A LONG OVERDUE UPDATE

It’s been some time since my last post so I want to take a moment to share a quick update.

This summer and fall have been jam-packed with so much good stuff. As a part of completing my degree, I took two courses this summer and I’m in the thick of it right now with a Social Psychology and a Social Research course. This puts me on track to graduate in May of 2017! At my job I was an assistant researcher on a physical prototype usability study. I’m working on writing more about this but some of the highlights were that I wrote the participant screener and session guide for the study, handled many project management tasks, moderated one of the sessions, and co-wrote the project topline report and final report. I learned so much and I’m excited to share more soon.

Also, I made some subtle but nice changes to my logo. [I guess the corporate branding website, Brand New has been rubbing off on me.]

Lastly, please check back soon. More posts coming including another audio interview piece.

#CommutesCount by Strava: MORE DATA-DRIVEN BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN PLANNING

In the United States May is National Bike Month. The tradition that started in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists as a way to “showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to giving biking a try.” Across the country cities are hosting various events throughout May to promote Bike Month. The pinnacle event of this month long celebration is without a doubt “Bike to Work Day.” Here in Seattle, Bike to Work Day is actually “Bike Everywhere Day” and falls on May 20th.

But what if your city doesn’t have an organized Bike to Work Day or if your country doesn’t observe Bike Month? Strava, the excellent cycling, running, and [various other] activities tracker app, has come up with a unique solution that is uniting cyclists around the globe and providing valuable data that can be used to improve urban infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

If you are a Strava member you can join the Global Bike to Work Day challenge Strava has organized. To complete the challenge all they ask is to upload a ride on May 10th that starts in one place and ends in another. If you're not a Strava member don't worry. You can signup for a free account here. The challenge is simple enough and the impact could be huge. 

In 2014, Strava launched a data service called Strava Metro. The mission of Strava Metro is to anonymize and analyze the trillions of data points it collects from the “more than five million rides and runs uploaded to Strava each week.” In cities, the majority of these activities are commutes so these data points can provide “ground truth” on where people actually ride, run, and walk in cities.

Strava is taking a data-driven approach to make cities more bikeable and safer for pedestrians.You might remember that I shared my experience assisting the Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project who is also working toward this same goal. You can read more about that here.

With May just a few days away and Strava’s Global Bike to Work Day challenge just around the corner you still have time to join Strava and participate in the challenge. By doing so you personally can help make a difference. Find out more about Global Bike to Work Day on their blog. I also encourage you to find and participate in any Bike Month activities in your area. 

See you out there.

#CommutesCount #bikeseattle

NOTICING UNNOTICED DESIGN

As I eluded to in (one of) my first posts, I care about design. And as I said then, this is a huge statement in itself. But I'm hoping to unpack it from the perspective of a small design podcast called 99% Invisible

In the late summer of 2013 I spent an average of three hours commuting to and from work every day. To pass this time I filled my ears with podcasts like This American Life and Radiolab. On one of these commutes I was catching up on the backlog of Radiolab episodes and began listening to one entitled “Radiolab Presents: 99% Invisible.” The host Roman Mars described the show as a “tiny radio program about design and architecture and all the thought that goes into the things that people don’t think about.” I was instantly intrigued and after listening to this introductory episode I was hooked.  

Roman Mars. photo by Bert Johnson

I proceeded to download the nearly 90 episodes of the podcast and filled my commute with the beautifully created audio stories of the innovative design solutions all around us. As Mars eludes to in his introduction, his podcast has helped me notice more of the designed world around me and continues to spark my passion to design great user experiences (or solutions). As a quick aside, last March Mars gave an amazing TED talk about good design from the perspective of vexillology. I highly recommend you watch it. In it Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.

Mars and his amazing team have now created over 200 episodes and most recently, they have added written pieces as well as a short video collaboration with Vox exploring the concept of Norman Doors

While I encourage you to listen to all the episodes of 99% Invisible let me direct you to a handful of my favorites.

Episode 52 : Galloping Gertie - The story the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It used to dance in the wind.

Episode 86 : Reversal of Fortune - The story of reversing the flow of the Chicago River. Yup, they reversed a river.

Episode 110 : Structural Integrity - The story of how a 59-story skyscraper was built with a potentially fatal flaw and how an architecture student discovered the problem. Spoiler: it didn’t collapse because they fixed it in secret.

Episode 197 : Fish Canon - The Story of wildlife corridors and designing solutions to get salmon around the nearly “88,000 water flow barriers in the country.” Yes, it’s a cannon that shoots fish!

Episode 156 : Coin Check - The story of a unique way “to show appreciation, love, sympathy, or professional connection.” And it makes a fun drinking game.

Last fall the 99PI team challenged it’s listeners to become sustaining members of the podcast network Radiotopia, of which 99% Invisible is one of its founding podcasts. It was a no-brainer for me to support 99PI and the other fantastic podcasts of Radiotopia. And to make the deal even sweeter, for being a supporting member I received a 99PI challenge coin that I now carry with great pride. 

Now, head over to 99percentinvisible.org and enjoy. I suggest you start at episode one

Wait, one last thing. If you have a podcast, book, movie, or something that has impacted how you see the world please share it by leaving a comment below. And, if you’re already a fan of 99PI, what’s your favorite episode?

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT or THEY CAN TEACH YOU WHAT IS RIGHT

Growing up I remember seeing a wooden plaque on my dad’s desk that read something like, “Rule #1 The customer is always right. Rule #2 If the customer is wrong, refer to Rule #1.” This is the crucial starting point for designing great experiences. 

Products, services, or experiences must be designed with the customer's needs as an essential part of the design process. IDEO is a design firm that takes on this “human-centered, design-based approach.”

Human-centered design process outlined by IDEO.

In his blog post for User Testing, Spencer Lanoue outlines the two key empathetic methods IDEO uses to discover the end user’s needs during the inspiration phase.

  • Observing user behavior — Try to understand people through observing them. For example, if you’re designing a vacuum cleaner, watch people vacuum.
  • Putting yourself in the situation of the end-user — IDEO does this to understand what the user experience is really like; to feel what their users feel.

Many have lost site of this principle and are losing customers to companies who are designing with the user in mind. Sunrise, a calendar app started with this in mind when they set out to “solve some of the problems with calendars they heard from users”:

1. “Today’s calendar feels quite stale”
2. “My calendar takes forever to synchronize properly”
3. “Timezone support is a pain”

Dissatisfied with the stock Apple Calendar app I sought out a calendar app that would solve the problems I was encountering. Sunrise was the solution. After reaching out to Sunrise with a few improvements I thought could further enhance their app they invited me to their beta program and sought my feedback. Additionally, I participated in a one-on-one interview with one of Sunrise’s product managers who's desire was to know more about how I used the app and its services. And lastly, I was invited to participate in a secret project for a feature so new it wasn’t even in the beta app. 

A quick comparison between apps. Both a "days" view and "items" view split but Apple only show events for the date selected. Sunrise shows just two weeks of the "days" view to prioritize the events, not only of the date selected, but also for the following several days. Additionally, Sunrise adds pops of color and icons, which correlate to the type of event, to make the calendar less stale. 

Sunrise took the time and made the effort to discover and understand its user’s needs. 

In February of 2015 Microsoft acquired Sunrise and in October of 2015 Microsoft officially shut down the Sunrise app. When I reached out to my contact regarding the shutdown she told me “the team has moved on to revamp the Outlook app for iOS and Android.” Additionally, in their farewell post the Sunrise team promised: “We won’t stop innovating. While building Sunrise, we were always learning from and listening to you to come up with ways to delight you and make you more productive.” 

Remember, the customer is always right or listen, observe, and empathize and they can teach you what is right

A SLIGHT CHANGE AND A NEW FOCUS FOR UXPURSUIT.COM

It’s been a little over a year since UX Pursuit launched. In that time I’ve created over fifteen unique posts with many more in the works, designed some simple branding, and most importantly learned a considerable amount relevant to my UX pursuit.

One tangible insight relates back to my previous post and comes from what I learned around Google Analytics. As I mentioned, my site has a higher bounce rate and that is due in part to the way the information is laid out. Knowing that, I’ve changed the template of my Squarespace built website to make my recent blog posts more accessible. Now, as you can see, recent posts are displayed to the right giving readers a better sense of the other content they can access. So if you haven’t explored other post yet, please do so.

The other major takeaway applies to a new aim in my pursuit; to develop what I've learned so far by doing practical UX research and design work. I’m currently in the midst of a website redesign project and seeking another exciting project. The biggest way for me to develop my skills is to practice them so if you would like to collaborate on a project or know someone who might please get in touch.

uxpursuit@gmail.com

TRAINING: KEY INSIGHTS FROM CONVEY UX

Two weeks ago I attended a user experience conference in Seattle called Convey UX. I was able to attend a few workshops and hear several talks led by UX practitioners from around the globe.

There were three key insights I took away from Convey UX:

Jakob Nielsen

I have recognized the first idea over the past two and a half years while working at a UX firm assisting and observing researchers and designers. There are so many methods and techniques used in UX research and design, many of which were discussed at the conference, but they all should point to the second idea Mr. Nielsen states: it’s not about technology, it’s about humans.

The understanding that it’s all about humans has been a constant thought as I’ve been working, learning, training, and just living my life. It makes so much sense that we must first determine the human’s needs and then design the technology (or product) around those needs. Have the technology solve the need, don’t make the human conform to the technology.

Michael Beasley

One aspect of UX that has been growing in importance recently is analytics. I’ve only just scratched the surface of Google Analytics on this site so when I saw a workshop called “Web Analytics for User Experience” I jumped at the chance learn more. Michael Beasley presented the workshop and led us through the basics of what a powerful tool like Google Analytics can do. Beasley explained how analytics can help us understand why people come to a site, what people do while on that site, and how it can measure the effects of design change. To be clear, Beasley wasn’t advocating that UX researchers and designers live and die by the quantitative data that analytics provides. He readily admitted that analytics can’t answer the question of “why” a user does something but the quantitative data from analytics can give us clues as to why and provide us with more evidence to help guide our design decisions.

Based on  what I learned from Beasley’s workshop, I’ve looked at the quantitative data on this site and I can already see clues as to where my site could use some tweaking. For instance, in the last month I have a bounce rate of almost 96%. A bounce is when a user enters a site on a specific page and then leaves the site without going to another page or interacting with anything else on the site. Bounce rate is just the percentage of pageviews that are bounces. Seeing this high number (96%) and understanding what it was calculating has given me some clues as to how I can change my site to reduce my bounce rate. Because the home page of this site is my blog and because each blog post is shown in its entirety a visitor can essentially view all the content on this site except the few other pages I have (A UX Pursuit, About, and Great UX). If I want people to view more pages on this site then I should have each blog post show a preview of the content and then make them click a “read more” link to see the entire post. This would also give me a better sense of the posts visitors are reading most.  

Nathan Shedroff

Another workshop that caught my eye was Nathan Shedroff’s “Redefining the Value of Experience.” One goal of the workshop, namely learning “a new definition of value that expands the discussion and value for UX” aligned with some thoughts I’ve had around the importance of customer research to deliver great customer experiences. Additionally, I thought this would provide a good balance to the web analytics workshop I attended.

Shedroff’s key point was that we need to change our traditional ideas of value. Most commonly value, for a customer, is only defined as being monetary and functional (price and features). Instead he proposed that there are five kinds of value:

5values.png

Shedroff expanded on the two traditional quantitative values and added the three qualitative values of emotion, identity, and meaning. He also emphasized that all these values are never exchanged outside of a relationship! And equally important, you can’t create a relationship unless there is an experience!

Shedroff broke down these five values further by looking at their level of importance, from most shallow to deepest:

layers.png
  • Function = Easy to talk about, usually quantifiable.
  • Price = What am I willing to pay? Quantitative.
  • Emotion = How does it make you feel? Much more valuable than functional/financial, not quantifiable, often subconscious.
  • Identity = Is this me? Customer needs to see themselves in the product/brand.
  • Meaning = Does this fit into my world?

According to Shedroff, it becomes imperative to create great experiences in order to build relationships so value can be exchanged. And when we make meaningful connections through well-designed experiences it creates the deepest relationships possible. (I would add that it creates loyal customers who help build more relationships in support of the product/brand.)

To distinguish these five values a bit further, Shedroff separated them into either quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative = [functional & financial] this is where traditional business tools focus.

Qualitative  = [emotional & identity & meaningful] = invisible to most business people. This is what needs to be designed and valued.

Shedroff explained that we shouldn’t ignore the quantitative values; in fact, he said that quantitative values are very important but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s the qualitative values that are seen as the premium values that distinguish products or companies.  

Shedroff summed it all up when he said, “Those companies who focus on premium value create more of it, more often.”

As I talked about in one my earliest posts, I care about people. I care about building lasting relationships with the people in my life and I go about building these relationships by getting to know people and sharing experiences together. This practice, as Shedroff points out, could be easily applied to UX research and design. By starting with this practice in mind you lay a solid foundation for what the customer truly wants and desires. Not only do you know where to price your product/app/service/etc., and what features it should have, you understand what will help build lasting connections to your customers because you understand that all the values that are important. Then by repeating this process throughout design, development, launch, and even after launch you are only creating more value.

I learned a few great concepts at the conference and I’m excited to put them to practical use. I’ve actually got a few projects that I hope will take off soon so keep an eye out for those. In the meantime, if you have feedback on this site I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at uxpursuit@gmail.com.


*Photos by Mark Gsellman and slides taken from Nathan Shedroff’s SlideShare site.