Here’s a little keynote I put together about the User Experience and Strategy of Investing.
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Here’s a little known fact about me: I never studied design or multimedia or service design way back when I was a student at university in the noughties. I knew what I wanted to do and be part of (even back then!) and I wanted to learn about design, information architecture (I didn’t call it that back then, I was just fascinated in information delivery and consumption), product design, digital (or multimedia as we called it back before the interweb 1.0 proper) and the users interface with ‘stuff’ because I was always a righter-brainer & rubbish at the good stuff. I was working part-time at a CBT (computer based training) company helping put together training CDRoms (remember them?) for Helicopter Pilots and I was really unimpressed with how bad they were to use (the CBT materials, not the helicopters!) and how bad the graphics were – In todays world we’d call that ‘poor experience’, and so I got myself on the ‘Packaging Design’ course at Bournemouth University. PACKAGING? ARE YOU MENTAL?! A lot of my mates (and colleagues at the CBT company!) thought I was insane doing a degree in Packaging, they thought I’d decided I wanted to design milk-cartons and not carry on doing what I was doing… but here’s the thing, I was doing what I always wanted to do… think about the component parts of all packaging;
- Instruction / Product Information
- Design / Brand
- Fast moving, evolving consumer goods
Sound familiar? Not so skeptical now are you!
It was literally the only course I could find that would teach me everything I wanted to know about design. About the esthetic form of something, the information architecture of something, the design of something that needs to stand out in a crowded aisle, the typographic quality of something (print anybody?), the brand of something, the perishability, materials, mass appeal, recognition, touch… you name it and in those 3 years I learnt the lot. I just did it using the paradigm of cardboard, tetra-pack and plastic. We even covered sales & marketing as part of the course. It was great.
It’s also something I continuously refer too today because it’s even more relevant in towards world. All our UX is just packaged design.
Packaging on a supermarket shelf has less than three seconds to grab the attention of a consumer.
Those three seconds are exceedingly important when you consider that more than 70% of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf. Add to this the fact that supermarkets can contain on average 40,000 packs to choose from, then that pack has got to work hard. It’s the same with websites, apps, digital outdoors etc.
Packaging’s role is threefold:
- To sell the product
- To protect the content
- To facilitate the use of the contents
Ditto, the role of digital is the same. The component parts are the same too;
Packaging graphics have more to do than simply look pretty. They must work to cut through the white noise that is the crowded supermarket shelf, and attract a potential buyer.
Packaging comes in all shapes and sizes. The structure of a pack can serve to create shelf standout and sell the product, to prolong the life of the product and to facilitate the use of the product. There’s also a lot we can learn from packaging that ‘just is’. It’s practical & boring in some cases, but absolutely necessary to transport the precious cargo to the end user.
The packaging industry has been vilified over the years, not least on the subject of plastic bags. Yet, brands have always been looking for ways to reduce materials and maximise packaging for both environmental and financial reasons. Web optimisation in UX is the same.
Traditionally certain materials have been associated with certain markets. But as markets change and consumer attitudes adjust it is unsurprising that material choice has also changed in the packaging sector accordingly. Same in digital, only our material is now ‘content’ and ‘conversations’ and bits of media.
The packaging industry spans many markets and so is regulated by many different forms of legislation and voluntary codes. More parallels – I work a lot in Financial Services so I know this all too well.
There are 8 golden rules of packaging design that we were taught at uni too that I stilI also apply in UX:
- Conduct a thorough audit of all competitors in your market before you start, and make sure you understand their respective positionings and attributes. Then create your own.
- Look at what is happening in other markets, e.g. if you are just considering the UK or Europe, what is happening in the US or Far East that might give you a point of difference?
- Put measures in place at the start so you can track and learn as you go, e.g. measure awareness of and attitude to your packaging now and in the future. A good research agency will tell you how to do this.
- Be different and ensure your pack has its own visual equity and has a strong personality and attitude.
- Make sure your pack works at all stages of its life cycle, from leaving the factory to ending up in the user’s hands.
- Mock up how your pack would look alongside your competition. Test it in store and make sure it really does leap out at point of purchase.
- Design with tomorrow in mind. Create a pack that is in keeping with current market trends and future trends.
- Consider doing some pre-market testing to make sure your pack will find a willing audience. But be careful how you test it as consumers never quite know what they are looking for until someone shows them something new. Henry Ford once said: ‘If I’d listened to what people wanted I’d have built a faster horse!’
Out of the box UX
Everybody in the field of UX should be digesting and using content and background materials from the field of Packaging Design. It’s a rich seam of knowledge that can be directly applied to what we do. Take a website for example, it’s just in many cases a fast-moving-consumer-good and it comes with all of the same elements. Now that interfaces are merging with the real world it’s more relevant than ever.
2013 is the year where I go right back to my roots and start to bring packaging to the forefront of the area of UX that I work with. I’m going to start taking packaging examples to client meetings & as part of all my Discover, Define, Design phases. It’s actually one of the single biggest areas of parallel comparative research available to us so when you start a new brief this year, make an effort to go down to the supermarket & decide what kind of package your making for your digital content.
Love it or hate it, skeuomorphism has been a popular tool in digital interface design since the birth of the GUI. Following Apple’s own use of skeuomorphism, interface designers have created some visually stunning apps for iOS devices that mimic various features of analogue technology.
I found this great post that showcases 30 fantastic examples of iPad interface designs based on real life objects, from retro synthesizers to wire bound notebooks.
There’s a lot of discussion around the office and the industry about I.A and it’s role… how it should be done… who should do it (clients and account staff have started handing me ‘wireframes’ and saying “I want that” which is just plain dumb & subjective!) and what level we should be producing it. I have a very straight-forward take on Information Architecture and that is “It’s JUST a communication tool” which could infuriate some people who think they’re more than that.
So let me quantify that train of thought. In 15 years of working in ‘The Big D’ I have had to continuously adapt and refine my style of I.A to the audience who are going to be working with it. I’ve also had the great privilege of working in so many different types of agency now that I’ve constantly had to swap and change the way I produce I.A work. I’ve worked in tactical advertising where we were churning out lots of rich, interactive micro-sites with short shelf-lives and even smaller budgets where I had to scrimp on the objectivity and use a bit of best luck & judgement + knock out rusty wireframes crudely in no time at all so the designer & the developer sitting next to me had a rough steer… All the way through to massive technology companies like Sapient Nitro where the rigor has had to be there because we’re building giant platforms that get developed off-shore. I’ve done a start-up where we had the luxury of being able to take a more Lean approach and most of the I.A was just drawn on the walls. Then there’s the agencies where we were doing more ‘Optimisation’ type work and we’d build detailed Axure Prototypes to do rigorous user-testing. But one thing unifies all those different approaches – whatever I was doing it was always about communicating back to the internal or client audience. It’s always been about showing people the way.
Advertising is a great analogy. You have a message that you need to tell the audience of consumers. You choose the media types best suited to that identified audience. I.A is the same. We have a message and we have to work out the best way to communicate that message and solution to the audience pre-public consumption.
If I meet another I.A who ‘only uses Axure’ or ‘only does Balsamiq’ because it’s their favorite tool then I’m going to explode. It doesn’t do you any favors being that one-dimensional. You have to choose the right tool for the particular job but more importantly you have to be an effective communicator. If you can show me how something needs to function on a wall with a pen then do that… if you can get across the detail using paper and pens then do that too. How it’s presented is secondary to the strategy, insight, research and thinking that’s gone into it.
I’ve tossed away CVs / Portfolios of IAs before because it’s jam-packed full of glossy wireframes… all in the same style, all Omnigraffled with such precision that they’re almost works of art on their own. Why? Because they might be brilliant, but they don’t show me that you’re adaptable and fluid. They show me you’re a great crafts-person with great thinking but they don’t show me that I can throw you into a multitude of scenarios and that you’ll be able to adapt your communication to the audience. Your I.A work is an interpretation of a brief, make people paying attention to it the reward.
A technique or look is no substitution for substance
So in summary – Just be mindful that I.A is a way of communicating the idea, solution, product, vision and function to an audience. That is all. Mastering the art of communication is more important than mastering the art of the wireframe. If it’s objective then it’s UX. If it’s subjective then it’s Design. But whatever it is you have to twist & mould.
Original sources: www.userfocus.co.uk
With the rapid development of new user interface technologies, it’s tempting to claim that there’s a lot more to good design than simply applying standards. Although this is certainly the case, international standards in usability still have an important role to play. This is because usability standards:
- Ensure consistency:
- Standards provide a consistent benchmark to help design teams avoid annoying user interface inconsistencies.
- Define good practice:
- There are many conflicting viewpoints about good practice in usability.
- Standards, especially International Standards, provide independent and authoritative guidance.
- Prioritise user interface issues:
- Standards are serious business and whereas many organisations pay little regard to research findings, few organisations can afford to ignore standards.
- Help organisations fulfil their legal obligations:
- Disability legislation and Health & Safety legislation puts a legal obligation on service providers and employers to ensure that systems provided for users are fit for purpose and meet minimum ergonomics requirements.
- These requirements are worded rather vaguely in the legislation and therefore meeting relevant standards is one of the best ways of demonstrating compliance.
Ergonomics of human-system interaction: Human Centered Design (HCD) for interactive systems
The standard used to be known as ISO 13407. But in 2010 it was updated and re-issued as ISO 9241-210 to bring it into line with other ISO usability standards.
The standard describes 6 key principles that will ensure your design is user (or as they reference it – ‘Human’) centred:
- The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
- The user is represented or explicitly involved throughout design and development.
- The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation.
- The process is iterative.
- The design addresses the whole user experience.
- The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.
If we explore each of these principles, you’ll see why I believe this standard serves as an ideal manifesto for the field of user experience (UX).
The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments
This principle is about understanding your users’ ‘context of use’. I like to think of the context of use as the user experience trinity:
- understand your users,
- understand what they want to do with the system
- understand the environment in which the system is used
As an example, the standard contrasts an interface aimed at a teenager downloading music on a mobile phone with a business user accessing corporate information on a handheld device. What makes a great experience for one may not be an acceptable experience for the other. Anyone who works in the field of user experience must surely sign up to this principle.
The user is represented or explicitly involved throughout design and development
The purpose of this principle is to ensure design teams include the user at the heart of the design phases: not just by running a focus group at the start of design or by administering a survey at the end of design.
Moreover, the standard emphasizes that user involvement needs to be ‘active’: in other words, you don’t simply demonstrate your design to users; you engage them in the design. You can achieve this through field studies early in design and usability testing once you have an artifact that people can use. Again, this principle is a shoo-in for anyone who works in the field of user experience.
The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation
If I were asked to name one important contribution that the field of user experience has made to the world of design, I’d immediately pick usability testing. As well as being the canonical method that almost defines the field, it truly helps design teams improve upon their products, software and services. But one mistake that’s often made is to run just one test, usually at the end of development. The standard points out that usability testing should be carried out throughout the design process. So you should also use it to test preliminary designs, such as paper prototypes and electronic mock-ups.
The process is iterative
The standard describes this principle unambiguously: ‘The most appropriate design for an interactive system cannot typically be achieved without iteration.’ The idea behind this principle is that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for users to explain what they want from a system. So to find out what people want, you have to show them something that they probably don’t want (your first design) and then discover how to improve it. This means that if you’re using a waterfall methodology where you have to nail down requirements before starting on design, your design process will struggle to be user centred. The standard doesn’t proscribe any particular development methodology, but if you’re using Agile then it’s much more likely you’ll be following this principle.
The design addresses the whole user experience
This principle wasn’t mentioned in the standard’s previous incarnation as ISO 13407. It’s probably been included in this new version to make sure people realise that usability isn’t just about the hygiene factor of making things easy (or at least, not making things difficult). ‘Easy’ is a good place to start, but usability (and a good user experience) is about a lot more than making things simple. The standard makes this explicit by writing, ‘the concept of usability used in ISO 9241 is broader and… can include the kind of perceptual and emotional aspects typically associated with user experience.’
The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives
I’ve often worked with design teams where everyone seems to have been cast from the same mould. For example, the design team contains predominantly graphic designers, or predominantly programmers, or predominantly usability experts. With this principle, the standard is pointing out that a siloed design team is the wrong way to approach user centred design. You need to include a range of views, including the voices of accessibility experts, end users, domain experts, marketing, tech support, technical writers and business analysts, as well as the roles just mentioned.
Even as an RFP response to a companies UX capability (or claimed capability) that’s a pretty compelling set of guidelines I think. Every company should ask themselves “do we do these things?” and if the answer is “Yes” then you’re a UX player… if the answer is “No” then you’re a design firm (which is nothing to be ashamed of BTW) who does some IA and Usbility type stuff.
Introduction – Visualizing the abstract
I’ve been working on a project over the last couple of months that’s opened my mind to a whole new place in UX that I’ve fallen deeply in love with. It’s always been there and I’ve always admired it, but I’ve never had to interact with it first hand and given it much studying until now. The area of Data Visualisation or InfoViz as I’ve been calling it with my clients.
I’ve got some new heroes in the form of Hans Rosling and David McCandless. Men who not only do the visual part, but have become voices that help articulate the importance of visualising data in ways that the normal user can consume. I love that quality in people.
By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful. We should allow the dataset to change our mindset and if we can do that, then maybe it can also change behavior. It’s a fascinating area.
David McCandless in one of his Ted Talks said the following; “We’re suffering from information overload and data glut. We need to help visualize information, so that we can see the patterns and connections that matter and then design that information so it makes more sense, or it tells a story, or allows us to focus only on the information.” Never truer words spoken about ANYTHING we do in UX, not just InfoViz.
Data is the new oil?
Lots of wonderful comparisons to natural resources when I having my adventures round data land. If data is the kind of ubiquitous resource that we can mine and can shape to provide new innovations and new insights, and it’s all around us, and it can be mined very easily if we set our UX up to gather and harvest at the right times.
Graphis diagrams: The graphic visualization of abstract data
I recently found out about this book by Walter Herdeg, which is truly a great great thing if you can actually find a copy of it. The original was published in 1974 but still has some genius to it and the v.2 book is also full of thoughtful quality. A seminal vision for the convergence of aesthetics and information value, which codified the conventions of contemporary data visualization and information design. One of the 100 most influential design books of the past 100 years, it features work by icons like legendary designer and animator Saul Bass, Brain Pickings favorite Milton Glaser, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman and many more.
For instance, check out this beauty:
During my exploration for this project I’m working on I’ve stumbled upon a whole wealth of amazing InfoViz and I wanted to share my favorites with you so you can marvel at the Data, but also at the incredible Interaction Design and Visual Design that go into making InfoViz so magical.
Four Ways to Slice Obama’s 2013 Budget Proposal
With Obama’s recent budget for next year proposed, Shan Carter et. al of The New York Times let you explore the plan in their new interactive graphic. It provides four distinct views of what the breakdowns look like, all the while keeping a distinct link between each click with smooth transitions and consistent objects. The transitions make this graphic. It’s often useful to see data from different angles, and the smooth transitions (rather than abrupt jumps) let you see how things are and how they have changed, effectively. This is fine work. Click here to check it out in all its interactive glory.
The London Riots from The Guardian
The Guardian newspaper in the UK are the bonafide gurus in visualizing news information. Here are two amazing examples from the same news topic – The London Riots – and both prove just how incredibly talented the Guardian designers and InfoViz experts are + just how fascinating some of the data from the London Riots is.
The shooting of Mark Duggan on 4 August sparked a series of riots, first in Tottenham then across England. This timeline was created to follow the spread in interactive realtime, culminating in what could be the most incredible catalog of an even ever put into digital form. Their version of it for the Arab Springs was similarly fascinating and groundbreaking!
It’s both Visual and Visceral. Articulating time as a road is very clever and breaking events across the timeline by location is equally captivating. Massive kudos indeed – Click here to go have a fiddle and marvel at this one.
However… it wasn’t the jewel in the interactive InfoViz crown for the Guardian. Oh no… they kept that back for this:
The analysis of 2.6 million tweets shows Twitter is adept at correcting misinformation – particularly if the claim is that a tiger is on the loose in Primrose Hill and that’s exactly what they did with this amazing info t0ol:
Throughout the UK riots, many scanned the internet in search of reliable information. In the absence of confirmed news, the web was often the only way of tracking events. Amidst the hubbub, countless topics came and went. As worries mounted, speculation grew. Rare individuals requested sources, countered hearsay, sought the truth. The rise and fall of rumours on Twitter is a striking display of social forces in action. Click here to have a play, it’s really quite a breathtaking thing they’ve created.
Rethinking the food nutrition label
The food nutrition label is on almost every food item, but it can be confusing in the sense that it doesn’t tell you much about whether something is good or bad for you. The UC Berkeley School of Journalism hosted a challenge for designers and food experts to rethink the label.
We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.
Visual designer Renee Walker won with her rework shown above. The rectangles on top of each label represent main ingredients, and bars on the bottom provide a quick thumbs or thumbs down for a breakdown of fat content, carbohydrates, etc. Icons of spoons and scoops are used to supplement serving size since no one knows what 182 grams looks or feels like. Click here to find out more.
Electricity Generated from Renewable Sources
I really enjoyed the simplicity and fluidness of this one. It’s basically a breakdown of energy consumption by country, by year. Simples. Check it out. This is the kind of thing that would normally be shown to the consumer as a table of data, or a bar chart. It’s a much more engaging experience when you can reach out and touch the data. Brilliant.
If you liked that one you might also like this one from the U.S, which is Your Electricity Bill redefined.
Political Climate Chart
Another great example of how to break 3 dimensions down into one clean interaction. Time, Issues & Political Party. The norm’ would be to add things onto a bar-chart or similar. This way we get something much more fun and something much easier to digest. Click here and have a go yourself. Some fascinating data.
Here’s another two from the U.S that give us interactive views of similar data scenarios. What a “Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York” and the “US Health Care Spending: Who Pays?” breakdown.
Sources & great references
I’ve browsed A LOT of great resources recently and digested a lot of great InfoViz… here are some of the sources I’d recommend if you’re starting to fall in love with Data like I have:
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.
I’ve started to think about this a lot recently – Process – that fallen tree on the path to the Emerald City. I think we’ve over-compicated it. Let’s pull delivery down to an essence, call it Lean or whatever you want, it’s just 3 simple phases to fix a problem:
|Magic||The Pledge||The Turn||The Prestige|
|Advertising||The Insight||The Concept||The Solution|
|Client||Business Objectives||Customer / User Need||Technical Requirements|
Experience Design / Map
Skeleton / Structure
|Sketch / Wireframe / Patterns
Tech / Prototype / POC
Final Screen Designs
Content / Taxonomy
Remember that UX is just the focus… a thread that runs through all of our disciplines, and which no single discipline owns (Nick Fink).
Now… before you all go batty and start bashing me. Know this. I ‘get’ that the above table isn’t exhaustive and there’s a ton of other big and little things that we could be doing, but if we strip all the noise & delivery back to simplicity then why not just offer 3 phases and 9-12 deliverables (we’d never do all the Discover stuff, right?!). I’m sure it’d be easier for clients to digest.
You know the score. You’ve been working in IA / UX for a while. You’ve got a pretty hefty CV and it’s boring. I’ve been having a play trying to find different ways of showing my experience. A lot of projects I’m working on at the moment involve Dashboard Design and information design. So I looked there for some inspiration. It’s just a rough, so don’t judge it on appearance, but see what you think about the approach:
I’m not a massive reader of books to do with work, if I’m honest. I prefer to sit down and read a tome that takes my mind off of work and I’m one of those UX’y people who generally prefers to learn by my past mistakes and other peoples actual work. Plus if it ain’t on Kindle then chances are I won’t read it these days. That said, I do have a set of books on my shelf that I’ve bought, been given, borrowed and forgot to return that cover lots of different angles of UX, Design, Marketing, Social and all those other bits I tinker with.
Obviously this list is mine and might not float your boat because of our different experience with scientific research methods, psychology, interaction design, user interface design, product or visual design and our levels of communication skill, but if you’re a voyeur you might like to have a look at my bookshelf.
So here is a list of books I would pick as the must read UX books.
Generalist books that I urge you to check out
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on by Adam Penenberg
- Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
- Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin
- Tribes by Seth Godin
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson
- The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education by Karl M Kapp
- Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by David Gray
- Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning by Dan Brown
- Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
- Bank 2.0: How customer behaviour and technology will change the future of financial services by Brett King
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- The Decisive Moment: How The Brain Makes Up Its Mind by Jonah Lehrer
- Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (this is my curve ball in the list & also the one I learnt the most from)
The UX Book List
- UX Storytellers by
- The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web by Jesse James Garrett
- Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowle, James Box
- Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design by Robert Hoekman Jr.
- A Practical Guide to Information Architecture by Donna Spencer
- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People: What Makes Them Tick? by Susan Weinschenk
- Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design by Giles Colborne
- Measuring User Experience by Thomas Tullis, William Albert
- Thoughts on Interaction Design by Jon Kolko
- Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell
- Card Sorting: Design Usable Categories by Donna Spencer
- Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules by Jeff Johnson
- Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior by Indy Young
- Search Patterns: Design for Discovery by Peter Morville, Jeffery Callender
- The Essential Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas by John Pruitt , Tamara Adlin
- Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfel, Peter Morville
- Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish
- Remote Research by Nate Bolt, Tony Tulathimutte
- Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery, Kevin Brooks
The Infographic Book List
Its by no means exhaustive and I’ll endeavor to add some more to it. But it’s the stuff on my shelf and I use them as references in much of what I do. Enjoy.