Week 5 – UXD Principles and Concepts

In Week 5 of my Principles of UXD course, we moved on to Module 3: A Visual Design Primer. We began the week with a lecture on the topic, learning about principles like visual hierarchy, points lines and planes, balance, rhythm, scale, figure and ground, graming and grids. Together, these principles should create a pleasing harmony and delightful dissonance that help the user easily find the information they are seeking. Each of the principles is important on their own, but they must also work together across a page, across multiple pages, and even from property to property if strategically necessary.

Our assignment this week was to find effective and ineffective examples of designs. For my ineffective examples, I chose wwe.com and a chart from the Iowa CPAs website. The examples were different because wwe.com failed to use many of the design principles and felt flat and littered with random videos. My other example used all of the principles but used them inconsistently, not only across the page but inconsistently within the gridded system itself. My effective examples were airbnb.com and one of the most well-known ads of all time, VW’s 1964 Beetle print ad. Both of these were simple examples, which thinking about it now, I should have tried to find an effective example of a busy site.

Fortunately for me, even though I didn’t find a busy example of effective design, others in the class did. In our discussion, there were countless examples of both simple and busy designs that worked. Everyone did a great job of “noticing” design taking place, and seeing their thoughts alongside the examples was really helpful. The only thing that I’m still struggling to see “in the wild” is the golden ratio. I feel like anything that is off-balance and asymmetric to the rule of thirds can have the Fibonacci spiral placed on it and scaled just enough to make it look like it “works”. Beyond that, all of the principles we learned are simple enough that we can start applying them to work immediately.

As always, notes are here… although with no books this week, they are quite a bit lighter.

Week 4 – UXD Principles and Concepts

This week’s assignment was to create a flowchart for the user process of performing a mortgage insurance inspection. Creating the flow chart itself was difficult because I anticipated a lot of individual steps for the user based on all of the document they need to collect. I’m hoping that I went about it correctly, so we’ll see. To build the flow chart, I actually had to start by drawing out what I imagined the portfolio screen to look like. Based on the needs of the user, they need to be able to move expeditiously throughout the process, but must also be errorless. I used a lot of visual cues to the user to indicate what documents applied to the property, and where there were gaps in documentation. I also “baked in” system checks that would find and highlight those gaps, as well as lock-outs that would prevent submitting the portfolio if notes didn’t exist where a documentation gap existed.

In reviewing this week’s Pinterest shares, I tried to dedicate more time to reading full articles that people shared. In previous weeks I was focused on finding infographics and visuals I could swipe, but I found a few of the articles this week really good. The User Experience Design for Museum Exhibits article was full of cool tips and ideas from someone with 40+ years of experience, like the concept of rapid-prototyping with non-expert staff. I also enjoyed one of the articles shared around creating positive emotions through the experience by removing things like fear. I liked the article, but some experiences can also be heightened by leaving in a little bit of fear, namely games and gamified systems. Scarcity, Unpredictably, and Avoidance are all fear-based motivators that can be used to encourage users to embrace different elements of the design, and deliver even more heightened positive experiences, i.e. nothing wagered, nothing gained.

We also closed out our books for the course. For me, Norman’s book was a little dry through the last two chapters. It was good to read but didn’t lend itself to much note-taking. I will remember though that oftentimes where a safety system is implemented, it often creates another user hurdle and potential safety risk. I also liked his quick delve into innovation. At work, our department is focused almost completely on innovation. What we often treat as radical, is actually incremental. It actually reminded me of another book I read last year, The Creative Curve, which explores where new ideas and innovations come from. Designing with the Mind in Mind was less focused on these topics, and spent its time continuing to explore how our sensory systems work. I especially enjoyed the section on how we make irrational decisions. Since I’m a huge fan of Dan Ariely, I enjoyed exploring how the mind applies in these situations. Now that we’re done with the books, I’m excited to see what’s next!

Week 3 – UXD Principles and Concepts

I really enjoyed this week’s readings. I’ve always found work that studies how our brains operate fascinating and reading about how memory works has been no different. I constantly feel like I should be memorizing both of the books that we’re reading. I do plan on spending some time trying to memorize Norman’s section on Slips and Mistakes. Much of that language and the concepts it captures will be critical to effective design. Understanding the type of error and why it occurs, should help a designer anticipate problems and prevent them. All of it ties in perfectly with Johnson’s discussion of attention, creating memories, and recognition and recall. I mean, the fact that there’s a difference between recognition and recall in itself is wild. But understanding that recognition is instantaneous, and recall a focused effort to recreate a memory is not something I expected to learn from this course. So cool.

I also really liked Sherman’s lecture/presentation. I’ve never heard the phrase customer corridor before, and his explanation and following examples regarding onboarding a user were solid. I’ve found that reading the script alongside the video has helped me better retain the info. The Pattern Types he described are pervasive, yet I’m not sure that I’ve given them much consideration until now. Today I set up a Nintendo 2DS and immediately found myself thinking through the implications of their initial setup which uses a combination of modal and first-run callouts. One setup function in particular (signing in to your Nintendo ID) was troublesome. If you have issues signing in, the only recourse is to use the “back” button to navigate through 6 screens to return to the home screen. In that situation, the home button doesn’t work. Boo.

Finally, our first real test of what we’ve been learning was the Tiny Critique and Redesign assignment. Even though the rubric was clear on expectations, I still found the task challenging. We’ve covered a lot of ground in three weeks, so trying to pull concepts from 3 lectures, 5 chapters of one book, and 9 chapters of another book was daunting. It may have been necessary though because the prompt we were reviewing wasn’t specific to one section of study. I ended up taking issues with the language they used, the groupings they picked, and the buttons they choose. It was definitely a challenge, and I’m eager for feedback to see if I thought about everything appropriately.

As always, my Week 3 notes are here.

Week 2 – UXD Principles and Concepts

This week has been pretty fascinating, examining the eyes and the mind. As people, we get habituated to our vision and take for granted how it works both for and against us. Understanding how the eye receives light, and then how the brain interprets it to serve both survival and cognitive purposes now seem obvious as critical knowledge for designers. Especially when we are trying to account how Gestalt Principles impact our ability to perceive the world around us. Some Gestalt Principles seem basic, like proximity and symmetry, but others like figure-ground and common feet still leave me a bit curoius.

It’s just as interesting to me how our memory dances with design. Norman’s Seven Stages of Action seem silly to lay out at first, but if you’re helping design the means of facilitating that action, it’s clear how imperative it is to consider the Gulfs and each step that crosses them. Some stages are likely behavioral, while some may be reflective, depending on the action taking place. I’d also never considered Prospective Memory or Memory of the Future, and how “feedforward” enables you to prepare the user with foreshadowing.

I also dipped into the supplemental material a bit, reading Section 4: The Game of Seduction in Stephen Anderson’s Seductive Interaction Design. I’ve previously read a few books that covered similar material, so I wanted to compare his work to what I already knew. He does a good job of covering a lot of ground in a few short chapters, but I really should go back and read the first ¾ of the text to see his approach to interaction design, beyond the gamification basics. The O’reily resource seems like a place where I’ll spend some of my… free… time. If I can find some.

My colleagues shared a lot of great examples this week of good and bad designs according to Norman and Johnson’s books. The examples were fun to read about and provided thoughtful critiques that cemented some of the learnings in a more practical way. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the subjects of critique, and I think that was helpful because I didn’t have my own biases influencing my opinion.

Notes are here.

Week 1 – UXD Principles and Concepts

Preface – As of Jan 2019, I’ve enrolled at Kent State University, seeking a Masters of Science in User Experience Design. As such, certain coursework in the curriculum will require regular blog posts (reflections) of weekly learnings. This is the first of those posts.

In reflecting on Week 1 in UXD Principles and Concepts, I feel that we’ve covered a lot of ground. We began with the Kent State LUMEN model for design, which is similar to the Design Thinking Process, but contains a final element (iNform) that necessitates thinking about why designs are made and reporting to stakeholders. That led to a foundational understanding of what roles exist on a UX team that may use LUMEN, how the reporting structure for that team may look, and how that team may go about its engagements with its partners, whether they be internal partners or clients. I find that I’ve done many tasks similar to those defined by the Content Strategist, but am just as interested in UX Strategist and Interaction Design roles. What’s interesting to me is how imperative it is that all of the roles come together to achieve UX success. In a business world where we preach the importance of experience, my department (if not our entire company) is ill-equipped to handle the experience design needs of all our customers.

We also learned the basic elements of experience design this week, as defined by Jesse James Garrett. Garrett’s Elements of Experience are conceptualized as “planes” on which different components design considerations take places. Each level – Surface, Skeleton, Structure, Scope, and Strategy – has its own significance in the design process. But it’s important to remember that this is not a linear path and that there must be some overlap during phase shifts to ensure each is applied thoughtfully. This is complicated, though necessary when we traverse both the software and information sides of each plane. Additionally, the software vs information mindset stipulates specific needs that must be accommodated on each plane, resulting in a more comprehensive model for considering the end-to-end design process.

“Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology.” – Don Norman

Finally, we learned to think about the human element of design. The Ted Talk from Tony Fadell implored us to think bigger, think smaller, and think younger, to better notice things that we’ve habituated to. The Design of Everyday Things communicated the importance of discoverability and usability in design, whether it be a product, site, or anything else. My favorite line from the first chapter may be this: “Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology.” That concern is made evident through designers use of affordances, signifiers, constraints, mappings, and feedback. However, a designer’s most important job may be helping craft the visualization of the conceptual model, which affords the user the ability to see how the object should work, and what to do if it doesn’t.

My Week 1 notes are viewable here.