Focus and Healthy Mindsets

Teaching old dogs new tricks 

brain
from Liz Henry Flickr

How did we evolve to be in charge of this planet? By having the largest brain relative to body size of all mammals, that’s how.

The brain is an important organ. Though it takes up only 2% of our body mass, all that thinking, learning and interpreting consumes 20% of our energy.   How we experience the world depends on what is going on inside of our brain.

And what is really interesting is,  no matter what age we are,  we can change the make-up of our brains depending on what we are engaged in –  a process known as neuroplasticity.  This is good news if we are striving to continually learn and improve.  We do, however, need to exercise our brains in order to build this muscle.  Continue reading

Hey, i’m over here! Designing for user focus

image of a target
Image: Flickr and AJC1

In today’s  media-rich society we are constantly exposed to 100’s of things clamouring for attention and demanding our focus.  A study showed that people are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data a day.   These days, we are constantly on the alert, waiting for the next social network update, message or notification.    And it can be mentally exhausting.

Continue reading

Why I like Meetup

Making it easier for people to connect

meetup-logo-biggerLast year, someone asked me what my favourite app was and I said Meetup.
I wasn’t talking about the aesthetics or features of this product, though I found the App easy enough to use, but more about the concept and philosophy of Meetup and what it does.  The clue is in the name; Meetup makes it easier for people to meet each other and in doing so; supports one of the most basic but important human needs we have; that is the need to form social relationships with other people.

As many of good ideas are, Meetup is a simple enough concept and is based on location and user interests.   Continue reading

Keeping the customer at the core; setting up regular iterative user testing processes

If your organisation truly wants to move away from being ‘organisation’ centric towards becoming more customer centric, it needs to ensure that mechanisms and processes are put in place to ensure the team has regular access to customer intelligence and feedback.

Agile development is a popular development process these days. As we know, Agile puts the emphasis on creating  a ‘minimum’ product which then can be tested and iterated more quickly than traditional software development processes.

qutoe from edison about learning

In order to support these quicker lighter development sprints,  UX  practices have also  evolved and approaches and philosophies such as Lean UX have emerged.   In Lean UX there is a move away from the ‘document heavy’ more formal UX research deliverables towards providing  quicker and less formal feedback that can be quickly and continuously assimilated into the process.

Benefits of regular testing and customer insights. Continue reading

Creating user experiences of the future

 

2017 image
http://www.freepik.com

The end of one year and the start of another is always a good time to pause and reflect on what is going on in the world of UX and to think about what will happen next.
As we know there is a lot happening in areas such as Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality but two other areas that will, I think, have a significant impact in how we think about future experiences are:

 

  • The evolution of Conversational Interfaces
  • The battle between companies to control more of their customers end-to-end journeys

Continue reading

Running productive UX Workshops

image of people at workship

We do love to run Workshops in UX and why not?

Whether it is a feedback or co-creation session with customers or a strategy or product development meeting with internal teams; workshops are a creative, fun and efficient way to gain insights and generate new ideas.  And they have the added benefit of keeping key groups of people at the centre of the design process.   However, unfortunately workshops also have the potential to descend into frustrating unproductive talking shops. Especially if they have been poorly thought-out or lack structure.

Having been part of, and run a number of UX workshops over the years, some more successful than others, here are my top takeaways or tactics we can employ to run more effective UX Workshops.  Continue reading

Creating good form (s)

Forms are an important part of the conversations we have with our customers

Web forms may not be the sexist thing to talk about in UX but they sure are important. They are a medium through which our customers can tell us what they want to do online; be that to register, order, sign up to something or simply provide feedback.

Done well, forms give customers a sense of control and allow them to get stuff done online.  Well designed forms enhance customer trust and brand reputation.  Done badly, the opposite is true and ill thought-out forms are a sure fire way to annoy customers and increase their general dislike in a brand.

Recently I was part of a team at work who presented a session on ‘Beautiful, useful and accessible forms’ and below i highlight some of the key take-aways. Continue reading

Changing your life in 30 days

Eat an elephantI have been reading lately about the power of habits and rituals to achieve outcomes and goals. It seems we can achieve much more by shifting our fixation away from setting goals to rather focusing on the processes and changes in behaviours needed to achieve that goal.  This relates to any goals in our lives such as; losing weight, making more time for learning, writing a book etc. Or one of my own goals such as write a blog every month (ahem).

The problem with focusing on goals is that when we get distracted or if something slips and we don’t achieve that goal, we become disheartened and it’s easy to let it slide.

Our goals become something we talk about but not actually end up doing.

However if we shift the focus away from the goal to creating the habit or ritual to support the goal; even if we don’t end up exactly where we thought we would; we will have achieved something along the way; establishing the good habits.   And changes will happen.   But how do we do this?  Continue reading

What is the role of a UX’er today?

Two things I read recently prompted me to think about this question. First was an interesting blog post about the demise of UX research from Salesforce’s Nalini Kotamraju and her suggestions on what skills UX Researchers should learn. The second, was a book I am currently reading by Scott Hurf called Designing Product People Love and one his sections in book where he talks about different roles in the Product team. Both these got me thinking about what role and skills should a UXer have today? And importantly what skills do we need to think about developing so we are still relevant tomorrow?

UX Research is so hot right now…

When I was with Paddy Power, we used to make a distinction between UX Research, UX architecture and UX Design roles. But then Agile came along the role became less about a specific skill set and more about being the person on the product team who was the champion for UX (and the user).   Coming from there to work as a UX Consultancy a couple of years ago, it was a bit of a surprise to see that so many companies, especially the larger ones, seemed quite behind in terms of UX practices.

Though not all companies may not be where they want to be yet in terms of UX Maturity, there does seem to be an increased recognition in the role and value of UX . We see a movement in our clients towards employing more UX people and undertaking more diverse UX activities.  And companies are talking more about UX at a strategic level and looking at ways to implement it across the board to improve performance and drive growth.

Just as companies are maturing in their approach to UX we too, as UX’ers, need to consider how our roles and skills need to evolve to support that shift.

What does the UX’er of tomorrow look like?

2

  • Researcher: Being curious and asking questions is, I think, one of the core attributes of being a UX’er. We need to have empathy with our customers so we can translate insights into meaningful product features and design. Being a researcher is about being independent and stepping away from institutionalised thinking. We need to be the champions of the customer voice and customer goals and ensure that they are at the core of what the company does. An interest in psychology and understanding more about why we behave the way we do has been personally valuable to me when thinking about this.
    Of course, understanding user needs is not the sole propriety of UX. Especially these days as there is a raft of tools available to those who want to understand more about their customers. And is great to see that more people, who are not necessarily UX, recognising this and making it a part of their role. However, what I think UX Researcher will continue to bring to the table is considering which methods and tools to use when and to consider research in planned systematic way. And to be the glue in the team that facilitates and drives research from other areas of the business.
  • Analyst : As we get more access to data on our customer and their behaviour, knowing about the numbers and trends to back up and add to insights is and will continue to be, a crucial part of the research process. A knowledge of how the data works and being able to communicate this back to the business in a relevant way is important in selling in the benefits of UX activities. We need to work with the business to define what success means in terms of a good experience and determine metrics of how we capture that. And then monitor how we are doing, so we can take actions to improve.
  • Information Architect: Is the next step in converting insights into something meaningful. It is about doing something with what we have learned about customer behaviour and expectations and organising information in a way that makes sense to them. This allows us to design products and particularly the paths within those products, to behave in the way that customers expect and want them to behave.
  • Communicator: As UX’ers we need to be able to report back concisely with recommendations that are specific and relevant to the context, in both written and visual formats. However, a picture paints a thousand words. A large part of our work as UX’ers is taking the insights we learn from testing/research instilling them into visual communications and artifacts such as Personas/User Journeys to make those findings come alive.
  • (Interaction) Designer: Which is also part of communicating ideas. I’m not referring to UI or web design here but more Interaction Design.   I see this as translating insights and findings from research into visual outputs such as flows or wireframes to illustrate how a user will step through the different stages of the journey.
    Not everyone is an artist (definitely include myself in that) but everyone can draw and putting ideas and sketches on whiteboard or on paper allows us to quickly discuss and improve on those ideas. Low fidelity sketches/ideas, especially in an agile world, are our friend. Being able to then link those sketches through prototyping allows for quick testing and feedback.
  • Facilitator: Facilitation skills I believe, are going to be one of the key skills of the UX’er of tomorrow. We know there is alot of internal knowledge within the business and part of the role of UX is to work with teams to extract that knowledge and involve everyone in user research. We will need to work with the team so we can collectively work up ideas based on research insights and bring the designs or product onto the next stage.
  • Strategist: This is another area where we can move up a level in UX. As more companies are thinking about UX not just at product level but as an organisational level this gives UX more clout at higher levels within the business. This give us opportunity to look at UX in a more holistic manner and think about how we can build out the whole UX experience through our business processes, policies and products. Our role here will be more analyst and working with the business to solve problems and suggest ways to improve.
  • The U ‘X’ Factor. Being obsessive, but in a good way. Some of the best people I know in UX are a little bit obsessive about UX in general. They want to know about developments in design/UX/technology and are always eager to try out new tools and methods. They also see the world in a slightly different way and examine everything in terms of the user experience and how this might apply to projects they are working on.

Will we become Jack of all Trades?

No. I don’t think so. I don’t think everyone has to be an expert in every one of those skills, certainly in our consultancy different people have more experience/stronger skills in some of the areas over the others. However, just as the companies we are working with are scaling up in terms of UX knowledge and activities, we as UX’er need to broaden out and evolve own skills to support that change. What we are seeing is a move away from specialisms in different roles UX and a move towards UX taking a more consultative approach were adapt what we do depending on the situation and the problem we are trying to solve at that stage.

And the good news is there are loads of resources, many of which are free or not hugely expensive that can help us be prepared for our evolving roles. Here are just a few of which I have found useful:

Learning resources

Understanding the basics of Google Analytics 

Online User Experience Courses from Interaction Design 

Statistics from Udemy Learning

Smashing Magazine online articles on Wireframing 

Overview of UX courses on line from UX Mastery

Last note:  Just before I published this post, I attended an interesting Conference in Edinburgh called Design It Build it and shout out to Chris Compston at Sky and his talk at the conference “The UX Designer is Dead, Long Live UX” as many of his points about the future of UX resonated with me and my thoughts in this post.