From time to time, we revive our in-house book club to catch up on new themes, practices, or ideas out there in the design world. This month, we're reading Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, written by Jeff Gothelf and ex-Cooperista Josh Seiden. Inspired by Eric Ries's The Lean Startup, Lean UX takes aim at waterfall design and development processes and outlines a set of ways that UX designers can more deeply and helpfully engage in product development. The intent is to foster more open, collaborative, and iterative processes, and to break through the organizational red tape that can stifle creativity. The end goals: More trust, more clarity, more fun, and better products delivered quickly by a highly-functioning team. Managing Director Doug LeMoine caught up with Jeff and Josh to discuss the ways in which lean practices can superpower our (and your) UX work.
Doug: UX, as it is commonly practiced, is all about establishing a coherent vision for a product or service. Oftentimes, in striving for coherence, designers can slam the brakes on development, since no one wants to waste effort in developing something that's not part of that coherent vision. What is to be done with this state of affairs? How does Lean UX help here?
Josh: I do think establishing a vision up front is important. But I think that we often mistake how much work we need to do to establish and articulate that vision. If you’re working in deep collaboration with a cross-functional team, you can establish, test, and validate a vision very quickly. So, instead of “slamming the brakes on developers,” we advocating including them and other team members in the visioning activities early in the project.
When the topic of user research comes up with a new client, they're often surprised by the small number of users we want to speak to. It’s important that designers and others involved in the design process understand research methodologies and can articulate the value we get from speaking to a small number of users.
Quantitative research involves large sample sizes of participants (think thousands) and is concerned with answering questions about how much, how often, and how many. Quantitative studies can be used to understand how often people spend doing certain activity, the size of a potential market, typical demographics, and user preferences. This research usually takes the form of surveys, web analytics, and other machine-gathered information. Quantitative research is good at helping us understand more about what we already think we know. Quantitative research isn't good at uncovering motivations, goals, or getting a high-level understanding of the people that will use a product or service.
User research at a call center.
Qualitative research on the other hand usually involves a small sample size (think dozens) and is concerned with understanding how people behave, how they think about certain activities, and what factors affect their behavior and thought patterns. This research takes the form of individual interviews in the context or setting where the product would be used (e.g. at the desk, in the car, etc.). The context or setting is important so we can observe what people do instead of what they say they do. Qualitative research is really good at helping us understand things we don’t already know.
Last week I had a chance to attend Disrupting Markets By Design. What I expected was musings on design as a competitive advantage accompanied by Apple anecdotes. Or maybe a case for lean thinking for designers and the need to fail fast by using quantitative research methods. What I got instead was a compelling and nuanced review of the importance of empathy.
From Lean UX to continuous integration, our processes for generating new ideas are increasingly driven by analytics and usage stats. What allows us to navigate the murky waters of uncertain custom resonance is the intangible skill of vision making; visions that exist only in pixels. Rather than capturing value through physical objects, we're gaining premium prices for services, and, increasingly, experiences. But there's also a dark-side to the disruption spurred by the collusion of design and technology.
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?
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:
Does the user want or need control?
Does the user get value from doing the work themselves?
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.
Guest post by our new intern and California College of the Arts interaction design student, Casey Kawahara
After putting the final touches on my first project as an intern here at Cooper, I had a chance to participate in Cooper's Interaction Design course. The class was diverse in every sense of the word. Fifteen students flew in from Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, and Germany, to name a few. Developers and designers — they were all there.
After a round of introductions, we jumped right into short bursts of lectures that covered topics such as brainstorming, personas, frameworks, and scenarios. Between each lecture, we collaborated and further developed the ideas that had been presented. One of my favorite aspects of these exercises was learning how others use these processes in their own professional practice (sometimes very similar to the process we learned and other times very different).
After we covered the main topics of the course, we jumped into several larger projects to exercise our new design skills. One project involved redesigning a picture application on a smart phone. Although familiar to everyone, this wasn’t a simple task. We broke into groups of three and brainstormed solutions to problems such as storage, access, editing, and of course, actual picture taking. We developed a persona and scenario, and began to sketch our ideas. We acted as if the application were “magic” in order to not censor our creativity, and soon realized that “magic” wasn’t that far off from what’s actually possible.
Some ideas were good, some great, and all interesting. Designing and creating with people I’d only met a few days prior led to some truly amazing concepts. Everything from projection technology, geo-location, and voice recognition was explored. There were even a few ideas that I’ll keep secret in hopes that one day someone in our class actually develops them.
As expected, we received thoughtful teaching and discussion from veteran interaction designers like Emma van Niekerk and Doug LeMoine. We were even lucky enough to have Alan Cooper drop in to answer a few questions and offer insights about everything from Microsoft to the current disarray of higher education. (It’s not everyday that you get a peek into the mind of the guy who practically invented interaction design!)
Throughout my education at California College of the Arts and Cooper, I’ve learned that with design you often find new opportunities and finish somewhere completely different than where your original expectations predicted you’d end up. After completing the Interaction Design Cooper U course, nothing rings more true. I expected to learn about things like process, frameworks, and research techniques. However, I didn’t expect the richness of experience I had with a room full of people who started out as strangers.
Meeting other people who are passionate about design and eager to become better interaction designers made the course especially meaningful for me. Perhaps even more important — and unexpected — are the 15 new friendships with people who are sure to create exciting things in the future.
If you're thinking about coming to our upcoming UX Boot Camp in San Francisco, jump on it soon....you can keep an extra $100 in your pocket (Fancy dinner? New pair of shoes?) by signing up by Monday, July 2nd. Lucky you: the original deadline was June 30, but since that's a Saturday, we're tacking on a few more days. We also offer $50 off per person for groups (Quick math: that's $150 off for each of you if you register by Monday!). And if, somehow, you have missed the big news about this special, intensive UX training, do yourself a favor and read below:
UX Boot Camp Course Dates: July 30 - August 2, 2012 Event Location: San Francisco, California Register!
Cooper's UX Boot Camp is an intensive, immersive four-day design training class targeting designers, developers, and product managers who have product design experience but want to take their product design skills and processes to the next level. In short, it’s where people become design leaders. Guided by industry experts, students will learn Cooper's goal-directed design process while working on a real-world product for a nonprofit partner. The class is built around hands-on activities, conducted in pairs and small teams. Participants will learn to:
Set the stage for effective collaboration
Define product and service ecosystems
Conduct design research using both lightweight and in-depth techniques
Synthesize research data into actionable next steps
Model personas and build empathy for their current situation
Storyboard future concepts
Design a seamless framework for a multi-platform experience (web and mobile)
Learn how to go beyond features and design for engagement
Facilitate effective design reviews
Present like it's theater; choreograph a presentation experience
Along the way, participants will also learn critical leadership, communication and collaboration skills. At the end of this course, you'll have new tools in your design toolkit, and a well-articulated design concept for a real product that you can add to your portfolio.
Our next Boot Camp will be held in San Francisco, CA from July 30 to August 2, and participants will learn the goal-directed design process by creating Web and mobile concepts for Women's Earth Alliance (WEA). WEA partners internationally with grassroots organizations in Africa, India, and the United States. Through those partnerships, WEA provides financial resources, training, advocacy, and peer support to women leaders who are addressing acute environmental and climate changes.
To inspire great work while learning, the course is also part friendly competition. Each team will present their design concepts to a panel of WEA and Cooper judges, and the concepts will be given to the nonprofit at the end of the course.
Our previous UX Boot Camp in Columbus, Ohio was a huge success and now we’re bringing it San Francisco. To get a glimpse of what that UX Boot Camp was like, check out the final concepts pitched by the teams, this post by a participant, or these photos of the magic in action.
Here at Cooper we passionately believe design can positively improve healthcare products and services, both by improving clinical outcomes, and ultimately increasing the well of our wellbeing. Over the past year, we've worked with Rock Health startups for design education and mentoring. These startups are positioned to change everything, such as our enhancing our hospital discharge experience, lessening the burden of taking care of an elderly family member or revolutionizing our relationship to fitness.
Tomorrow marks an enormous accomplishment for Rock Health as the second set of start ups share their products and company vision during their Demo Day. Join us for what is sure to be an inspiring and inventful event!
This week, consultants from Cooper met with folks at RockHealth to discuss prototyping. Jim Dibble, Faith Bolliger, Peter Duyan, and Martina Maleike talked about tools available for creating both low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes. Prototypes are tools to foster communication around the proposed product. So, before deciding what type of prototype to build, you need to ask yourself who's the audience and what kind of communication do you want to foster?
Prototypes can be used to communicate your product vision to stakeholders, investors, or your internal team. Prototypes can also be used to gather information from users and potential users. And finally, you can use prototypes to prove to yourself that the interaction in your head actually makes sense when expressed digitally.
In any case, you want to prototype just enough to foster the conversation you want to have with your audience. Low-fidelity paper prototypes are great for gathering user feedback, especially if you want to let the audience know that your design is still relatively pliable. While you may want to use a high-fidelity prototype to give potential investors a clear sense of your product vision, you may be able to use a low-fidelity version to convey the vision to team members. We have found that building high-fidelity prototypes of small moments of complex interaction can be incredibly valuable for communicating with remote developers about design intent and technical feasibility.
Interface Origami by Jaun Sanchez
The basic idea behind Interface Origami is to get out of the digital space and create a physical prototype. This allows you to play with your concepts in the real world, helping to avoid usability pitfalls by experiencing your concept in real world context. It's a great way to explore ideas without worrying about pixels.
Check out Juan Sanchez great post about the concepts behind Interface Origami.
Prototyping on the iPad with Interface 2
Interface 2 is a great looking prototyping tool that has just been released for the iPad. Interface 2 allows you to create clickable, pixel perfect working prototypes on your iOS device using all the standard iOS components.
Beyond it's excellent toolset Interface 2 allows you to export your prototype as Xcode project that can be shared with your iOS developer. Potentially speeding up your project development time.
As an illustration major in college, my professor implored his students to start a reference library of interesting photos, textures, colors and whatever we found interesting. The idea was to create a massive library of photo references that you could refer back to if you ever need to draw a sports car or something along those lines.
As a visual designer I've continued that concept. Except instead of collecting reference photo's I've been maintain an asset library of Photoshop files, Fireworks files, icons, vectors, textures, brushes, swatches, fonts and what ever else I find useful. The idea is to create an asset library of elements that will speed up your workflow and save time, allowing you to spend more time designing.
* Pixa - New app for maintaining your asset library. Public beta.
I recommend every visual designer add an asset library to their toolkit. If you want to learn more about building your asset library check out Erin Nolan post: "Build your asset library today"
Procreate for the iPad
The new version of Procreate iPad app launched last night. I've only been able to play with it for a few hours but if it's not the best drawing experience on the iPad it's right at the top. It features new sketch and inking brushes that look and feel amazing. The smudge tool has also been and will allow you to rock some of those Brad Rigney techniques.
If you're interested in icon design, checkout "The Icon Handbook" by Jon Hicks. This book covers all the basic concepts of icon design and will give you an excellent icon design foundation. The "Icon Handbook" is well written and a easy read. Packed with little nuggets of useful information.
We are starting to see the rise of new cloud-based web services directed at creative professionals and one that I'm most excited about is Pixelapse.
Pixelapse address a real problem that visual designers have, version control. Pixelapse uses a visual version control system that will display thumbnails of your work as you progress through your normal workflow.
Similar to Dropbox Pixelapse uses an application to creates a Pixelapse folder on your mac. Once the Pixelapse folder is created everything within that folder will be synced to the cloud. Within the Pixelapse folder you can start working on photoshop, fireworks or illustration files. As you work and save you files normally Pixelapse will constantly sync those files to the cloud automatically creating new versions allowing you to revert to previous versions at anytime.
The other nice thing about Pixelapse is that you can invite people to review your files and make comments as you go. Great for working with clients or in a team environment. Pixelapse is currently in private beta, checkout their site for more information.