Category Archives: Design

It’s Users All The Way Down

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https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Sometimes in the process of defining your users, you’ll discover that, much like turtles, there are layers upon layers of them just waiting for their stories to be told.

Background

Joining a company late in 2014 as their new UX professional (and founding member of a growing team) has been an eye opening experience. Not only have I been able to finally practice what I’ve been preaching and learning the last few years, but I’ve been exposed to the healthcare industry – which is entirely new to me. Tons to learn = tons of fun.

Anyone in experience design must carefully consider their users’ goals, circumstances, capabilities and habits. This is one way for us to get out of our own heads and as far into our users’ heads as possible – avoiding the trap of designing for the users we’re most familiar with: ourselves.

Identify the users we’re serving is a great place to start. This sounds simple and it can be – but it can also be a complex puzzle (with all the edge pieces hiding and the corner pieces eaten by your dog.)

What my company does

At a high level, we provide a secure and efficient communication platform for the healthcare industry. The platform helps patients, practice staff and hospital staff efficiently contact physicians.

The problems we solve:

  1. handling the bazillion ways that physicians within a hospital or practice setting need to be contacted depending on situational context.
  2. sending information to a physician in a way that is secure and does not violate laws around the privacy of protected healthcare information (PHI).
  3. maintaining a fine balance between the needs for privacy and accessibility on the part of the physician.

Who are our users?

User (Turtle) #1: Our external users

This group includes doctors, nurses, acute care staff and hospital / practice management. They’re the obvious answer to the ‘who is our user’ question – the system was designed to meet their needs and everything revolves around maintaining and enhancing the capabilities that our platform extends to them.

If we push out a buggy feature or misjudge the utility of an enhancement and sacrifice something more vital, these are the people who feel it the most. We should be in close contact with representative members of this group, testing things out and gathering feedback constantly. This group will (and should!) receive the highest prioritization when it comes to evaluating features, to doing user research and to planning and executing usability testing. That said, don’t stop here!

User (Turtle) #2: Patients

Our healthcare professionals are themselves serving another group of users: their patients at member hospitals and practices across the country. These are the folks that our external users are under oath to care for, and who they went to school for a dozen years to serve.

This is the group who pays the price for inefficient communication practices. It’s the folks who have seen their premiums and deductibles climb year after year and who in too many cases don’t have insurance at all. They pay dearly for any healthcare they receive. This is you and me, when we visit our family doctor or when we land in the emergency room after falling off the roof in an ill-advised attempt to save money on chimney repair.

While we can’t prioritize designing for this group over the others, we should always consider the impact of our decisions on these people.

User (Turtle)#3: Internal Users

We have another group of users not immediately obvious to the naked eye: our internal users. These are the folks that use a suite of applications to onboard new external users and that support their needs on a 24/7 basis, 365 days a year.

They don’t use the exact same set of tools as our external customers, but they’re touching the same data and hitting the same systems. Their needs are also much more diverse since they service every type of external user and must become experts in the task flows for those users. This is no small feat, as the training required for these folks to become proficient runs from a full week to a staggering 3 months.

When considering the needs of this user group, striving to avoid introducing further complexity is a big priority. Beyond that, a large part of your backlog might revolve around taking steps to reduce that complexity even further (and therefore lighten the cognitive load of using the system).

If you’re in this situation, your company’s bottom line could be affected nearly as much by internal facing changes as it is by changes that affect your external users.

User (Turtle) #4: Executive Team

You’d think we had all the bases covered, but there’s actually one more group of users to touch on. Let’s call it the owner/executive team, made up of company ownership and senior leadership in both your external users’ companies and your own organization.

The goals and tasks of this group tend to be pretty straightforward, and sometimes seem pretty far removed from what the other three groups of users are concerned with. That said, while I don’t recommend placing too much weight on designing for this group, I do believe it’s a mistake not to consider their needs. Pulling off a win-win effort that enables this group to hit their goals tends to be a self-reinforcing success for a company.

Wrap Up

If you only take one thing from this article, know that accommodating anything less than every group of users in your designs is a Bad Thing.

Imagine that your executive team has seen the effect that your team’s UX design and development work has had on the bottom line – and so they foster a culture that values and encourages such efforts on an ongoing basis. This belief is folded into the company’s core values, and soon the sales, support and product development teams are all on the same page.

Your external users consistently see improvements, enjoy using your product and feel that their feedback is valued and acted upon. Inevitably these happy professionals pass those benefits on to their own customers . For our patients user group that manifested through cost savings, less time in the waiting room or waiting on a surgery date, and better quality of care.

Your internal users don’t have to jump through hoops to support the customers since the support tools they have been given are performant, intuitive and easy to use.

Wouldn’t that be a beautiful place to work? Are you ready to make it happen?

Thoughts On Proprioceptive Feedback

The literature:
Spatial Updating Of Self-Position And Orientation During Real, Imagined, And Virtual Locomotion (1998)

For efficient navigational search humans require full physical movement but not a rich visual scene.

The research done by Klatzky, Loomis, et al. as well as that of Ruddle and Lessels both indicate that proprioceptive feedback is a crucial factor in our ability to accurately gauge distance, size, heading and rate of movement. While my own experience echoes their findings, the reading left me with a couple questions.

First, what are the differentiating factors that separate those of us with what appears to be a more developed innate sense of direction (or perhaps a more advanced and accurate sense of place) from those who have difficulty with even the most rudimentary way finding operations when removed from familiar environments? Are there biological factors at play, or are the differences primarily acquired through life experience? Can we train to be more receptive to proprioceptive feedback, learn to interpret it more accurately, or are we consigned to our genetically disposed navigational fates, as it were?

Second, what are the implications of this kind of research on purely digital mediums, in which physical feedback is minimal or nonexistent? Are there natural corollaries between physical locomotion or visual perception and our navigation of pages on the web or through various states of an application? Could connections between these modes of ‘navigation’ be yoked more efficiently, enhancing a user’s innate ability to find their way about within a complex application?

What do you think?

Design Constraints Are Awesome

While reading some material recently I was particularly struck by a correlation between the sentiment of “designing for monochrome first” (for color deficient users) and the design movement termed “Mobile First”.

In both cases, the designer aims to build their interface elements such that the largest % possible of users will have accessibility to the data, based on the real and perceived limitations of the environmental factors imposed. After baseline accessibility and usability you can worry about nuances and aesthetics.

Monochromatic vision strips the designer of color-based tools and techniques, forcing you to fallback to the use of shape, contour, contrast and pattern. The Mobile First design sensibility forces the designer to carefully prioritize what elements of the design are truly needed to accomplish the goal(s) of the product, framed within the limits imposed by a smaller display. You also have to consider the contextual differences in usage between a mobile device and a desktop computer, and within the vastly different feature sets of modern devices.

I often hear about project constraints in terms of drawbacks, of obstacles to building the perfect widget. It’s much more helpful to think of constraints as helpful wayfinding elements on the road to successful project definition. If you know what they are, you won’t waste time in rabbit holes and you’ll be able to focus your time and attention on crafting the best product possible – one that will meet the unique needs of your users, whether or not they can see colors and regardless of what they’re using to access your offerings.

Thoughts On Medical Decision Making

Original article by Jerome Groopman

We all fall victim to habitual behaviors, and more so when we are unable to focus sufficient attention on tasks at hand, believing (consciously or unconsciously) that we can accomplish some process or task without conscious thought, instead thinking about ‘more pressing’ matters.

What is more difficult to detect are those biases not based on habit, but instead on other factors. Groopman’s article on medical decision making explored this issue in the light of decisions made every day by physicians in practices and hospitals across the world.

Several types of errors were explored, including Representativeness error (thinking that is overly influenced by what is typically true), Availability error (the tendency to judge likelihood of an event by how easy relevant examples come to mind), confirmation bias error (cognitive cherry picking – confirming what you expect to find by selectively accepting or ignoring information) and affective error (making decisions based on what you wish to be true).

The stories he shared demonstrate how a very skilled and educated doctor can make incredibly dangerous mistakes, due in some cases to the fast-paced world of medicine but in other in reaction to common human urges such as the desire to be merciful and spare a patient embarrassment or further fatiguing tests.

At my workplace we are tasked with making medical industry communication more secure and much more efficient – resulting in better patient care and increased physician and clinician satisfaction. After reading this article and having learned a great deal about how complex the communication needs of a hospital or practice have become, I have to wonder how many mistakes are made due to the very real problems of workflow dissolution and workplace communication breakdowns. How many errors of the classes described by Groopman could be avoided or reduced in severity through more frequent and higher quality peer-to-peer interactions in the medical industry?

GapMinder Data Analysis

In my HCI cognitive science class we’ve been studying visualization and how a given interface can enhance our mental processing power, bringing more of our wits to bear on a challenge. Here’s a look at comparing a few layers of data as reported by two very different nations.

Denmark vs. USA – Charitable giving related to income & life expectancy

I chose to compare the nations of Denmark and the United States, examining their respective records of charitable giving and comparing that to each nations’ income per person and their life expectancy. The data available ran from 1960 to 2008, and so it’s worth noting that the period studied spanned several wars with worldwide impact, numerous financial recessions and a gradual but accelerating trend of climate change.

The United States
The United States in 1960 was quite a charitable one, donating 0.54% of the gross national income (GNI) while only reporting $18,175 in income per person. We had a change of heart it would seem, as the % of GNI given to charity fell steadily for 37 years before finally ending at 0.18% of GNI in 2008.

During this period, while our incomes rose by $24k and our life expectancy by 8 years we gave 0.54% less to charities.

Denmark
Denmark in 1960 was a hard place, donating only 0.09% of their GNI while reporting only $11,569 in income per person. They seem to have buckled down and gotten industrious, as the % of GNI given to charity rose for 21 years to 1.03%, with a high of 1.06% before finally ending at 0.82% of GNI in 2008.

During this period, their incomes rose by $20k and their life expectancy by 6 years. In the end Danes increased their charitable giving by a staggering 0.97% over the period.

Reflections
An interesting measure to add to this comparison would be an index of reported happiness & contentment – does charity or income have a greater effect on happiness?

I would also have enjoyed seeing an overlay of world events across political, economic and climate scopes, relating those factors into the changes in life expectancy, income and charitable giving.

The animation was quite helpful, and illustrated the rate of change between compared parameters over the lengthy collection of data ranging over 48 years, clearly calling out the rapid rise of Denmark’s charity while the USA gave away less and less each year.

It’s purely correlative, but it appears that given the much larger percentage they gave to charity (from their noticeably lower income) the Danish were not overly burdened and lived to nearly the same age. Many factors could have been at play, but I’m given to lean towards the old adage that money CAN bring happiness as long as you spend it on others.

Using Vision To Think (a nod to Stuart Card)

In an HCI class I’m taking currently, we’re studying the cognitive science behind the long human history of visual-spatial displays. We’re talking caveman drawings up to the latest in Minority Report-style virtual interactive displays – fun stuff!!

Here’s an article to soak up if you’re interested in this kind of stuff: The Cognitive Science of Visual-Spatial Displays: Implications for Design

And here’s some thoughts of my own about that article:

More than anything else, this week’s reading of Mary Hegarty’s paper on the science of visual displays made me realize why it’s much easier for visually-minded folks like myself to understand something best when we’re able to interact with a subject on a visual level.

“Representations that are informationally equivalent (contain the same information) are not necessarily computationally equivalent”…
“task performance can be dramatically different with different visual displays of the same information”…

These are dead on. Whenever I’ve encountered a complex problem, whether facing it alone or in a small group (or mentorship, etc.) I often kick off the process or discussion with something along the lines of “Are there other ways I/we can look at the issue?” This is helpful in many cases because in representing the object or process with an iconic, relational or complex display allows us to augment our thinking, to enhance our understanding and to bring additional inferences or insights to bear.

Displays allow us to externalize both the storage and the organization of a massive amount of data, freeing up our fragile and limited minds to process that data in different ways. It also lets us explore the relationships between groupings of related elements, i.e. chunking – freeing us to a degree from the limitations of short term memory by compressing these complex associations or concepts into a fewer number comprehensible objects.

I understand the world through my visualizations of it, both in reality and in my internalized efforts to understand the world around me, so my favorite blurb by far was the author’s reference to Stuart Card’s sentiment “Using vision to think”.

Notes from GiantConf 2014′s “Building a Whole Team UX Design Team” presentation by Phillip Hunter

In his presentation on day two of GiantConf 2014, Phillip Hunter talked to us about “Building a Whole Team UX Design Team”. Here are my notes from his talk.

Phillip Hunter – Building a Whole Team UX Design Team
@designoutloud
http://www.minotaurdesign.com/blog/wp-login.php

His belief is that in the UX community, team building is much like early days in baseball scouting.

The focus on stereotypes:
on rock Stars in the industry…….
(is that a person w/ diseases and who trashes hotel rooms? lol)

On Ninja’s….
(is that the person who kills people in the night? lol)
Focus on design mishmash – (beanie/knit cap and glasses, lol)

– Stereotypes don’t help us build better UX teams. Avoid them.

(slide of the major pieces of most companies) – All these people are ENABLING the user experience.
– most of us are in Product development team.
– so it’s silly to think of one small piece of the org as wholly responsible for the UX of a company

4 primary capabilities (as a grid):
– engineering leading technology
– maintaining strong teams
– running a successful business
– enabling great experiences

The practice of creating experience is a SERVICE – look to service design for cues

Strategy means defining and inspiring before hiring

Hiring a dev, designer, tester because you need to developer, design and test is premature.

Context + capability to help you know the best way to create that holistic UX mindset.

OAQH- Orient, Assess, Question, Hypothesize

Setting the team-building CONTEXT:
– what are our goals, values, constraints and principles as a corp?
– what do we need to get done?
– why?
– how much/how fast?

Setting capability requirements:
– What do we need to be god at?
– How good? How will we know?
– What are our priorities?
– Not who…. (yet)

Liz Bacon’s infographic on her definition of user experience design
– pie chart of sorts
– ranked herself within each facet

Building effective structures within the company:
– Complementary strengths vs homogeneous development
– Breadth and depth of skill across people
– Increase participation

Beyond hiring and skills:
Shape align and inform with biz goals
Aim for impact, scope, scale, diversity, resilience, sustainability

Crazy list of necessary skills (all of which mapped back to the grid of 4 above)

Atomic elements of necessary high level skills

Have the right project members been identified?
In what areas will augmentation be the best thing?
What kind and from where?

Building Your list of necessary Skills
Skill name
-skill 1, 2, etc becomes `> color, line, shape 2. Latent need identification, ebrand integration, prototyping, etc.

Gathering list items:
Ask your UX leaders and ICs, your UX enthusiasts, your Product owners, your Execs and sponsors.

(ranking 1-5 etc)
Skill name – Current Level – Desired Level – Priority
– – – –
– – – –

Perceived skill gap
– gap value on its own wasn’t that compelling/illuminating
– Gap value multiplied by Priority – this really surfaced the true GAP in context

Conversations that can come out of the above types of analysis?
Who does that already?
How can you get them involved?
What do your colleagues want to be good at?
X is how we need to craft our job description for HR!!!

sixboxes.com
framework for aligning people’s desires with their roles, and ultimately their ideal internal path that also benefits the company

– issue challenge to add UX to everyone’s job
– Let people find their point of contribution

HIRING (since sometimes you just have to…..)
– understanding and implementing the strategic framework from above
– involve the team to determine fit and talent
– Hire the inspired

Phillip’s slides (Thanks, Phillip!) – http://www.slideshare.net/philliphunter/building-a-whole-company-ux-team

Notes from GiantConf 2014′s “Embracing the Suck” presentation by Chris Harrison

In his presentation on day one of GiantConf 2014, Chris Harrison talked to us about “Embracing the Suck”. Here are my notes from his talk.

Chris Harrison – Embracing the Suck – 10:45a Thursday, June 12

@cdharrison
cdharrison.com

Embracing the Suck: Military phrase meaning to make the best of whatever situation you’re in..

Background:
– Weight loss – 529 to 377
– weight gain due to being depressed, hating what he did, etc.
– Making sites since 1996.
– Former fulltime freelancer
– now: frontend dev for Morris Communications (magazine division)

2013 state of the workplace
30% engaged and inspired
18% actively Disengaged – sabotage their coworkers (cost 450-550 million a year)
52% permanent case of the mondays – do just enough not to get fired

Sometimes you just gotta suck it up.
– Consider the alternative – it could be worse.

– dan willis, “great takes work”
– choose your battles and spend your energy wisely

Negativity is a cancer! (this could be a talk topic!)

Sometimes complaining takes more effort than just getting things done.

Don’t fear new. New = opportunity. (he was told he’d be doing all joomla and drupal work. This was not happy news)
– learn on the companie’s dime
– doubtful he could have learned this stuff as a freelancer (no time/money in it)

Everything you do is a learning process for everything.

– thomas edison’s quote about opportunity and how it looks like work.
– fabio at mailchimp, lead html email designer. was hired to do ui/ux, but they approached him to do HTML emails.
– we know as an industry that html emails suck.
– when he heard this, he embraced the challenge.
– 5 years later he’s an innovator in a field where it was thought there was no room for innovation left.

Opportunity opens doors…

Help your team…
– concept of jumping on hand grenades (someday you’ll need help from the person you help today)

Small wins are still wins. (make it something awesome despite the scope)

Make learning a priority
– learning about sass etc and givng talks about it.
– things suck less when you share what you know with your coworkers
– codeschool etc. as good options for continued learning.

“Sneak” new technology/techniques into projects, but strive to get buy-in from your coworkers (if not management)
– Demonstrate the benefits of incorporating these new techs into an existing workflow

Find creative outlets
– draw more.
– starting doing illustrator avatars for friends
– take pictures! (vader, ninja turtles)
– lilvaderadventures tubmler

Scratch your own itch – side projects rock
– itembrowser.com – his first responsive project
– learned media queries, etc.

Start using your powers for good
– jingle jam (10k) benefiting safeHOMES charity
– design + development + marketing
– someone could really use your talents!

Happiness depends on ourselves – aristotle
Even sucky work can make you happy. Give it a chance.

Notes from GiantConf 2014’s RWD workshop with Brad Frost

In his RWD workshop this last weekend at GiantConf 2014 Brad Frost plowed through the history, current state, best practices and possible futures of the RWD philosophy/approach. Here are my notes from his talk.

June 14, 2014

His experience: web on mobile for 4+

  • Responsive Design Patterns
  • ThisIsResponsive.com website and github (http://bradfrostweb.com/blog/web/this-is-responsive/ & http://bradfrost.github.io/this-is-responsive/index.html)
  • (older site) – Mobile web best practices
  • WTF Mobile Web (what not to do)
  • Cosigner of Future Friendly Manifesto
  • Worked for R/GA at one point…showed the company logo slide to illustrate that no one knows what they’re doing.

General Landscape

  • i6bb mobile subscriptions
  • in america, 91% of americans have a mobile… 56% of those are smart phones.
  • 1.5 mm android activations a day
  • 1/3 americans have an ereader/tablet
  • 20% of ALL internet traffic is mobile
  • 68% of americans access the web via phone
  • 33% of those ONLY use the mobile web
  • Mobile web pictogram –
  • 157mm users ONLY use FB from their mobile
  • What are we sharing from mobile on social? (text photos videos and LINKS)
  • 51% of referral traffic to media sites came from FB mobile
  • blog.cloudfour.com – good status on mobile – a comprehensive guide

Approach – Options

  • Do nothing. (rant: cultivating a nation of slide swiping screen surfing zombies)
  • Make an APP!
    • App glut
  • Links don’t open apps
  • pros and cons of course
  • Separate Design Experiences (Nielsen’s advice, to build two sites and cross-linking to make it work.)
    • more dedicated, optimized, catered experience
    • no need to adapt
    • potential to be more performant
    • url redirection (getting a mobile version of a site on your desktop due to a link given to you)
    • content parity
    • content governance
    • device database
    • SEO issues (better to keep your links under the same single site)
    • Continuity issues
    • The Space Between (kindle fire, etc.)

Strategy

  • Build a barebones mobile responsive site, and grow it over time.
    • eventually kill the old clunky desktop site
  • Responsive retrofitting a site
    • j spool’s ‘escalator of acquired knowledge’ (people hate when you completely tear down and rebuilt their beloved sites)
  • Mobile First (progressively enhanced, future friendly, awesome)
  • Piecemeal approach: “our responsive header is almost done”
    • seen on really huge sites in recent times. footer, header, module by module
    • acclimatizes the user
    • he’s only seen it in large companies, but he thinks it could work very well for small
    • companies/sites/teams, perhaps more so.

Foundations

  • Ethan Marcotte @2010 in ALA
  • Fluid Grids, Media Queries, Flexible images
  • the Fluid grid should do most of the heavy lifting! (don’t go crazy with media queries!)
  • Context is needed
    • Adaptive is a bigger container than responsive, and itself contains responsive
  • There are other parts, but RWD is what stuck.
    • Feature Detection
    • Server side components*
    • interdevice communication
    • performance, etc.

Principles of Adaptive design

  • ubiquity (this is for everyone, for anyone, for us all
    • diversity is not a bug, it’s an opportunity) – step reiger
    • mobile users will do everything desktop users do, if it’s accessible.
    • Content parity
    • Context
      • Quantitative
      • Qualitative
  • flexibility
    • embrace the squishiness
  • performance
    • 71% of mobile users expect mobile sites to load as fast or faster than desktop sites
    • you have 5 seconds of someones time…
  • Future friendly – Invest in your content. -> Make APIs, not war

Frameworks

  • Bootstrap, Foundation by Zurb, etc.
  • Jetstrap/Bootkit
    • these are all well and good, but lead to look alike issues
    • One-size-fits-all
    • Potential for bloat/unneeded stuff
    • might not do what you need
    • integration issues
    • have to subscribe to someone else’s decisions
  • Tiny Bootstraps, for every client. – Dave Rupert
  • Front end style guides
  • promotes consistency cohesion
  • easier to test
  • better workflow*
  • creates a shared vocabulary
  • useful reference
  • Lots of front end style guides coming out (started with starbucks. starbucks.com/static/reference/styleguide)
  • problems with these:
    • Time consuming to create
    • treated as an auxiliary project
    • often too abstract
    • often seen only as a designer/development tool
    • created after a project launches
    • often incomplete, only serving present use cases
    • often lack a clear methodology

Atomic Design

  • josh duck’s periodic table of html elements
  • @dmolsen
  • Abstract ————————-> Concrete
  • Creators ————————-> Clients
  • Atoms, Molecules, Organisms, Templates, Pages
  • Reference, Build, Build, Build, Reference

the pattern

  1. ATOMS (input field)
  2. Molecules (search module)
  3. Organism (site header)
  4. Templates (site header bundled into a whole page template) -focus on content structure (reference to mark boulton.co.uk – content strucure first, not required to have content first)
  5. Pages (the pouring in of real & true representative content to see if it all works)
  • validate or invalidate the atomic design thus far
  • you test variations of the template at this point (still the same template though!)
  • does it scale? (content length, list item length, etc.)

pattern lab

  • @dmolsen Dave Oldsen and Brad created it
  • Open source project
  • What is it?
    • It’s a design system BUILDER
    • designed to help you execute a design system
    • a custom component library
    • a pattern starter kit
    • a practical viewport resizer
    • an annotation tool

It’s NOT:

  • a UI framework
  • Language, library, or style dependent
  • Incredibly rigid
  • “just” a pattern library, but also not a prod ready static site generator
  • ..like Jekyl

moving parts

  • builder
      mustache for templating the guts

      JSON for piping in real content

  • viewer
    • ish (gives you a different value every time (small button gives you a smallISH value)
    • Lets you rapidly preview random and different layout scenarios
    • displays the size of the display currently in view.. as px and ems. Annotations
    • his issues with wireframes in general… long assed annotations, iXds are working in a layer of abstraction
    • The annotation tool couples numbers with an overlaid layer of annotated description
    • Annotations with JSON
    • Lineage
    • Shows off what components make up a particular component, and where its applied.
      • ‘X pattern contains the following patterns’
      • ‘x pattern is included in the following patterns’

Other stuff

  • code view
  • pattern status
  • auto refresh
  • page follow
  • Future: plugins
  • idea of checking your performance budget whilst developing with Pattern Lab

What’s the hardest aspect of responsive web design?

  • design/dev or people/process (overwhelmingly process/people)
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • you have to sell people that RWD is the right thing
    • using data (showing conversions, improvement metrics – hockey sticks)
    • SHOWING not TELLING is a lot easier to sell through to clients
    • talk about the simplicity of the 3 pillars (flex grid, resp images, media queries)
    • why RWD matters, selling to Tiffany in his R/GA days:
      • He took a representative page from their site… (their desktop site), and demoed how it COULD be if set up properly
        • It took him half a day…
        • they then took a crapload of devices and spread them out on a long table… two tabs open on each device one for now vs possible Set Expectations
      • Don’t sell websites like a painting. Instead, sell easy and sexy access to content, agnostic of device, screen etc.
      • Kill the waterfall! IA->VISUAL->DEV = no good Interface Inventory
  • Much like a content inventory, but more specific
  • pick out, cluster, and inventory the buttons, inputs etc. – this illustrates the differences, similarities, the scope of the current interface situation
  • This helps you gauge LOE on a redesign!
  • Document your interface
  • Promote consistency
  • Establish which elements will be challenging to translate into RWD
  • lays groundwork for future style guide/pattern library
  • Evernote for Interface Inventories – Aaron Gustafson

Establish Direction

  • before too long, you can design for the content structure you KNOW will exist
  • use of style tiles for visual direction – more specific than a mood board, but not getting too far down into the weeds
  • use of Typecast for brainstorming and playing with potential typographic treatments

Rolling up your sleeves

  • build out basic patterns based on design sketches
  • moving into element collages (still not full comps)
  • often start with header and footer
  • often end up with odd states.. ie a finished header and footer but very rough main content well – this requires frequent communication with client so they know how the process is flowing
  • A traditional comp might not happen until nearly the end of design process …and might be a coded comp vs a photoshop comp

Responsive Patterns

  • he collected design patterns, in b&w & very barebones. (thisisresponsive.com)
    created to avoid re-explaining patterns again and again Layout

Grids

  • Which grid system should i use? (he doesn’t care 😉
  • Css tricks.com don’t overthink it grids
  • Future of CSS Layout
  • Grid Layout
  • Flexbox (see solvedbyflexbox.com)

Media Queries

  • avoid desktop-first styles (don’t set defaults only to have to overwrite them!)
  • mobile first styles start from the perspective of small (using min-width vs max-width)
  • the absence of support for media queries is in fact the first media query. – Bryan Rieger
  • Let CONTENT, not screen size, determine breakpoints
  • Start with the small screen first, then expand until it looks like shit. Time for a breakpoint! – stephen hay
  • HAY mode in Ish (in hay’s honor)
  • use of EMs in media queries – no longer a strict best practice, but a matter of preference
  • Still recommend using relative units (he has no pixel values in his styles)
  • Use major AND minor breakpoints (minor being a component level breakpoint or page level breakpoint)
  • don’t overdo it
  • ??? about localization and media query usage (german text is longer….)
  • option 1: use the longest localization by default (his recommendation)
  • option 2: apply a differentiator (addl class on the body tag etc.) and add/modify german specific styles Multi-Device Layout Patterns

Mostly Fluid patterns

  • The Column Drop
  • be careful that the stuff in the sidebars isn’t necessarily related to the main content (due to content hierarchy concerns)
  • The Layout Shifter (brad voids these if possible, preferring simplicity)
  • ie a complex, unique layout that really changes across breakpoints
  • Tiny Tweaks – ie very little changes..
  • minor font size or margin changes
  • The Off Canvas (jason weaver – jasonweaver.name/lab/offcampus)
  • stuff hangs out off screen until needed
  • Content Choreography
  • content folding (ie folding ads in between articles)
  • could use flexbox (jordanm.co.uk/lab/content)
  • could use AppendAround: a responsive Markup Pattern
  • from Filament Group
  • Don’t use this all the time, but it could help solve certain issues

Layout considerations

  • When users scroll on mobile we are moving backward through time
  • moving through a list
  • deep dive into content
  • All these instances are scrolling through a singular content type
  • don’t mix up your content types when you put stuff into a single column with RWD.

Conditional loading:

  • given the % of sites that push the same heavy content to mobile as desktop…
  • Aggressive enhancement (nice term)
  • The Thing (a) beside and above NOT The Thing
  • Instead, include links to the “not the thing”s by fragmenting out that content
  • put these fragments behind a lazy load and a user opt-in (via accordion for example)
  • old browsers treat as links to different pages
  • newer stuff fetches via ajax and drops it into the expanded module
  • Larger format views display the whole thing by default
  • (24ways.org/2011/conditional loading for responsive designs)
  • Boston Globe does this with their weather widget
  • either drives to a different page OR
  • displays inline via async call How to do this?
  • Matchmedia.js (has polyfills too)
  • enquire.js
  • Conditional CSS (adactio)
  • Progressive disclosure as a term http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_disclosure
  • Scanability vs capability is a balance
  • It’s ok for different users to get a different experience as long as functionality remains accessible
  • Screen size is just ONE variable.. (touch capability, etc. are others)
  • Large screens do not always mean fast connection !!
  • you can generalize somewhat
  • you can TRY to detect bandwidth but it’s complex
  • things like Boomerang test bandwidth by pinging all the time (hard on batteries ouch)
  • Just design a fast experience!
  • be mindful of the # of http requests
  • look into server-side optimization

RESS ala Responsive Design + Server Side Components

  • lukew.com ‘s article
  • described as a scalpel
  • if on a mobile device, don’t load (this annoying thing)
  • if on desktop, DO load (this crazy thing)

Touch (ala accommodate for meat sticks)

  • hybrid devices make things complex (windows tablets, Chrome Pixel, etc.)
  • assumptions around touch targets, margins must be questioned
  • keep everything touch friendly by default
  • same issues on phablets (save for tests for touch etc.) Touch considerations
  • don’t rely on hover states (don’t put important stuff there)
  • if the info isn’t important, defer it (ie to a product detail page)
  • or have it toggle display via touch.. BUT
  • touch implies intent, so you can run into trouble here
  • touch to toggle content is anticlimactic if users were trying to DO or GET something vs just exposing content
  • Patrick Lauky – good source for touch related experimentation
  • Look for opportunities to provide enhancements for touch devices, such as swipe gestures
  • but be careful. careless touch input can result in unwanted effects or false positives.

Navigation

  • Navigation should be like a good friend… there when you need them, but cool enough to give you your space.
  • don’t make users scroll through lots of nav to get to content Tactics
  • Do nothing (leave nav as is)
  • doesn’t scale for larger navigations
  • Footer Anchor
  • nav clicks drive user to footer via named anchor (no js used)
  • somewhat disorienting (might be a good baseline pattern to be enhanced further)
  • The Select Menu (ie. the drop down menu)
  • good for non-primary navigation
  • The Toggle (the current go to best practice)
  • Content slides down and exposes navigation
  • elegant
  • keeps users in place
  • relies on javascript
  • The overlay (variation on the Toggle)
  • does not drop content down
  • unwanted link navigation on older devices (ie click goes to lower stacked element anchors)
  • unwieldy (he tries to keep things on one plane)
  • The nav flyout
  • pro & con: Able to display LOTS of nav items
  • the go to for content-heavy sites
  • consider content inventory/strategy if you’re having to deal with a super long flyout menu
  • The Priority + considerations approach
  • Partial exposure of nav based on priority, with ‘…more’ link to expose the entire nav
  • not a fan, but considers it worth exploring
  • The HIDE and CRY
  • no nav on mobile (ack) that comes close to desktop experience
  • muy mal “mobile users don’t do/need that…” Complex Navigation
  • The Multi-Toggle
  • ie. nested accordions ad infinitum
  • behavior variations with touch devices.. (primary nav no longer can drive to a page, but must expand the subnav as only choice)
  • Solution: add another item “all x products” effectively acts as the click through for touch that desktop had.
  • Right to Left (nav panes slide left or right based on clicking nav arrows in nav)
  • follows nav convention of drilling in/out
  • right = deeper, left = shallower
  • sony did this, but is no longer using it
  • Skip the Subnav
  • on small screens, just drive to the nav item’s landing page and then expose the sub navigation
  • the main downside (but not a huge one) is you are forcing a full page refresh to get to desired destination

Navigation considerations

  • Find the balance between nav access and obtrusiveness
  • Test!
  • Be explicit about the nav icon (as much as you can)

IMAGES

  • avg 1.78mb page load —- 1.12mb of that are images. Images are a huge issue.
  • various screen sizes
  • growth of high res screens
  • varying bandwidth
  • need for art direction ie diff crops, etc.

background images

  • these work as advertised, ie they behave properly in media queries
  • ie multiple backgrounds aren’t downloaded
  • use mobile first background images
  • don’t include large by default, introduce them in a media query block
  • Icons
  • many times they don’t look good on hi-res screens
  • use of ICON fonts is growing, and becoming a best practice
  • IcoMoon – quickly choose or build your own libraries and generate your own iconFont
  • Web Fonts (including Icon fonts) are NOT supported in a couple key browsers
  • Opera MINI – a proxy browser preloaded on many feature phones and smart phones
  • (proxy browsers end up taking very little bandwidth)
  • Older Windows Phone devices don’t support them.
  • Grumpicon converts images or svgs as data
  • can also use png image fallbacks
  • Grunticon output
  • important stuff -> All icons inline in the css as vector svg data urls (better support)
  • all icons inline in the css as PNG data urls
  • All of the icons referenced externally as png images, which are automatically generated from the source SVG and placed in a directory alongside the CSS files

Image Considerations

  • Vectorize all you can
  • use HTML special chars
  • use icon fonts, but with fallbacks (SVG)
  • If you use sprites, consider making a hi res sprite sheet
  • Semantically important images
  • preserve aspect ratio (brucelawson.co.uk preserving aspect ratio)
  • Avoid text as images!!! (duh)
  • Responsive image considerations
  • Ensure content is legible on small screens
  • Larger dimensions, higher compression rate (blog.netvlies.n/design-interactive/retina-revolution/)
  • Looks great on hi res screens and regular screens
  • repainting the canvas is expensive performance wise (affects any fluid image)
  • still doesn’t’ provide art direction (example: obama at car factory – crop needed for mobile view)
  • only make 1 image request per asset
  • load the small image asset by default
  • consider server-side detection
  • WHATEVER you do, make sure it’s easy to swap out. It WILL be deprecated :)
  • Art Direction
  • Focal point cropping: – designshack.net/articles/css….
  • HTML5 Picture element is solidifying (finally)
  • uses Jehl’s picture fill as a fallback?:
  • accessible text
  • SizerSoze.org (what is the cost of your non-responsive images?)
  • calculates the savings if you were to use the above solution in your site
  • SRC SET:

    <.img src="small.jpg" srcset="large.jpg 1024w, medium.jpg 640w, small.jpg 320w" sizes="(min-width: 36em) 33.3vw", 100vw" alt="a rad wolf" />

  • One beef was that it wasn’t using media queries (at one time)
  • but it’s a nice quick easy way to explain multiple sizes of an image
  • check out Coyier’s article on SrcSet vs Picture element

Video

  • Srcset
  • fitvidsjs.com (by coyier)
  • some sites have good examples how..
  • vimeo, etc
  • embedresposively.com

Maps

  • brad’s adaptive-maps badfrostweb.com/blog/post/adaptive-maps
  • apps hijacking the user’s attempt to browse for a navigation (not a bad thing, actually)
  • using Google’s maps API via a link from the page’s representation of the map
  • if screen scan accommodate the EMBEDDED map, instead just load the embedded map (example, min-width: 700px )

Lightboxes

  • example of a non-scaling pattern on Mashable
  • not all desktop patterns scale to the small screen
  • example of FB’s ‘create event’ dialogue on mobile/vs desktop
  • Conditional Lightbox
  • link to the raw image or chunk of content
  • detect screen size
  • ensure content is legible on small screens
  • if screen is big, inject the lightbox functionality
  • Magnific Popup – free responsive jquery lightbox plugin (also works with Zepto)

Data Tables

  • Table to name/value pairs
  • Table to List
  • Priority Columns (the important data persists, others get pushed into a ‘display more’ collapsed state)
  • Horizontal overflow (locked column approach)
  • Test lots! (some android devices don’t support this)
  • Consider using combinations of these to meet needs
  • Considerations for tables
  • What the data is like matters
  • how closely linked is the data’s display format to its semantic value?

“Modules”
Carousels

  • make sure you actually need one
  • runyon found that the % of folks that make it to panel #2 (of interactive carousels) is less than 5%
  • shouldiuseacarousel.com (rounds up the numbers on usage and effectiveness)
  • cycle through items that are similar (vs disparate item types)
  • only load what you actually need
  • be CLEAR about your carousel’s functionality ( “…” is not enough)
  • suggest more content to users
  • provide gestural hints (content overhang off screen)
  • opera mini; doesn’t support touch events
  • by default, provide fallback navigation (and replace it if touch is supported)
  • Types of Carousels
  • The Reveal (as screen space goes up, they expose more products in the carousel)
  • takes great advantage of larger screens, avoids the ‘stark & empty’ effect

Accordions

  • Tabs to Accordian: codepen.io/sturobson/full/xgfel (converts tabs to an accordian)
  • Accordion to Full: each section/subsection becomes an accordion section (ie collapses)
  • when there’s enough room, it displays in full

Forms

  • Label alignment shifts (top labels for small screens, left for full screen)
  • he prefers keeping them in the same place
  • Float Label – animated floated label that kicks in when default text is overwritten by user input
  • Float Label Form Interaction on Dribble
  • Internal labels: pros and cons
  • the field itself becomes a button/field.
  • saves lots of vert real estate
  • not so good accessibility
  • you lose field context when you enter text (since you’re overwriting)

Form Considerations

  • subtract as much as possible
  • use proper input types
  • chunk stuff up (multiple input phases allowing users to save progress (ie 1/4… 2 of 4, etc.))
  • use input types (number, email, url, tel) – this is the lowest hanging fruit here
  • they all fall back to text if not supported
  • Provide hinting
  • be careful with inline labels
  • validation but not too aggressive
  • Opting out of RWD
  • css-tricks.com/user-opt-out-responsive design
  • don’t use fixed positioning
  • very buggy on older browsers
  • just really goofy
  • burns up valuable real estate
  • Position: Fixed considerations
  • If it must be used, fixed headers are more reliable as they degrade more gracefully
  • avoid JS solutions
  • be mindful of orientation change. use media queries to disable fixed for landscape orientation
  • conditionally introduce fixed positioning when screen space becomes available

Development

  • Viewport metatag – tells browser to ignore its zoomed out state
  • viewport in CSS
  • @0webkit0-viewport {width: device-width} — etc.
  • don’t disable the user’s ability to pinch and zoom
  • only introduce the viewport meta tag when you’re sure the content is mobile-optimized
  • CSS
  • Border:
  • SASS
  • plain css is inefficient
  • nesting is awesome in SASS
  • variables are amazing
  • putting media queries into SASS vars is a fav of his
  • Nesting media queries
  • changed his life forever
  • .module { margin: 0 0 1em; padding: 1em; @media all and (min-width: 50em) { float: left; width: 50%; }
  • Getting Sass to help with legacy IE -> nicolasgallagher.com
  • respond.js by Scott Jehl

Device Support

  • what should i support?
  • iOS
  • Android
  • repulsive yet relevant
  • ie mobile, blackberry, silk, nokia etc.
  • There is a difference between SUPPORT and OPTIMIZATION – focus on accessibility
  • Redux: Ubiquity
  • our responsibility to make content accessible across the world, across economic and social spectrum

Testing

  • remote testing tools (browserstack)
  • viewport resizing tools
  • Test on actual devices
  • truly test a design’s performance
  • Device capabilities
  • Form factor
  • Pixel Density
  • Impact of the network
  • Device Criteria
  • your traffic, form factors etc. budget
  • test w/o breaking the bank – brad’s post from bradfrostweb.com
  • OpenDeviceLab.com

Reorgs: Rocky or Righteous (Designing the Experience of Company Transition)

As designers, we grapple every day with challenging projects. This of course is part of what keeps us coming back. Some challenges, although not directly related to project work, can still be looked at through a UX lens. In this case, I’m talking about a phenomenon you’re likely familiar with: company reorganization.

If you’ve been through a reorg (that’s ‘Reorganization’ in water cooler parlance)you’ve probably experienced your share of the whispers, closed-door meetings and mixed messages that seem to be par for the course when an organization goes through major changes in size, scope, staffing, or management.

I’ve been through a number of these shuffled decks myself, across several companies, and for a variety of reasons. It’s fair to claim that each one is different, but there’s enough overlap to identify patterns and form some baseline recommendations.

If you’re in a role with decision-making authority, then you’re ideally positioned to ensure that the reorg will be designed as an intentional experience with its actual user base in mind.

However, if you’re like the majority of us who aren’t in a position to make decisions about the reorg, you’re probably still reasonably close to the folks who are. Why not take the initiative and lay out some scenarios and recommendations for how the reorg can be designed for optimal reception and impact on your organization?

The users

Whether it’s planned or not, the scope of the reorg will have an audience far larger than the group of people seemingly affected on paper. The experience of these groups throughout the reorg should be purposefully designed by whomever is running the change management show.

Let’s take a look at who your users are.

  • The folks who are officially part of the reorg. Their status is changing in some way, be it their actual role, reporting structure, and the like.
  • Coworkers/teams who have direct or dotted-line dependencies with anyone or any team directly involved in the change.
  • Coworkers/teams whose only connection is physical or cultural proximity or who ultimately report to the same upper management.
  • Third party vendors who communicate with or provide services to reorg-affected parties.

Here’s what you need to realize: These groups will be getting bits and pieces of news about the reorg whether or not you craft that message explicitly.

With that in mind, you should ensure the messaging supports the business strategy, is accurate, and speaks to each party’s specific concerns.

This is the difference between an unplanned, unpredictable experience and an intentional, designed experience. It’s a golden opportunity to show your stakeholders they are a valued part of the organization, and you’ve got your arms firmly around managing the changes. If the right preparation goes into the reorg, you can nip in the bud any misinformation and unnecessary stress, building confidence in your team’s leadership and capability as a whole.

The alternative is to risk spending what trust currency you’ve accrued to date.

The message

Now that you know who you’re talking to, what do you say? It’s idealistic to think that you’ll know all the details when you begin planning the reorganization–but you do need to initiate your communications plan as close to the start of planning as you can.

Start by crafting general messaging that indicates the why–the logic being the necessity and desired benefits of the reorg. This should be high level until more details are known. If you know enough about the how to paint a low-res picture, do it.

A little bit of information that’s transparent and honest will go a long way–but take care not to make promises you can’t keep. Things can and will change, so own up to the reality that dates and other details are very much in flux to help you avoid having to take back your words when deadlines shift down the road.

As you approach major milestones in the reorg process and as the details solidify, provide appropriate communications to your audience groups–and do so again once the changes have been rolled out. This may seem like a lot of effort, but rest assured your people are asking questions. It’s up to you to address them proactively.

If a milestone date changes–and it will–the audience who’s been paying attention will still be looking to that date unless you update your wayfinding (in the form of project timeline communications). Without this careful attention to detail, you’re sharing bad information–perhaps more damaging than no information at all.

When the rubber meets the road

Inevitably, one question that will come up repeatedly throughout a reorg is “When does all this actually happen?” In other words, when do we start following the new processes, change how we route requests, start doing this and stop doing that?

For both logistical and psychological reasons, knowing how and when transitions will take place is vital. Often the difference between a stakeholder being stressed out

(perhaps becoming a vocal opponent of the changes) versus being calm and confident is the company’s honest commitment to consciously bridging the transition with trained, capable support.

This could be as simple as a window of time during which existing persons or processes can continue to be called upon for support or as complex as an official schedule that shows specifically how and when both the responsibilities AND expectations of the audience segments will change.

Usability research

It’s not like you can do A:B testing with a reorg. You can, however, do some polling when the initial reorg information is shared, then midstream, and again after the reorg is complete.

Why do this research? As with any project, from your first person perspective, reorg elements might seem obvious–or you may have overlooked some pretty big pieces. Talking with your ‘users’ can be illuminating and also sends the message that their input is desired and valued.

While some reorgs are expressly designed to reduce overhead/staff, reorgs are not always about cutting heads. Often-times it’s a shuffle of resources (people), and if the right discussions happen you can guide that process to a win win.

Using a handy list written by a gentleman you may know of, here are some dimensions co-opted for our use. Employ these as you see fit to generate interview material and discover how well your company reorg experience has been crafted.

Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?

We can ask our participants what they took away from the reorg communications they were sent. This includes actual group or 1:1 meetings, formal documents, emails, etc.

Find out if the materials conveyed the message so the transition was easy to understand. Did they grasp both the high-level view and the granular details? (In other words, overall strategy and the specific impact to them.)

Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?

If the folks you’re polling have been assigned specific assignments in the reorg, ask early on if they fully understand their instructions and if they could have added any insight that might have decreased task costs or durations. Midstream or late in the game you can follow up to see if those instructions turned out to be clear and accurate enough for the tasks to have been carried out efficiently.

Did task instructions have the most time-saving sequence? Were there steps left out of the tasking communications that had to be discovered and completed?

Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?

Remember the telephone game? Someone makes up a story and then each player passes the story on to the next by whispering. When the story makes it back to the author, the details have changed–it’s a different story.

When those involved in a reorg talk with others, they’ll pass along what they know. The simpler the story and the more they’ve understood it, the less you’ll lose in translation.

Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?

A successful reorg requires a lot of work and collaboration between groups. Mistakes tend to be costly and have a ripple effect, becoming harder to correct as time goes on. The critical path of these big projects is placed at risk due to missteps due in large part to (wait for it) learnability and memorability, or due to errors introduced by people who have been put off by the lack of efficiency of the reorg process and attempt to forge their own path.

Another source of error is in failing to communicate enough timely information about role changes to employees and contractors. Major change breeds anxiety, and in a job market where workers have the power and employers are constantly on the prowl for good (and hard to find) talent, it’s a mistake to risk wholesale attrition.

Avoid this error by honestly and accurately communicating dates and the likelihood of roles continuing as is or with changes. If roles are going away, be transparent about that too. Better to maintain trust and respect with clear messaging about terminations than to leave folks in doubt and unable to plan for their future.

Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

If the reorg does NOT leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and if the stated project goals have been met, you’re doing it right. Reorgs happen for a reason, typically because something’s suboptimal or simply broken. Ultimately, everyone should pull together and work towards a positive outcome resulting in better workflow, lowered cost of doing business, increased job satisfaction, and, of course, $$$.

Moving on

Regardless of your role in the company and the reorg, consider whether or not you can use your UX superpowers to make the entire process less painful, easier to understand, and more likely to succeed.


Note: Also published at Boxesandarrows.com