FOR WHATEVER WEIRD REASONS—AND IT DOESN’T HURT THAT I’M OBSERVANT, EMPATHETIC, AND LISTEN—I TEND TO BE CONSUMER-ORIENTATED (AM ONE TOO)
MEANING THAT I CAN—AND DO—THINK LIKE A CONSUMER EVEN WHEN I’M MARKETING SOMETHING (OR WRITING). ITS AN EXTREMELY VALUABLE CAPABILITY I PROBABLY HAVEN’T MADE ENOUGH OF.
All too many companies seem to lack that particular perspective—with employees trained and culturally oriented to defend the institution, much in the manner of fending-off boarders, rather than resolving the issue. Maybe they lack the imagination that effective empathy requires. It’s a serious problem—and adds to the friction of life. It’s a pain. Its tedious. It’s common.
I do a great deal of interviewing as a writer—and absolutely love it. I find listening to another human being, as intently as I do, to be an extremely intense and emotional business—especially if you can get them to open up.
All it takes is a little torture. We writers have ways, you know.
I normally can, because I am genuinely interested, and do my homework as a way of paying my dues. I have found from experience that the more you know up front, the more people are willing to tell you (which is a little counter-intuitive—but true).
Knowledge is an indication of interest (and professionalism) and that builds trust. If people trust you, they are more likely to talk to you. And the more you know, the better questions you can ask.
I developed this mindset way before I became a writer—and was somewhat surprised to find it was less than common in the corporate and institutional worlds. There, the mindset seemed to be largely defensive—and still remains so to a significant extent.
My experience over the years has led me to take a great interest in what used to be called human factors—and now seems to come under the heading of UX or User Experience.
This seems to be somewhat problematical where Apps are concerned—yet the key to a good app is that it be intuitive and that you have a good UX (a term I don’t much like because it is not immediate clear to the uninitiated—which makes it jargon).
On the other hand, if you don’t use jargon, people in the business think you don’t know what you are talking about. Jargon is the verbal equivalent of a secret handshake. It gets you into the club.
These days, software companies now (mostly) seem to try very hard to make their software user-friendly, but suffer from several disadvantages.
- They are too familiar with their own products—so make assumptions. That is both natural and understandable from a producer’s perspective—but dangerous. You need to be able to flip your mind and see things from the user point of view.
- The kind of people who write Apps often don’t use them in the same way as end-users. Indeed, they don’t necessarily use them at all. Coding is not the same as using! And coders are weird (even if they are taking over the world). Damn Martians!
- Designers tend to be influenced by fashion trends to an excessive degree—so will go for pale print, set in small type, because it looks in vogue instead of making it readable (and so on). Appearance is extremely important—I hold designers in high esteem—but a striking design will not compensate for a lack of functionality (which includes readability).
I’ll save my UX war stories for another occasion—and refrain from that joke about their being X rated...
Let me point you, instead towards this rather charming story.
Jennifer Aldrich--UX & Content Strategist at InVision ~ UX Blogger at www.UserexperienceRocks.com
The Difference Between UX and UI
A year ago I was burning the midnight oil working on a project. My daughter snuck up behind me and peeked over my shoulder.
“Wait… isn’t your job doing UX?” she asked.
“Yep,” I replied.
She responded very innocently, “So why does that screen say UI? Are they the same thing? What’s the difference between UX and UI?”
I sat back in my chair and stared at her for a sec, and said, “You know what? Give me a minute.”
I was suddenly struck with the realization that even folks who are professional designers have a tough time explaining the difference to each other, let alone trying to explain it to family and friends. And kids (mine included), know IMMEDIATELY if you’re BSing, and they aren’t afraid to call you out.
Post-its and Sharpies to the Rescue
After giving it some serious thought I whipped out my trusty Sharpie and some Post-it notes and started to doodle.
I wound up with a little dude with spikey hair on a bicycle.
My daughter looked it over and said, “Oh! So the UI is the part you use, and UX is how you feel when you use it.”
I was so pumped. Clearly it wasn’t a comprehensive explanation of every nuance between the two, but she grasped the high level concept in seconds.
Sharing is Caring
At that point I decided, on a whim, to post a pic of the doodle on Twitter. I had never posted a single one of my doodles anywhere on the internet in my entire life, because, not going to lie, stick figures are the extent of my artistic skill, but I figured that maybe some parents somewhere could use it to explain what they do to their kiddos too.
I got up the next morning and flipped open my Twitter app and was astounded to discover that over a hundred people had retweeted my doodle. This was back in the day when I only had about 1000 followers, so the number was crazy to me. I manically started replying to each person thanking them for their retweets, and wished A LOT that I had branded myblog URL on the doodle. Lesson learned.
3 Days Later…
3 days later thousands of people had tweeted, retweeted, shared, favorited liked and posted my Post-it note doodle all over the inter webs. Folks had even begun translating it in to other languages!
All of a sudden, I started getting a flood of emails related to the doodle. People began asking to use it in articles and presentations. Professors emailed asking if they could include it in their design curriculums. A publisher contacted me and asked if I would consider writing a book about user experience. Not one, but 2 authors asked if I would illustrate their books. A flood of requests came in asking for t-shirts and mugs and wall prints. My blog blew up. I went from a few hundred readers each month to an audience of thousands of readers each month.
It was by far the most excessively random thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.
Doodling Is Awesome
So yeah. Never under estimate the power of doodling. You never know where it may take you in life. ;)
This doodle was originally posted on UserExperienceRocks.com March 4, 2014.