Design Fundamentals: 3 Key Practices for Building Your Own Design Process

A strong design process is the cornerstone of creating a great user experience. But finding one that’s right for your company isn’t easy. Each organization is different, and adapting a process to the specific constraints you face is a huge challenge, especially in an organization that might still be a little uncomfortable with design.

The human-centered visual design process we follow and teach at Cooper, based on the three key practices below.

As a design theory nerd, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a lot of different design methodologies. Though they can vary greatly, a few key practices have emerged that seem to drive every methodology I’ve looked at. Approaching design in terms of these individual practices, rather than as an end-to-end process, can help you to integrate human-centered design into your organization in a more fluid way. Smaller and more incremental changes driven by these practices, rather than a complete overhaul, are a great way to begin building a design-centered organization without upending the current system.

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Inside Goal-Directed Design: A Two-Part Conversation With Alan Cooper

Go behind the scenes in this two-part Masters In Conversation series with Alan Cooper, exploring the origins and applications of Goal-Directed Design (GDD). In Part 1 we rewind to the early 1970s when Alan was just starting out and the climate of programming and design was changing rapidly, forging the insights that led to the techniques of GDD. Part 2 brings us up to date with GDD as Cooper designers and teachers apply it today.

Part 1: In the Beginning…

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Designs that change lives

The UX Boot Camp: Kiva

Kick off your spring at the Cooper studio with our upcoming UX Boot Camp with Kiva, held March 11-14, in San Francisco, CA. This deep-dive promises to be one of our most inspiring, as designers, developers and project managers work together to support Kiva’s mission to eliminate poverty worldwide by connecting people through microloans.

Sound like a high bar? It is. Wait until you hear your mission.

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Man’s Best App

How do you design an engaging and educational application that prepares a user with short-term memory loss for a lifestyle change?

For the November UX Boot Camp, designers, developers, and product managers from around the world teamed up to answer that very challenge for Canine Companions for Independence, the largest non-profit provider of service dogs.

Led by senior designers from Cooper, UX Boot Camp participants got their hands dirty learning new UX design techniques, collaborating with new teams, and working closely with stakeholders from Canine Companions.

From kickoff to design delivery, UX Boot Camp participants took a hands-on role in the generation, exploration, and synthesis of five distinct and fully-developed design concepts.

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Behind Cooper’s New Topic Page

The Cooper Journal has been a great source for design ideas, controversy and practical guidance over the years, so much so that we now have hundreds of posts. But even when a system works well, you start to see its breaking points. And with that, comes a need to reassess. Which is why we’re staging an experiment—and it involves you.

It all started with a simple question: How can we design a better Journal reading experience that takes advantage of the dynamic web platform? The first answer was remove stuff. Traditional blog layouts are bullied by their sidebars. So when you visit the experiment you’ll see we nixed the sidebar. We decided that a full column experience with more legible type would feel better. Not only that, but we could break the grid for images and pull quotes to create interest.

And why stop removing stuff there? There are posts that have sparked discussion, but it’s unfortunate to limit those conversations to our own site. We want interesting discussions to be open, rather than hidden deep within the blog hierarchy. Say goodbye to the comments and hello to a custom twitter feature.

Admittedly, during the exercise we had bit of an existential crisis. Are we reinventing the wheel? We wanted a new comments structure to allow for good conversation, but there’s Branch. We wanted a smooth reading and editing experience, and Medium already comes to mind. We wanted a simple way for Cooperistas to post quick bits of content…wouldn’t Twitter suffice?

Our answer channels Charles Eames:

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”

Blog posts, comments, tweets, these are all interesting things, but we believe that the connection missing is the topic. By sectioning off our experiment from the main Journal, we’ve been able to play with the format. Having removed the noise, we can now add in signal. Say hello to the Curator’s Manifesto: Each topic we curate has thinking behind it and we have a unique perspective that we add. The manifesto is the place where we can be explicit about our point of view and spotlight featured posts. Since we’re focused on one topic, we can serve up the most interesting post of the moment.

Our debut topic feature centers on Design Tools. We’ve got a couple oldies but goodies and a couple posts fresh off the press. The Cooper Journal environment you are presently in will continue to stay the samewith sidebars and comments as we collect your reactions to this new direction, and continue to develop it. We’d love for you to join us in this first topic, be inspired, share some inspiration, and get talking!

Road Trip: Cooper U’s Interaction Design Training Heads East!

In service of spreading design awareness and education, Cooper U is bringing its foundational training in Interaction Design to Philadelphia on December 3-6 to cap off a great 2013. Throughout the year we’ve received many requests from our design peers to bring our training east, so when we had the opportunity to add another class to the schedule, we thought Philadelphia would be the perfect location.

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Cooper U is on the lookout for nonprofit partners for 2014 UX Boot Camps!

What is UX Boot Camp?

Cooper’s UX Boot Camp is a four-day immersion in our user experience design methodology for designers, developers, and product managers. The UX Boot Camp is also an opportunity for nonprofits to explore a challenge they are facing that can be helped by design and technology. Under the guidance of Cooper senior staff, UX Boot Camp students perform an in-depth field study surrounding that challenge, and the nonprofit receives multiple design explorations at no cost.

See what the students and stakeholders had to say about their experience

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Amber Alert: The Tragedy of Bad Design

If you live in California or New York and you own a cell phone, you probably recently experienced the new Amber Alert capabilities. And by “capabilities,” I mean “the government’s newfound ability to disturb your sleep with non-actionable information.”

In California, the alert that set all this ablaze was in reference to a man, James Lee DiMaggio, who may or may not have killed his friend and her son, burned his house down with them in it, and fled with her daughter. Not that you would have known that from the Amber Alert: “Boulevard, CA AMBER Alert UPDATE: LIC/6WCU986 (CA) Blue Nissan Versa 4 door.” Certainly, Twitter has been all a-buzz about the alerts, and there are dozens of articles on the subject (my personal favorite headline: “Shaquille O’Neal: Yeah I Got That Amber Alert”).

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CascadeSF UX Night: Planning for Responsive Layouts

Recently at Cooper, we updated our website with a focus on responsive web design. Working with Cooper’s other great developer, Elisha Cook, I learned a lot in the project, though at times it seemed my head would explode trying to figure out solutions to various problems presented by responsive web design, so when I heard that CascadeSF was hosting a presentation on this very topic, I was eager to attend and see what I could learn.

CascadeSF is a collective of San Francisco-based web designers and developers who meet periodically to keep up-to-date on design trends, standards, and techniques. On July 24th, the presenter was Pauly Ting, a Lead UX Designer at Tigerspike SF, founder of Feedia, and co-founder of TwoCents. The MeetUp was hosted in the offices of the residential real estate site, Trulia, just a block away from the Cooper studio.

Digital Evolution: From Fixed to Responsive Layouts

The focus of Pauly’s presentation was on planning content for responsive layouts. Responsive layouts present new challenges for organization and delivery of content. We are accustomed to the page-based approach to organizing content, largely because that is how content has always been organized and delivered. For example, the printing press has a fixed width and height based on the page size. The Gutenberg Press revolutionized content delivery in the 15th century by organizing content as hand-set letters and graphics arranged in rigidly determined rows that could then be mass produced. It was a new paradigm, taking book production from the hands of scribes locked up in monasteries, and distributing books more widely, making education of the masses possible for the first time, which of course changed the world.

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Siteglass: A Developer’s Quest for Better Performance

Hi, my name is Elisha, and I’m a developer. I know that most of you aren’t, but I want to talk about a fairly technical problem related to website optimization, and a new tool I developed to solve it — called Siteglass. Why would I want to do that? Because performance is an essential ingredient in good UX. But before I delve into that relationship, it might help to first know a little about what I do here at Cooper.

I’m a User Interface Developer. That means I take designs and turn them into interactive interfaces. As with all translations, there is a lot of room for interpretation. So, aside from the technical side of things, I consider it my main task to try to convey the intention of the design through the chosen platform (iOS, web, etc.). Sometimes there are creative choices, like defining the exact characteristics of an animation, but ultimately the goal is not to make the design my own but rather to not get in its way. This means doing whatever is possible to avoid degrading the design vision due to technical artifacts of the translation process.

Now let’s descend from the lofty height of that last paragraph and talk about websites. A lot of what I build these days are websites and they pose unique challenges, as each platform does. Browser inconsistencies, lack of typographical control and wide variations in screen size are some of the hurdles to creating a solid experience for users. Today I want to talk about an issue that is easily overlooked during design and development but can have a huge impact on user experience: page load performance.

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