16Jan

2017 UX Roundup

This post started off as an email to my team that I thought might have some useful content for other UX folks. This here is a collection of articles, webinars, tools, and other thingies that I encountered over the year that I think are worth sharing, with some inspiring quotes sprinkled in along the way.

Articles and Video

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.
– Salvador Dali

Interesting read about how to prepare for the next stage of UX

READ: https://www.fastcodesign.com/90135223/the-golden-age-of-ux-wont-last-heres-how-to-prepare-for-whats-next 

Notes from article:

• Don’t just understand users, understand the business
• Think product strategy (understand the totality of the product you are designing for)
• Understand how UX affects growth

Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box

-Deepak Chopra

Video webinar from Jonathan Wheeler, Sr. UX guy from Oppenheimer

WATCH: https://www.invisionapp.com/webinars/ux-leadership-everyone-designs

Main takeaway from video:

  • Don’t be a gatekeeper pf design, be a design facilitator

The above video was from the great webinar series from InVision called Design Talks that has over 60 videos thus far covering topics such as UX Leadership, design systems, and user research

WATCH: https://www.invisionapp.com/webinars

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new

- Albert Einstein

State of UX in 2018: UXdesign.cc

This list does a pretty thorough job of going over the field
READ: https://trends.uxdesign.cc/

Notes:

• “UX Designer” as a title is starting to differentiate; some people are specializing in UX for specific domains, while some are morphing into Product Designers, the new generalists.
• UX is moving beyond the traditional screen and must learn to accommodate new technologies and ways of interacting
• Understanding the complete diversity of your users is becoming more important the more diverse people become (interesting examples are software systems that assume Asian eyes are closed)
• Storytelling will only become more and more ubiquitous; UX and copywriters will collaborate more
• Branding is more than just a logo; how can a brand be expressed throughout an experience?
• AI is now a real thing (Amazon Echo, Google Dot, etc.); How will we design for it?

Anyone who influences what the design becomes is the designer. This includes
developers, PMs, even corporate legal. All the designers.


- Jared Spool

More trends for 2018

https://theblog.adobe.com/10-ux-design-predictions-for-2018/
https://blog.prototypr.io/heres-where-ux-is-going-in-2018-top-7-design-trends-d0cb73e51b45
https://blog.figma.com/18-designers-predict-ui-ux-trends-for-2018-2d04d41361c6

Quote I most identify with:

“I really hope 2018 is the year designers commit to designing with accessibility in mind. 
We need to stop using ultra light grays for essential elements, we need to stop animating 
every single pixel just because it looks nice, and we need to stop making it harder on people 
to understand the content of a page only because we want to prove ourselves as designers.”
— Hubert Florin, Product Designer at Slack; me too, dude, me too

UX podcast: High Resolution

This series has 25 interviews with industry leaders from companies like AirBnB, Uber, Facebook and Slack. You can watch them as videos or listen to them as podcasts.

WATCH or LISTEN: https://www.highresolution.design/

User Research webinars from Usertesting.com:

A ton of content here with a focus on user research and testing

WATCH: https://www.usertesting.com/resources/webinars/

Online UX conferences from UXPin:

UXPin had some great free online conferences in 2017 that you can access as videos.

WATCH: https://www.uxpin.com/studio/webinars/

Tools

Most of the tools I used in 2017 I have been using for years but I did pick up a few new ones.

Note taking and collecting: Milanote

This is a cloud-based tools for collecting notes, inspiration, links, images, and it allows you to organize them into boards. I have a board where I store interesting articles and links and one where I add images and examples of good design that I use as an old-school morgue file.

The tool has free and paid accounts and is definitely worth checking out.

CHECK IT OUT: https://www.milanote.com/

InVision: Boards

I’ve been using InVision for several years now but 2017 was the year I really started using Boards. I probably use this feature a bit different than intended. I have a board that I use as a morgue, which is an old-school term for a collection of inspiration. Another board is literally dozens of ebooks that I have collected. Putting these files on a board makes it easy to share them with the whole team. I use boards for large scale projects to store mocks, zips of assets, palettes, and specs. I also have boards that are filled with terms and their definitions, organized by category (such as Psychological concepts, Design Principles, and Quotes).

InVision has free and paid accounts and is a great tool that is about to launch a bunch of possibly groundbreaking features in 2018.

SIGN UP HERE: https://www.invisionapp.com

SnagIt: Update for MAC!!

SnagIt is a screen capture tool that has been an absolutely essential part of my workflow for YEARS. Unfortunately, the MAC version has been stuck in time while the PC version was much more full-featured. Well, 2017 brought us MAC users a real upgrade!!!! And this is such a cheap tool that upgrading is a no brainer. I use this tool to take quick screen grabs but also to make short videos that explain interactions or to show how an interaction works on another site.

LEARN MORE: https://discover.techsmith.com/snagit-brand-desktop-new-label/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAp8fSBRCUARIsABPL6JZ_yGEvSPTcybYWsoldn9DKE3rwtoXhBgnPNF1yFLAkSMCYepuXc1saAldtEALw_wcB

4Jan

Welcome to my new series for 2018, Guerilla UX!

This series will highlight some of the challenges of doing UX when the resources are low but the stakes are high. When there are not enough resources, such as time, people, access to users, access to tools, or just general knowledge of UX, to properly perform user-centered design, that’s when you need to employ Guerilla UX practices. These are short-cuts, workarounds, and best practices to help anyone tasked with facilitating the best possible user experience for a product.

In my nearly 20 years in the industry, I have never had the perfect set of variables for UX. Sometimes it was lack of knowledge or understanding. Other times, it was lack of access to users. The most common deficit was the almost constant lack of time to perform the entirety of the UX process.

I have learned to work with what I have, because even a little strategic thinking, coupled with a deep knowledge of research-based best practices, along with at least SOME testing and validation, can go a long way towards creating better products that are usable, useful, and attractive.

Other the next year, I will cover many topics, including:

Learning UX on the job – how to transition from whatever role you currently have to a UX role
Using user proxies – When access to real users is slim to nonexistent, there are other ways to test using user proxies – folks who interact with or are intimately knowledgeable about your users and their needs.
User testing with user panels and remote user testing services – Sometimes a panel may be your best bet to access people who are closer to your user base.
Performing heuristic evaluations on your products– Using knowledge of best practices, perform a review of your product to better understand what needs to improve.
Performing competitive audits – one of the easiest research methods as it does not require access to users, only your competitor’s products or services, or in the case of the web, their web address.
Working with developers – learn how to better communicate with developers and how to create specs that they can read and understand to ensure your vision is effectively brought to life.
Understanding your business – UX isn’t all about users. UX is best applied when strategy is employed and that means understanding your company’s goals so that what you design helps to satisfy business and user needs.
Tools of the trade – Common tools, software, and other resources.

First up in the series, to be published later this month: Learning UX on the job.

Stay tuned!

7Feb
Yup, it's my puppeh

My UX Path

(Updated 11-23-2017) Everyone I meet who is a UX-something has had a different road to UX. Some folks started out as programmers, others as graphic designers. Some folks have even been lucky enough to gain HCI degrees. I find it extremely interesting to learn how others have come to UX and I thought I would share my path as well. My path is long and winding and still evolving.

Back in the nineties when I was in college, I started out as a biology major. I wanted to be an environmental scientist and save the world. Then I got into psychology and got pretty far in that. Psychological concepts are actually pretty important in UX, so this was a really good diversion. My best friend at the time was an art major and she encouraged me to take some art classes. I have always been into arts and crafts but never considered them viable career options. I took some classes and found them to be really rewarding. Another friend encouraged me to take a graphic design class-I didn’t even know what graphic design was. I excelled at graphic design and decided to change my major for the third time. I took a computer graphics class and fell in love with Macromedia Director and creating interactive presentations. I then got a student gig working on the university website and that is how I got started in the digital realm.

Even though I finished the graphic design program, I have never actually been a graphic designer. Sure, I’ve designed print pieces here and there along with many, many logos, but I have never had the title of graphic designer. I went straight into web design and production and have been an interactive something-or-the-other for over 18 years now.

Over the next few years, I taught myself HTML and CSS. I started writing functional specifications filled with wireframes and information architecture diagrams and user flows. I began to lead web development projects from start to finish, all the while doing all of the UI design and front-end production. I learned how to do QA testing. Then I became an expert in SharePoint branding and site collection administration.

I started to get into analytics and search analysis. I did competitive analysis and research and wrote a bunch of reports. I started to create training documentation, then I started to conduct in-class training.

After many years, I became a Creative Director and was responsible for large-scale redesigns of major e-government projects. Currently, I spend my days as Sr. UX Analyst and Designer at an asset management firm. My days are filled with research, wireframes, mocks, sketches, user testing and interviews, and UI design. I don’t do any front end development anymore, at least not at my day job. I also consult on the side doing expert UX reviews.

After all these years, it is easy to feel like you have it all figured out, but I feel like I am just getting started. I make a concerted effort to constantly learn new things, new techniques, new ideas. I also believe that a person’s career is in their hands and if your company won’t pay for training, pay for it yourself. Read books, blogs, newsletters, whatever. Teach yourself whatever it is you want to know-I did, that’s how I learned HTML/CSS and pretty much every thing I know that I use on a daily basis. I have or have had subscriptions to Safari online books, Lynda.com, Treehouse, over 30 Udemy courses, Creative Live and a membership to the Interaction Design Foundation. I also have two industry certifications – Certified Usability Analyst from HCI and an NN/g UX certification.

I’ve worn a lot of hats and have a wide-ranging set of skills. I feel like everything I have learned has helped me to be better at anything I do. I am able to solve problems quickly because chances are, I’ve solved it before (benefits of having a long career and working in different industries). I’ve worked at small agencies, at a death care company, an e-gov agency working with elected officials, and now, an asset management firm. I have always done freelance on the side, both for money and for the experience of working with more varied clients and projects. I am looking forward to another year in this industry and another set of skills that I hope to pick up.

Wherever you have started, you can use it as a stepping stone, just keep going and never stop. I sure won’t 😉

NOTE: That pup up there, yup, that’s critter number eight, Princess Buttercup. Adopt the planet!

31Oct

From Fireworks to Sketch: Getting your Fireworks vectors into Sketch

So anyone who knows me as a designer knows that I have a very strong love for Fireworks as a UI tool. I started using it back in version 2, in the nineties, and it is the primary tool that I have used in my career for designing user interfaces and graphic elements. I have never understood the love for Photoshop as a UI tool. Every time I have tried to accomplish a UI task in Photoshop, it took way too long, if it could be accomplished properly at all. I am a firm believer in designing in vectors and in using the right tool for the job. I love Photoshop, but for editing photos. Photography is a hobby of mine and Lightroom and Photoshop are absolutely essential to my photographic process. But for web design and UI work, Fireworks has always been number one, with Illustrator for more complex vectors and certain other tasks.

When Adobe announced they were not going to keep updating Fireworks, I was one of the folks that died a little inside that day. I had been singing the praises of this tool for years and now it was being taken away from me, with no viable replacement in sight. Then Sketch came around. I bought the first version but never really used it. Fireworks still worked fine and I didn’t see a reason to switch yet. Now it’s almost 2016 and I am seeing the bugs starting to affect my team. The other UI designer on my team at work cannot even get Fireworks to open on her system, so she can’t open any of my layered png files. I refuse to use Illustrator as a UI tool so that meant it was time to move on. Sketch 3.4 is now on both of our systems. Now the fun begins-matching up the features and functionality of Fireworks versus Sketch.

Surprisingly, I can find little info on the web to help Fireworks users transition to Sketch, so that is why I am doing this series. Giant issue number one: your Fireworks files will not open in Sketch as layered vectors. This is a huge issue. Folks like me who have been using Fireworks for 15+ years have hundreds to thousands of files that we can not open, except in Fireworks. How do I get my Fireworks vectors into Sketch?

Don’t try copy and pasting-they will come in as bitmaps. Don’t try saving as .ai, not if you want to open them directly in Sketch. You have to open them in Illustrator first and then save as .eps, then open in Sketch. I found a simpler process.

My process for converting Fireworks vectors into Sketch

  1. Open Fireworks, Illustrator, and Sketch. If you don’t have Illustrator, well, phooey, who doesn’t have Creative Cloud at this point? Try one of the other vector programs.
  2. Open your file in Fireworks.
  3. Select your vectors and go to Edit > Copy as vectors.
  4. Paste the vectors into Illustrator; with the vectors still selected, copy them from Illustrator.
  5. Now paste them into Sketch. They come over as perfect vectors.

One of the cool things about Sketch is the infinite canvas. I was able to combine multiple vector icon sets into one master icon set in Sketch because the canvas can be as large as you want it.

So, what about more complex layouts that include bitmaps, text, and vectors? There is no easy solution for these-you will have to do some cleanup.

My process for converting complex Fireworks layouts into Sketch

  1. Open Fireworks, Illustrator, and Sketch
  2. Save your Fireworks file as an Illustrator 8 .ai file.
  3. Open your file into Illustrator; you may need to click the Update text button.
  4. The file will open and all of your text and vectors will be there, but your bitmaps will have come over as x-ed out boxes.
  5. Copy from Illustrator into Sketch.
  6. Now it is clean-up time. You will have to either copy and paste bitmaps directly from Fireworks, or save individual bitmaps that have transparency. If you have a bitmap that is transparent, copy it and save it into its own Fireworks file, then export as png 32-it will preserve the quality and the transparency. You can then open these files directly into Sketch and add them back into your layout.

So, it’s a lot of work just getting your files into Sketch. I really wish Sketch would have figure out a way to work with Adobe to allow layered png files to open in Sketch, but that’s life. I have cursed Sketch’s existence quite a few times trying to figure out how to accomplish certain tasks. Hopefully this post can help others transitioning suffer a wee bit less.

Happy designing!!!

14Sep

Awesome Free Groovies for Designy Type Folks, Vol. 1

I loves me some free stuff, especially stuff that helps me grow in my career. I spend plenty of dough every year on subscriptions to Treehouse, Skillshare, and Smashing Books, so sometimes I just want something for free, you know? I plan on creating follow ups to the list as I find more resources, here is volume one of Awesome Free Groovies for Designy Type Folks.

All You Can Learn by UIE

Right now, you can get a 30 day trial to the All You Can Learn website, no credit card required. The site is loaded with ux, ui, and usability videos and presentations, most from User Interface Engineering conferences. I was able to go to UIE conference way back in 2003, I think, and it was awesome. I actually learned something, rather than just sat in in 40 minute long advertisements.

Lynda.com/Vimeo

Vimeo has mostly short 3-7 minute intros to the creative spark series, but they have a full 30+ minute one of Jeffrey Zeldman. Just go to Vimeo and search for lynda.com. Also, at Lynda.com, each course has a few free videos available as well.

Documentary on Zeldman from Lynda.com on Vimeo

Fro Knows Photo

Fro Knows Photo: Fro is funny and smart and has a ton of free training and tip videos on the art of photography on his site and on YouTube.

Pinterest

Pinterest is great for way more than finding pics of kittens and donuts. Search for a topic and you can find some great material, mostly graphical, that can help break down complex ideas for you. Lately I have been looking into Agile and Scrum, but there is much more. Awesome pins on ux, ui, this great pin on exposure in photography, web design, even pins on how to make awesome groovies and thingies.

Microsoft Expressions Web 4

This is an oldie but still worth noting. If you need an IDE to do some web work in and can’t afford Dreamweaver and you are not on a mac and can’t get one of the cool tools available to use on that platform, Microsoft Expressions Web is now free. It is a full-featured web editor and it used to cost a few hundred bucks. Even though they stopped working on it in 2012, it is a still a great editor.

LukeW

I was fortunate enough to see Luke W in person last year at an all day mobile session he did-great information, great delivery. What’s even more great is that pretty much all of his articles and content is freely available on his site right now, including his new book on mobile. Definitely go see him in person if you have the chance, though, well worth it.

3Sep

The Importance of Integrity

Sometimes I feel the need to wax poetic about non-tangibles, and lately I have been thinking about the role integrity plays in life. How many times have you thought about your personal integrity, or the integrity of those around you? What I mean by integrity is how a person chooses to act towards others, how honest they are, how trustworthy they are-all of that plays into the general theme of integrity.

I cannot express enough how important it is to not only live a life filled with personal integrity but how important it is to not be around those you feel lack it. If you encounter people in your daily life who consistently treat others with disrespect, are dishonest, possibly manipulative, these people will affect you negatively. If it means dropping friends or acquaintances, then do it. The people closest to you have a huge influence on you and what they say and do can poison the well of your own life. If it means getting a new job to ensure that the people you work with are in step with your morality, then do it. Never work for or with people you can’t or don’t trust because that lack of respect you have will become apparent, and the actions of these people can harm your work, your attitude, and possibly your career.

Beyond other peoples integrity or lack thereof, how you behave in your life and work matters. Strive to be a person who others can count on to tell the truth, to always be the person in the room that can be trusted with confidential matters. Strive to do your absolute best, no matter what activity you are working on. Lift people up around you and make sure that if you are in a leadership role that you seek out ways to mentor and grow those you lead.

More important than your reputation is your character, because it is what is real, while the former is what is perceived. Sometimes to maintain your integrity you have to risk your reputation. What value is your reputation if it is built on half-truths?

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden

What does all this have to do with design? Everything and nothing. Integrity and character matter, no matter what you do for a living. If you are a designer, it matters. If you are a doctor, it matters. I only ask that we keep these things in mind so that we can all, as a design community, as a community of people, strive to be more than what others think we are. Be better, and everything we create will be better.

© Copyright 2016 Michelle Pakron, All Rights Reserved