TGIF: If a novel was written about UX …

Late last year I took the Creative Live class, Between the Lines. A series of talks with published writers on what inspires them, what makes them do what they do, and how do they do it. I enjoyed all of them – I can’t pick a favourite. But Chip Kidd’s interview made me think about user experience.

Kidd’s training in graphic design and his love for the discipline inspired him to craft a novel seen through the lens of a designer. He asked himself, what would a novel about graphic design be like? He asked his friends and fellow alumni, if they knew of a book written in this fashion. He stumbled upon a concept which had not been attempted before.

It became the best seller.

It was a logical progression that I should substitute user experience design for graphic design and wonder…if a novel was written about UX what would it be about….

Scenario 1: Action Drama

A prize fighter climbs into the ring, the floor filled with onlookers – but on first sight, his opponent appears in a haze. He moves forward to take a closer look, his muscles flexed by the adrenaline he feels, that at any moment, the vision will take hold of him and knock him for a six. He begins to speak, hoping the words will rebound off something to prove that the opponent is actually there. Suddenly, a brush of air blows across his face. The bell rings. He steps back and begins to throw his arms about – words coming more quickly, loudly. But his words fall to hit a mark. No one wants to listen. The bell ring heralds the end of round 1. The fighter leans on the ropes but they fall away. The second round bell tolls, and now the onlookers are entering the ring. They circle the prize fighter, yelling at him, trying to displace his focus and energy. They talk him down, telling him his technique is old hat and how to win. He now can’t make out who the opponent is – the boxer or the onlookers. How many rounds will it take before he gains a foothold?

Or..

Scenario 2: Romantic comedy

A senior cop on the beat, facing extinction. Any day now, the Sarg is going to draw up the new list of promotions and recruits. Which means an imaginary line drawn threw the rest. Age and seniority are no exceptions. The cop hopes he can stick around long enough to befriend one particular recruit – a shiny and beautiful addition that speaks the cop’s language. Not handcuffs and mug shots – but microinteractions and hero images. The cop knows that together they could turn this rusty organisation around to work with the people and not against them. Cop’s interest is not only professional. Cop can see the two of them walking hand-in-hand in the sunset, drawing them closer and closer, until ….. But first, organisational transformation. Recruit’s skills and nous will surely turn some of the older leadership around. Will these old rust buckets see through Cop’s motives as being just career survival or a strategic push into a new age?

To be continued…

That Trivago ad … again.

A sojourn in Australia over the Christmas break has exposed me to a lot of television. Too much in fact. And way too many, Trivago ads.

Much has already been written about the ‘merits’ of the Trivago advertising campaign. I’m not regurgitating the lack of creative here.

But its focus on the site’s usability as its strategy perplexes me as a user experience professional. Our role is to make the technology disappear. Enable a user to find what they want intuitively.

So why would an online travel site choose to use their site’s usability as the cornerstone of their advertising strategy? How their site works, is the same as how hundreds and thousands of other websites work. One particular ad talks up a feature that is already prevalent on Expedia.

Surely, the Trivago peeps don’t think their customers haven’t used the internet before? Or searched any website before? I’d be keen to see a breakdown of their user demographics.

There’s a code that is understood between all UX-ers – if you need to explain how to use your website, you’ve done a bad job as a designer.

Love thy user

It’s not rocket science, as Wojciech Zielinski writes.

Getting out and talking to users one would hope that those with UX in their titles, are doing – it’s just what needs to be done. We don’t design for ourselves.

I applaud the title of this article – falling in love with users – and yet, sometimes I’ve seen it lacking. In some larger organisations, I have witnessed sizeable research teams observe user sessions and either laugh or shake their head at a user’s chosen behaviour.

Yes, users are unpredictable. They – as well as we – all have different experiences of how we see and perceive the world. They will pull and test the software in ways that not one or many UX designers can foresee. That’s why we test.

But not only test. Research our user, their worlds and what they do. While it can sound extravagant, it all helps paint the landscape of where our products belong. Useful and usable products should ideally fill a gap or be embedded in an existing workflow.

Prototyping tool of choice ?

Source: Morguefile.comI was heartened to read the highlights of Future of Web Design by Hayley Charlton, UX Consultant @uxconnections.

For too long now I’ve found the emphasis placed on prototyping tools in job ads, distracting. Mind you I love the power of Axure and the minimalism of Balsamiq. A beautifully executed freehand sketch is the ultimate to me – no surprise there.

But crucial time is lost sometimes tooling up for the job at hand, when there are so many ways to demonstrate an idea, all as valid as each other.

Surely it must come down to the nature of the project, the time allocated and, as the article states, the ‘feel of things’ that a designer has. The best ‘tool’ to use to express this would be a natural selection and different each time.

Anyone can learn software; it just shouldn’t drive the execution of an idea.