[book] “The Mobile Frontier”

I’ve recently finished the Rachel Hinman’s bookThe Mobile Frontier”, which I was willing to read since the last UIE virtual seminar I watched. As expected, it has been a great reading and a better inspiration.

The book covers pretty much of the aspects of creating new user experiences by designing for mobile devices. It sets some basic concepts for beginners as well as stretches the boundaries of mobility till their real purpose. For me, this book has been both a good reminder of some well-known ideas, and encouraging exercise to design for new ways of perceiving the world.

The book is divided in four sections

  1. What makes mobile different?
  2. Emergent mobile patterns
  3. Crafting mobile experiences
  4. The future of mobile UX

While I was reading this book I couldn’t avoid thinking what mobility really means for the Healthcare industry.

We can see a lot of competitors delivering apps widespread the different market places, some of them just to be there, some others driven by a customer demand, and many others to start up a new business. The meeting point is that all of them are seeking to revolutionize their own current concept of medical services and that is, more or less, what Hinman’s exposes: this is a golden age and “a rich design space is ripe with opportunities to invent new and more human ways for people to interact with information”

In this context, mobility should be the actionable trigger to push a complete cultural refresh where administrative processes are made not only to control or manage resources, but to improve the healthcare as a patient service as well as a care service.

From now on, the paperless clinic based on the digital document translation could shift to the knowledge clinic based on smart technology. Smartphones and tablets frontier are part of promising landscape for design.

[Book] Communicating the User Experience

If I think I’m good at something in this field is communicating the UX. Whilst I admit I’m terrible creating icons, creating visual metaphors or talking with customers, I really think that as part of my leading role I got to become a good “UX messenger”.

I borrowed this book looking for a complete guide of document support and this is what I found.

Contents

The books is divided into the following chapters:

  • Personas
  • Task Models
  • User Journeys
  • Content Requirements
  • Site maps
  • Wireframes
  • Usability Test Reports
  • Funnel Diagrams

Firstly, I miss reading something about interactive prototypes or Hi-Fi designs as documents. Although they both are mainly considered deliverables, those kind of assets are also part of the message. Actually, if we follow the agile principle, they’ll suffer modifications and enhancements so initially they’re an hypothesis too about what we want o achieve.

Secondly, I’ll remove the user manual inside each section which explains how to make the specific artifact using Power Point or Omnigraffle. If you need to learn this at the moment you read this book something is wrong either in the need or in the book audience. 

As a final though, this book reminded me a lot the one called “Communicating Design” which seemed to be oriented only on web site documentation but it is better focused on explaining document assets.

Good points in it

Nevertheless, there are still some good reasons to get and read this book in my opinion.

  1. Excellent introduction and clear definitions about the main types of documentation used throughout a project lifecycle
  2. Good examples of the key components of each document
  3. Perfect for beginners, including other UX specialists which have spent more time in other areas like Visual Design, Graphic Design or UI Design and need to support their design communication skills

So my advice is don’t buy the book, just “borrow” it 😉

[Book] User Experience Management – Skills for leading effective UX Teams

[Book] User Experience Management – Skills for leading effective UX Teams

[Book] Mobile First

Brief, direct and simple. The idea: address your business strategy thinking first in your mobile experience. Why? to force simplicity, to reduce complexity, to get our users focus on content, to understand your product as pills of functionality handable by any user. Which user? that one who is in “one eyeball and one thumb” mode. Appealing, isn’t it? Well, it is challenging.

A book full of tips which helps you to understand capabilities and embrace constraints to take advantage until the minimum detail of the mobile experience.

Web App or Native App? Both. Do you want to know more? Would you like to agree or disagree with this argument? Read Mobile First, it won’t take you more than one day to start creating amazing web applications.

Enjoy it!

[Book] Sketching User Experiences

This is a book about process and design. Divided into two parts, Bill Buxton engage you (designers, product managers, business executives, etc.) in a analysis about methods, processes and business careers from a historical point of view.

It brings other fields of the industry into the emerging User Experience with Sketching as the starting point of new ideas and as a way to lead the new product requirements for innovation.

It makes you think about your role and your company culture reminding us:

how important innovation is to the future of your company, the role of design in this, a recognition that innovation cannot be ghettoized in the research or design departments, since it is an overall cultural issue, and awareness of the inevitable and dire consequences of ignoring the previous three points.

Buxton stops when talking about Design when makes distinction between Interface Desgin and Experience Design (may we say design for experience?), when clarifies why Sketches are not Prototypes and disagrees with D. Norman who stated “We are all designers”.

Reducing things to such a level trivializes the hard-won and highly developed skills of the professional designer.

It is not a how-to book, although there’s a complete section about techniques to create sketches, with best practices where the main messages is: think, create, share and test. 

Personal opinion

When reading this book I have had always the feeling of mixing things and not going into the real root of any point. I would love to have the two parts of it into two different books with a more deeply detailed materials where to learn more about the author’s ideas. 

Nevertheless, for me, it has represented a creative way of learning tips to introduce simple, fast and cheap sketching techniques into my daily work at the same time that I have considered the need of innovation not only in products but also in the process itself.

In order to create successful products, it is as important (if not more) to invest in the design of the design process, as in the design of the product itself. 

By the way, digging into his web site you can take a look to this interesting and inspiring device collection (in HTML or Silverlight).

Should the Software Industry learn from other fields?

I’ll share with you an interesting reflection found in the book “Prototyping” by Todd Zaki Warfel regarding why we don’t expect prototyping as stage in the process in software development, regardeless the myth of the “return of investment”:

I think the first reason is that in software development, the emphasis is often placed on the development process and not the design process. The industry doesn’t call it “software design”; they call it “software development.“

In software development, design is often an afterthought. The emphasis is on the technology or features—not the design. In architecture and industrial design, however, the emphasis is on design. Form follows function.

Another reason is that software development is seen as a manufacturing process, but architecture and industrial design are seen as a craft.

In the following pages we’re introduced to the concept of Design studio, which is very common in other design fields:

In studio classes, you design or prototype and present to your peers. Your peers critique your work, highlighting the strengths and areas that still need some work.

Prototypes are not just a tool to communicate or to describe ideas, but also a work methodology, a phylosophy where sharing, colaborating and criticizing can speed up the process, prevent future failures and empower peers into trust and success.

It’s not a believe, fortunately I could check it by my own in my short experience, so the answer from my viewpoint is clear:”Yes, the software industry must learn a lot from other fields and design can help to lead that subversion”.

HTML5 & CSS3 for designers

Book CSS3 HTML5

Start now”, with this statement Dan Cederholm, the author of “CSS3 for Web Desginers” book, encourages us to work with the evolution of web markup style. And his not alone, with the same spirit, Jeremy Keith show us the history and the ‘whys’ of the new version of HTML.

But, is it now the right time? Even if we don’t believe in the consensus, and the first standard recommendation is planned to 2022, even if it’s really up to the vendors to support the new features and still you feel there are not enough of them to make the web styling really cool, even if you have worked with XAML and have in mind “why they don’t just copy it”, and even if you feel that it is a kind of “back to the future” the answer would be “yes”.

This is, as always, a business, the web browser war never counted with designers and developers’ desires, but they used our work to justify their steps ahead. It is like when one of those big companies – I won’t say the name – creates a copied technology to gain developers to gain terrain (to gain money) and it is supported just meanwhile there are someone who keeps on trying it: at the end, if there are not enough people using that “new” technology the company will says “bye” progressively in a gentle way – if you don’t believe me, tell Silverlight developers (oops).

This is only my personal view, I think that if the most of websites are built in HTML documents and are styled with CSS, the evolution of both are the right way to go. It will be slowly and plenty of complaints but always is like so. Is it risk? maybe, is it familiar? of course it is; is it RIA? hummm… we will see it, if we start trying it today.

Personas’ Remote Research

To build a persona can be tricky; you can just look how actors need months to put in the shoes of a their new characters. In UI design, personas’ creation is part of the analysis stage: they will be used to define requirements, to prepare user tests, to support decisions and to establish a meeting points between designers, developers, and stakeholders.

What is a persona?

Personas are fictitious users you create based on your user research. Personas summarize your user research findings and provide a practical approach to understanding the requirements of your target audience and keeping user perspectives in mind when designing products and creating documentation for them.

By Niranjan Jahagirdar and Arun Joseph Martin for UX Matters.

I wanted to include this definition just as an introduction, because what matters to me now is how to perform personas’ research when you cannot access to any focus group, you cannot do direct interviews or observe users.

Beyond the discussion about whether this artifact is useful or not, I think that even for large organizations is a wothwhile investigation which will help to the team to be closer to the real and target user. So, this is basically my suggestions whenever you need to face a persona’s modeling:

  • Identify primary and secondary individuals to give importance to product requirements
  • Identify behavioural variables and patterns by reading blogs, analysing the professional/gender/demographics statistics associated, and understanding the complexity of their tasks beyond the technology
  • Undestand how business rules, and work environment can affect to the performance and frequency of their tasks
  • Learn how subjects like politics can affect to the user daily work (tasks, goals, attitudes and motivations)

Tips from above are not new, you can find more precise ones in the Chapter 5: Modeling Users: Personas and Goals, of the book About Face 3.

Creating persona’s is not an obscure or expensive procedure but a powerful tool wich will help designers to make decisions confidientially. 

[Book] Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things

The Norman’s book Emotional Design: why we love (or hate) everyday things is certainly praised by designers and non-designers.

Truly, it has made me a better person (I would never say that I’m now a better designer since I’ve just read a book). But yes, that’s the positive feeling you can get after reading it. You will feel like an alive and creative animal which understand the emotions through design and technology.

The book is full of examples, (figurative) pictures, experiences, and situations to illustrate why without emotions, your decision-making ability would be impaired.

There’s a kind of anachronistic tone in his view of design. He splits it in three different levels:

  1. Visceral: visceral design is about the initial impact of a product, about appearance, touch, and feel.
  2. Behavioural: is about use, about experience with a product: function, performance, and usability.
  3. Reflecive: is about long-term relations, about feelings of satisfaction produced by owning, displaying, and using a product.

explaining why attractive things really work better: beauty and usefulness are inside everyone’s mind when we look at objects. Even if we would dislike something there’s always a strong emotion behind which affects to the interaction and the perception.

So interesting, so recommended… and ready for the next one.