Tag Archives: user experience

5 Books Every Designer Needs

Recently I’ve been asked for design and UX book recommendations fairly often, so I thought I’d put together a list of 5 of my favorite design books. I hope you love them as much as I do!

And just in time for the holiday season! Feel free to direct that family member who keeps buying you socks to this list for gift inspiration. 😉 Enjoy!

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition


Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter)



Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products



Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems



Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days


 

Bonus: I also adore the A Book Apart Series. You really can’t go wrong with those. My very favorite one in the series is Designing for Emotion.

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“Why do you love design?”

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Tonight I was chatting with a friend, and he asked a question that comes up with my friends and family on a fairly regular basis: “Why do you love being a designer so much?”

Normally I ramble off a long list of detailed reasons, most of which include design jargon and acronyms. This time I decided to break it down into 8 easy to digest one liners. They went something like this:

Being a designer is amazing because…

  • Creating something that didn’t previously exist is intoxicating
    It’s kind of like having kids. First there’s an idea. Then over time it turns into this amazing thing that exists, and you are its creator.
  • Designing products and features is completely addictive
    Once you been bitten by the design bug, you’re a lifer.
  • Solving people’s problems is incredibly rewarding
    When you’re starting a new feature or product, you’re trying to solve a problem for a specific audience. You research, you interview, you do kick off meetings, all of these things are to make sure that you’re solving the right problem. Once you’ve nailed it down, you start brainstorming all of the zillion ways you could go about solving that problem, until you find the magic one: the square peg to fill the square hole.
  • There is always something exciting to look forward to
    No matter how much you love a design, you’re proud and excited for about 30 seconds when it’s done. Then you hit 31 seconds and you’re consumed by thinking of all of the enhancements/changes you want to make in the next iteration, which is just as exciting.
  • You will never, ever know everything
    As a designer you learn new tips and tricks and find new tools every single day. Trends change, new tech is created, new languages are written, tools are enhanced, tools disappear, you have to enjoy being a life long learner to survive in this profession.
  • Design inspiration is EVERYWHERE
    Everywhere you look, you’re taking in detail and drawing inspiration. There are the expected places, like design blogs, sites like Dribbble, beautiful collections of inspiring design on sites like Muz.li, etc. But the main source of design inspiration comes from EVERYTHING — the shade of the orange on your countertop, the shape of a lamp post, the design on a comforter, the shading created by a shadow on the sidewalk, the vibrance of flower petals — there is a never ending stream of inspiration everywhere you look.
  • You see the world around you differently than other humans, and want to fix all of the things
    As a designer, in addition to seeing inspiration everywhere you look, you see things that need to be fixed. Poorly designed doors are your nemesis. Oddly arranged grocery store layouts give you a twitch. Menu’s with terrible font choices are cringeworthy. Kerning in school holiday performance programs can be painful to look at. And it’s not negativity driving these observations, it’s a deeply rooted need to fix these things that makes them stand out. You constantly imagine ways to improve the world around you. And when you get to act on those thoughts? It’s a great day.
  • You’re always surrounded by a deeply passionate, supportive community of like minded people
    Being a designer means you’re part of something big. Designers understand each other because we process the world around us in similarly different ways. It makes us close knit in a way that other professions don’t seem to understand. The design community is a family that celebrates thinking outside the box, and imagining that the impossible is possible. We embrace this line of thinking because all of the most innovative creations have come from designers making impossible things exist.

After I rattled off my quick list, my friend seemed to really get it.

His response was, “I’m pretty jealous that you found a career that you love so much. Most people never get to experience that feeling.”

He’s absolutely right. Having the opportunity to design for a living is a magnificent gift.

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Designing with Analytics Insights: Because People Lie

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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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User Experience Rocks Is Officially 2 Years Old!

User Experience Rocks Turns 2. Stick figure holding balloons and a birthday cake.

User Experience Rocks is officially 2 years old, and I just wanted to take a moment to express my deepest thanks to each and every person who has taken the time to read my articles over the course of the past 2 years! I can’t even begin to express how much it has meant to me. You folks are the absolute best! ❤ Cheers to a fabulous 2015 to come!

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Quality Product Design: Don’t Give Me What I Want… Solve My Problem.

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After being in the industry for years, I’ve discovered 2 important things:

A. Product Designers and UX Pros think differently than other humans.
B. Really skilled Product Designers and UX Pros see problems that need to be solved, not features that need to be added.

When a client steps forward and asks for a feature request, rather than saying, “Sure! Let me just toss that in here!” an experienced product designer says, “That is great feedback! Can you explain how you would apply that feature, and how it would improve your experience?”

Sometimes you come across companies who have a strong focus on integrating client feedback, but their products eventually implode and become so feature laden that they sink.  There are ways to integrate feature requests and take a user centered approach without destroying your product.

1. Listen to feedback clients throw your way with an interpretive ear, and don’t be afraid to dig deeper to identify underlying problems.

Listen beyond the words your clients are saying and the features they’re requesting, and get to the root of the problems they are trying to solve.

2. Sometimes feature requests are actually usability issues in disguise. 

We’ve had several situations where a client requested a new feature, and after some digging and discussion we discovered that an area of our product would solve the problem with some minor tweaking. There was just a usability stumbling block getting in their way.

3. Sometimes the product features clients request are actually new product offerings in disguise. 

“I wish the product would do this. If you’d add these features, I could use this to do Y.” All client feedback doesn’t have to be fed into a primary product, when the problems that need to be solved could be handled with a separate product with a laser focus. Bloating your flagship product with a million features will lead to client frustration. Creating a new product that solves a client problem with ease = gold.

4. Focus your energy on hearing the users’ needs not the users’ wants. 

“I want to be able to do this task more quickly” could really mean, “The feature I need to access needs to be in a more prominent position on the screen.” Or, it could mean, “The feature I need to access should be a standalone solution because it is part of my daily workflow and digging through a bloated product to find it is killing my experience.”

5. More features do not equal a better product. 

Products in their purest, simplest form, are a thing of beauty. Any designer in the world can create a product and snap a million features on top of it, and around it and under it. It takes a skilled product designer & UX pro team to pare down a product to its simplest form, until it’s a clean, elegant, easy to use solution.

So basically what I’m saying is, listen to your clients. Respond to your client needs. But don’t just give them what they ask for… solve their problems.

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UX Thinking: It’s Contagious!

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This past weekend my daughter and I walked into a restaurant and they had a napkin dispenser on the counter.

When you tried to pull out a napkin, about 45 more came out with it.

After attempting to use it for a second time with the same irritating result, my daughter looked up and said very seriously, “You need to take a picture of this for your blog.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because the UX is horrible!” She replied. “It would be so easy to fix! They just need to make it work more like a tissue box!”

I’m deeming that a parenting win.

UX thinking is contagious, and family members are especially susceptible!

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10 UX Tools I Couldn’t Live Without: Oct 2014 Version

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SolidifyApp – Mega simple prototyping/click tracking tool for desktop and mobile usability testing.

UXRecorder – Mobile usability testing app (Create a native prototype in SolidifyApp and run it through UXRecorder = Magical).

Silverback App – Mac usability testing.

Trello – Organize all the things.

Skitch – Fab for UX reviews.

Balsamiq – Best collaborative wire framing tool on the market.

TargetProcess – Track Design/Development/QA progress and burndown.

GoToMeeting – Design collaboration via video chat/recording sessions & screen sharing with Audio.

Google Analytics – Analyze how your clients are using your product, look for pain points, adjust UX accordingly.

InVisionApp – Hi res desktop and mobile prototyping.

Bonus Tool:

Spotify – Great music gets the creative juices flowing!

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Chanel Handbag Website: UX Fail (Disappearing Nav & Seizure Worthy Rotating Images)

I have a handbag addiction. It’s a problem. Last night I tried to check out Chanel’s Fall & Winter line, and absolutely couldn’t believe the website. It’s a UX & Design nightmare.

The navigation is wretched and believe it or not these images all rotate. It just about gave me a seizure looking at it. I added some pink arrows to show the nav, since it’s pretty much completely impossible to find otherwise.

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To see the rotating images in action, check this out: http://www.chanel.com/en_US/fashion/products/handbags.html

I get the concept… but it turned out looking like a discount warehouse website, not a site that makes me want to drop 4k on a handbag.

Making your site nav disappear in maniacally rotating images = UX Fail.

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You have a mobile native app! Great! But why?!

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Brands I shop at very occasionally keep spamming me with their announcements about their new improved native phone apps.

Some of them are actually kind of cool. SweetFrog has an app that contains games for kids, and a frequent shopper QR code. You pay, they scan your app’s QR code and they give you credit for your purchase. A certain number of purchases = free ice cream. Who doesn’t love free ice cream? The app is a total win.

Another app I couldn’t live without: Mobile Banking. How did I ever survive life before I could cash a check using my phone?! Driving to the bank is so 4 years ago. If a bank does’t have a solid mobile banking native app, I refuse to do business with them. A responsive website isn’t enough for me because I check my account daily (thank you identity theft incident for making me paranoid) and a native app is more convenient/feels more secure to me.

Walmart has their new app that contains their price catcher thing, which actually proved to be kind of helpful during back to school time. You scan your receipt, they compare your purchases to local sales at other stores, if they are charging more, they credit you the difference. Why is this helpful? As a parent, I didn’t have to go to 982374 different stores to save 20 bucks on school supplies. I threw them all in my cart, scanned my receipt and got my savings 3 days later.

Now lets talk about native apps that don’t make sense to me. Once a year at Christmas time I hit our slightly lame mall and buy a bunch of stuff for my family.  I’m not going to download the native GAP app to shop there once every Christmas. I’m not going to download the AE app because I buy a gift card there once a year for my sister. I’m not even remotely invested enough in these brands to download their native apps. That’s space that I could be filling with pictures and videos of my kiddo and my puppy.

Are younger shoppers downloading these apps and using them often? Could be.

On the flip side, I do occasionally shop on my phone at Christmas time, to avoid the crowds (since I’m kind of a hermit). If your retail site isn’t responsive, and you try to force me to download a native app to shop, I’m not buying your stuff and I’ll move along to your competitor.

Choosing between Mobile Native Apps and Responsive Web Design is a big deal for brands. One size does not fit all. Sometimes a responsive site just makes sense. Sometimes you really need to have a mobile native app. Think about your audience and how they access your brand.

If you can swing both a responsive site AND a mobile native app, and they both make sense for your target demographic, more power to you.

Is your target audience a group that will surf the app store to find you? Will they download your native app if you put a giant banner on your lame mobile web site that doesn’t contain any content? Or are they the type that will visit your site on their mobile device and expect to be able to find everything and shop without that annoying download step?

If you’re legitimately not sure which way the majority of your target audience will swing, ASK THEM. Fire off an email campaign, ask your audience which they would prefer and why. It’s a pretty big decision for your brand. If you make the wrong choice you’ll potentially be losing out on mega bucks. It’s very much worth the time to conduct some user research.

To sum things up, don’t just assume that you need a mobile native app because everyone else has one. Take a hard look at your audience and see if the investment makes sense. Obviously you HAVE to have a mobile web presence of some sort these days or you’re going to lose out on huge amounts of cash, but don’t assume it has to be a native app if it doesn’t make sense for your target audience.

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Stop Asking Your Users To Explain Themselves! (User Research Magic)

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“Jennifer Marie Aldrich, what were you thinking?! Explain yourself!”

This is the line I hear in my head in my mother’s ANGRY voice (she is the sweetest person ever, so usually whatever I did deserved the angry tone) every single time I see an open ended comment box on a survey with the heading “Explain.”  I’m immediately shot into a zone of feeling defensive, like I’ve done something wrong and need to defend my honor. The feeling is not warm and fuzzy, it makes me feel borderline offended. “Here I am trying to give you feedback and you’re asking me to EXPLAIN myself? Forget this.” Then I close the browser.

On the other hand, when a company does a good job rewording the “Explain” question type, I have a completely different reaction. The question, “What kind of change would you make?” makes me feel like they genuinely care about my feedback, and like they’re really listening,  which makes me more likely to give detailed in depth feedback.

Weird right? At first I thought it was just me, then I tried a little experiment. When conducting our latest Pareto Principle based remote user research study, we asked the question, “What kind of change would you make to the product area you identified?” rather than just going with “Explain.” What we were looking for was for the users to give us more detailed information so that we could uncover the specific problems they were facing with the current solution.

Any guesses on the completion rate for feedback when when I worded it the warm fuzzy way?  No? 100 freaking percent! How crazy is that!? Every SINGLE respondent gave us a big old paragraph of feedback, and several of them thanked us for asking, and for being so in tune with our users needs! I mean, I have the best users in the world, but I almost fell down when I saw the difference in completion rate!

So the moral of this story is, don’t ask your users to “explain themselves” when you’re conducting user research. Ask them how they would change things to uncover the underlying, deeper issues they’re encountering. It’s kind of magical, you’ll end up with amazing data, and happier users who feel well taken care of!

 

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