UX Staffing Blog

The New Learners 
Book Review: ‘Society 3.0 How technology is reshaping education, work and society’ by Tracey Wilen-Daugenti

In Society 3.0 Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, explores the changes in social trends over the past 50 years or so, which inevitably includes advances in technology. These changes have and will continue to influence how higher education institutions and the workplace cater to future populations.

The book investigates work trends today compared with that of the 1950s, as well as the role of women in the workplace. The author explores the development of the global market and its effect, together with the ubiquitous use of technology in society and what impact this has had on workforce skills. The statistical information highlights the need for small businesses and individuals to be able to compete in an increasingly tech-savvy global marketplace.

Wilen-Daugenti provides valuable insight into the emerging trends in technology, which she describes as “indispensable to modern life” and “constantly changing.” But, it is mobile technology that is her focus. She writes, “It is in mobile technology—both in hardware and the uses we find for it—where the biggest transformations have occurred.”

For more information, log on to:

http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=2542664

UX Myths

Build your website based on evidence, not false beliefs!

UX Myths collects the most frequent user experience misconceptions and explains why they don’t hold true. And you don’t have to take our word for it, we’ll show you a lot of research findings and articles by design and usability gurus.

 

 

Sketching For Better Mobile Experiences

Why? The Case For Sketching

We seem to be in a better position than ever to design great experiences in virtually no time. However, these tools come with a hidden cost: they tempt us to skip the key step necessary to creating a well-designed product — which is to take the time to understand the problem we are given.

That’s why I suggest to start using sketches to understand the problem and to come up with a concept before firing up your favorite tool.

Right now, you are probably thinking one of the following:

“We have a tight deadline and there is no time for doodling. We need to get started.”

“Designing in [insert your favorite tool] is faster by far. I need to get results quickly.”

“We need to present results to our [client or project partner or peers]. We cannot show them hand-drawn stuff.”

“Sorry, but I really can’t draw.”

Not only have I heard these objections a couple of times before, I’ve also said all of them myself.

DEFINING THE PROBLEM AND THE SOLUTION

Sketching enables us to explore the problem space and define the solution space at the same time. It frames our current understanding of the problem, while also helping us to figure out possible solutions.

While we sketch out our thoughts, new ideas will emerge. The ambiguity and lack of detail in sketches foster new ideas. Here, ambiguity is a good thing, because we will automatically try to fill in the blanks in our heads. That’s what makes sketching “generative”: it captures the ideas we already have and sparks new ideas. As Bill Buxton says in Sketching User Experiences:

“Learning from sketches is based largely on the ambiguous nature of their representation. That is, they do not specify everything and lend themselves to, and encourage, various interpretations that were not consciously integrated into them by their creator.”

By sketching different solutions to a problem, we can explore them without immediately committing to one of them. This gives us new insight and raises new questions. Sketching is essentially a brainstorming exercise.

THE “COST” OF SKETCHING

The fastest way to get something out of our heads is to grab a pen and a sheet of paper and quickly sketch it out. Trying to do the same in our favorite prototyping tool takes more time: We have to create a new project, decide on the right library to use, place our little rectangles on the canvas, draw little arrows connecting our little rectangles, rearrange everything a bit to make it look nice — and suddenly 30 minutes or more are gone.

If we don’t like what we see on a sheet of paper, we can just toss it in the bin and start over. Using our prototyping tool, however, makes throwing stuff away harder because of the time and effort we’ve spent creating it — even if the idea wasn’t a great one. Starting over is harder. Paper sketches, on the other hand, are cheap and fast.

See More:

http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2013/06/24/sketching-for-better-mobile-experiences/

Productivity Tip: A little quiet goes a long way

I just read an article today in Forbes on Work Life Integration:  The New Norm.   I have seen this phenomenon since I speak to people looking for new jobs every day.  The point is your work and personal life are so integrated, that people are losing that boundary that gives you permission to be “off”.   I don’t think this is good for human beings, to be “on” all the time.    I believe we need space for ourselves, quiet time, and silence.   My best ideas come to me in those times.   So consider this a sanity/productivity/work tip:  give yourself a dose  of silence before you engage in your day.  You’ll come to love it.

UX Recruiters…The Only Way to Go

 

Introduction

Finding UX talent is a job comparable to finding a needle in a haystack. All of the usual ways for finding staff seem to be meaningless when it comes to UX recruitment. Why?

Most professionals are so concentrated in their work between the demands of the job and the fact that their employer goes to great length to retain them in their current position. It takes a recruiter to be able to reach out and offer them job opportunities.

 Save Time & Money

Many employers come to us after searching for months. By getting it right the first time, UX recruiters can streamline the process, reduce turnover and streamline productivity. At Clear Point we have developed a detailed personalized screening process that enables our UX recruiters to identify the ideal candidates for the position.

 Find the Perfect Fit

User experience (UX) is concerned with making products and services easy and enjoyable to use. But in a field that includes everything from information architecture to usability testing and visual design, defining your company’s specific UX needs can be a challenge. UX  recruiters can help you define exactly what you are looking for.

Relationships with Talent

Finding the ideal UX talent is based on a relationship-based approach that goes far beyond matching generic resumes with job descriptions. Talented professionals are at the heart of our client’s financial success. Employees who love their job tend to create better products and services leading to both satisfied customers and thriving business. Finding the perfect fit between companies and talent is what UX recruiters are trained to do.

 Know the Language

UX recruiters also speak the language. The field is constantly fluid as it is constantly evolving due to changing user circumstances. With this constantly changing landscape, it is important to understand exactly what terminology and skills define a position.

Assess the Intangibles

UX recruiters know the qualities that are indispensable for UX professionals. Since the practice of UX is based on explaining things to people, top candidates must be able to clearly articulate their design decisions. Of equal value is the understanding that UX design is concerned with the experience of others and not an individual opinion. Top candidates will rarely speak in the first person about their designs, preferring instead to discuss research findings and personas. UX recruiters will help you look beyond the wireframes and site maps and ask whether candidates can sell an idea and play well with others.

See the Right Stuff

UX recruiters help their talent to have the best presentation possible. Employers don’t waste time sifting through talent without resumes, portfolios and examples of work.

Where UX Comes From

UX Booth interviewed Leah Buley, author of the new book UX Team of One. Leah talked about her own experiences as a UX team of one, and how her approach has changed over time. Now we are very excited to present an excerpt from the book itself.

As a team of one, knowing the history of user experience helps you reassure people that it’s not just something that you dreamed up in your cubicle. If I were to sum up the history of UX in a few short sentences, it might go something like this: villains of industry seek to deprive us of our humanity. Scientists, scholars, and designers prevail, and a new profession flourishes, turning man’s submission to technology into technology’s submission to man. Pretty exciting stuff.

Read more: http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/where-ux-comes-from/

Connected UX

 

Connected UX

by AARRON WALTER 

Over the past six years, as I’ve built a UX team from a solo practice to a team of 11, I’ve seen how design research can greatly influence product development. Early on, we had little time for customer interviews or usability tests. We were mostly shooting from the hip, listening to customer support, and revising on the fly.

We now do scores of usability tests, user interviews, and competitive analysis, and we create detailed reports summarizing our findings. But this brought us to a new problem: without a way to preserve and combine our results, our insights quickly slipped into the hazy distance as documents got lost on a hard drive, or ignored by someone in a different department.

We ended up living in a Groundhog Day research loop, asking the same questions and rarely building upon what we already knew.

Now we need connections—a way to pull together disparate data points, qualitative and quantitative data, and long histories of research into a central clearinghouse that can be shared, searched, and maintained by different teams. After years on a research treadmill, that’s exactly what we’ve started doing at MailChimp—and far from being just a data solution, open access to this information has strengthened the connections between teams, and supported a general culture of inquiry.

It all started with a personal crisis.

A moment of crisis

Customer feedback streams into my inbox in spades from a form on the MailChimp website. Hundreds of emails offer ideas for new features or ways to make things better. I love reading them, but last summer I started to feel overwhelmed. I was reading hundreds of emails daily, many of which had useful feedback, but weren’t worthy of adding to our roadmap. Maybe down the road an issue would reach critical mass, but until then they sat in limbo.

It was choking my productivity, and making my head spin.

Read more:

http://alistapart.com/article/connected-ux

How (Not) To Manage A UX Project

I’ve worked on a lot of different projects in my career, and I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve always said that I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of my own, but I’ve had ample opportunity to learn from my own missteps too.

I see a lot of UX articles that detail how to successfully execute a design project, but I haven’t seen much discussion on things or steps to avoid.

So, based on mistakes I’ve encountered along the way (some mine, and some observed), as well as conversations I have had with some peers, here are some ideas on how not to manage a design project.

Note: Just to be clear, the following are things you SHOULD NOT do if you want a successful project. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (and my ass).

Go Straight to Detailed Design

“Just do wireframes,” is what the project manager told my team and me on a high-profile effort, because that was all that we had a “contractual obligation” to provide. No analysis phase, no user research, no design iterations—just go straight to detailed design. Well, that didn’t work, because … well, we went straight to detailed design. We didn’t have a shared “vision” for the design team to follow … and we weren’t allowed to invest the time to create one. A high-level design wasn’t something we “had” to deliver, and the project went badly.

Treat Use Cases as Unquestionable Laws

I like use cases, I really do. I used to write lots of them. But when the use case explicitly directs the design direction (because the business analysts think it’s their “job” to do that) and the management team says, “design what’s in the use case” … well, you’re setting yourself up for conflict and potential failure. Why? Because use cases are usually focused more on business rules and logic and less on what the optimal experience should be for users. You need both, and blind adherence to use cases can result in the creation of a solution that may not align with what users want and need. And while business analysts are usually very bright and intelligent people, most of them aren’t user experience professionals.

 

To read more please visit: http://uxmag.com/articles/how-not-to-manage-a-ux-project

UXulele – A Synergy to Pearson’s UX Process

UXuele poster

Conversation with Sandhya S. Pillalamarri – UX Strategy Thought Leader

About Sandhya Pillalamarri

 Sandhya S. Pillalamarri is a leading digital innovation strategist and user experience thought leader.  She is the director of user experience design and research at Pearson Education in Boston, MA. She is in charge of UX strategy, UX budget, management of internal teams, external contractors, and consultants, and planning for and executing user research. Her team is focused on the student and parent customer segments for grades K-12 and Higher Education. Prior to focusing on research, she managed the UX redesign of the leading learning management systems, Pearson SuccessNet Plus and SuccessNet, as well as other mobile apps for K-12.

Sandhya has worked for a variety of multinational corporations, including IBM, ON Semiconductor, HP, Office of Naval Research, GE Healthcare, JDA Software, Philips Design, PTC, and Pearson Education. She has led multiple international design and ethnography efforts in Europe and Asia. Sandhya stays active within the HCI community and has been the co-chair of the Managing User Experience track | ’08 and ’10 for the UXPA conference. Sandhya also provides business development and UX thought leadership to ATEA Technologies LLC, GAIN Capital, Pvt. Ltd., and other consultancies.

 CPC: You call yourself an innovation strategist in addition to a user experience practitioner. Can you briefly discuss how they work together?

SP: Innovation creates great user experiences. Innovation is about taking something existing and putting it together in a creative way that adds real value to our users’ lives. The inherent nature of iterative thinking and testing with end users that is present in user experience design lends itself well to innovation. I love user experience, strategic thinking, and people management. I enjoy managing and seeing next-generation designs through to completion by working throughout the lifecycle of ethnography, ideation, design, and usability analysis, to deliver a high-quality product that’s useful, usable, and beautiful. I am fortunate to have studied with and learned from some amazing minds, such as Clayton Christensen, who has been named one of the most influential business thinkers in the world, on taking existing processes and making them lean, agile and innovative.

CPC: You are currently the director of User Experience and Design at Pearson Education. Can you describe what you do?

SP: Pearson is the world’s leading education company. From pre-school to high school to college and beyond, early learning to professional certification, our curriculum materials, multimedia learning tools and testing programs help to educate millions of people worldwide. I lead a user experience team. In this role, my team and I collaborate closely with the marketing, product management, and development teams to strategize, define, and execute user research and usability analysis and synthesize those insights into products that deliver meaningful and valuable moments, build brand equity, and deliver delightful interactions and social good to the marketplace.

CPC: What is your educational background?

SP: I hold a Masters in Management in General Management, Operations, and Strategy from Harvard University, a Masters in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Science in computer science engineering from Arizona State University.

CPC: Can you talk a little about the type of work that you specialize in?

SP: My primary role and interests are in managing creative teams and driving product through design research and user experience strategies in organizations big and small. I have worked in the area of user experience and product design for over thirteen years, and am an expert in user experience methods including usability testing, focus groups, field studies, rapid prototyping techniques, and many others.

CPC: You also implemented a new design method. Can you explain that?

“Lightning Labs” is a four-day intensive, agile design method with multiple stakeholders at several stages within a project. This method, first invented by Digitas for their Rapid Prototype Lab process, has since become very popular at Pearson Education and has been recognized as one of the premiere innovative methods in the field of UX design.

We are excited that the UXPA national website will be replacing the old chutes and ladders poster with our ‘UXulele’ poster which highlights the Lightning Lab process. Mark Heffernan, Rich Buttiglieri and I were chosen out of a number of finalists to represent UXPA with this poster.  We are thrilled to be able to share it with everyone.

CPC: Can you explain a little more about the Lightning Lab method? What is it and how is it different from the traditional way?

SP: A Lightning Lab is a condensed, intensive and fun event! A core group of stakeholders work together for a period of only 4-5 days to create strategic design solutions as opposed to 1-2 months. The process begins when a cross-functional team of 5-10 people is presented with a design challenge and a user segment to target. During the five days of the lab, the team works together to review all relevant research, competitive products, and user personas and come together on design differentiators. They then use the Lightning Lab kit to iteratively prototype possible solutions, starting with many ideas and quickly narrowing down to the top few. Next, the team observes the prototyped solutions as they are usability tested with 6-8 real users, and iterates the proposed solutions based on the results. On the final day, the team refines their vision and plans their next steps together. Lightning Labs are a great way to quickly create user experiences that are collaborative, iterative, and built with real customer input. In a lightning lab, everyone wears the same hats and takes on the role of creator. We strip away individual identities and think from a user persona’s perspective.

CPC: How did you get stakeholders to come aboard and what were their feelings? Did you receive any resistance? If so, how did you overcome it?

SP: The co-inventor and architect of this method is Heather Cassano, our chief experience officer. Pearson has approximately 48,000 employees worldwide and it can get hard to get your message across.  But when you have someone evangelizing it from such a high level there is far less resistance. We also found key champions for it and gained the support of a couple of leaders in the verticals. Once everyone saw the results of the first few case studies and a video we created on the whole process on our internal site, we really got the bus going. At that point, everyone wanted to sign up for it. We also took funds from our internal UX budget and provided the necessary resources for the first few labs and considered them as case studies.

CPC: What have you learned from this that would be interesting for another manager to know?

SP: There is a lot of preparation that goes into a successful Lightning Lab. You need to make sure you are prepared, understand the process, and dedicate at least a small staff as project support to handle the details. Key stakeholder buy-in and physical presence at the lab itself also really motivates everyone.

CPC: What is currently on the drawing board that you are creating and implementing that you can talk about?

SP: I can’t really talk about our current projects. I can talk about Pearson Zeos (which implemented the Lightning Labs process early on) which prepares students with the skills they need to succeed on high-stakes assessments from inside a practice environment using gaming and avatars. Zeos prepares students in grades 3 through 10 to meet state requirements and Common Core State Standards in English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies by immersing them in a fun practice environment. Another initiative that benefited from this process is  Pearson’s iLit core reading program for struggling readers, which is designed to combat the national crisis of students who simply cannot read at the appropriate grade level and who, by the time they reach high school, are dropping out, checking out, or acting out. The first and only complete instructional solution built and delivered on the iPad, iLit can offer each student personalized learning support based on their own instructional needs, engaging interactivities, and built-in reward systems that motivate students and track their progress.

CPC: Are you aware of any other new advances in the field that you are excited about?

There are many new innovative methods and advances happening in the UX field such as in mobile testing, international research, etc.  I think we need to get more and more into making sure that rapid prototyping and rapid user research techniques are baked into the overall product design process.  Teams are starting to understand that it has to be fluid.  Modular design patterns and UX frameworks need to be built, ready to go, so that designers and developers can just plug and play and iterate. Also, everything is live now and there are so many screen-sharing programs that everyone inside and outside of UX teams can participate and see what  real users care about and think of your designs.  It is imperative that the onus of UX doesn’t just fall on dedicated UX teams alone but that the entire company creates empathy towards the end users.

CPC: Anything else that is important to talk about?

One of the things lacking in the educated space in UX is that we just don’t bring back what happens after  folks graduate. I like to go back to UX programs at institutions and talk to students about how I have changed and how the theoretical methodologies we learn in school are actually being implemented in real life. Some of this is happening with conferences and seminars but it needs to be brought back into the level of the student who is currently in school now. Students need to know how what they are learning is useful in the real world. There needs to be more of a sharing of this knowledge within the academic community.