Sunday, January 3, 2016

A User Experience Designer And Her New Phone

Happy New Years! One of my resolutions this year is to be more creative. And since it is now officially the New Year I thought, why not get off to a good start and write a post on the blog? I know, right? It's been too long.

Last year, 2015, my resolution was to save money. Nothing like buying a fixer upper to put that resolution at the top of your list every year! It came time for a phone upgrade but as I was in frugal-mode (still am, frankly) I waited, patiently for Black Friday to get me a deal.  I used to have an iPhone 5c. A sleek little number with a candy like green plastic shell. It served me well on commutes to and from DC. I would see other 5cs on the commute and smile at complete strangers. Like, "yeah, I see you and your cool affordable iPhone. You know it. I know it. We're in the club." Mostly these people just ignored me.

At last, Black Friday came, but the internet said there were no deals! How could that be? Maybe I had too much turkey? Saturday I get in my car and drive to the store, and in fact, there were deals. (By the way, bad UX Target.com). I waited a few hours, and asked myself,  "Self, am I really ready for this commitment?" I replied, "email, tax deduction, you need it." So I did! But when I got up in the line to buy a new phone, all they had left were iPhone 6s PLUSes. The big one. Which I didn't really want. "Two hundred and fifty dollar credit" I thought. It's the only size left, so I bought a big ole 6 plus.

This thing is so big I thought right away I could use it as a snowboard.  I kept the plastic on it for over a week thinking I might exchange it, when they had more inventory. Every time I'd whip it out of my pocket, I thought about how big it is. I dared not to put a cover on it lest it look even larger than it already is. I hate phone covers anyway. It's so big. On Metro I felt like I was wagging around a wad of $900 cash. Come rob me!  And then, after about a week, I used the camera the first time. And the clouds parted and the sun shown down. Or was that the gloriously large display shining my photos, just taken, right back in my face. Wow this camera is good, and this enormous screen is great for taking photos. I get it now. The plastic film was finally removed.

It's still big, but I'm getting used to it. I wonder if I like it so large? When I glance around, I see that my phone is larger than most other people's phone. I wonder if this is how SUV drivers feel. I can always downsize. It's just a phone. It's not a marriage. Size isn't everything.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm Federal Contracting

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

I am a Federal Contractor. I have been contracting to the US Federal Government since the beginning of 2014. And its a good place to work, a lucrative place for tech and developers to be. And it's completely fucked up at the same time.

So here I am contracting for the blank-blank-blank. (I'm not allowed to tell you) It was a hard road just to get to this point. Just to do some strait forward (and much needed) usability work for - - - . If it's this difficult, to get hired as a senior user experience (usability) consultant then imagine how completely backwards all government websites will be for the foreseeable future!

I don't want to be negative. Yes this is a sarcastic blog post. There are a few silver linings in Government contracting. I'm actually kicking butt improving web software at the blank-blank-blank. I haven't been happier since when I worked at Kick.com. But overall it's a mess, and a grossly expensive taxpayer funded mess that needs to change. The good guys working here get shafted by bigger firms that know how to play the contracting game better. Taxpayers loose left and right. Businesses too. It's generally a loose-loose environment which I'd like to see improve.

I don't understand why Google doesn't have a big fat office right in downtown DC? It might actually lift the culture in Washington out of the Mad Men era.

So the next time you do your taxes or fill out a Government form (like jury duty) remember, good Customer Experience is not an accident. Good experiences are planned. Period. Seems like a good role for government would be to plan ahead and create good experiences for folks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An Array of Solar Powered Desalination Stills

So in reading about the drought in California I was inspired to try to design some kind of solution. I guess I was frustrated after reading the plethora of news about the drought and seeing little to no solutions mentioned. Just NYTimes naggery and finger pointing and stuff about how California's agricultural industry simply does not manage water well. How California has never implemented drought measures that other parts of world has. And then, maybe it's because I'm a gardener and I recycle water that I actually see this drought problem easily solvable.

So here's my little Temple Grandin moment! An "array" of solar stills floating like enormous doughnuts on the sea.


It would make me really happy if some people in California would try this out. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Confliction and The Measels


Confliction - A sickness of conflict between on political idea and another.

The Measles Outbreak of 2015


We can't tell parents what to do with their own kids

But we want to tell parents what to do

But the Government has NO RIGHT to tell parents what to do

But we really really really just want to tell parents what to do

But we can't. It's not cool

OK but seriously, some other kids are at risk, and we should just make laws

NO, we can't tell parents what to do with their own kids. THAT is already law!

How about we trot out doctors and be really nice about telling parents what to do?

Yeah, but a lot of people understandably don't trust pharmaceutical corporations

OK let's use statistics, numbers! Let the data convince the parents!

BUT, the LAW says, we can not tell parents what to do with their own kids

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where is My Ultra High Definition Digital Sound?

I keep reading about new technologies coming out and hearing about the wearbales innovation. Seems like Silicon Valley is trying very hard to break into some new markets, and they're pushing into some unfamiliar territory to get there. Yesterday I was reading about apps that will tell if the person you're speaking to on your smartphone, is lying. Yup. I suppose there's some benefits to technology like that but here's why it's being developed.... to sell you more stuff. It's more Big Brother  advertising crap.

What about just improving the good old stuff we know everybody loves and will buy? Where is my ultra high definition sound? Better than a CD, over the internet?

This seems like a multi-billion dollar challenge, that is technically and commercially obtainable. The data storage is there, the marketplaces are there, god knows the cloud is there, and the consumers are there - what's missing is the high definition sound! All that takes is some more technology, which, is already there!!

Better yet, this could revive artists and artistry. A group who have been dealt a bad hand in the internet revolution and don't make a dime from services like Spotify.

So let this be a call to somebody! Apple, Sony, Google, hell... Amazon. Some crazy software sound engineer in college! Sound me up.

I realize SACD exists, but I can't stream it on my laptop.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Usability Part 2 - How To Do It

In my last post, Don't Fear The User Part 1 - Empowering Software Development With Usability Techniques, we talked about what usability is. The practice of making software easy to use. And that you accomplish this by listening to your target end user. Incidentally there is a great post on Good Experience today where Mark Hurst mentions his tweet:

Before you get customers involved, first you should probably check if the boss can handle bad news.

This is important because before you try to do usability work your boss needs to be on board. If you're boss is fearful and can't handle bad news then it might be a futile effort. Instead usability should be empowering. It will resolve problems and can help an organization meet its goals.  Now I'm going to elaborate on how to do it.

Step 1: Who is The End User?

User Experience Designers when we go to work, we do this thing called "User Centered Design". And all this means is we try to focus on The End User when we're designing. Let's use Blogger - this blog - as an example. If I were to sit down and start creating this Google product we know as Blogger, the first question I would ask myself is, "Who is the end user for Blogger?" THAT is the person you design for, not your client or your boss.  You want to target a persona that accurately represents your end users. If you do design for your client, boss, or self the problems are: a) you miss a lot of good ideas b) you miss all kinds of important details c) you might overcomplicate things for the person who needs to use that software d) your boss's wants are in conflict with the end user's etc.

Common question: But what if we want everybody to use our product? There are techniques for that too. For large-scale high traffic websites & apps, there are best practices. And if this is your product, you really need to work with a professional UCD person and I'd love to speak with you more :^)

Step 2: Listen to The End User

Wow I know right? This is so common sense you're probably rolling your eyes. OK but LISTEN - there are ways to listen to your customers. You don't just want to fire off a bunch of surveys, that's sooooo marketing. Nor do you want to ask for a list of all the features the user wants (they'll ask for everything). The best thing to do is listen to users as they interact with something. You take notes and record your research. It's fun and easy. This is also known as User Research, and sometimes referred to as Listening Labs.

Common question: But we aren't even settled on a product idea? Listening to your potential customers will help you figure this out. Watching them use a competitor's product will reveal all the ways you can succeed. If you work with an experienced product designer (ahem) they can help you glean this information from user research.

Step 3: Focus on The End User When Developing Your Product

There's always this temptation while developing something to look at your colleagues and say, "Wouldn't it be cool if it did this?!" It's fun to come up with cool ideas but it's better to postpone frosting the cake until after you bake it. Never forget who you're designing for. Don't let your bosses forget. Remind the developers so they don't forget and code a bunch of shortcuts and hacks.

Step 4: Usability Test

This is not QA testing. You are not looking for bugs. What you are testing is weather or not the end user can perform a task using the product. How long does it take that person to perform the task? How many clicks do they have to make to do what they need to do? Can they find the button? Do they know what feature lives in that dropdown menu?  That is usability testing.  See how agnostic this is? 

Step 5: Apply the Research and Testing To Your Product

Don't just report your research and testing, apply it. Make concrete recommendations for how to fix flaws in the UI that impede people from performing a task. Ideally this is all done as part of a larger development process and you have time allocated for usability testing and time to make changes to your interface.

Here is how to make this sound like bad news to the boss:
"When we did research, people complained that it was hard to sign-up. When we tested the sign-up process, only half the users were able to sign-up."

Instead it's better to discuss improvements you can make to remedy the problem: "When we did research, people complained that it was hard to sign-up. When we tested the sign-up process we found that if we reword the title and make this button larger we can make sign-up easier."


That is how you do it. Let me know if you have questions.