Tag Archives: UX

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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Blog Posts Everywhere, Now Lost In One Place

Hi folks! I apologize for the lack of fresh produce here on User Experience Rocks.

Now that I’m a full time UX & Content Strategist at InVision App, I’m writing for their blog, contributing guest posts to various publications and I have also begun posting some new content (and reposting old content) out on Medium, since many of you requested that I give the platform a test run. (You were right, I loved it!)

I promise I didn’t drop off the face of the earth and stop writing entirely! No search parties necessary. Still here, writing up a storm! 🙂

I’m going to start posting links to all of my latest articles here, so you can find all of my content in one place. I’ve pinned it to the top of the blog so it will be easy to find.

I love you guys so, so much and want to make sure that I’m keeping you updated, in the loop and providing you with the fresh new content you deserve! 🙂 I can’t even explain how much your support has meant to me over the course of the last 3 years! ❤

Guest Blog Posts & Contributions:

InVision Blog Posts:

My Medium Posts:

My InVision Medium Posts:

And then of course, the 150+ posts here on User Experience Rocks as well. More on the way! 🙂

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Go UX Planet!

I just had a conversation on Twitter with Elena Schulte and Kayla J that absolutely had to have a corresponding doodle! Go UX Planet! 🙂

Twitter___Notifications

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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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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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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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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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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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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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