User-Centered Design

It’s a complicated beast full of process and research. There’s never one way to achieve user centered design but almost always, it involves speaking and designing around the users who are going to be interacting with the product. If there’s ever a design decision to be made, never try and guess the outcome as you’ll likely get it wrong.

Complex Design? It’s not that complex.

The most difficult part of understanding User Experience design comes in identifying the problem and proposing a solution. It’s understanding when you’re faced with a difficult decision that you need to ask the users first and not guess, you’ll likely get it wrong. Whether it’s through iterative user testing, card sorting, stakeholder interviews, paper prototyping (or prototyping in general) or persona development you first need to undertake this research to produce the most effective experience for someone using the product and you need to understand that to find this information out, there is likely a tool or process to find the information. It’s not just “doing a quick wireframe” or “a quick photoshop prototype” as it doesn’t work, and UX has proved that over time. Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest differences. Google are a company who have recently introduced a big redesign of their products and their principles for the company directly influence their user experience. Listen to Jon Wiley, a User Experience designer at Google explain why it’s important to understand how people use products and how you can change them for the better.

The Government is also taking note. The directgov site is a great example of poor design and poor IA. They’ve gone from a position of “lets throw all the information on the page possible” to a more structured idea of “design with data”. They’ve laid out their design principles online for the world to see, and they’re setting a great example of how to do it properly with the new GOV.UK site.

What should we be doing to introduce UX?

Technophobia Workshop Note: Image shamelessly knicked from Technophobia, from their sponsored drum page on “Becoming a collaborative UX designer“. That’s the Ginger Predator @martsky.

If a client has a problem, often UX should be the starting point. It should be the first thing we talk about and put forward. Why? Because we need to set into the minds of the client that the product isn’t about them, it’s about the people who use it, and this will guide the direction of the design. It’s what “user centered design” is all about and it’s what ultimately will make the client the most money, best return on KPI’s and best feedback from users. Problem solving is a difficult task to kick start. We can start with workshops such as persona development, task analysis or many other kick off meetings to help introduce UX into the company but the simple goal to get into the clients mind is that user centered approach. That to answer the questions they’re asking we need an educated response from the users. We can gather this data in many ways but some of the most important are:

  • Stakeholder interviews If we can get direct access to the users and/or stakeholders, we’ll get the best response. Through interviewing them one to one we’ll achieve the best results.
  • User Testing and/or Guerrilla User Testing The more formal version involves setting up a user scenario and some carefully structured tasks to get the best results from the user. The latter Guerrilla User Testing involves a laptop and a coffee shop. We can test pretty much anything on anyone,anywhere and make it up as we go along. Both methods will get results from real users who might have never seen the product before.
  • Sketching workshop A sketching workshop can help drive out requirements. If you’re struggling to understand what the client is trying to convey, get them all in a room with a UX designer and watch the creativity flow across the page. This I was taught from my old boss at Technophobia. (hat tip to Candy Diemer, UX Lead at Technophobia)

How should UX work?

It’s actually quite simple. User Experience design works when you notice it the least. If you manage to complete your tasks easily, with little difficulty, we know we’ve done our job correctly. If users are having difficulty getting to the right tools, have long or difficult user journeys and are generally complaining a lot, alarm bells should be ringing to notify us of that.


Experimenting with Super8

A couple of years back we found some old Super8 films at my Nans house, buried underneath years of collections and forgotten. The Super8 films were intact and in perfect condition. Hours of video locked away. And she no longer had her projector, that had died years earlier.

So we had all these locked away memories from 40 years ago, with no way of viewing them. We managed to track down a projector on eBay and settled for the Eumig Mark-501. A great little machine. After setting up the projector and getting it running smooth, I setup a video camera to film the projector. Got the room really dark, set the light on the projector to half power (too bright on full) and you get a pretty clear picture! I randomly had to adjust the focus on the lens when different film was spliced together but overall, really happy with them. Currently sifting through them in iMovie and editing them to pop onto DVD for my Nan. Looking forward to the final cut.

It feels strange watching old Super 8 video my Grandad made who died when I was only 2 years old.

I hope my Nan will enjoy seeing some of her memories brought back to life on her fancy new 40″ OLED TV. Look out for my Mum at the end holding onto my cousins coat as he feeds the ducks.

Going back to 1989

We all love TED videos but this one specifically is one of my favourites. Looking through the site I rediscovered this talk from 2009 where Tim Berners-Lee revisits 1989, the birth of the WWW. Nice to revisit this one.

-webkit-scrollbar on OS X

In a recent project I noticed something peculiar happening to scrollbars in webkit browsers on the Mac and decided to investigate. Here is a problem and the solution.

Compare scrollbars

I was having an issue where a <div> had it’s overflow set to scroll. It was a twitter feed that we wanted to cut short visually but when we implemented it, we noticed on my machine the scrollbar wasn’t visible while on my colleagues, it was. Same machine, same software, same settings. Note the image on the right, you’d have no idea content had been hidden. OS X briefly flashes a scrollbar on the page but you’re unlikely to see it.
Continue reading -webkit-scrollbar on OS X

Microsoft’s horrible user journey

Disclaimer: I understand it’s being replaced with Skype, and praise the lord!

A lot of people wonder why I use Mac software/hardware so religiously, and it has nothing to do with following the herd and has everything to do with usability and design. While OSX might not be the pinnacle of usability (finder is horrendous), in my opinion I couldn’t manage with their Microsofts legacy method of design. It’s been something which has annoyed me for years.

I’m going to avoid explaining why I was downloading MSN messenger but the fact of the matter is I needed to for my Mac, don’t ask. Continue reading Microsoft’s horrible user journey

Android experimentation #TPInnovationDay

So, one of my last hurrahs at Technophobia was #TPInnovationDay. It’s what used to be known as a “fedex” day. A day where you set off with an idea in mind, and deliver it before the end of the day. The original spirit of the day came from Atlassian, an award winning company which is bursting with ideas and great values. It seems to produce great results by letting employees loose on an idea and challenge them to the max. The spirit of fedex day is to deliver something within 24 hours. Atlassian now calls these Ship It days. Continue reading Android experimentation #TPInnovationDay

I used to be like WordPress

Wordpress Admin Console

This article isn’t about WordPress so much, it’s about me. It seems at work WordPress is a taboo word. It’s greeted with gasps more often than not and I completely understand why. There are loads of alternatives, loads of better pieces of software and it’s riddled with a reputation of being vulnerable to attack. All of these are correct, but I still wanted to write about it to put my position on the software so if anyone confronts me, I don’t have to argue a case of why I think it’s both great, and terrible at the same time. Continue reading I used to be like WordPress

Moonsync, what is it?

This is a year and a half’s worth of work.

I recently launched the main website for Moonsync and it’s gone down extremely well. Moonsync is a project me and a colleague Ian Kelly have been doing in our spare time. It started off as a general idea Ian came up with which has now developed into a full scale platform for Android devices.

Think iCloud for Android, but better. Dear Apple:

One of the main gripes I have with iCloud, being an iPhone/Mac/iPad user is its fragmentation of services. The photo galleries I’ve created on my phone using the app, can’t be viewed easily online.

  • Why aren’t they on!
  • Why can’t I share photos and galleries easily from my iPhone?
  • Why does iOS6 copy that functionality of iPhoto for iOS?
  • Why can’t I send an iMessage from
  • Why do I have to download Messages and have a Mac? Continue reading Moonsync, what is it?

Designers characterised by clever, unusual strategies. Guerrilla User Testing.

guerrilla: a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment. The word ‘Guerrilla’ quite often conjures up notions of left field irregular strategies and popular terms such as Guerrilla Warfare is something which rests in many peoples minds, even if they know nothing of the subject and its history. ‘Guerrilla’ comes from the Spanish language and literally means ‘war‘ (guerra) and is said to have been used to describe “The Guerrillas of Spain” in the Peninsular War (1808-1814).

Lets apply that term to user testing…
Continue reading Designers characterised by clever, unusual strategies. Guerrilla User Testing.

Explaining a rework & concept…

I was recently asked to work on a concept for [redacted], to show them the potential of a new design and what a fresh perspective can unearth in their current site. The idea behind this was that for the next meeting, the team would have “ammunition”  to potentially drum up new business. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I thought it might help to explain my process. Because this design could potentially be presented, I needed an effective way of getting across my design decisions, as I might not be there to help the team out. Here’s what I did:

Continue reading Explaining a rework & concept…