Design

Hitting the Strategy Sweet Spot: The Importance of Business Discovery

The beginning of The Nerdery’s UX process can feel strange and unfamiliar to clients who have previously engaged in projects with similar vendors. Why? Because we ask a lot of questions. Questions that dig into the roots of the company; operations, reasons behind decisions, internal systems and tools, long-term goals. Although, these topics may seem unrelated to the project at hand, they are the foundation and initial step in applying our holistic approach to a design project. Afterall, design is about everything. The Nerdery UX department has validated over time that its success is based on understanding its partners’ business (and their users). It is essential to develop this understanding because project success is reliant on taking into account the whole of the business.

When solving a UX problem holistically, the designer is looking for the sweet spot of success. In simple terms, the sweet spot is the solution in which business goals and user needs overlap. At a high level, failure to find the sweet spot exists in two main forms, genius design and admin affliction.

Sweet Spot

The risk in immediately jumping into a project without finding the sweet spot is that the solution only focuses on business goals and does not consider the end-user in the design process. This disconnect in the process is what we typically refer to as genius-design. Genius design is when a designer or engineer focuses on the business and existing design patterns, but users are not incorporated into the design process. A lack of user research and understanding quickly causes a project to be in high risk of missing user needs altogether, creating a product with no users and therefore no revenue. Note: Genius design is a well covered topic by previous Nerdery UX blog posts. For more information about the risks of ignoring your users, please refer to The Science of UX.

Projects are at risk of failure from the internal side even if user needs are well defined. A project that does not properly define a set of focused business goals and outline how the design will affect business operations is something I like to call “admin affliction.” Outcomes that result in admin affliction have negative effects on the company and can take a variety of forms, but ultimately end in project failure. It is more than knowing about goals, it is about having a holistic view of the company to take all its aspects into account.

All stakeholders should be aware of the potential risks in overlooking the important questions that arise during the discovery process. To mitigate admin affliction, our UX team believes strongly in engaging project stakeholders to define the company, its needs, and operations. For the remainder of this article, we will be focusing on a few of the risks and forms of admin affliction that can arise from the lack of communication and clarity between any design vendor and their clients.

Admin Affliction through Internal Tools and Systems
Your company uses a variety of tools and systems to accomplish everyday tasks. These systems and their functions have impact on the design and development of your digital project and vice versa. While the systems may never touch, it is important for us to identify what other tools accomplish to avoid duplicity and maintenance.

To illustrate, let’s use a hypothetical. During our project engagement with Company A, we have identified the client login as a major area for sales rep and client engagement. The design opportunity addresses the company’s goal to augment the client relationship.

It turns out that Company A has spent years creating a custom CRM that logs detailed information about the interactions each sales rep has with their client – each purchase and each opportunity. Imagine the project comes to completion without the opportunity to look at and ask questions about the CRM. The project is at great risk of creating more work and maintenance internally, and duplicating functionality that already exists in the robust tool used by the company. Do you really want your employees cursing the day the website caused them to maintain data in two places?

Admin Affliction through Internal Processes
Whether or not you are aware of internal process within your company, they exist for almost everything. They’re not always good, but they exist. Say, for example, you want to publish content to your website. Who writes it? Who approves it? Who puts it up there? Or what happens when a customer places an order over the phone? Is it entered into a system? Who fulfills the order? How do you know it has been fulfilled?

When doing a redesign, it is important to investigate the processes that exist internally that the system may touch or change. Imagine that your project involves changing your current IT services system. In this scenario, target users of the design would be employees of your company. Logically, one would research the issues and needs of the employees, but something that may be forgotten is how the change will affect how the IT employees will receive and fulfill these requests. They, no doubt, have developed a process around internal systems, from custom ticket-tracking fields in call-support software, to documentation and training materials. By investigating that process, we can accommodate their needs and maintain efficiencies while addressing pain-points on their side of the system. Conversely, by ignoring processes on the IT side, a redesign of the service system may result in a mass amount of IT requests that aren’t actionable because a key piece of information was not collected.

Admin Affliction through Company Culture & Branding
During stakeholder interviews and project kickoffs, we often ask about a company’s origin story, culture, values and their vision for the future. While this may seem odd, imagine if we went through the entire project without understanding how a company sees itself. The outcome would potentially be a solution that doesn’t represent who they are. Suddenly, their website might feel like a limb of the company that doesn’t belong to them!

Additionally, if we didn’t know how the company wants to grow, we could potentially be suggesting a platform or design that cuts an opportunity off at the knees causing the need to start from scratch when the company is ready to level-up.

While this is just a short list of the types of admin affliction that can occur in any digital project, they illustrate a key point. Design is about users, but it also has a whole lot to do with a company. If we don’t understand who the stakeholders are, what the company does and where the business is going, we are setting the company up for failure. Fortunately, The Nerdery’s UX discovery process is designed to mitigate the risks that arise as a result of admin affliction. My teachers always told me that smart kids ask questions and that’s what we do (until we’re blue in the face) to set a project up for success.

Filed under Design, The UX Files

Your Users are Yip Yips

Using UX tools to serve all your users. Yip, even the plush aliens.

By Emily Schmittler and Christopher Stephan, Senior UX Designers

As UX designers, we always want people to understand, benefit from and even enjoy the designed interfaces and experiences we’ve shaped for them. The clients and companies we work with feel the same way; however, where we often differ in approach is in how we do the work to get there. To many UX professionals the appropriate process involves engaging with and talking to members of the target-user population. Many companies assume the UX professionals they hire have built-in knowledge about their audience and don’t think spending time with users is necessary.

This thought – that we in UX have users “all worked out” – is a frequent cause for concern. Sure, we can perform expert reviews and analysis, we have principles like Fitt’s Law and “7 (+ or – 2),” and an often involuntary strong gut reaction to interfaces that are not as clear as possible. However, no set of models, rules, guidelines or physical reactions can ever effectively approximate a single human being, let alone any group of them. Humans are unpredictable, frustrating, willful and sometimes hilarious. In short, your users are Yip Yips.

Photo of two Yip Yips

These are Yip Yips. Yip yip yip yip uh-huh uh huh.


How are Yips Yips like users?

You’re likely wondering what comparison we can make between your customers, subscribers, visitors and contributors to bug-eyed, plush alien rags with a lot of mouth that sound like ⅓ of every corporate teleconference you’ve likely ever witnessed. For that you’ll have to journey with us beyond the puppets to the puppets’ behavior. Lets take a closer look at Yip Yips.

They’re not from around here

Yip Yips are aliens from a different planet. They are not like you and they do not respond how you might expect. Users don’t come from planet YourOrganization. And just because you think your instructions are straight-forward and your meanings plain, they might not mean anything to a creature from outside your intellectual ecosystem.

Their background and understanding is not like yours

Yip Yips don’t have your frame of reference, your cultural history, your idioms, jargon or catch-phrases. This means they cannot be expected to perceive your world in the same way as you, talk about it using the same words, or approach things in the same way.

They are smart and learn from their experiences

The Yip Yips are examining our world and forming reasonable intelligent opinions based on their experiences. This means that they are not passively consuming what they see and hear. They’re finding ways to understand and engage. Users are also going to – consciously or not – try to understand your offering and message. They will make connections and meaning that are sensible and relevant to themselves.

They have goals and came for a reason

While not trying to actively conquer earth – so far as we know – the Yip Yips do seem to be here to learn. They are driven by curiosity and the need to learn and understand. Your users are going to have goals, too. Like the Yip Yips, we can’t be certain what caused them to visit or engage.

5 Things Yip Yips Teach Us

(In their own special way)

Some of what you are about to see you may have seen before. Not on PBS, but in the behavior of your users. While most of your users are likely not covered in colorful plush fur and have fewer antennae, they still do what can seem to be strange, random and unpredictable things.

Yip Yips Discover Earth

While the Yip Yips didn’t find Earth – their intended target – right away, they did learn a few new things during their exploration.

Lesson 1: A user’s experience is about the journey as well as the destination

In the process of looking for Earth, each new discovery was exciting and educational, making their experience an overall positive one. Users may not always know exactly what they are looking for, so it is important to identify what they find valuable, useful and entertaining to make sure that their journey is always positive. While you might have your main navigation nailed to perfection, users may need more to engage them and keep them returning to your site or application.

Your Project: The user who doesn’t know what they are looking for is just as important to the success of your design as the one who does. User research and an understanding of their behaviors can help determine how to support exploration and playfulness in these less-directed individuals.

Lesson 2: It’s good to be challenged, in some cases

Not everything has to be easy. Again, pointing to the fact that the Yip Yips enjoy their journey to finding Earth even though it isn’t successful immediately demonstrates the joy individuals often find in being challenged. Commonly, clients misconstrue UX to be about making things “easy to use.” Au contraire! A challenge can make experiences more enjoyable than something that is perceived as easy. Consider the design of a game. Are easy games fun? Not really. Therefore, UX plays a very important role in determining level of challenge that proves engaging. In these cases, it is essential to determine an adequate level to ensure the offering isn’t so difficult that it’s frustrating – or so easy it gets quickly discarded as boring by consulting users via testing.

Your Project: It’s okay to make things harder for a good reason. Just not too hard. Usability testing is a great way to test concepts that need the appropriate amount of difficulty.

Yip Yips Discover a Clock

Lesson 3: Even a detail can scare people away

Another common misconception about user research is that it’s nothing more than asking users what they want. In this example, the Yip Yips are presented with a clock. The clock has all the attributes they were expecting; however, it still scares them away resulting in an overall negative experience. While user research may seem aimed at discovering what users want, it more importantly uncovers why they want it – allowing the designer to make educated decisions on whether the requested feature is appropriate – and what would make the experience useful. Therefore, we employ research methods to get at the core of what users are experiencing so we can address the problem instead of offering temporary relief of the symptoms. Further, we test those ideas with those users to ensure that the intended outcome is met.

Your Project: Don’t focus discussions with users on what they want, instead talk about the problems they are facing to understand their viewpoint. Use the problem space to inform design decisions, then test for success.

Yip Yips Discover a Radio

Lesson 4: Users might not want what you’d expect

In this case, you could make the common-sense assumption that people have preferences for certain genres of music, but overall the experience of music is pleasant. The Yip Yips prove that a general understanding – or a common sense approach – is not enough to design an experience that is inherently pleasant. What if – like the Yip Yips – your users have totally different preferences than you would expect [and would rather listen to static]? This is a more common occurrence than you might expect.

Your Project: It is extremely important – especially with new product concepts – to research and test ideas with real users before making a large investment to develop an idea. By involving users, you can more easily determine worthwhile features more quickly. There are many ways to involve users in the design process that go beyond asking what they want. Consider collaborative design sessions with your users, or methods that look at the problem space in a broader sense, like observation.

Yip Yips Discover a Fan

Lesson 5: Engagement doesn’t mean positive experience

Ever look at your site analytics and think, “Wow! People are spending a lot of time on our site. That’s great!” Unfortunately, you may be misreading your data; however, there is no way to prove it without diving deeper. In this video, the Yip Yips demonstrate how a user can be (or appear to be) engaged, but have a totally negative experience anyway in that they are blown across the room… twice!

Consider that sometimes users are obligated to use a system. Signing up for insurance, using a website for work, doing taxes are all examples where a user has a task that they must complete; therefore, they are likely to spend more time painstakingly interacting with a system they may have otherwise ditched when the unpleasantness began. In these cases, the analytics may look as if a user is engaged, but that’s not necessarily the whole story.

Your Project: Even if you have really robust analytics data that suggests positive or negative experiences, it is really important to dive deeper using qualitative research methods to ensure a successful redesign.

An Ecosystem Full of Yip Yips

So if users are like Yip Yips, what does that mean for how we think about users? It proves that we should be watching them a little closer, and trying to understand their motives or support their interests. Luckily, UX designers come primed with tools and methods to help you build that understanding and define where the overlap between business goals and user needs lie. And, you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to do it. We can help you to better know your Yip Yips in a variety of ways within your budget.

Next time…

Now that we’ve told you why you need to think of your users as Yips Yips, stay tuned for some ideas about how to do research with your users, and how to test the designs that your research has informed. Watch blog.nerdery.com for part-two of the Yip Yip adventure!

Filed under Design, The UX Files

The Science of Successful Bars: How Customer Experience Relates to Digital User Experience

Bar RescueHave you watched the show Bar Rescue? It resonated with me since I was a former bartender and now user experience designer. There are so many comparisons to be drawn when creating customer experiences in a bar and digital user experiences.

Bar Rescue features the boisterous and successful bar consultant Jon Taffer and his team of top chefs, mixologists, interior designers and other experts. The premise of the show is to renovate and transform failing bars into successful bars.  They do this by diagnosing problems and using methods and tactics similar to the user experience process.

In this article, we will cover these similarities in three phases—Discovery, Definition and Design.

DISCOVERY

Observation

Jon would begin his operation by agreeing with the business owner to install hidden surveillance cameras in the bar to document the problems with operations, behavioral problems or delays with customer service.

Frequently, user experience designers also discover business problems through a variety of research methods including contextual inquiry or other observational methods.

Evaluation

Jon and his team would then tour the facilities finding things like unsanitary kitchens, health code violations, unappealing food or beverages and other things that were detrimental to the business.

UX designers can also document known problems, as well as uncover problems that the business may not be aware of. It’s also common to perform a heuristic evaluation to identify problems and determine how an existing digital experience might be improved.

Analytics

When evaluating businesses, Jon’s team would sometimes weigh liquor bottles before and after a work shift to determine the amount of over pouring occurring. He also used bacteria devices to measure the amount of bacteria on kitchen surfaces.

It’s also a common practice to evaluate website and app analytics to understand and optimize usage. Analytics can lend insights into key performance indicators including volume of sales, conversion rates and other metrics.

Stakeholder Interviews

Jon and his team would always meet business owners and staff to review his findings and discuss the challenges they need to solve.

It’s critical that business stakeholders also meet with user experience designers to discuss pain points and ultimately determine how to solve and prioritize the business problems.

Customer Interviews

Jon would frequently review customer reviews of the bars through Yelp or other review sites to get documented, honest feedback.  Jon would also send in individuals to each bar to document and verify their customer experience.  In other cases, Jon provided mobile apps to customers to provide their ratings on the service, food and beverages. This customer feedback was reviewed prior to the bar makeover and after to help measure the results.

It’s a best practice to communicate with the end users by performing user interviews, providing surveys, or performing other user research methods to learn more from the end-users before and after product deployment.

Customer Research

A primary part of Jon’s customer research is to understand the demographics, interests, desires and income of the people from the surrounding neighborhoods. It was common for failing bars to alienate their audiences or not market to the primary audiences. Even small changes to the business had a great impact for new customers.

A critical part of designing your digital experience is to perform user research. This research helps define all of the different types of users, their unique goals, needs, behaviors, reservations, desires and how and when they will use your digital product.

Competitive Analysis

In order to further solve their problems, Jon identifies the competitive bars and restaurants in the neighborhood to determine how the business can develop a P.O.D. (Point of Difference) to have a competitive edge.

In user experience, a competitive analysis can identify competitors, their offerings and understand how your business can highlight your competitive advantages.

DEFINITION

Architecture

Jon would also create floor plans to develop structure and help maximize the potential for each room.

User experience designers also create sitemaps to provide high-level visualization of the hierarchy and the relationship between content.

Flow

As a part of his blueprints, Jon considers the “flow pattern” of every room. This flow can increase customer interaction, increase efficiency and ultimately boost sales.

User experience designers also create user flows and process flows to further document how users will use a digital product within the system and how it may interface with other non-digital experiences.

Content Quality

Food and beverages are the heart of the restaurant and bar experience. In most cases, the struggling bars didn’t cater to their audiences or the menu items were bland. Sometimes drinks were limited and unappealing. Customers also had to wait long periods of time for servers and bartenders.

With your app or website, your content is what people consume. Users want quality content that quickly serves their needs and desires. If it’s a struggle to find content – just like it is difficult to find your waiter – then people will not hesitate to leave and never come back.

Content Quantity

According to Bar Rescue, when customers read a menu for longer than 109 seconds, they become fatigued and order less.

It’s also critical to determine the right amount of content to use in your digital experience, so that users do not have issues with cognitive load, readability or signal-to-noise ratio.

DESIGN

Interactive Experiences

Some restaurants used gimmicks that were counter-productive. For example:
• An unused mechanical bull was an eye sore.
• A lobster claw machine offended customers.
• A golf simulator was unused by customers since they came to a bar to relax.
• A punching bag boxing game even left a customer with a bloody hand and a business lawsuit.

All of these things initially sounded like fun, but they took up valuable space and ended up costing businesses big money.

It’s common for clients to request website redesigns to make it more “engaging” or “interactive.” However, interactivity alone doesn’t solve problems. The interactions and tactics must be useful, valuable, and help support user goals. See my article Trends May Not Be Your Friends for more insight on a strategies first approach.

Wayfinding

Jon’s team also had customers evaluate menu effectiveness with retinal eye tracking software and hardware. In one episode, customers’ eyes went to the least profitable items on the menu, causing lower profitability.

A part of usability testing may include eye-tracking to help determine if users are successfully using an application or if they were fixated or distracted. Other research methods may be more appropriate depending on the project. The fact is that the science of usability and research matters to the quality of your product.

Testing

Once Jon and his team helped the business make adjustments to the menu and properly train the staff, they conducted a “stress test” to determine how the staff would perform and then make further adjustments.

In user experience we create prototypes, perform usability testing, QA testing and other testing before launching an app or website. These tests help collect valuable information and help determine adjustments to be implemented prior to launch.

Visual Design

Many of the struggling bars had unappealing, dated décor, worn booths or had themes that alienated customers. One restaurant looked like an auto shop from the outside, which confused customers or made them ignore it entirely. Jon’s signage and interior design teams helped businesses create signage with images of foods with bold text to clearly and quickly communicate with customers.

Websites and apps also must be visually appealing and appropriate for the audience. It’s important to quickly communicate your company services and products within seconds. Users may quickly abandon your app or website if it doesn’t communicate or look professionally designed. Your digital experience should consider all aesthetic aspects including the branding, content, subject matter, typography, photography, iconography, animation, transitions, spacing and other visual considerations that improve the experience.

Measurement

At the end of every episode of Bar Rescue, the restaurants had been transformed, customers were happier and they revealed the business results. Results included statistics like “Food sales were up 30%” or other measurements that impacted the business bottom line.

It’s also critical to measure the success of your digital product. It’s important to not just measure the number of click-throughs or time spent on a website, but to track key performance indicators and metrics that impact the business. Did sales increase? Did the product help manage costs? Did the software create greater efficiency and less time spent performing the same activities? If you focus on business measurement as a goal, you are more likely to reach that goal.

Conclusion

Success doesn’t just happen by mistake. It happens from planning, communication, developing strategies, discovery, testing, tracking and other factors to create direction and ultimately success for users and the business. If it’s good enough for a bar or restaurant, it’s hopefully good enough for improving your digital product.

You Got Your UX in my QA

UXinQA2There is a fundamental relationship between user experience designers and quality assurance engineers, and I think it’s time to take that relationship to the next level. User Experience (UX) Designers and Quality Assurance (QA) Engineers are both deeply concerned about the user, and everyone wins when they talk to each other early and often.

My QA counterparts and I both want the websites we deliver to be usable. We want choices to be relevant. We want things to work. We want apps to make sense. We don’t want modal windows to prevent completion of integral tasks. In short, UX and QA both want to deliver a product that won’t leave the user cursing the heavens, having to force herself into a Zen-like contemplation of kittens in Christmas sweaters in order to quell the slow-burning rage that threatens to destroy her as she tries to perform simple tasks like transferring money to a savings account, buying tickets to a ballgame, or monitoring a sick parent’s medication schedule. UX designers are the experience architects and QA engineers are the building inspectors of the development lifecycle. UX figures out who we’re building for and why, analyzes user and business requirements, and incorporates it all with stakeholder vision and known constraints.  We then strive to design an experience that does no more and no less than what it needs to be. QA ensures that I, as a UX Designer, don’t make stupid blunders that will undermine my stakeholders’ goals and interfere with my users’ experience when all is said and done. Do developers help with this, too? Of course. And perhaps unsurprisingly, I also advocate for early and regular consultation between UX and development. But the type of value that QA can bring to a project when consulted early on goes beyond the type of specialized guidance and knowledge that even developers bring to the table.

To illustrate — if I’m designing a deck for my next-door neighbor who just moved his aging parents in, a QA engineer is the inspector that can inform me (before I’ve poured my footings) that even though I wouldn’t know by looking at it, the soil in my area is actually classified as a mixture of clay and sand, which means that diameter of my footings needs to be wider than it would in normal soil. This inspector might also point out that if my neighbor’s aging parents currently use power wheelchairs, or if they might need them in the future, it would be in my best interests to increase the diameter of the footings even further to accommodate the extra weight. And the inspector might lastly point out that with wheelchairs on the deck, I’ll need a ramp, and that the ramp ought to have a slope no greater than 9.5 degrees.

The most obvious software development analogue to that example is accessibility. Call it ADA compliance, 508 compliance or what have you; the point is that there are standards that you’re almost certainly not aware of for making sure that your application or website is usable for those with disabilities. But a good QA team has engineers that are steeped in those standards, and they know how those standards relate to every device you’ve targeted. Making changes to accommodate accessibility late in the game – or after your site is done – can be very costly, so why not have the conversation early on? Ditto that argument for data and application security. And ditto that argument for just plain old usability. Bring QA in for a quick consultation on your wireframes, and chances are you’re likely to save yourself some revisions.

As a designer, is it my job to think through use cases? Yes. Am I good at it? Yes. Am I able to consider every contingency of every scenario my project entails and implies? No. This is why a strong relationship between UX and QA is indispensable. UX Designers and QA Engineers have a similar mandate, but they fulfill it with different toolkits and from different perspectives. As one of my friends in QA puts it, “UX creates and QA destroys.” But we both do it for the same reason — we respect and love the user. QA engineers bring their extensive experience with devices, platforms, browsers, protocols and standards to bear on every project they touch. They are the brilliant generalists that throw our researched, prototyped, revised, and user-tested designs into the fiery furnace of the real world to see what burns and what doesn’t. Loop them in earlier, and you can avoid putting out fires later. So what does this collaboration look like? Here at The Nerdery we offer Embedded QA, in which QA is along for the entire ride on a project. We’ve seen tremendous success with this approach, but it carries some additional cost. The type of collaboration I’m talking about can be much leaner. It can be a conversation, or maybe two hours with an accessibility expert before you get into visual design to make sure your navigation scheme and color palette won’t set off red flags down the road. Build strong relationships up front with the folks that are responsible for signing off on your project down the road, and you’re guaranteed to save yourself time and headaches.

Don’t Let the Buzz Fool You: Trends May Not Be Your Friends

Every year, articles appear in the blogosphere touting new UX trends or technologies. Some trends have merit and value. Here at The Nerdery we love to constantly push boundaries. However, sometimes when companies implement a trend, they put the cart before the horse. No matter what tactics you choose to employ, it’s always best to start with defining the problem you need to solve for the opportunity at hand.

Many of these trends appear engaging and beautiful on the surface. Designers and stakeholders may have the best of intentions when implementing the latest trends. However, blindly implementing trends can also fail miserably without a sound strategy.

Here are examples of trends or tactics that may have their downsides:

Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling is a technique used where background imagery moves at a slower speed than images in the foreground, creating the illusion of depth. It can be very successful in the right situations and when implemented well.

User Experience Design considerations:

• If users need to find content quickly, scrolling through large volumes of content may deter impatient users. The Crate and Barrel parallax site requires users spend about 15 seconds browsing Christmas tree ornaments.
• If there is a large volume of content, it may be difficult to find hidden content and it may be difficult to search the site.
• If users are unsavvy, they may also be confused by the moving parts and animation.

Technical considerations:

• Content may take longer to load, if developed on one page.
• Depending on the way it’s built, parallax sites may limit search engine optimization.
• Parallax sites add a level of complexity for responsive design.

When Parallax works:

Parallax sites can be effective if you are providing users with linear experiences like stories or walking through a process. It’s also important to include sticky navigation to allow users to skip ahead to topics of greater interest, if applicable.

Gamification

I love games and appreciate how they can be used to engage users. However, Gamification is not as simple as slapping on badges, leaderboards, points and “gamifying” your website with rewards. Some big brands have failed using gamification and companies continue to waste money while providing poorer user experiences.

Audiences and customers vary in their contexts, motivations, interests and desires. People are complex. Without user research and a sound strategy, you may be designing a product that users will not find valuable or impactful.

Oftentimes, games are built with the goal to increase user engagement. But engagement can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Games are just a means to an end.  We must first justify the means.

Think about the Harry Potter books. There are no badges, leaderboards, nor even pictures, yet children and adults spend countless hours of engaged reading.  It’s due to the story, relatable characters, themes and other content that conjures emotions. Engagement can come in many forms.

It’s critical to understand what drives people.  What are the things they need to learn and do?  How are they motivated?  What drives their behaviors?  After a thorough discovery process we can better determine if a gamified system is actually the best tactic to achieve your goals.

Strategy Before Tactics

In general, any tactic without a sound strategy has a greater potential to fail.  It doesn’t matter if it’s mega menus, blogs, social media tools, or infographics – it’s best to begin a project with a discovery process and user research to help align business goals with user goals.

At The Nerdery, we create strategies that help identify and prioritize business goals and user goals. Our discovery process may include workshops, stakeholder interviews, analytics evaluation, user research, surveys, contextual inquiry, personas, and many other methods to create a laser-focused strategy for your business or organization.

Design for People First

It’s certainly important to understand what new technologies and trends are being implemented.  However, instead of designing with the tactics and technology first, we should first consider the people and their motivations and goals. Ultimately, we are designing for people—people who happen to use technology.  If we begin with a solid foundation and target goals, we have a higher likelihood of achieving those goals.

Reinforcing Good Web Development by Visiting the Best Worst Websites

The web is full of beautiful websites that have a pixel perfect design, great usability, and cutting edge features. There are lots of examples of how to do web development right out there, but there are also some amazing examples of what not to do.

Below are a dozen websites that are so unique that you can’t help but ogle at them. Some haven’t been updated since the 90s while others are updated daily and their retro design is either intentional or good enough for them.

Ling’s Cars

Ling's Cars

If you haven’t been to Ling’s cars then you’re in for a treat. Ling has arguably the best website on the internet if you’re going for that shock and awe factor. Ling’s Cars is over the top but it works for Ling.

Read more

Filed under Design, Links

UX Apprenticeship Results – Cohort 1

The last time I wrote about UX apprenticeship on this blog, it was still just an idea. Okay at that point it was more of a plan. But now, we’ve graduated our first cohort of apprentices to the role of Associate UX Designer! The past 12 weeks have been the most professionally rewarding of my career and in them I have learned a ton about what worked well and not so well about the program, and this article spills all the details. And I mean all of them. It gets so detailed that I am handling this like any other research report; I’m kicking it off with an executive summary (aka tl;dr).

Executive Summary

  • 3 of 4 apprentices hired into the Associate role
  • The fourth has a job waiting for her once she graduates from college
  • Cohort 2 was approved and four more apprentices start 9/9
  • The basic model was successful, but some elements needed to be tweaked or dropped along the way
  • Upcoming changes for Cohort 2 should make the program even more successful

Establishing Business Value

The program achieved its business goals, although it was more of an upfront investment than we originally intended. It proved difficult to enable it to pay for itself through apprentice billings, but hiring three new ready-to-go designers allows us to earn our investment back quickly. We’re now planning to integrate apprenticeship into the structure of all UX projects to reduce this difficulty in the future. If a project is structured to accommodate an apprentice from the beginning, assigning apprentices to projects in a billable capacity will become much easier than it is now. Read more

Businesses That Ignore iOS 7 Risk Loss of App Standing and Marketshare

iOS 7 New Visual DesignsAs we look back over the many sessions attended the week, the biggest takeaway by far is that iOS 7 is a design overhaul. With iOS 7, Apple is removing superfluous UI (goodbye skeuomorphism!) and refocusing on the user’s content. A preview on some of the new iOS 7 designs can be seen on their website.

In one session, Apple said they started over with a blank slate for each built-in app, with the goal to determine the focus of each app. As painful as it will be, this is something app designers and owners will want to do as well.

iOS 7 tells us that that the focus needs to shift back to the user’s content — the UI should be “unobtrusive and deferential”.

  • Do you have too many buttons?
  • Multiple ways to do the same thing?
  • Features that aren’t commonly used?
  • UI that distracts?

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The UX Files: Making the Most of User Research

gzEverybody. It’s happening. The world of technology is becoming more user-centered, and we at The Nerdery do our part to enable that transformation whenever we can. For us, this means every UX project that comes through the door starts with some element of user research. To design the right thing, we need to learn about the actual people whose lives will be impacted by what we’re designing. Clear cut.

This simple, quixotic idea serves as the basis for much of what we do as UX Designers, and it quickly becomes rife with complication when applied in the wild of actual projects. These complications come in many flavors but ultimately relate to one or more of these themes:

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Filed under Design, The UX Files

How Games Can Engage Users and Impact Real Business Objectives

sxAt The Nerdery, we are technology agnostic, meaning that we do not advocate for a particular platform or technology.  Instead, we begin by researching and defining user goals and business goals and then determine the platform or technology solution.  If the goals are to track user performance or change behaviors, consider using games as a vehicle for change.

Some may ask, “Don’t games just waste time?  How do games actually help with my business objectives?”  Consider the engagement users experience with challenges, achieving goals, advancing to higher levels, and learning new skills. These are all desirable objectives for business.

Gallup reported that 70% of workers are not engaged in their jobs, which costs businesses billions of dollars every year, so finding new ways to engage people is even more important than ever. Read more