Why Design Documentation Matters

At Cooper we design products that empower and delight the people who use them. Design documentation is integral to our process because it communicates the design itself, the rationale for decisions we made, and the tools for clients to carry on once the project wraps up.

Good design documentation doesn’t just specify all the pixel dimensions and text styles and interaction details (which it must). It can also tell the high-level story, stitch together the big picture, and get internal stakeholders excited about the vision. One of our primary goals as outside consultants is to build consensus and momentum around the design—documentation can speak to executives as well as developers. After all, we’re usually leaving a lot of the hard work of design implementation on the client’s doorstep, and building great software starts with getting all the stakeholders on board.

Design documentation should create trust and provide consistency for future iterations of the design thinking. We believe it’s important to give the rationale and context behind design decisions. Answering the “why?” of design helps new team members get on board down the road, prevents wasted effort later when old questions get rehashed, and provides the starting point for prioritization and roadmap discussions. This facet of the process is too often overlooked or omitted for expediency, but trust us: clients will thank you later.

The best design documentation gives the client a unified design language, a framework for talking about the design, and a platform for improving the design over time. Static documentation is quickly becoming a thing of the past—we’re always looking for new documentation techniques and delivery mechanisms because we want to equip our clients with the most approachable and actionable information possible. Delivering design documentation marks the beginning of the client’s journey, not the end.

Designer’s Toolkit: Road Testing Prototype Tools

We’ve all been there: you’ve got a few days to throw together a prototype. For expedience sake, you go to one of your large, well known tools to get the job done. The files quickly become bloated and crash—hours of hard work lost. There’s got to be a way to create prototypes at a similar level of fidelity with a lighter weight tool.

After test driving some alternative prototyping tools I discovered that there are indeed other good options. Here is an overview of what I found, followed by assessments of each tool, with hopes it will help fellow designers in the prototyping trenches.

Choosing the tools

After researching existing prototyping tools, I narrowed a long list of about 40 to a small set of 10 that looked the most interesting. Some factors that influenced which tools I selected include:

  • Hearing about the tool from fellow Cooperistas or other colleagues.
  • The popularity of the tool based on what I read in other blogs.
  • Whether it looked cool or exciting from my first impression of the design and features.

This is not a comprehensive set of tools, but includes the ones that I was interested in checking out.

Read More

UX Boot Camp with Marketplace Money

Old School Radio Meets the Digital Age

Take a look inside Cooper’s June, 2013 UX Boot Camp with American Public Media’s Marketplace Money radio show, where students explored the next horizon of audio programming—a paradigm shift from broadcast to conversation-based platforms.

The Challenge
Students rolled up their sleeves to help the show respond to the trend away from traditional radio by finding the right mix of alternative distribution platforms. Marketplace Money came equally ready to take a radical departure from their current format in order to create a new model that redefines the roles of host, show, and audience in the digital age. To reach this goal, students focused on designing solutions that addressed three big challenges:

  1. Engage a new, younger audience that is tech savvy, and provide easy access to content via new platforms, such as podcasts, satellite radio shows, and the Internet.
  2. Inspire audience participation and contribution. Facilitate conversations and inspire people to share their personal stories so that listeners can learn from each other.
  3. Design ways for the host to carry an influential brand or style that extends beyond the limits of the show and engage with the audience around personal finance, connecting with listeners in ways that are likeable, useful, and trustworthy, making the topic of personal finance cool, fun and approachable.

At the end of the four-day Boot Camp, student teams presented final pitches to Marketplace Money, and a panel of experienced Cooper designers offered feedback on their ideas and presentations.In the following excerpts from each day, you can test your own sensory preferences for receiving content as you see, hear and read how design ideas evolved at the Boot Camp, inspiring new relationships between people and radio.

Marketplace Money Class

Read More

Deconstructing the Keyboard

Guest blog post by Zak Brazen, Creative Strategist of Brazenworks, a design and ingenuity lab we invited to create a branded object for our new studio. What we got was a work of art!

IMG_4599

The truth is, we take computer keyboards for granted. They’re too familiar; like the picture of that dolphin that’s hung in your bathroom for years. In fact, we often view them as an impediment to our productivity or creative expression.

Read More

Interaction13 – Day 1 Recap


Seeing some old friends at Ixd13!

Here are some of the programs Cooperistas attended on Monday at Interaction13.

Follow all of Interaction13 through daily recaps on the Cooper Journal. Here’s Day 2,
Day 3,
Day 4.

Smart & Beautiful: Designing Robots & Intelligent Machines

By Dr. Matthew Powers (Carnegie Mellon University)

We make robots that mimic human bodies to do the 3D jobs (dirty, dull, and dangerous – ex. strip mining), but there is so much more potential in intelligent machines than just this. As designers, we need to take a step back and think about the design implications of robots and intelligent machines working in our world.

We already have robots in our houses.

Nest learning thermostat is a robot. This product is a perfect example of cooperation between robotics and designers. it is intelligent and well designed so the user isn’t obligated to manually input data.

Call for action for Designers:

We need to move from solving robotics problems to solving problems with robotics.
Robotics provides tools. Design grounds robotics into practical problem and brings a more human approach to a field that is by definition inhuman

At the end of the talk, Dr. Powers threw out this doozy:

Will it be the role of designers, engineers, and/or policy-makers to decide the “ethics” of robots? Who decides how an automated car would make the choice between hitting a bus full of children or a pedestrian?

Read More

Push (no, shove!) your practice forward

Announcing our 2013 Cooper U class schedule!

It’s that time again: New Years resolutions scribbled in notebooks, jammed packed yoga classes, fridges suddenly full of healthy grub to make up for creeping holiday waistlines. For most of us, those resolutions start out with a roar and end, well, with a wimpy fizzle. That’s why it’s critical to commit to specific plans now while you’ve got that New-Years-I’m-gonna-conquer-the-world hutzpah. Even if you don’t conquer your whole list by December, at least you can check a few things off with pride. The most important thing about resolutions is simply that they get us moving forward.

Cooper U collage

Enter Cooper U. We can help you with that momentum problem. We’ve got a fantastic line up of classes this year that can help you hone your design leadership, interaction design, and visual interface design chops. And, if you need practice on a real-world problem, we have an incredible lineup up of UX Boot Camps coming.

So, let us make actualizing resolutions easy for you. Try these on for size, and see which one(s) sparks your New Year’s fire most:

Read More

Get Your Design Think On: UX Boot Camp Fair Trade USA

In our March Boot Camp, you’ll have a chance to work with Fair Trade USA, North America’s leading third party certifier of Fair Trade goods. You’ll be challenged to conceive of digital tools to enable advocates and influencers to ignite consumer demand for Fair Trade products to create a fundamental shift in the way goods are traded and purchased. And you’ll do all that in a creative classroom setting on the 50-acre organic farm of Cooper founders, Alan and Sue Cooper!

UX Boot Camp Fair Trade USA

  • Mar 25-28, 2013
  • Facilitators: Kendra Shimmell, Stefan Klocek, and Teresa Brazen

Design is a messy process, full of ambiguity and competing choices. This makes learning how to design hard. Learning tools and methods can only take you so far; to be a great designer, you have to practice thinking critically and applying those tools.

That’s the philosophy behind UX Boot Camp, our four-day crash-course in user experience design that gives you a real-world problem to solve along with a toolkit to tackle it. You’ll take your ideas from inception to design with the mentorship of our best teachers and active feedback from a real non-profit client.

The best part is that the impact of this course goes well beyond the classroom.

UXBC Teams Collage Photo 1 Read More

Cooper wins 2013 Interaction Award

2013InteractionAwards_BestInCategoryOptimizing

We are proud to announce that our work with Practice Fusion’s EMR iPad app has been announced as 2013 Interaction Award winner in optimizing from the Interaction Design Association. The app was selected by an international jury and recognized for it’s ability to make daily activities more efficient. Here’s a look at what this app can do.

Congratulations to the Practice Fusion team and the Cooper team of Stefan, Andreas, Jayson, Elisha, Jenea, Doug, and Nick, and a big thank you to Jim.

Update:If you like this app, than let your voice be heard! Vote for this app to win the Interaction13 People’s Choice Award

Related Reading

Behind the scenes of Practice Fusion’s EMR for iPad app

To create our new iPad interface, which just released as a beta version to active providers, Practice Fusion partnered with the award-winning design firm Cooper. Cooper is renowned for its work across the design world, from startups to over a third of the Fortune 500, with its emphasis on creating simple and enjoyable user experiences.

Testing the iPad EMR 300x200

Our iPad User Experience Designer, Kramer Weydt (R), worked closely with Cooper’s Stefan Klocek (L) to make the Cooper design a reality. We met to chat about the process:

First of all, what exactly was your role on the iPad design?

Stefan Klocek: We are user experience designers, meaning we focus specifically on how users interact with the EMR. Instead of just designing from scratch, we first understand our user’s needs and we determine how we can fulfill those needs with the technical resources we have available.

Kramer Weydt: We’re not doctors, but we understand how people interact with devices and we learn from doctors what they need from this technology through research and interviews.

Read More

Should you ditch your interface?

What if instead of designing explicit interfaces we aimed instead at eliminating them altogether? If instead of adding a screen we found ways to remove it? Wouldn’t the best user interface be the one that requires nothing of the user?

No UI, proposed here on the Journal by Cooper’s Golden Krishna, is interesting, provocative, and deeply flawed. Golden argues that no interface is best, and then explores ways strip it out. But this begins with a designer’s goal rather than the users’. First identify where users are helped or hindered by explicit interfaces: When hindered, eliminate the UI. But there’s many times when a UI really helps. When it does, make it great.

But where to start? Three questions can help you evaluate the user’s relationship with a task, product or service.

For any particular interface in the system:

  1. Does the user want or need control?
  2. Does the user get value from doing the work themselves?
  3. Does the user outperform technology?

If you can answer “no” to every one of these questions, then put in the effort to eliminate the interface. If you answer “yes” to any one of these you should focus on improving the interface so that it supports the user better. If it’s not unanimously “yes” or “no” carefully consider how design can meet the conflicting needs. Get to know your users well. Design a solution that’s as sophisticated and nuanced as their situation calls for.

Each of these questions helps you examine the relationship of the user with the technology. These are massively important considerations when advocating for the elimination of the interface; a product without some form of interface effectively doesn’t exist for the user. The UI is the embodiment of your relationship with it. No interface, no relationship. Sometimes this is exactly what you want. But people also value products because they bring something into their lives, or because they remove some obstacle from it. Every tool, game, or service gives people power, information, peace, pleasure, or possibility. Interactions with these should be awesome, helpful, supportive, effortless; and for this we often need a really great UI.

Read More