Barry the Blog Post…

…or, Why Silly Names Make Silly Personas, and 8 Tips to Getting Your Personas Named More Effectively

You’ve seen them before and unfortunately, you’ll see them again. Personas with names like Sarah the Security-Minded, Adam the Artist, Gloomy Gus, or Uzziah the Uppity Unix User. (Wait. You don’t have a persona named Uzziah?)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”
—Romeo & Juliet, Act II scene 2

A quick word about doing this sort of thing. Don’t. On one level, sure, it works. The alliteration helps you remember both the name and the salient characteristic that that persona is meant to embody. Who was Gus? Oh that’s right. The gloomy one.

Read More

Inside Goal-Directed Design: A Conversation With Alan Cooper (Part 2)

We continue our conversation with Alan Cooper at Sue and Alan’s warm and welcoming ranch in Petaluma, CA, which, in addition to themselves, is home to sheep and chickens, a cat named Monkey, and a farmer who works the land.

Part 2 brings us up to present-day, and discussions around the applications and fundamentals of Goal-Directed Design that support its success at Cooper and beyond.

From Theory to Practice­­

CK: Okay, so having established the foundation of Goal-Directed Design in Part 1 of our conversation, let’s fast forward now to after you started your company, Cooper Software. How has GDD figured in?

AC: Basically you find one person, understand their vision and their final desired end state, and then make them ecstatically happy about reaching their end state. That is the essence of Goal-Directed Design. And what you need are two things: 1) Find (or synthesize) the right person and 2) Design for that person. At a place like Apple, Steve Jobs was already that right person, and they needed look no further. For us at Cooper, a team of trained designers needs to synthesize the representative user, called a persona.

CK: Can you say a little more about Personas and their context in the process?

AC: Personas are the end result of going out in the field and researching the users and patterns that indicate what their desired end state is. Then we create the archetypical persona and walk that archetype through a scenario, like a test flight simulator using a proposed solution. And when your persona’s needs are satisfied in multiple scenarios, you know you are on the right track.

Designers at Cooper can go into healthcare, tech, or jet engine design, wrap their head around it and articulate the representative user’s desired end state, and from there identify the right problem to solve. Then synthesizing form just becomes the work, not magic at that point.

CK: I’ve heard you talk about pair design being part of the success of this goal-directed process. Can you touch on that a bit?

AC: Yes, at Cooper Goal-Directed Design is enhanced by our practice of pair design. Rather than wrestling with a problem alone, externalizing the problem with a partner usually yields the most success. And building on that, it turns out pairs work most effectively in particular combinations of skills. We found that designers tend to naturally fall into two camps, and we ended up calling these designers Generators and Synthesizers. You could think of the Generator as the driver and the Synthesizer as the navigator. You need both of them to get where you’re going, and it’s not that the Generator can’t navigate or the Synthesizer can’t drive, it’s just that if you try to navigate while you’re driving you might crash into something, and you’ll go slower, and you might miss turns. And if you try to drive while you’re navigating, you’re going to end up not taking the most optimal route, and you might forget to stop for gas when you should, and you might end up backtracking.

In the early days when we were inventing these roles, we were a little more prescriptive about them, with the Generators always at the whiteboard and the Synthesizers taking notes, but as this became successful we realized we didn’t have to be so doctrinaire about it, they could switch roles and become much more fluid and even more effective. But in principle, the Generator is usually saying, “we could do this! and we could do that!” – coming up with ideas, and Synthesizers have the analytical role to question each idea and build and shape it.

CK: For a lot of designers the places where they work are not so receptive to pair design because they don’t think it’s efficient.

AC: That’s true. And what those places are missing is that in this post-industrial age, efficiency is less useful than effectiveness. Apple, for example, is ridiculously inefficient. They spend money to work and re-work a problem and other companies would say they are wasting it. But Apple knows that saving money doesn’t lead to success, making their customers ecstatically happy leads to success. And of course success leads to money. But getting internal buy-in and support is certainly an issue for many. At Cooper we offer training in Design Leadership that helps with this.

CK: I have a feeling questions around that post-industrial business model could spark a whole conversation in itself. As we wind up here, I’m wondering if you know of a good case study that demonstrates Goal-Directed Design in action?

AC: I do! SketchUp is a great example. It’s an architectural sketching tool, and it’s complicated and powerful, and it has a learning curve, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I love the program because the design is brilliant – at the macro level and the micro level. I used SketchUp to design the new chicken coop here at Monkey Ranch.

At the macro level they understood exactly the problem they were trying to solve. Other modeling programs like AutoCAD are painfully counter-intuitive, with a learning cliff, much less a learning curve. You have to be a professional to want to bother to use one of those tools — there is nothing coherent, you just have to memorize about 80 tools.

With SketchUp, I know from their website and video and blogs that they used Goal-Directed Design. Their vision was not to displace AutoCAD, instead they had in mind this idea of an architect who has just presented the initial design of a building to the client, and the client says, “I love it! Could you make this stairway a little wider?” And in the AutoCAD world, it goes like this: “yes, we’ll have the drawings back to you in three days.” But in the SketchUp world, the architect says, “sure,” and clicks the extrusion tool on the side face of the stairway, stretches it out another foot, the staircase is wider, and everything in the model instantly adjusts to fit. That was their persona, their scenario, and that was the goal direction. So that’s from a macro point view – they understood that they weren’t trying to create an architectural drafting program that competed with set piece giant architectural drawings.

Also, at the micro level, they designed their controlling interface as a coherent system. Throughout the interface everything is consistent, all of the interactions have the same fundamental grammar. If you understand how one tool work works you understand all of the tools. And they anticipate the exacting needs of architectural planners, understanding just when you need to type in numbers or simply move the lines. This profound understanding of how you can build an interface permeates everything they do, and that’s a great example of successful Goal-Directed Design.

CK: That’s an inspiring example.

AC: It is. In the decades since Cooper conceived of Goal-Directed Design, the benefits of this practice have really been lasting and measurable. Project teams are able to start out with a shared understanding of goals and achieve early consensus on the design problem. And because designers develop empathy for the people who will use the product, they are able to focus on the right priorities. In the end, training and support and development costs are significantly reduced, and consumers experience ease and delight in the products.

CK: I think that’s the perfect note to end on. Thanks, Alan, for kicking off Cooper’s Masters In Conversation series, it’s been great to talk with you!

Zoom Out—It’s Not Just About the Product.

Bay Area Video Coalition alumni Amy Li attended Cooper U’s Interaction Design course in May. After 4 days of user research, synthesis, and persona and scenario creation, here are the some of the powerful concepts and practices she learned from Cooper U.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Cooper U’s Interaction Design course. This extensive four-day course explored many techniques and practices useful to designers, developers, marketers, project managers, and design enthusiasts. Here are some concepts and tips that resonated with me.

Your product doesn’t work in a vacuum.

Understanding the product ecosystem helps designers see the bigger picture and the elements that will be affected by their design, such as who will use it, where, and in what situation.

Creating the product ecosystem helps establish the product domain and identifies design opportunities, challenges and unexpected connections.

To create a product ecosystem, designers should seek answers to these questions:

  • Who might this product affect?
  • What kinds of activities and actions might be related?
  • What are some unique places where the product might be used?
  • What trends and technologies might be leveraged for this product?

After a designer understands the product domain, their next step is to ensure the design will be relevant and meaningful to the people who use it.

Read More Here

Explore New Interaction Paradigms at UX Boot Camp: Wikimedia

Advance and apply your UX design skills to a meaningful real-world problem in this intensive, hands-on workshop

BootCamp_WEB

This September, join Wikimedia, Cooper, and design-thinkers from around the world as we find new ways to spread knowledge through mobile Wikipedia. In this four-day workshop, you’ll use new UX skills to make mobile content contribution more approachable, intuitive, and less reliant on traditional input methods like typing. If you’ve wanted an excuse to explore new interaction paradigms and stay ahead of the design pack, this is your chance. Best of all, you get to do all of that in the creative classroom setting of Alan and Sue Cooper’s 50-acre ranch in Petaluma, CA.

Register now: UX Boot Camp: WikimediaSeptember 17-20, Petaluma, CA

What’s in it for you?

  • Learn new interaction techniques and approaches under the guidance of industry leaders, including Alan Cooper
  • Learn how to think through a problem from both a design and business perspective, rather than blindly applying methods by rote.
  • Energize your practice and make new connections by working on a real-world challenge with peers from around the world.
  • Beef up your portfolio with a smart, new design concept
  • Pick up leadership and collaboration skills that will help you better navigate your work environment.

Read More

UX Boot Camp Goes to Europe

Guest post by Francesca Di Mari at Sketchin, a Swiss user experience design firm based in Lugano.

At  Sketchin we strongly believe that design can improve lives and foster social good. We first heard of Cooper’s UX Boot Camp when we visited Cooper in September, 2012, and we fell in love with their idea of using design to educate and foster social good by bridging design students with non-profits. This idea was conceived of and developed by Kendra Shimmell, the Managing Director at Cooper U, and it launched our determination to be part of a design revolution for social good.

Our first step was to create our own UX Boot Camp modeled after what we experienced at Cooper. So in May of 2013, together with Talent Garden Milano and Frontiers of Interaction, we organized the first Italian UX Boot Camp in Milan, modeled after the Cooper UX Boot Camp. Here is a look back at what we created and discovered in the process.

UX Bootcamp Milano 15

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

Interaction Design for Monsters

Whew. That was close. As every year, there’s a risk that we’ll be overrun with with zombies, werewolves, vampires, sasquatch(es), and mummies before the veil that separates the world seals tight for another year. But a quick tally around the Cooper offices shows that here, at least, we all made it. Hope all our readers are yet un-undead as well. While we’re taking this breather, we’re called to reflect a bit on this year’s interaction design for monsters.

Monsters are extreme personas

One of the power of personas is that they encourage designers to be more extrospective, to stop designing for themselves. Monsters as personas push this to an extreme. It’s rare that you’ll ever be designing technology for humans who can’t perceive anything, can’t speak any modern language, live nearly eternally, shape shift, etc. But each of these outrageous constraints challenges designers to create a design that could accommodate it, and often ends up driving what’s new or special about the design.

But then again…

Some of the constraints of the monsters are human constraints writ large (or writ strangely).

  • Juan wasn’t a useful person in and of himself, but his users exercised flash mob requirements of real-time activation and coordination. Are there flash mob lessons to learn?
  • Emily was fighting a zombie infection, but real-world humans are fighting infections all the time. Is there something we can use for medical interfaces?
  • Metanipsah has no modern language and a mechanical mental model, but most of us have mobile wayfinding needs at one time or another.
  • The Vampire Capitalists behind Genotone took the long view, reminding us of burgeoning post-growth business models.

So maybe they’re great personas after all, guiding us to great design because they’re extreme, just like the canonical OXO Good Grips story, where designing for people with arthritis led the design teams to create products with universal appeal.

Read More

WereSafe

Poor Alexi Devers: Bitten by a “dog,” then finding himself naked in a park on the morning after the next full moon, a pulpy mess of unidentifiable victim, dewey and glistening on the ground around him. News stories that day confirm that a terrible murder has taken place by a rabid “dog,” and Alexi looks up from the paper with the wide-eyed stare of the recently diagnosed. What will he tell Debbi, his girlfriend? How will he keep her safe? Fortunately for him, after a Google search and a few false leads, he discovers WereSafe, a service for people with “dog” problems just like him. It’s expensive, sure, but what choice has he got? One web form and credit card number later, he’s joined the service and a special package is on the way.

The WereSafe service has two main service aspects. One to keep the monster contained, and the other to hide the problem from the innocent.

Read More

Genotone: An exposé on a sinister VC business model

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we return to Vladmir and Anton, our conflicted vampires.


Antone grew up in southern Louisiana in the late 1700s, the son of a wealthy landowner. After his childhood sweetheart died, he gave up all hope for life. He told his troubles to a young gentleman who came through town, who promised him an end to Antone’s misery. Instead, he was turned to a vampire, and forced to live a life of eternal suffering, unable to visit his family ever again. Today he broods away his evenings in his family’s decaying plantation.

Read More

iZombie? A zombie self-diagnosis and self-destruction app

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we revisit Emily.

Emily is in trouble. She narrowly escaped a horde of flesh eating zombies, but was bitten in the process. Now she’s suffering under the gradual onset of zombification—cognitive decline, neurodegeneration, loss of motor control, and an increased apetite for delicious, raw, human flesh. She wants to stave off zombiism as long as she can, but she knows that once she’s crossed a threshold, she will succumb and attempt to kill her friends and eat her family. What can she do? Enter iZombie?, an app made specifically for zombie-virus-infected humans, distributed by the military for free to all civilians at the first sign of the inevitable plague.

Read More

1 2 3 4