UX Thursday Detroit — Redux

Last week, I took a road trip to the Motor City for UX Thursday Detroit. This was the second time this year that I traveled to Michigan for an event (after World IA Day in February), and I have to say, I’m deeply impressed with the vibrancy and depth of the UX community up there. Not only do all the speakers deserve a big thank you, but so does everybody else for being so friendly, approachable, and engaging.

What follows are all eight talks from UX Thursday, each distilled into 100(ish) words based on the notes I took. Some are more verbatim “This is what the person said,” while others are more interpretive “This is what I took away.” Every summary is followed by a link to that speaker’s slides.


Build a Winning UX Strategy from the Kano Model | Jared Spool

All user experiences can be measured on a scale of frustration to delight. As designers, we talk about usability as a goal, but that’s like aiming for neutral. Usable isn’t great, just as edible isn’t delicious. We’re stuck here — we’ve become skilled at subtracting frustration, but designing for delight is an act of addition.

The Kano Model reveals patterns that illuminate a way forward. Features that delight (seen in dimensions of pleasure, flow, and meaning), must build upon the meeting of basic expectations. Guard against experience rot. Take baby steps. Add new value — in UX, that’s what it means to innovate.

View Jared’s Slides

 

Bridging the Moat Between Ethnography and Lab Research | Stephanie Rosenbaum

When doing research, we tend to think of the field and the lab as separate towers of study, stark binaries in their methodologies. In fact, sometimes it’s possible and wonderfully effective to bring elements of ethnography into the usability lab (or vice versa, for that matter). It just takes some creativity.

In one case study, budget and time made fieldwork impossible. So instead, the lab became the field — with a stage designer’s help, researchers transformed the lab into home, office, and sports bar settings. In another instance, designing for medical professionals, lab researchers added an ambient soundtrack and visuals to simulate the context of a hospital’s operating room.

View Stephanie’s Slides

 

Designing with Data for Humans | Ivo Gasparotto

At its best, data visualization can show us the world as we’ve never seen it before, as if through new glasses. Designs that leverage data have the power to further understanding. Toward this end, start your UX process by asking, “What are the biggest opportunities for improvement?”

Think of your data as raw material, with qualities such as scale, location and diversity. Prototype with the real stuff. Know what options and tools exist for visualization, and then wield them in ways that empower people to look at and explore the information from different vantages.

Armed with the power of data, we are responsible for doing good with it.

View Ivo’s Slides

 

When Testing Professionals Are Involved in User-Centered Design Research | Amy Montgomery

Quality assurance testers are natural UX allies who many designers nonetheless overlook. Far from being merely generic IT people whose job it is to prevent buggy software, QA testers are specialized professionals who act as a check that the right thing was built and coded. Like designers, they care about the users.

When doing collaborative design, don’t forget the QAers. Educate quality assurance teammates on the whys of human factors and interaction principles. Include QA testers when cultivating your braintrust — in complicated and creative projects, somebody always needs to keep an eye on the quality of the big picture.

View Amy’s Slides

 

Ducks and Decorated Sheds: A Way to Talk About, Evaluate and Design Structural Form | Dan Klyn

If a design may take any shape, how do we know if a particular structure is the right one?

We can’t. There is no right way.

It is, though, possible to evaluate if a structure is any good, whether we’re speaking about buildings made of steel or websites made of pixels. Design is the rendering of intent. Intent forms a foundation for structure. Between them, we find meaning. To design and critique a structure’s quality, start by being systematic in your intent and meaning. This is where tools such as performance continuums are useful. Consider a design’s meaning through the arguments it makes, the values it asserts.

Additionally, with structural language (e.g. that of “ducks” versus “sheds” imported from architecture) we can outline and articulate the merits of our structures. With simple models, we can prototype in the abstract.

View Dan’s Slides

 

Confronting Egos in the Room | Lauren Colton

It’s OK to charge an “asshole rate” for clients. Wait … let’s back up.

Managing egos in design isn’t easy, whether those personalities belong to clients or your own co-workers. Having a framework for every project, or a “client experience toolkit,” can help guard against egos with communication and collaboration. At Gravity Works, this includes: (1) Client briefs. Key ingredient: Asking “Why?” (2) Design rationale. Connect the dots for clients. (3) Team retrospectives. Be self aware. Annoyed with asshole clients? There’s a rate for that. (4) The whole team decides. Flat decision making. Project choices impact everybody. And (5) Be ready to change.

View Lauren’s Slides

 

Visual Literacy: Expanding How We Practice UX | Keith Instone

Visual literacy is a rich, diverse vein of study whose exploration offers UX practitioners another dimension of tools, vocabulary, and contexts for designing and communicating. In fact, much overlap already exists implicitly — we employ visual literacy when we make deliverables for clients, when we visualize data, when we craft icons and UI elements, when we think through sketches.

There is no single accepted definition of visual literacy. Like UX, it is multidisciplinary. An immersion into visual literacy — by digging into its history, joining its groups and following its publications, finding its thought leaders, seeking out examples and points of common ground — reveals a field that may yet have even more to contribute to UX.

View Keith’s Slides

 

Fooled By Best Practice | Dana Chisnell

Even the best, most experienced designers make the mistake of thinking they nailed it. And why not be confident if you’ve got the right background, airtight process, and all the best practices?

“Best practices,” though, can lead you astray. They are a useful guide and starting point. Don’t stop there. They promise that designs will be usable, but they guarantee little. Often, they’re confused with “conventions” — shortcuts made to avoid reinvention, whose best support often amounts to “Everybody else is doing it.” (See: Hamburger icon.)

What you must trust is your own process, which has the power to overturn best practices and reveal new ones.

View Dana’s Slides