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First Week

June 1, 2013 — 1 Comment

First week at the new job went well. Profero’s a digital agency, so I’ll be doing more comms campaigns, websites, that kind of thing. Looks like I’ll be doing a lot of prototyping, guess it’s time I finally (re)learnt to code.

I’ve been job hunting for the last couple of weeks, and have had interviews at a number of different places. It’s interesting to hear some of the same themes coming through:

- Content is important, and simple IA / card sorting approaches aren’t enough. Content strategy, communication strategy and in-context content flows are increasingly important.
- Too many UXers are precious about their wireframes and produce work that encroaches on visual design, confusing clients and user-testers.
- Some UXers treat visual designers as people who colour in wireframes.
- Process is important, but flexibility more so.
- People who only deal in ideas and never get their hands dirty in implementation never learn what actually works and what just sounds good.

The more time I spend doing UX, the more I think the tools and the deliverables aren’t important. What’s important is using whatever process and tools are necessary to create a shared understanding of the project. That might mean sitting with the designers and sketching, that might mean play acting a customer conversation with the copywriter, or simply listening to the developers concerns and taking them seriously. It can mean explaining what the site analytics are saying about the users, or interviewing the users directly.

I developed a bit of a nickname as the ‘office mum’ when I worked at Sputnik. Increasingly I’m thinking that’s actually a good model of what UX should be about. Listening, caring, and helping people understand each other. And sometimes baking a cake.*

*Office parent, sorry.

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Just back from a holiday in Fiji. Read a lot of books, went swimming, went hiking, and made some career decisions.

I’ve been interested in taking part in Jason Wilson’s Pomodorojerk for a while. I’m trying to get into the habit of writing regularly, and this seems to be a good way to get words onto page.

It’s not like I don’t write a lot at work. Most of my job is communication – ultimately, most design jobs are about creating communication tools, communication artifacts, or design specifications for other creative workers. And I’ve also been doing a fair bit of copywriting on a work project that will be launched next week. I wanted to try my hand at copywriting because, well, I’ve been a writer and editor in the past, and wanted to see how I fared writing advertising copy. I also wanted to try it again because copy and content strategy is a big part of UX design, and it’s good to know how it works. It’s good to be able to visualise the copy in your head while laying out site wireframes, to know where the copy should sit, how much space it will need and what kind of headings it should have. It’s also good for laying out the IA of a site – adding scratch copy to wireframes allows you to layout the IA and see where duplications and omissions might be. It’s also much more interesting than lorem ipsum.

So I’m going to try writing each morning before work. I’ve started going to the gym in the mornings, taking my Kindle to churn through some reading while on the cardio machines. I can’t handle the garbage that they have playing on the TVs, but I can easily get through a couple of chapters of a novel or a textbook in half an hour.

25 minutes of writing as soon as I get back home is an easy commitment – and doing my writing before I jump in the shower is a good way to limit myself to 25 minutes.

I’m not a huge fan of New Years Resolutions, they never really seem to work for anyone. Having a birthday in January tends to conflate birthday resolutions with New Years as well, lumping personal commitments and reflections into that lazy morass of post-celebratory remorse. That said, I’m trying to focus on a few important projects this year, rather than spreading myself thin across whatever sounds interesting.

I’m holding off on committing to any new academic projects. I’ve been working on a research proposal for a study of cyberpunk literature and capitalist imaginaries, but between my proposed supervisor disappearing to the USA and my partner’s sister giving birth to twins, I think I’ll put that project on the backburner. I’m still reading through a lot of the literature on science fiction, cyberpunk, futurism and feminism because, well, it interests me! But I also expect I’ll pick up the project in some form in a couple of years. I imagine I’ll blog some reflections here as well. Science fiction, futurism, design fiction and user experience seem to make sense to me as a grouping of interests. Cyberpunk authors have always had a strong focus on the built environment and its effect on people, and more nuanced approach to portraying affect (in some cases).

I’ll be taking part in Jurassic Lounge again this year with eightfilters but I’ll be doing less performance. Dermot and I are working on a curatorial project that will bring in musicians, artists, filmmakers and creatives to talk about their visual influences, in a casual setting.

My main project for this year will be focusing on building my UX skills out into a broader design skillset. After reviewing some work I did a year ago, I’m pretty impressed with how far I’ve come. I’ve got a solid grasp of my UX work, to the point now where I can start slimming down my specifications to fit into an agile workflow, and I can estimate the size of a specification project fairly easily. The next stage for me is to start prototyping the projects that I’m working on – moving away from thick specification documents into working prototypes. I’ve tried basic clickable prototyping using InvisionApp, which is good for mapping screen flows, but I’m keen to start creating high-fidelity prototypes with working JQuery animations. I’ve found a solution using Fireworks and a JQuery tool called TAP. I’ll blog some more about how it works over the coming weeks.

Oh, and lastly, I’m going to redesign this blog, as a proper design project. I’ll be documenting that as I go.

Using software personas for emotional design | TechRepublic:

Adapted from branding and market-research tools, and popularised by Alan Cooper in The Inmates are Running the Asylum, personas are fictional profiles of key users of a system.

Distilled from user-interaction requirements, market and demographic research, and other sources, they are a useful tool for getting the design and development teams in the same headspace. While an extensive, line-by-line specification is useful for defining the scope and requirements of a project, personas are useful for defining the spirit of a project. A shared set of personas can put the entire team on the same page psychologically and emotionally — at least, for the purposes of a project.

Personas are not use cases or user permissions, though they may be a useful tool to define them. Rather, they are a psychological and personal profile of an expected user.