UX Design Solutions
My very good friend, Daniel Szuc, of Apogee HK recently published an excellent article titled “Designing for Positive Impact”. It’s a great look at how UX skills and perspectives can be applied to the longer term to help businesses create a more positive vision. It seems the way our brains work is becoming quite valuable.
What struck me about the article was a thread that wove through the text with words like “holistic views”, “coherent vision”, “long term sustainability” and “design thinking”. These have been recurring themes that I have noticed brewing over the last few months. My initial foray into this “thinking view” was the work of Roger Martin in “The Opposable Mind” where he talks about a holistic thinking paradigm that designers use as being a valuable tool for business problem solving.
Here’s the good stuff before you get bored:
Moral of the story? Envisioning the whole to support individual parts is the key to creating a sustainable UI/UX.
Long term? Lower costs and happier users. Win, win, win, win.
So where am I going with this? It’s important to develop a coherent vision for your user experience to create sustainability. Let me explain…
Here’s what Roger talks about when we approach design solutions as single items to be addressed:
“…the Frankenstein approach to design … a negative thing that happens when integrative thinking is not employed …a bunch of disjointed, disassociated parts and details being plunked onto an object.”
In fact I find this particularly in Agile situations where the software has been born out of many different threads that are then integrated to produce a whole. As you might imagine that can result in a very disjointed user experience.
An approach that I have found to be tremendously effective to beat the “Frankenstein” pitfall, whether in an Agile environment or not, is twofold:
1. Develop a “medium term” model for your UX - hopefully based on a long term vision - that will provide direction over a 9-12 month period.
2. Empower developers with understanding and a solution library.
By developing a model of your user experience to be reached over a medium term period you provide the “coherent vision” that your developers can work towards. I’m not recommending that you then fall into a waterfall approach (pardon the pun!).
What this model will give you is the integrated thinking that allows developers to make decisions about individual parts with an understanding of the whole. That’s the key to avoiding Frankenstein. In addition to the model, a library of best practices solutions(widgets, UX definitions and principles, etc.), that developers can choose from when in need of, say, an edit process or how to implement search, will support a strong UX at the micro interaction level within the product.
What this does is to give developers the ability to just “run with it” knowing that it WILL all fall into place in the UI. That’s efficient and empowering.
Now for the sustainability part. I know “sustainability” is all the rage these days with our eco-crisis. Here’s the definition:
The most widely quoted definition internationally is the “Brundtland definition” of the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development – that sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.“ from http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm#sustainability
What does that mean then in terms of software development? It means that by creating a UX that has a solid foundation you can continue to build upon it. It is sustainable in that you aren’t compromising future development efforts with a UX that has to be rebuilt or deconstructed each time you want to release a new version or add features.
Now your dev efforts are focused on value add projects rather than re-hash, rebuild tedium. It’s a much better and “sustainable” place to be.
Interested in how this can work for you? Drop me a line, let’s chat. email@example.com
It’s been a bit longer than normal between posts for me, but, have been well engaged! Great activity for me :).
Recent projects have had me doing a lot of work on search. Highly complex query builders for searching big databases… 72 million plus records a day. Yeah.. That’s big.
OK, big deal. Well, there’s a small concept that is easily overlooked in these scenarios that will greatly increase the usability of your product:
Input is as Input does… take advantage of the mental model established by the data input form by reflecting it throughout when searching for, or displaying that data.
There are a good number of reasons why this strategy pays off, not the least of which is the leverage you get from repeating the users mental model:
…the advantages of mental models all begin with
the letter “C”:
♦ Confidence in Your Design—guide the design of the solution
♦ Clarity in Direction—make good user and business decisions
♦ Continuity of Strategy—ensure longevity of vision and opportunity
The huge win here is that once your user has entered the data seeing it in an edit or read only view that reflects their input screen creates IMMEDIATE recognition. In a search form, it also allows them to trace back mentally to specific values they may have entered in particular fields and speeds their search process to find the records they’re looking for.
Next is the ease with which standards can be created for developers to work with. Starting with the selections or number of data inputs allowed per field in your input form allows you to easily define rules for searching that data. Those rules could look something like this:
Free form text values: text input box
Choice between two options: radio buttons
Selection of one or many values out of 1-5 options: Checkboxes or Dropdown menu depending on transparency and space requirements
Selection of one value from up to 20 values: Dropdown menu
Multiple value selections from a list over 5: Add/Remove Select Box
Now you’ve got an easy to replicate, easy to follow set of standards to use for input , edit and search. Instant design patterns library!
Ultimately you have developed a very efficient cycle that promotes patterns, supports the users mental model, and reuses code. Nice job.
We’ve got a new President who has given us a vision of hope as a nation. We have had many “visionaries” prime our imaginations with fantastical thoughts that have sparked some of the most creative solutions to problems that face us on a daily basis.
So too is the role of a vision in the UX realm. I’m working with a client right now to develop a user experience vision for their product. And as Jared Spool (yep .. my fav go to quote guy) notes:
We’re finding having a solid vision is really key to success. Do you know what the experience of your design will be like in 5 years? In 10? Does everyone on the team share the same perception?
Fundamental truth. When everyone is marching to the beat of the same drummer towards a shared goal/vision it’s amazing the energy and quality that comes out of their work.
Convinced? (continue reading…)
On the drawing table, almost real, but still looking for some thoughts and feedback on the concept: UBloX. I’m developing a series of UX solutions for small dev shops. Pre-packaged solutions that provide the UX best practices documentation, graphics and UI code in a neat dowloadable .zip file. (continue reading…)
A little less wit today in my headline, but I think the topic is so clear that I don’t want to taint it. I’m sure it’s near and dear to all bloggers’ hearts!
Yesterday I attended an outstanding seminar by Joshua Porter produced by those great folks at UIE (yep shameless Ak’ing there.):) The topic was Designing for Sign-up. What struck me the most about the presentation, as a UX geek, was that the issue was not about the mechanical process of making the sign-up easier, but around the socio-psychological issues of helping users make a commitment.
No.. That would be Hanging Tabs.
If you visited before Peter at the blogstudio had a chance to get his hands on my blog design, you’ll note that there is a new visual element at the top of the page. (hint: look at the top left).
When he showed me the new treatments my brain instantly started racing.
How cool was that inverted tab at the top? That could be really useful! (continue reading…)