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.
My client Alyse Liebowitz of 3 Chicks that Click Photography has an updated website and a new business focus. After keeping a blog on the WordPress platform, she decided to move the entire website to WordPress to better manage her content. She explains her change in strategy on her own blog.
Though I started with a commercial WordPress theme, the color and typography are customized to match 3 Chicks’ branding. I have to mention one of the plugins we are using that becomes more and more useful everyday: WordPress SEO by Yoast. I’m not the only one – here’s an article on 6 Reasons you should be using it too!
Boxes and Arrows is an online publication featuring articles on Information Architecture and and design that has been around since 2001. I just had an article on the 2013 UX Awards published there today.
When I was little, I drew constantly on everything. Scrap paper, inside the covers of coloring books, notebooks, you name it. At some point my level of drawing activity dwindled to doodling in the margins of class notes and there it stayed for a while.
What really got me drawing again was taking a Graphic Design at the School of Visual Arts. One of the exercises we learned was creating thumbnails; tiny sketches showing multiple layouts side by side for a project. I found it difficult at first, because out of all of the layouts produced, some were bound to be bad, some mediocre, and hopefully a few could be developed further. My perfectionist tendencies were really challenged. At that level though, there was no need to be a perfectionist since the stakes were so low.
Since then, I’ve read a lot of articles about sketching for User Experience and have been doing it more and more. My current favorite notebook is by Muji and has dot grid paper (I hate ruled paper for some reason). I also like using printed storyboard worksheets, especially the Storyboard with Notes paper on Konigi.com.
A few months ago, I got an assignment to make wireframes for a online contest application that had previously been done as a print campaign. The client had made some assumptions about how the application should be done that could cause some real problems for users. I did a cartoon-type storyboard to show the account manager how the process would play out following those assumptions with possible “pain points” at each step. Though not all of my recommendations were followed, I was able to communicate places to make changes using the storyboard. A sample panel is below:
So I won’t be creating the next great graphic novel, but it was a useful tool anyway. Plus, well, it was fun to do!
Inspired by some friends (thanks Emily!), I decided to start writing more regularly. Writing well takes practice and most of my writing lately has been of the more technical sort. My theme for this blog is still fairly general: things I find interesting. There will probably be posts about art, photography, design, work as an IA/UX professional, the role technology plays in the world around me and even some genealogy/history.
Last year I learned an interesting anecdote about my Aunt Pat’s life. I already know my Mom once learned how to program Cobol and even liked it. My Aunt Pat also studied computer programming back before people had home computers and also found she had a knack for it. So, she looked for and found a job as a programmer. When she got to the new place of employment, they took her to her new office and it was, basically, a small, dirty closet. While there, she was expected to sit by herself and code and not interact with anyone else all day. She told me she lasted only a few days and that was the end of her computer programming career.
I have to wonder how many women like her were discouraged by that sort of environment over the years. It wasn’t the work itself that was the problem, just the working environment. Computing may have lost her talents, but her language skills were certainly appreciated by all the English, French and ESL students she taught in the years to come.