the awesomeness that will come to be, wireframes are a safe bet. If you’re presenting to a group of clients who don’t fall into that category, you may want to invest in a more graphically enhanced MVP type.

2. Mockups

Mockups are a little safer if you’re working with an audience that doesn’t have much practice mentally visualizing abstract concepts. Kick out some beautifully executed mockups in a program like Sketch to get your point across. Think of them as a guide that gives a tour of what’s to come. For some stakeholders a picture is worth a thousand wireframes.

3. Rapid prototypes

There are some fantastic rapid prototyping tools out there right now. My team recently used InVision to create a killer MVP that we presented at a tech conference. The pitch went over great, and the product has moved through our internal approval processes really quickly as a result.

Sometimes people just need to see something that moves, with buttons they can push and eye catching pictures and colors to draw them in. You have to clearly explain to some audiences that they’re not seeing/working with the actual product so they don’t get overly distracted by functionality, but rapid prototypes are great for an audience that needs even more assistance in the area of visualization.

4. “Lite” Product Versions

This MVP type is where the recent mutation issues have really taken root. If you’re solidly funded and staffed, you may get approval to create a small scale, developed MVP. It’s not going to be a fully featured masterpiece, it should be more of a cleanly executed version with only a few key features integrated, that can serve as a foundation if the project gets enough market buy in to proceed. Adding some bonus mockups to tell the rest of the story rounds out this style of MVP.

A few years ago our amazing team banged out a beautifully polished mobile app “lite” MVP in a matter of weeks, and it was a fantastic success.

After we tested the market with it and realized it was going to be huge, we were able to use the “lite” app as a firm foundation and jumping off point for all of our future app enhancements that followed. We were fortunate to have the staffing and the funding available to make this a possibility.

At the end of the day, the point of an MVP is to sell a concept to the market. That being said, lets talk a bit about what an MVP is not.

What MVPs Are Not 

Some folks only focus on the “minimum” in MVP and skip right over the “viable” piece.

Due to this misrepresentation of the concept, for some people MVPs have become synonymous with sloppy, Frankenstein-esque, hideous product representations.

Releasing half baked features smashed in to a poorly constructed version of a product is not an MVP. It’s a train wreck, and it’s counter productive.

Using a poorly executed MVP to test the market will very likely mean that you’ll get negative market feedback, regardless of how awesome your concept really is.

The  whole point of an MVP is to sell the concept to the market, not to scare people away. That’s why selecting the appropriate type of MVP is so important. If you select an MPV that you can execute well, that falls within your budget & hits the sweet spot with your audience, you can get a far more accurate feel for the market landscape.

Don’t get in over your head with your MVP. If you don’t have the time or budget to create a polished, key featured, partially developed version, then kick out a polished mockup or rapid prototype instead.

When it comes to MVPs, appearances aren’t everything, but they’re pretty freaking important.

Why You Should Give MVPs A Shot 

When executed properly, MVPs are incredibly powerful. Rather than spending obscene amounts of money designing and developing a product, only to find out after release that no one wants or needs it, you can create a well executed MVP. If the MVP tanks, you’ve only invested a minimal amount of money and effort. If you get fab feedback, you have the validation you need to throw more time and money at the project.

Basically, well executed MVPs are a win-win opportunity regardless of the market results. They either save you boatloads of what could have been wasted cash, or they give you the market confidence you need to let your product soar into the next phase: full on design & development.

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The Design Community Always Has Your Back

Have you ever sat at work, looked around the room and grinned because you love your job so much? If you’re a UX Pro or a designer, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve done this more than once (a day).

Your People

I was sitting in my office this morning, chatting with another designer about why my favorite Doctor is absolutely David Tennant, when I noticed that a new Slack app update was available. (Yes, I’m that control freak that doesn’t allow automatic app updates.) I clicked on the update details and started cracking up.

“You have got to see these update notes, they’re freaking hilarious!”

My co-worker pulled up the details, and laughed as well.

I looked to my right, and 2 other designers were having a debate about a complex interaction piece in a new product we’re designing. They were both so passionate about their stances that things got a little heated, but once they’d both gotten their ideas out, they smiled at each other and started tweaking the design.

Across from me there were 2 people talking about a new app they had just downloaded, and discussing how they were going to integrate some of the sweet UI elements and gestures into our next mobile design.

To my left another duo of designers were looking over the latest InVision Inside Design blog post, and talking excitedly about how we could apply some of the tips that were highlighted to majorly improve our workflows. (If you haven’t subscribed to receive InVision’s blog updates yet, you should definitely get on it. All of the content is amazing. The Inside Design posts are a direct view into how major design companies around the world make their magic happen.)

In the middle of this bubble of creative madness, one of my coworkers looked up, grinned and said, “Can you imagine what would happen if we tried to have ANY of these conversations with non-designers? My husband totally doesn’t get how exciting this stuff is.”

Another couple of coworkers chimed in with comments and stories about how their friends and family members pick on them constantly about geeking out about things.

Being part of a cohesive, functional design team is a feeling like no other. You’re constantly surrounded by “your people” in a place where rabid excitement about new tech and design trends is not only permitted, but encouraged.

The Design Community Rocks

The design community as a whole is just generally incredible. We’re paving the way to the future. We’re makers and creators and visionaries. We’re new kids and folks who have been rocking the industry for decades. We’re a diverse group, tied together by a common thread: We LOVE all things design.

I recently joined a Slack group made up of thousands of designers. I’d been in the group for about 15 minutes, when someone mentioned that they had run into a wall while searching for a tool to perform a specific task. Within about six seconds there was a crew of 15 people sharing various tool resources and detailed success stories. They were explaining pros and cons, things to look out for, and giving tips. What other industry is made up of a group of people who are that invested in helping their peers succeed?

Two years ago I spoke at my first conference. I was completely terrified when I jumped up on that stage, I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the first 8 minutes of the presentation. I finally got in the zone and realized that people were legitimately interested in the topic I was talking about. After the session, attendees walked up to thank me, and several told me they were excited to take the things I’d discussed back to their teams to apply them immediately. They didn’t HAVE to come up to talk to me afterward, but they did. Why? Because the design community is made up of amazing people. Now I submit proposals all over the place, and speak at design conferences on an annual basis. Peer support can be life changing.

Network It Up

Want to network with like minded people? Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start. If you’re a UX pro, you’ve got to check out the new User Experience Slack group as well.

The User Experience Community on Slack
This is a fairly new, curated group of UX pros who love to share thoughts and ideas and tools and tricks. The best part is that the group is getting HUGE! They even have killer AMA sessions on a regular basis. Sign up, you’ll meet tons of amazing folks.
http://www.designerhangout.co/

Get A J-O-B

Are you looking to enter the design scene, or maybe just hoping to change up your environment with a new company? There are some fabulous designer job search tools out there.

Smashing Magazine Job Board
A job board chock full of design and UX job opportunities.
http://jobs.smashingmagazine.com

UX Mag Job Board
This is another rocking UX job board.
http://uxmag.com/uxjobs

UXJobs 24/7
This entire site is dedicated to helping you find UX jobs.
http://uxjobs247.com/

To those of you who are just now entering the business, I want to welcome you to the most amazing community on earth. To those of you who have been around the block, I want to thank you for paving the way for the next generation of talent.

Thank you, designers, for making me proud on a daily basis to be a part of this incredible community.


Now get back to designing amazing things!

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Usability Change Positioning: Counterarguments For 3 Common Roadblocks

So you’re getting constant feedback from clients about a specific usability issue. You meet with stakeholders to discuss it, and you hit a wall of resistance. They don’t want to change the problem-causing experience.

Let’s talk about some counterarguments you can use to cover the most common roadblock excuses.

1. Our audience is highly technical. 

If your audience is truly highly technical, they aren’t going to put up with a clunky cumbersome product for long. There are, or will be, other products that do what yours does. When one with better UX rolls up, your clients will be rolling out.

2. Our audience will be offended if we dumb down the product.

Improving usability is not equivalent to dumbing down a product. We’re not talking about adding flashing smiley faces and dancing unicorns, we’re talking about improving processes, and task flows. (Although, who doesn’t love a solid unicorn surprise, right Asana?)

For this counterargument, go with something like: “Have you ever heard an intelligent person complain about saving time and having to do less work to accomplish a task? I’m going with probably not.” (Except when you say it, aim for a little less sass.)

3. It’s always been this way.

This is probably the most frustrating response. 

Try something along the lines of: “This is a fast changing industry. If we hold on to too many legacy aspects, our product will quickly become irrelevant.”

If you’re working on a team that straight up refuses to ever improve your product because they’re so afraid to tick off legacy users, you may want to jump ship. The product is going to end up in the design graveyard in the sky. (It can give 90’s homepage javascript tickers a high-five when it arrives.)

These seem to be the 3 worst offenders. The next time you head in to a good, old fashioned usability feedback shootout, toss these counter arguments in your holsters and shoot down your stakeholders excuses with style. (See what I did there? This is what happens when I blog at 4am.) 😜

It’s Not My Job To Teach Them How To Use It! (Sigh.)

“It’s not my job to teach them how to use it!”

That 11 word sentence is quite possibly the most infuriating one to ever grace the ears of a UX pro.

A friend of mine was sitting in a meeting trying to explain to a stakeholder that clients were struggling with a new feature. The response he was met with?

“It’s not my job to teach them how to use it. If they can’t figure it out, they shouldn’t be employed in this field. They just need to learn it themselves, or be trained.”

My friend said he took a deep breath, and calmly said: “Whether you like it or not, these are your clients. They are busy people who need to focus on more important things than wrestling with your product. If you want to retain customers long term, you need to listen to their feedback, identify the problems they are facing, and try to solve them. If a problem is a simple usability issue that can be resolved with a tiny UI tweak, why WOULDN’T you make that change? Happy customers = more recurring revenue and word-of-mouth referrals.”

The stakeholder approved the UI change.

The crazy thing is, I hear stories similar to the one above all the time from UX pros around the world. I must be hardwired into a UX mind hive or something, because resisting changes that improve usability, especially ones that don’t have any major impact on visual aesthetics, just seems insane to me.

“No! I don’t WANT to make my product better and easier to use! I want my clients to suffer daily and associate angry emotions with my brand!”

I work in a UX focused, friendly environment. I have the full support of our awesome staff, I’m very fortunate.

As UX pros, it’s our job to advocate for the user. Being a UX professional is not for the faint of heart. If you aren’t willing to stick to your guns and ruffle some feathers, this isn’t the career for you.

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InVisionApp Guest Blog: Don’t Build A Wall, Build A Cottage

I was reading a blog post last week, and came across some really bizarre advice. This random guy said something along the lines of, “Your first two app releases don’t matter. They can be total garbage. Just worry about V3 and up.”

Let’s clear something up. Read More…

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Texting Technology That Needs To Exist (Right Now!)

One dark day, I sent a text message. But it wasn’t just any text message, it was a text message that said, “Hey handsome! What are you doing for dinner?”

The message was intended for for my gentleman friend. I didn’t send it to him. I SENT IT TO MY MALE BOSS!

Oh the horror!

About 2 nanoseconds after I sent the text, I realized my mistake and started to panic. I was pacing around the room, broken out in a cold sweat, wondering if I’d have a job the next day. I kept thinking, “WHY IS THERE NO CONTROL Z FOR REAL LIFE!”

I knew that I was going to have to call him immediately to do damage control. I picked up the phone, and my text alert sound went off. The sinking feeling had reached my toes at this point.  I unlocked the home screen and cringed when I saw his name.

I opened his text and it said, “Umm… Jen… I don’t think this was meant for me.”

My heart was thumping. I was expecting a, “Get your stuff and get out!” message next. Instead he just said, “Oh, and I’m not sure what I’m doing for dinner.”

A feeling that was a combination of being mortified and relieved simultaneously flashed through my system.

I called him immediately and when he answered he was still laughing hysterically. I apologized about 473 times, and eventually we hung up.

There is a dead simple UX change that could have let me avoid this entire embarrassing situation:

Phone manufacturers across the world, I beg of you: PLEASE create a customizable option to display an “Are you sure you want to send this text to *insert recipient name here*?” alert!

I don’t want it to be mandatory for every single contact (that would be insanely annoying) but if I could opt to apply this alert to texts I sent to my boss, my VP and my mother, the feature would be worth its weight in gold.

So yeah, PLEASE make this a thing. A majority of the people on earth who own cell phones will thank you.

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