UX Resources: What’s on my bookshelf?

I like to read. I like to keep learning. I could waist, I mean spend, an entire day if not more just reading books or the millions of articles that are posted online daily regarding all things UX.

I’ll also admit; I’m also a sucker for that promotional email that says, for a limited time only download this new book at a price you can’t beat! Yep, that’s me, downloading away. I recently purchased A Practical Guide to Information Architecture, by Donna Spencer offered through UX Mastery for only $5.  I’ve already read through a bunch of it and though I know most the information already, it’s always good to refresh my memory.

The Must Haves

If call yourself a UX designer then you must have read and own the following:

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
– You will never look at the world around you the same. I keep this one as an e-book so I can re-read through it when ever I have a few minutes.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum: Why High-tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
– I work with a lot of complex B2B products, this book is essential to say the least.

Don’t Make Me Think: A common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
– I still have the original version. I’m realizing I should really go out and picking up the latest version based on the reviews.

Personal Favorites

Web Form Design: Filling in the blanks by Luke Wroblewski
– I’ve seen Luke speak at a couple different events, he’s always gives a good talk!

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin

Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas by Tamara Adlin and Jon Pruitt

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People  by Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.

Interaction Design

Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott & Theresa Neil (O’Reilly book)

Sketching User Experiences, getting the design right and the right design. by Bill Buxton

Designing the User Interface, Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interactions by Ben Shneiderman

Designing from both sides of the screen. How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology by Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski

User Research:
Observing the User Experience, A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky and Andrea Moed

Institutionalization of Usability, A Step-By-Step Guide by Eric Schaffer

Paper Prototyping, The Fast and Easy Way to Design and refine user interfaces by Carolyn Snyder

Facilitate a Better Design Critique

Winding Road

The path to a great UX can be a little winding. Put engineers, product managers, designers and various stakeholders together in a room and everyone has their own agenda and is trying to have their say. Too often I’ve heard the conversation get halted before the real UX discussions can even begin.

Share Openly and Often

One of the many reason meetings can get halted and go of track is when someone new is in the room and has never seen the designs before. Avoid this as much as possible. Get any and all key stakeholders in the room or at least viewing the designs as often and as early as possible.

I realize this is impossible to avoid all the time, executives are busy or someone is new to the group. At times this isn’t all bad, new eyes can be the best source to uncovering unseen usability issues.

Set the Tone

The key to the most constructive design meetings is to have clear cut goals and understandings up front. Make sure everyone in the room is aware of the purpose of the design, what is it exactly you are trying to accomplish.

Then describe how you got there, your thoughts and process of why the design is like it is today. The more details the audience has on the background, the more informative their feedback can be.

Lastly, what kind of feedback are you looking for? What is on the table for discussion and what is not.

Capture and Table Side Ideas

That being said, I’m a huge component of throwing out any and all possibilities at any stage in the process. Finding the best possible experience for the users is always the main goal at hand.

Sadly, many times numerous people have already invested so much time and energy to the current design that any new ideas are immediately shut down. I prefer to hear things out, briefly, jot down it down, and then move on.

Change Doesn’t Mean Now

Maybe it’s a hard code change, maybe it’s easy but it affects a lot of screens, or it’s impossible to happen in the next release. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t ever happen.

The goal is let great ideas come to life, let the discussions flow and hopefully you’ll discover the best possible experience for the user. THEN figure out how to get it into the product at a later date.

At some point, mock it up, test it with real users and figure out a way to add it into the product in some future release, if it indeed works out to be a better UI.

Great ideas can come from anyone at any time, be open to them!

Do you really know who your users are?

 

Personas can be a huge asset to the when designing user experiences. They can help target your features and streamline the screens if used correctly. However, most persona’s I’ve seen are pretty generic, thirty-something year old woman, with a average name like Sally or a middle management guy named Bob, each with a few stats about how long they have worked for the company. It’s enough information to start but is that really enough to go on?

Lego People

I was once told the sales people where out in the field and they talked to the end users all the time. The products managers also talked to the customers, and gathered feedback. Management knew exactly who the end user was, and what they wanted.

The persona we were told to design for was particularly technically savvy. They had worked for these companies for a long time and were extremely comfortable with the latest technologies and online common best practices. This was after all, an internal only product.

So, off we would go and take our best guess at creating the user experience.

When is the last time you talked to an actual user?

The first time I was finally able to talk the end user directly, not a manager, not a director, but a person who’s sole job responsibility was to use the software we were creating, it was a huge eye opening experience.

Lets just call her Mabel. She looked like a Mabel. She was in her mid to late 50’s and yes, she had worked there for over 18 years but that doesn’t mean she knew what she was doing. We talked for just a bit about the way she currently does her job and what does she do when she can’t find the answer she needs with the current system. She kind of shrugged and admitted that happened often and she would ask the people around her for help, sometimes.

The best way to demo the new proposed product was to show her an Axure clickable prototype off a Mac. Mabel looked more then a little nervous, I don’t think she’s ever seen a Mac. Even though we encouraged her to click around, that nothing she did could be wrong, she hesitated at every click.

Simply put, Mabel reminded me of my Mom, who I love dearly, but at times has problems connecting to this thing we call “the internet”.

Get Specific!

Was Mabel the edge use case? I wish I had the answer to that. I often wondered how many other employees were much like Mable.

I would suggest to really get to know your users and find out everything you can about them, not just their age and their employment history but what their habits are out side of work and what their passion is. You can even use their actual LinkedIn profile as a starting point.

Given the chance I would have loved to set up a fun yet detailed poll to a large set of employees to find out exactly where their skill set lies and more about how they used the product and others to do their job.

Now What? The 80/20 rule

Products can get pretty complicated fairly quickly. I was always taught to design for 80 percent of your users while being aware of the other 20 percent and their needs.

And of course once you have an idea of what might work for the 80 percent, show it to them! Not a manager, not a director, but the actual people at the ground level using the product daily. Rinse and repeat!

Users Don’t Care About The Back End

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When I first started out in designing User Interfaces, way, way back when, I worked in-house for a high-tech B2B software company where all the buttons in the product were graphics. One of my many tedious jobs was to create images for any and all buttons that the product needed, and there were A LOT of buttons!

Numerous times I had an engineer come to me as ask for a new button with a generic label, something like “Request”. I would then step through the process of asking the million dollar questions… “What screens is this on?” “What is user is trying to accomplish?” and “Why do you think the button should have this name?” Inevitably the answer to that last question was always, “because that’s what it does on the back end, I’m making a request to the database”.

The user doesn’t care what the back end does or what technical term you use when coding. The user is simply trying to accomplish a task. The question is, what exactly is that task and how can we make that experience as straight forward and easy as possible.

Don’t Make Me Click.

Now, I could launch into a how to properly name your buttons and if this was say 3 years ago I probably would have. How the label should be a specific action item, think verbs followed by possible noun, and how you need to be consistent throughout the entire product and so on and so forth; however, now a days the interface should do what the user needs with out any buttons. Yes, you heard me, no button!

Okay, so maybe you need some buttons, Facebook has it’s Like button, right? However, when using Twitter and Pintrest you no longer need to click to “view more” it automatically loads when we scroll down. No more expand/collapse sections, just let me quickly scroll down this long page of content. I’m using Evernote right now to type up a draft of this post, there is no save button, it automatically saves it to the cloud as I’m typing, sweet!

I’m sure there are all sorts of things are going on in the back end that I, as an end user, are not aware of, and I love that! I was even thinking there is no confirmation that my Evernote is saved, but I just now saw the little “synchronizing” message that popup in the lower left corner. Yes, the lower, LEFT corner. You know, that place where no one ever puts anything but do look there every now and then.

As a user, I don’t want to make any choices. I do that enough through out my day. I simply want to use a product that makes the right choices for me and lets me get on with my day.

3 Reasons Why I Love My Clients

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This Valentines Day I just want to send out out a little love to all my clients. There are lots of sites out there that talk about horrible clients, and I can certainly relate to most of what’s on Clients From Hell, that isn’t the norm for me at least. I work mostly with start-ups and small business and feel fortune to have worked with each and every one of my clients. Here’s a few things that makes them so special.

Mutual Respect

Nobody knows your business like you do, I know I certainly don’t. It’s working together, as a team that we can come up with the best designs. My clients give me to leeway to do my job and they know where my expertise comes in. They listen to me and I listen to them.

Push for Excellence

Since I work from home alone a majority of the time there isn’t anyone to show my designs to or to bounce ideas off of. That’s where my clients come in. You are my sounding board and since you are the final decision maker, who could be better. Together we take the designs to that next level. I love it when a client comes back and says, well, it’s better, but it’s not quite exactly what I had in mind. You know what, they are usually right. When we keep tweaking it a little bit more and a little bit more, it goes from really good, to great!

Can you also do???

Recently I’ve had a few clients ask if I’ve ever done an iPad app product video or an RSA Animation video? I love the fact that my clients somehow think I may be able to do this for them, but I also know my own limits. Most importantly I want my clients to get the best possible product in the end. Short answer is, no I haven’t, but I’m more than happy to research that for you. I love helping figure out if that’s something we can do together or if someone is out there can do it for you within your budget, that really knows what they are doing. I do the research, lay out all the options and let the client decide.