The Power of Public Media

Published: 7 years ago

UX Boston Conference #1!

I had the opportunity to go to the first UX Boston Meetup Conference,  July 19, 2014. There were 10 great speakers covering a wide variety of UX topics. I’m sharing my notes on 5 of the 10 speakers.

Aaron Scott
“The Other Half of the Job”

Bio: Prior to founding Leap, Aaron was an Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Videographer, Editor, and an Interactive Creative Director for both major consumer brands and startups. He has worked on brands such as Hard Rock Café, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, and the National Cancer Institute.

Aron’s talk was about the importance of the client/designer relationship and focused on the design presentation process. He also reviewed strategies for making sure that the client feels included in the entire design process from start to finish. This he claims will ensure that your best work is being produced and it’s the work that the client will love. He suggested really getting to know the client, his/her personal likes and dislikes, not just the company or product. And if other people come in to meetings after the initial design phase try to find out about them as well. He advocates that this is a big part of how to develop designs and relationships. Keep the client involved, send wireframes or sketches early on in the design process (“love notes”). Try to meet in person if possible, at least in the beginning of the project, or periodically  throughout (avoid “long-distance relationships.”) He suggests at the beginning of a project having everyone write down on a piece of paper the one thing they think the project needs to achieve, fold it up, and then the group can look at what all the stakeholders have expressed as that one important goal. And as the project evolves be sure to show the theory and process of your designs and how you got there. Remember the client is really the first user.

He boiled the process down to these steps:
1. Research (here’s what we found)
2. Here’s what you told us
3. Additional thoughts
4. Theory
5. The final work
6. Drink scotch

Tom Boates
“Facilitating healthy behavior changes”

Bio: Tom Boates (Everybody!) is the VP of User Experience at RunKeeper and has been in charge of the UX for both apps and the website for the past 5 1/2 years, watching the user base grow from 50k to 30M+.  Prior to that he has worked at a handful of startups.

Tom in his talk discussed his UX work on the RunKeeper app, a free app optimized for the iPhone5, and a newer app called Breeze, which just came out in April of 2014. Among other things RunKeeper tacks your pace, measures workout distance, charts weight loss.

The goal of RunKeeper is to change behavior in real time. RunKeeper is designed for people who are already active, it’s not meant to get people motivated who have never included exercise as a routine part of their lives. There are three types of people, “improver”, “maintainer”, and “performer”. These are the basic personas the development team worked with, but people can move in and out of these personas depending on life event such as marriage, births, illness, etc. Also people have different types of goals. Components of the app are audio cues, notifications, goal setting, training plans, personalization, and a goals coach which gives recommendations and asks questions.

Breeze is the newer app, and information can be shared between it and RunKeeper. Breeze tracks daily movement activities and personalized goals, it uses GPS. They used about 100 people for each beta release, and half the beta users provided feedback. Breeze focuses more on the social motivation than RunKeeper does, showing the activity level of friends or what a specific friend is doing. Notifications  are a primary feature, it sends notifications throughout the day with activity updates and motivational messages.

Their two biggest misconceptions they had were: 1. That people understand charts (they don’t) and 2. Actual activity levels (people were less active or ran slower than they had thought.)

Carlos Cardenas
“UX Research & Design as a strategic engine for Innovation “

Bio: As Vice President of THE MEME, Carlos has worked with UX design centers and product innovation teams for leading global organizations (e.g. Samsung Electronics, LG) providing research and strategy that have guided the development of physical/digital products on the market.

In his talk Carlos discussed designing for complexity and change and the impact of technology trends on product design challenges that can translate into new business opportunities. A lot of his talk focused on process and research of user habits and real-life scenarios. He mentioned how the design/project strategy used to be assigned to designers but now designers are not only coming up with design solutions, but involved in defining the problem as well. The importance of understanding human nature and questioning established models is also key in the research process. He gave examples of three different types of user experiences and products that his company explored, the washing machine experience, a new model for emerging cameras, and a combined online and in-person banking service experience.

  • In the washing machine exploration they looked at user patterns and needs and possible control panel designs. In the end, I think, their ideal product design was beyond the scope of the client.
  • The camera project focused on the idea that small digital cameras are being replaced by smart phone cameras, people are taking photos everywhere, and people are looking for more control, editing functionality, and photo sharing features on their smaller mobile camera devices.
  • The banking example looks at creating a new paradigm for the banking experience. An experience that would go from the online experience to in-person interactions where the physical space plays a major role. The physical space would include different areas such as a self-service portal, a greet area, an area for getting one-on-one advice, etc.

By looking at culture, values, needs, motivation and behaviors of the users, the “why”, his team collects user experience information which then informs their design strategy to come up with new business models and design concepts. Combining the “why” information with the “what” (technology) and the “how” (interaction design) the user experience plays a major role in design innovation.

Jesse Beach
“How accessibility guides us to better front-end design patterns”

Bio: From UX design to front end development, Jesse’s experience in the web began as a designer and has evolved into a developer. She focuses on building rock solid, beautiful, accessible and extensible tools for other front end developers on the Drupal platform.

Jesse showed us by example what a terrible user experience visually impaired people can have with a screen reader if code is written without regard for their specific disability and the specific web content. The example she showed was a web page that was made up of lots of divs. Basically the screen reader spit out an endless splathering of “ div, div, div, div.” with no indication to the user of the intended hierarchy or the user interface elements. ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) is a set of recommendations and protocols of the Web Accessibility Initiative. Jesse showed us how adding specific code in the document mark-up language can help define user interface elements and content structure for those specifically with visual challenges. For example, letting the user know where there’s a text entry field, the character limit, and a even an updated character count as the user enters text, can make a world of difference to the user experience. Needless to say after she was done adding some code, what the screen reader was “saying” made a lot more sense!

lou suSi
” A storyFirst approach to Human-Centered Design”

Bio: lou suSi is an accomplished experience design professional with over 20 years in the field. He currently focuses on user experience, design education, public speaking, curation, performance art and cyberSurrealism.

Lou SuSi’s talk focused on the story as an integral part of the human-centered design approach and the importance of creating persons, scenarios, and putting yourself in the user’s shoes. Continuously building and optimizing stories, personas, and project goals based on the project research and testing, enable UX designers to come up with the best solution for the targeted audience. AS we know this will improve the quality of the complete human interactive experience that we’re ultimately all creating through our work. He encourages designers to think BIG as if there were no time or money restrictions!

As an example of bad user experience he showed a slide of the endlessly long CVS cash register receipt. CVS collects our personal data from our buying habits and uses it for marketing purposes in the form of coupons, purchase suggestion, etc. Ideally, he thinks we should have control of our own personal data for our own use. He suggests that if this data, from CVS for example, was collected and put into a user-centered app so that we can access it, then we could have control over how we want to use OUR data. Our use scenarios for this data might even extend into other aspects of our life, not just used for gathering coupons and getting product suggestions from CVS.

General Takeaways

• It’s all about the user, remember who you’re designing for!

• Don’t underestimate emotions in marketing, emotions play a key role in decision making.

• Show your clients some love, make them feel included in the design process.

• Small/easy changes in html mark-up can make a huge difference to users with disabilities.

• Persona scenarios are not necessary static throughout the user experience, users can move in and out of different persons at different times depending their life situations.

• SEO (driving targeted/qualified traffic to specific areas of your website) needs to be thought out with the UX design and not after the site is already designed and coded.

• It’s important to understand the policital and emotional implications of making people change the way they do things. Whether you are desgning a new CMS system or designing new navigating for a website, remember to addrees all the stakeholders’ concerns and needs.

• In a world of information overload people are looking for clearly defined user experiences that will give them the results they’re looking for with the least amount of agrevation and confusion. Human-centered UX design which takes human psychology into consideration along with research-based design principles can help achieve these goals.

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creative.” — Charles Mingus


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