Back to School this Fall – UX Education

This year, September and October were for learning. I had some free time and money in my Education budget, so these are the workshops and conferences I attended:

  • In September I started with the Lean UX Workshop given by Jeff Gothelf , author of the book Lean UX.
  • A couple of weeks later in October, I attended a UX Masterclass conference on UX and Market Research.
  • Near the end of October I attended Measuring the User Experience: A Workshop on Usability Metrics, which was sponsored by the NYC UXPA and given by Bill Albert.

Though the methods varied, all the speakers stressed the importance of research and testing in creating a viable, usable product. However, first you need to decide what you are creating, who you are creating it for, what it is supposed to accomplish and how you will measure the success of the outcome.

Now that it’s been a while since I attended the above sessions, two things stand out to me from my experience as mid-level working towards senior UX designer:

  • Information about project goals is often not clearly communicated to the more junior members of the team, especially when the team is spread out over different departments.
  • Good research will update information about user needs, the market, etc.. and goals will have to change to accommodate that; not an easy task within a large corporation.

I haven’t had the chance yet to work on a Lean/Agile type project, but I would really like to as the approach appears to prevent those issues.

Using Style Tiles

I’m currently working on what will be a responsive WordPress website for a theater incubator and have noticed for a while that Photoshop comps are really limited when it comes to designing responsive websites. How many screen sizes should you design for? What about accommodating a CMS?

Instead of comping every screen size, I’m going to create Style Tiles which were introduced on A List Apart by Samantha Warrren. If you have never heard of Styles Tiles before, go now and read the A List Apart article. I’m serious – read it!

The concept is still making its way around the Internet and now other people are sharing their own methods and templates. Samantha offers a Photoshop template, Adrian Gould collected templates in Illustrator, Fireworks, InDesign and Keynote as well. Namanyay Goel created Webstiles for a HTML/CSS version. I also found a WordPress theme called WP Style Tiles created by Steve Fisher and Jesse Friedman.

I’m going to try out both the WordPress theme and the Photoshop template to see which one is more helpful to my workflow and presentation.


Dolls and a Child’s Experience

I was people-watching/listening on the subway the other day and noticed a family – a mom, a dad and  a little boy – speaking French. The boy was dressed in the most adorable casual-chic outfit I’d ever seen on a child; his blond hair was perfectly cut. Clutched tightly in his arms was a very well-washed floppy stuffed bunny. Or maybe it was a puppy dog; it was hard to tell.

The scene reminded me of a non-profit I support called Tubie Friends. Some children require a surgically-placed feeding tube to get proper nutrition. Having a port attached to your body can be disconcerting to an adult, much less a small child. So two mothers of children with feeding tubes got the idea to attach the same type of tubes to stuffed animals, so their children would have a “friend” sharing their experiences. A child with a Tubie Friend can also practice “feeding” the doll and show his or her sibling how it is done.

I did a little more research and found out that in hospitals, healthcare workers called child life specialists also use dolls to teach sick children and their parents and siblings about their illness and help them cope. I also found an article on PennLive that details the process of using a Medical play doll to prepare a young patient for her treatment at the hospital: Medical play helps children cope with their illnesses.

As a User Experience Designer, most of the products I work with are digital, like websites and applications. But as this quote from Bill DeRouchey points out “User experience is any interaction with any product, any artifact, any system.” For a child that could be interacting with a professionally designed Medical doll or a well-loved floppy stuffed bunny.