Archives For Experience Design

I was noodling this idea early last year, and shared it with a local Austin company that deals in ratings for retailers. They nodded and said, yeah, yeah, we are already going to do that, it is nothing new. But I guess I am not shopping at the right places, because I have yet to experience this type of personalization while shopping for clothes online.

The problem in shopping for clothes online- I don’t want to see all the merchandise in a stores, just the clothes/lingerie/swimwear that will look great on me. If the store knew my measurements (they can collect it at account creation time or when I leave a review), and the measurements of other reviewers, they could just show me clothes that were highly rated by other women with my shape. This concept isn’t new, Netflix built an empire on it, but why hasn’t it extended to other e-tailers?

For example, when I land on AnnTaylor.com, it should show me 5 shirts and 5 pants that are perfect for me with a big “Add All to Cart” button. Throw in some matching shoes and accessories and I just dropped $1k in 5 minutes. Done! Happy retailer, happy shopper.

Oh, and make sure to follow up with an email when new items are rated highly by my same shaped peeps- odds are good you’ll hook me for another purchase or two.

Who’s going to do this first? Gap, Nordstrom’s Victoria’s Secret, David’s Bridal, anyone game to beta test this and watch the revenue spike? I’d be happy to help with the UX design.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Mobile UX Summit along with Josh Clark, Brad Frost and some other inspirational guys. My talk was a case study of Silvercar, a start-up we led the UX design for last year. The talk explores how and why we took a Mobile First approach to the design part of the project. It also illustrates the process and deliverables for each stage in a cross-channel UX design project. 

I’m going to re-record and post the audio as well in the next week.

In the name of research, I spent 6+ weeks away from my Android and used a Windows 8 phone. Last time I tried this in 2011, it was a huge failure. The hardware was faulty, the app selection tiny, and I couldn’t take any screenshots.

Things have improved, and this stint with the Windows 8 Phone wasn’t too bad. But the apps in general are about 2 years behind in design maturity compared to android and iOs apps.

That said, I did find some exceptional apps that I wanted to share with fellow mobile designers & developers:

CocktailFlow

CocktailFlow_menu

CocktailFlow_search

CocktailFlow_search_results

CocktailFlow_recipe

CocktailFlow_community

CocktailFlow_similar

CocktailFlow_MyBar

CocktailFlow_cabinate_mixers

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

CocktailFlow follows the spirit of the UX guidelines for Windows while incorporating some unique design elements like the visual representation of My Liquor Cabinet.

Available here

Brit + Co

BritBRITCO_browse_tiles

BRITCO_

BRITCO_article

BRITCO_drilldown

BRITCO_health

BRITCO_hot

BRITCO_share

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Like many content sites, Brit + Co has a deep hierarchy, which can be a challenge to create a clear navigation strategy for. But they have perfectly implemented the structure and navigation recommend for Windows Phone Apps. Get familiar up on the design guidelines here.

Available here

Maluuba

Maluuba_restaurants

Maluuba_explore

Maluuba_myday

Maluuba_restaurant

Maluuba_set_alarm

Maluuta_reminders

maluuba_calendar

Maluuba_search

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Maluuba is an example of a productivity tool (versus a content application like Brit +Co) that has done a fantastic job implementing the structure and navigation recommend for Windows Phone Apps.

Available here

NewEgg

NewEgg_home

NewEgg_item_added_to_cart

NewEgg_Guided_Search

NewEgg_price_filter

NewEgg_advanced_search

NewEgg_comparison

NewEgg_results_filtered

NewEgg_sort

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

This is hands down the best Windows retail application. Everything from the shopping cart to the guided search and advanced search are well designed both from a IA and IX perspective. They also offer a nice “compare” feature. Amazon and other retailers who are struggling with the new Windows guidelines should consider redesigning their application with NewEgg as a model.

Available here

SkyScanner

skyscanner_mobile_web

skyscanner_select_destination

skyscanner_search

skyscanner_departure_times

skyscanner_filters_more

skyscanner_results

skyscanner_overview

skyscanner_filters

skyscanner_select_flights

Skyscanner_booking

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Typically Kayak, Expedia and more recently Hipmunk have had the best mobile apps, but I was surprised to find this little gem for my Windows Phone. Love the simple booking process and the nice visualization of the pricing for selecting the legs of the flight. The only place it falls down is at the end, it redirects to the SkyScanner mobile site to book, but it doesn’t remember any of data that was just entered in the native app.

Available here

Hipstamatic Oggl

hipstamtic_filters

Hipsomatic_image

Hipsomatic_library

hipstamatic_profile

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

I included Hipstamatic because it is a choice example of an app that deviated from the Windows Design Guide to structure their custom controls. The current guidelines do not accomodate nested or contextual tools, but Hipstamatic created an elegant, intuitive touch solution.

Available here

TOSHL

Toshl_welcome

Toshl_signup

Toshl_login

Toshl_contextual_help

Toshl_setup

Toshl_add_expense

Toshl_expense_detail

Toshl_setup_reminder

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Great onboarding experience for a productivity tool centered on a topic most people would rather not be dealing with (bookkeeping, bill pay, finances, ick…).

Available here

ESPN Hub

ESPNHUB

ESPNHUB_scores

ESPNHUB_gamecast

ESPNHUB_the_latest

ESPNHUB_menu

ESPNHUB_top_videos

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

I included Espn Hub because of the way they intermingled the suggested Windows navigation structure with a custom menu control that slides out on the left. It is similar to the off canvas control seen in other OSs in apps including Path and Facebook.

Available here

HungryNow

Hungry_NowHungryNow_about

HungryNow_map_view

HungryNow_starbucks

HungryNow_starbucks_details

HungryNow_settings

Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Hungry Now is one of the very few apps that was originally designed for the iPhone that ports quite well to Windows (and could work fine on Android and BlackBerry too). Granted it is a single screen interface so they aren’t struggling with the hierarchal challenges most other apps face, but they have designed a simple touch interface that is OS neutral.

Available here

And of course, the usual suspects: Facebook Beta, LinkedIn, Evernote, Pandora, UrbanSpoon, Amazon Fresh… Check out the presentation on Slideshare and see the rest. Even if you’re not working on a Windows app now, you might be inspired.

If I’ve missed any great ones, please share it with me and you’ll be added to a drawing for a free copy of the Mobile Design Pattern Gallery 2nd Edition.

UXApprenticeUX Apprentice is a joint project with the great folks at Balsamiq. Last year they asked me to create a resource for their millions of users who are not UX practitioners. As you’ve probably noticed, everybody uses Balsamiq now days to mockup products: developers, product owners, entrepreneurs, marketing teams, etc.

UX Apprentice is for you. We knew you didn’t have time to read the hundreds of books out there, and might not know which ones to start with even if you did have the time. So we wrote a little story, or study, of UX in practice, and added some theory and additional resources along the way.

If you have any questions or feedback you’d like to share, please let me know so we can improve this site over time.

Hiring Top UX Talent

March 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

Every company I’ve spoke with in the past 6m-1yr has mentioned that they just can’t find, much less hire, top UX talent. As one of the aforementioned “talents”, I’d like to share some advice to help companies with their recruiting efforts.

Hiring Do’s

1. Bone up on the terminology

I know there are a bunch of acronyms in the field, UX, UI, UCD, IA, IX, XD, etc.. but you wouldn’t think of just posting an add for a “Developer”, you’d take the time to specify that you want an experienced Java Developer with JSP, Spring, Soap and MVC experience. 

2. Understand the space

UX isn’t graphic design and it isn’t web design and it isn’t (just) making wireframes. An experienced UX practitioner will guide you from research to product launch. They should be part of your strategy team, not brought in at the tail end of the design phase to tidy up the wireframes. 

If you are hiring a consultant, they should want to be part of your team through  launch (and afterwards too). UX isn’t about a hand-off, it is a cornerstone of your project’s success.

3. Skip posting on the generic job boards 

Every qualified (and unqualified) designer I know is too busy to be pouring over the job boards. Reach out to leaders in the UX field and ask for recommendations. Try the UX groups on LinkedIn or the industry specific associations like the UXPA. 

4. Pursue the best fit

Since it is already a tight market, might as well shoot for the stars. If you have a big data visualization project, seek out a UX designer who is passionate about data visualization (like me). Research those designers and try to win one for your project. 

I am more likely to work with a company who takes the time to look at my portfolio before calling, just like they would expect me research their company if I was pursuing them. 

5. Request a portfolio

A UX designers portfolio might not be flashy like a creative director’s will be, but it should showcase their process and deliverables in the context of a projects success. 

6. Do due diligence

I have been suckered in by a gorgeous portfolio more times than I would like to admit, only to find out later the person was only tangentially involved in the project. I have now learned to ask these questions:

  • What role did you play in this project?
  • How long were you involved (2 of the 6 months, start to finish, still working on it)? 
  • Who else was on your team?
  • What process did you use? 
  • Can I contact your creative director, team member, manager, client, etc… for a recommendation?

7. Know the nuances

If you are creating enterprise applications, a UX designer with web site experience probably isn’t a good fit. Look for someone with enterprise and BtoB experience. Conversely if you are working on a mobile app based on community building an enterprise UX designer won’t have the background of experience you need.

There are also specific roles in the UX field, like UX researcher. This is a vital role, but don’t expect your researcher to be a top notch mobile designer too (and vise versa). I have built our my team to have complimentary skills and we pair up based on the product space, and specific project needs.

8. Take a test drive

If the candidate doesn’t have a case study in their portfolio  take a small problem that you may have already solved and ask the candidate how he would approach it as the UX designer.*

*I am not suggesting you try to get free design work as part of the interviewing process, just test the designer like you would test a programmer. 

Hiring Don’ts

And now what not to do

1. Use a recruiter that has no idea what UX is

I have dozens of examples of being contacted by a recruiter who is hiring for a high level position but doesn’t know what UX is. They either think it is something to do with development or graphic design. Hard to have a conversation with this person…

2. Use a recruiter at all

Just got an email yesterday from a company that I would love to work with, but the recruiter suggested I would be great for their UX design as a “junior designer”. Seriously? Conversation over before it even started.

3. Offer 1/2 the going rate

A major hardware company called me a couple of months ago about a UX director role. They are “re-imagining” their whole user experience from soup to nuts. I was intrigued until we discussed the $$. They were paying 1/3  of the going rate. 

4. Think the ‘X’ in UX stands for seXy

So you’ve followed all these pointers and have top talent on the phone or across the table, don’t blow it by telling them you want to design a “sexy” app. The X stands for Experience, and the U for Users. 

The only way to blow your users socks off is to talk with them , get in their heads, and craft an experience that improves their life. Unless you are in the adult entertainment business or fashion, your users are not looking for “sexy”, they  are just desperately hoping for something that makes their life easier or more enjoyable. 

5. Want to start tomorrow

Again, every qualified (and unqualified) designer I know is booked, so please, please PLAN AHEAD. Bare minimum the candidate will need two weeks to wrap up their current project, more if they are leading it. 

But even more importantly, unreasonable timelines are a red flag for any project. I am forever perplexed by companies that call me and want me to start “yesterday”. It typically means the whole project is going to be run poorly and subject to knee jerk decisions during critical phases.

Wrap Up

My recommendations are similar to many other lists already out there, just scoped to the field of UX and my own personal experiences. And remember tip #3, I’d be happy to refer you to designers who might be a good fit for your projects, so reach out to me.

Presented at the IT Leaders Forum- Executive Networks. 20 minute intro used to start a discussion on mobile strategy. Number #1 biggest mistake, not knowing what options are out there and how to pick the correct ones for your organization. Number # 2 biggest mistake- stopping there. This talk includes some great examples from retail, subscription based services, and service design, and an example of a company in the danger zone.

Earlier this month, I presented an updated talk on Mobile Strategy for Servoy. This one hour talk looks at the 3 options for a mobile strategy: Responsive Web, Mobile Optimized, and/or Native. I also explained why HTML5 is not a strategy; it is merely a technology you can use to implement any and all of these options. And we briefly discussed the three faces of Mobile First and how this methodology helps companies break out of old habits to create better customer experiences.

Android users can now pay with PayPal at Starbucks.

I’m really excited to see this product come to life. We worked with PayPal on the early concepts for mobile payments at Starbucks.

Early ideas required Starbucks customers to open the PayPal application on their iPhone to pay. This Android experience is more natural, allowing customers to simply refill their Starbucks card with PayPal, within the Starbucks mobile app.

We just wrapped up last day of the IA Summit 2012 in lovely New Orleans. I have enjoyed wonderful food, drinks, company and speakers including Stephen Anderson, Josh Clark, Chris Risdon, Greg Nudelman, Nadine Schaeffer and Dan Brown.

But one of the talks on Saturday, a panel called Taking the Plunge: Diving into Indie UX, left me gaping. The first section focused on design and design process and how it would be different if you are acting as an independent operator vs working within an agency or organization. I was shocked to hear the 4 panelists don’t collaborate with other designers or work with mentors because, as one said “I’m a good designer, I don’t need help“. Other comments about 16 hour days, spending 20-40% of time on non-billable tasks, deals taking 18 months to close, and not having repeat clients illustrated the wrong way to approach indie work, not a sure path to success.

I’ve been an ‘indie’ for about 7 years, but I’m no expert. I came to the session hoping to learn how other independent designers handle important issues like process, pricing, managing clients, finding the right clients. Instead I am alarmed that there may be a whole group of people out there posing as UX designers who don’t know their ass from a tea kettle and another set of professional, dedicated designers who could be very successful working independently now scared to try it.

Like I said, I am not an expert, but I have been successful, more so that I would have ever imagined. I have a group of 10 other ‘indies’ who work with me, many outstanding client relationships, a broad & deep portfolio in the space I’m interested in. If you measure success with dollar signs, I matched my salary from my previous Director of UX position in the first year and it has steadily increased each year. I like what I do and I hope to be in this field as it evolves over the next 7 years.

So I don’t know if this is the right way to dive into indie work, but I think it is a more balanced and professional approach than what I heard Saturday:

1. Clock your 10k

Malcolm Gladwell and other writers have noted the correlation between 10,000 hours of experience in a field and expert status. So you’ll need a bare minimum of 5 years designing before you have the skills, experience and exposure to go out on your own. But a normal desk job doesn’t get you 10k in 5 years. A full-time job + side projects might though- see #2. And making a web site in high school doesn’t mean at 20, you now have 5 years experience under your belt. I’m talking about design work in a professional environment, hopefully one where you work like a dog to learn everything you can about this field- see #3.

2. Ease into it

Keep your day job, and if you have the passion and time, pick up a side project for the evenings and weekend. This will help you learn important info about yourself that you’ll need to know before taking the full time indie plunge. How are you at:

  • estimating
  • managing timelines
  • setting client expectations
  • selecting and screening projects and clients
  • taking criticism
  • following through
  • scheduling meetings
  • saying ‘no’ (this was one of the good things Donna Spencer noted in the talk)
  • working from home
  • working remotely
  • dealing with all the bs that comes with working from home
  • negotiating your rate
  • handling the bookkeeping

.
It might become readily apparent that you will thrive in this role or that there are some areas where you’ll need more experience or support.

3. Do anything to work with the best

Anthony Bourdain, author of ‘Kitchen Confidential’, has a newer book, ‘Medium Raw’. In this book he has a chapter titled “So you wanna be a chef”. He bluntly explains that if you are old (in restaurants that means over 30), fat, or have any health problems, to stay away. After this chapter designed to open your eyes about the real physical demands of cooking, he says if you do decide to go to culinary school, and manage to graduate, do everything in your power to work for the best. Whore yourself out to the best restaurants in Europe, just for the experience. Even if they don’t pay you, even if you sleep on someone’s floor for a year, it is worth it just for the experience.

Same thing applies in our field, but I’ll spare you all the cussing Bourdain uses to make my point. Go work with the best UX designer or agency that will take you. Intern for free, or volunteer to work on side projects just to get the chance to collaborate with experienced and talented people.
I was super lucky in this regard. In my first year as a designer, I helped hire my future boss, mentor, friend and co-author, Bill Scott. I spent 4 years learning from one of the best UI designers and developers in the U.S.

4. Don’t degrade or disgrace this budding industry

UX is an emerging field. Many companies know they need UX help but don’t know exactly what that will entail. If you have clocked your 10k, worked with the best, and successfully delivered a number of side projects on time, on budget, and the designs you made were well received by the end users (in testing and production), you may be ready to help these companies.

If you haven’t clocked your 10k, haven’t successfully delivered multiple projects on time, on budget, and received positive user feedback (in testing and production), and haven’t worked with the best, you likely do NOT know what you are doing well enough to represent our industry on your own. Go back and get the experience you will need to help your clients be successful. Because, ultimately, this isn’t about you making fat stacks while working in your pajamas, it is about making your client’s projects successful.

5. Get your ducks in a row

Legal

You need some type of legal entity. I’m not lawyer or accountant, so I won’t advise you as to what type. I have a LLC, and so do most the designers I collaborate with (who are in the US).

You will need a standard MNDA, a consulting agreement, and a SOW template. And you’ll need a lawyer to review contracts before you sign them. I am serious, pay the extra money to make sure you are covered, you’ll sleep better at night.

Software and hardware

You need a time tracking system, invoicing system and file sharing system. You need a personal computer, and preferably a back up computer. I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but you need a secure backup of your work.

Financial security

You’ll need 3-12 months of living expenses in the bank. Trust me, you don’t want to be in the position where you have to take any job that comes along because you’re broke. Having some financial security gives you the freedom (and time) to screen prospective clients carefully and only accept projects that are closely aligned with your expertise and interest.

Public presence

You do not need a fancy office, amazing web site, logo, or business cards.

You do need a concise overview of your services and how you will work with your clients to provide value. I drafted a UX process years ago to help set client expectations about my role as a UX consultant, the deliverables, and what I expect from them during an engagement. Every client’s UX needs are different, so we don’t always follow this approach, but it is a good tool for the initial discussions. If you are going to freelance, you need a process or at least some case studies of projects you have been involved in.

You need a current portfolio. Be honest. Clearly call out what your role for each project was and who else you collaborated with. I would also recommend having a professional blog and authoring original content. Once you get used to writing, contribute to reputable UX blogs, like UX Booth, UX Magazine, UX Matters, etc..

References

Not all clients ask for them, but they should. Be able to provide references, preferably from pleased clients and colleagues. Again, if you clocked 10k, eased into this and worked with the best, this shouldn’t be hard to come up with. I had the luck of the lifetime when I left Sabre with a portfolio with dozens of desktop, web and mobile applications and their gold star recommendation.

6. Build a trusted team of collaborators

So I already mentioned that I was appalled that the panelists didn’t work with other designers, not even mentors. But as I thought about this more, I realized this is simple arrogance, not ignorance. UX encompasses a broad array of disciplines. A typical UX project we’re involved in includes:

  • market research
  • stakeholder interviews
  • business strategy sessions
  • user research
  • information architecture design
  • interaction design
  • content development
  • user validation/testing
  • prototyping
  • development collaboration
  • project management
  • visual design

And some projects require even more specialty work like video production.

I’m certainly not qualified to handle all of these roles myself, nor have I met any single UX person who is. Before I built my team of UX experts, I connected with fellow consultants who specialized in the areas I was weakest (ie. user research, testing, visual design, and prototyping). I knew which ones I could collaborate with who could be trusted to provide high quality work on time and on budget.

7. Provide a stellar Client Experience

Here’s an area I am still working on. After designing all these years, I forget that our clients don’t live and breath UX. They are new to the process, the terminology, the principles and the deliverables. They are looking to us for guidance to make their project successful.

One of the things we try to do, but should probably make a mandatory step in our process, is an on-site kick off meeting. We elaborate on our process, meet the stakeholders, then start looking at the business objectives for the project.

Once we’re up and running, we have standing design sessions, 1-2 days a week depending on the pace of the project. We also use Basecamp or myBalsamiq for file sharing and collaboration. Basecamp isn’t the perfect app for consulting, but the calendar does allow you to enter events and milestones. We’ve found that providing a really light weight project plan combined with standing weekly meetings, and the message board in Basecamp cuts down on random client emails at mid-night, or panicked calls asking when they can see the next version.

Don’t go crazy with the SaaS though, notes on Google docs, assets in DropBox, messages in Basecamp, project plans in Gantter, etc… just confuse clients. You’ll spend more time resetting passwords than getting design work done. Try to find one tool that is good enough, and stick with it, for their sake.

All in all, be professional

  • Leave a reasonable amount of time to complete your work, don’t knock it out at 3am, or in a 16 hour day
  • Respond to messages in a timely manner
  • Treat clients’ questions and feedback with respect, you are the design expert, but they are the subject matter experts
  • Educate them on UX methodology as appropriate during the project- note this is different than evangelizing UX

8. Get clients, not projects

This was the most troubling part of the talk, none of the panelists had significant repeat customers. They didn’t even talk about building client relationships. I have found the key to consulting is building client relationships, meaning, instead of taking 20 disparate projects a year, we have a half dozen clients that we work with on multiple projects.

The panelists spoke of 16 hour days (at the same time saying they bill by the hour which made me cringe) and how “you’ll burn out quick” like this. What I find to be most draining is ramping up on numerous small projects back to back. That is why client relationships are so valuable; it is easier to ramp up on projects within the same company, even if the work is for a different organizational unit. And we’re providing a great value to our repeat clients by reducing the number of hours need in the discovery cycle, since we already have some understanding of their industry and customers.

In summary

You can’t become an ‘indie’ UX designer until you have proven yourself as a ‘successful’ UX designer and have the portfolio and references to back you up.

I’d love to hear more tips from other successful independent designers; I’m sure there are many topics I’ve overlooked here, so chime in with your own experiences.

I don’t know where I’m getting the free time to click through Slideshare over the past week, but here’s another presentation I enjoyed. I think they did an excellent job highlighting how a product’s interface (not just copy) can influence our behaviors.