Thank you for being a great customer and for an excellent 2015—let’s make this year even better!
Here are the highlights from 2015:
I have been keeping track of my activities on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UxDesignEdge). Check it out! 2015 was a busy year (and I still have more events to post.) If you are interested in hosting a UX talk, please let me know.
Here are my new plans 2016:
More UX Design Essentials Workshops My three-day onsite, team-based, customized workshops remain our flagship training. These workshops are the very best way to raise your team’s design skills. I hope to do many more in 2016—to a global audience. Excited that my first for the year will be in Douala, Cameroon! Contact me if you are interested in hosting a workshop at your company.
New! “Virtual onsite” workshops Many teams are interested in onsite training, but don’t have the time (or training budget) for a full three-day workshop. I will address this need by offering the following “virtual onsite” workshops for teams (up to 20), which are based on successful workshops that I have given at UX and developer conferences:
These workshops are practical, quick, engaging, and cost effective. You can schedule them at your team’s convenience. For more details, please visit virtualuxworkshops.com.
New! On-demand classes I’m in the process of creating on-demand classes for my favorite UX design topics. They are low cost and roughly an hour long. Here are the ones in the works:
Intuitive UI will be published this week. The remainder are in various phases of production, but should be published by the end of February. For more info, check http://ux-ondemand.com.
More remote design reviews My Effective design reviews: how to give and receive meaningful, actionable design feedback talk at UX Scotland (http://bit.ly/1PfpBvf) was very well received. I have been aggressively promoting remote design reviews ever since and they have been consistently awesome. I’m pricing a two-hour review at $400. If you want to take your UI to the next level, a remote design review is the simplest, most cost effective thing to do. Contact me if you are interested.
New! Free webinars and office hours I will hold at least on free webinar and immediately following a free “office hour” at least once a month. The free webinar will be on a variety of my favorite topics, with about 45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes for questions. “Office hours” are an open discussion or Q&A on whatever topics the participants bring. Here are the topics and dates so far:
Starting with the March 18 webinar, I will choose the topics based on popular demand. Please let me know what topics interest you by completing the survey at http://bit.ly/1OOthnm.
Lean UX I want to get into Lean UX in a big way in 2016. Look for an announcement in early April. In the meantime, I would love to get your thoughts on Lean UX by completing the survey at http://bit.ly/1UwCEwl.
Conferences It’s early yet, but I am already confirmed for three conferences:
Hope to see you there!
2016 Course Schedule
Here are the public UX Design Essentials classes scheduled for the first half of 2016:
Some people have expressed interest in a Minneapolis class, but not quite enough to schedule yet. If you are interested, please let me know.
If you know anyone interested in UX design training, please let them know about the class schedule. You can register for any class on http://uxdesignessentials.com. As always, there is a $200 “early bird” discount, plus the popular “3 for 2” group discount.
That’s it for now. Please stay in touch during 2016!
By popular demand, I will present my first virtual UX design classes this month. They will be on September 10 and 11, and will cover four of my favorite UX design topics: Effective Scenarios, Effective Personas, Intuitive UI, and Effective Design Reviews. If you are new to these topics or want to revitalize your thinking, these classes are for you. I promise that you will think differently about these skills afterwards.
I say by “popular demand” because it’s true—virtual classes have been a top customer request in my Getting started in UX design training questionnaire. BTW: This is my first blog post in quite awhile—I have been very busy. Check what I have been up to at https://www.facebook.com/UxDesignEdge.
More coming soon! For general information about these and future virtual classes, please check http://virtual-ux.com.
I understand what makes a successful virtual class, and learned how not to do it by attending a variety of free webinars. In a typical webinar, the material is superficial, the insights are few, and the participant interaction is non-existent. Frequently, the speakers blast through the material way too quickly, making them hard to follow. In short, I found them boring, ineffective, and not engaging. Their slides are visually beautiful though—which is little compensation.
I have taken several paid UX design courses on Udemy, and remain equally unimpressed.
A virtual class on UX should have a great user experience itself, so here is my approach:
While the virtual class format is new, I have delivered these classes many times in person. Here is what people have been saying:
My plan is to do at least one virtual class per month. If you would like updates on future classes, please join our mailing list or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to suggest new topics.
I will do a special presentation of virtual class on Saturdays at 9 am India Standard Time (IST) especially for the Indian market. These will have a much lower price point, and a bit less gyaan. Of course, anyone can attend these, so feel free to register if this class time suits your needs.
For more information and to register, please check http://virtual-ux.com.
On November 14, I presented Design Hacking: Great UX without time, money, or design skills to the Igniters: Stanford Entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley Founders group at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA. I would like to thank Raj Lal, Cynthia Lee, and Wendy Soon of Vorkspace for inviting me and making this event happen. I had a great time, made some excellent contacts, and received a lot of encouraging feedback.
Design Hacking at Hacker Dojo. Apparently you are supposed to photobomb from the back.
Obviously this topic is a tall order—is this goal even remotely realistic? I think so, but you have to believe three fundamental ideas:
What we need is a perspective to help us make better design decisions more quickly and confidently. Not only does such a perspective exist, but as you will soon see it is one that we already know!
Traditional user-centered methods require user research, requirements gathering, sketching, prototyping, user testing, and lots and lots of iteration. But there are several challenges, especially if you are in a hurry:
These are all sound design techniques, but they take a lot of time and great design is hardly guaranteed.
From what I can tell, agile and lean UX techniques don’t help much here either. They still take a lot of time and money—often with mediocre results, especially for larger, more complex projects. The main difference is that you’ll know your UX sucks much, much faster. [Disagree? Please provide counter examples in the comments.]
The traditional approach favored by developers, which often boils down to putting raw the data structures required by the back end on the screen, doesn’t work at all. Find out why in Don’t design like a programmer.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a well-known UI that is currently in the news.
How many HealthCare.gov’s Account Setup usability problems should have been obvious? All of them!
Nielsen Norman Group did a guidelines review of HealthCare.gov’s Account Setup step. Here is a sample of the guideline violations they found:
There are no surprises here—the designers should have known that these would be issues. Lots of time and money wasted here. My bet: this UI wasn’t designed as much as it was specified based on arbitrary, ill-conceived requirements. Usability wasn’t much of a concern but acceptance testing was. [Am I wrong? Please let me know in the comments.]
To design great UX without money, time, or design skills, we need to leverage what we already know. If you were to ask a group of people why UX design is so hard (which I routinely do), invariably they will agree that one of the biggest challenges is that we don’t understand our users well enough.
This is certainly true. But if this were the root cause of poor design, I would expect to see many UIs that are well designed, just for the wrong target audience. In practice, I never see that. Instead, what I see is UIs that are poorly designed for everyone. It’s doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing—they’re poorly designed.
Of course, it’s true that different users have different knowledge, motivation, preferences, workflows, etc. But there are many attributes that we can safely assume that all users have that we usually don’t even consider. I have compiled dozens of these and put the top 50 in UI is Communication.
But to keep things simple, let’s start with one user attribute that every UX designer should know:
Unless they have been trained or have prior experience, users only know what your program tells them.
I believe the real root cause of most poor UI is a failure to communicate to its users. Well-designed UIs are self-explanatory, and shouldn’t require trial-and-error, a user’s manual, help, or training to use.
Most user’s manuals explain how the UI should have been designed in the first place.
A user interface is essentially a conversation between users and technology to do tasks that achieve users’ goals. A UI is a form of human communication, and if it communicates well it will be naturally intuitive. My UI is Communication book explores UI design from this point of view, and I will explain this concept in detail in a future blog post.
But to get started, a great way to design UI is to think about how you would explain a task to a target user in person. Think about the steps, their order, the language you would use, and the details that what you would bother to explain. Also think about what you wouldn’t say—those unnecessary steps or details you know the target users just don’t care about.
That conversation is a high-level guide to what your design should look like—great UIs feel like a natural, friendly conversation. But to be clear, I’m not saying the UI should be a literal conversation—that might be tedious—rather it should feel like a human conversation in terms of the steps, order, and communication. And it should never be chatty—applying this process usually results in less text, but much better text.
If there is a difference between what we say in person and what we say in UI, usually it is the human conversation that is right and the UI that is wrong. We naturally explain things in person in a way that the target users will understand. Great UIs should mirror human conversations because that is the most effective way to explain things.
At this point, I’m sure that you would like to see some examples. If so, please check out the Look Inside feature on Amazon. There is a very generous preview with many examples to get you going.
Now let’s cut to the chase! Here is a communication-focused design process that requires a minimum of time, money, and design skills.
Most of this process is fairly traditional. The main difference is that we are using our understanding of the target users and top scenarios to determine how to communicate the tasks effectively on a human level. Scenarios and communication drive the process. At best, traditional design processes discover that communication accidentally. Instead of focusing on a mechanical solution and hoping to stumble across a usable human solution, let’s flip that and start with an intuitive, human solution and make it work mechanically. And save a whole lot of time and money by doing so.
Some evaluation techniques to consider:
I put a rough time estimate for each of these steps (in parentheses) to back up the “without time” claim. While designing all the pages and doing some user-based reality checking will take days, most of the remaining steps can be done in a matter of hours for simple projects.
For the sake of brevity, I glossed over several important design techniques that I mentioned here, but they are all covered in detail in my UX Design Essentials class. My next UX Design Essentials in San Francisco (San Mateo, actually) will be on April 23 – 25. You can register now without payment.
While I believe that UX Design Essentials is at least 90% relevant to entrepreneurs with extremely limited time, money, and design talent, I’m thinking of creating a new UX Design Essentials for Entrepreneurs class that is 100% relevant, then delivering that version exclusively in the Bay Area, New York, and Boston.
A good idea? Please contact me to let me know.
I will be presenting UX Design Essentials in Katowice Poland in November. Looking forward to it!
I will be presenting UX Design Essentials in Dalian, Beijing, and Shenzhen China in July. Looking forward to it!