Lean UX Bootcamp at ustwo

IMG_1199In 2014, I’ve attended to the Lean UX Bootcamp at ustwo, the design company that created Monument Valley. During this day, we had the opportunity to design, build a paper prototype and test a concept for an app. In this post, I will try to come up with some lessons learnt this day and a little bit of the process!
First, we had to design an app for members of a gym in London. For that, the facilitators of the workshop gave us a lot of content to work with. Personas, customer journeys, company’s goals and so on. It was a mix of consumer + company information. We had to translate all this content into something meaningful. In the workshop, this was organised through:
– a box with all the good things and benefits from the new digital app to illustrate our design goal
– hypothesis statements
– assumptions (for each stakeholder involved in the journey)

Translating the content into goals was extremely useful as we could focus and keep our ideas “in place”.

Getting feedback
After a brainstorm, we’ve managed to design the first version of the app in paper. This was our way to start testing the concept. We’ve walked around the company for a “free” participant. As we know, we don’t need many participants to find mistakes. Very simple task, but very useful (I will never forget). We had one observer and one interviewer. The workshop facilitators gave us a guideline for asking questions and interviewing for user testing. We’ve defined a few tasks and asked the participant to give us some feedback. After the feedback session, we’ve shared with the whole group what worked and what didn’t work. This would give us more content for the next iteration.

Refine
After the feedback, we could refine our design in paper. For this stage, we’ve used the app called POP for paper prototyping, to develop a more “contextual” interaction. This means that now users could actually test using a mobile phone. We’ve conducted a small test with the other participants of other groups and shared our overall experience during the process.

What I took from this day was the idea of getting feedback as quick as possible and that using paper could be “basic” but it tests concepts before the whole development.

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To finish the day, we’ve managed to visit the studio where game designers were developing new levels of Monument Valley! This was amazing! It is clear that they use a very similar approach for the design of their games! We know that paper prototyping in games is very useful.

What I took from this day was the idea of getting feedback as quick as possible and that using paper could be “basic” but it tests concepts before the whole development. This is crucial in any type of development (since products to just “ideas”). Since then, I’ve been utilising a very similar approach. So all I can say it’s thank you very much ustwo and IT Utility for the opportunity! :)


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Read more:
UX Bootcamp at Ustwo
User Experience (UX) Design Boot Camp – a lean approach to mobile app development (1 of 3)
Lean UX: Getting Out Of The Deliverables Business
UX resources

What my grandfather taught me about social media

 

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It’s been more than 2 years that my grandfather created his first Facebook account. It may not sound something extraordinary, but what called my attention was his purpose.

My grandfather is full of life. He loves people, social events, music, his students and his family. He uses Facebook to basically stay in contact with people, finding ways to support them in their activities or just giving his opinion. He is 80 years old.

I’ve been researching some articles about social media and Facebook and what caught my attention was the idea that “oh no, teenagers are moving to other chat apps” and this sounded like the end of the world. First, I’m not a “pro-Facebook” or something like that. Second, teenagers can do what they want. If they want privacy, good for them. I think everyone does.

The main concern here is that it seems that sometimes those articles forget that elderly people are now using social media to communicate and this can’t be overlooked. Basically, designers from social media websites and apps need to understand this phenomena and start designing for those people’s purposes and needs. Why not? I’m not saying that designers are not doing it at all, but this concern should be in the mind of design professionals from different parts of the world. This is big challenge and shouldn’t be left unnoticed.

Take as an example, my lovely country, Brazil. According to a research, the number of elderly Brazilian doubled since 1960 and it will grow with time. Technically, this is something new for Brazil that used to have a very low life expectancy and now, because of investments in health and well-being, this context changed significantly.

Taking back the issue of social media, Facebook was found to be one of the most popular networks in Brazil, but there was a lack of concerns around a proper inclusion of elderly people into those systems. I can imagine that this could be related to the interaction with the network’s interface and tools, familiarity, access to the page, especially if using a computer and privacy settings (of course). But who should take the blame?

It could sound easy to say that because people are getting older, they are not able to do some “stuff”. We all know that this is wrong (and sad). That’s not the point and we need to stop making a “gap” between ages, because this is not fair.

First, the possible problems highlighted before could be applicable to any human that is interacting for the first time with a system. Second, privacy issues are an universal concern. So, we are not talking about gaps. We are talking about designing things for people.

Taking back the example of my grandfather. He had to learn how to interact with the network by himself, as he wasn’t familiar with it. However he knew what social media could do. His “needs” were that in the social network, but they weren’t presentable or usable for a “newbie” user. However, even in that way, something just happened that he decided to experiment.

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If we, as designers, could understand that once people want or feel motivated, they will act, maybe we could not get worried about people choosing other websites or behaviours. If we could pay attention on how to build things for people, we should not overlook elderly people’s needs, which are basically human needs and that’s all. It’s not because of age that people can’t interact with something new.

It’s necessary to understand that once the perception of needs and reality, combined to a “good” design are integrated, people can feel motivated. And this could happen in all ages because, well, we are human.

Read more:

Can technology help us to support the ageing population?

Why Should We Listen to Old People? A Very Good Question
photo credit: 2010 – May – 18 – NodeXL – twitter social graph via photopin (license)

What I’ve learnt from my first Hackathon

Last month I was invited to participate to a Hackathon through universities in the UK. Hackathons normally take around 24 hours and you and your team need to solve a specific problem during this time, eating sweeties and working like crazy – with not too much sleep. Technically is not very different from working hours in a newspaper to get your project done before the news are published to the public. But well, this was different.

It was like playing a new game for hours. However sometimes it’s difficult to know what to expect from it. How do I find people to do this with me? Am I that good? What am I going to do? How can I help?

For this post I will highlight my experience (from the perspective of an UI/UX designer) and how we managed to get a prize in the end of the competition. Yay! /o/

The world can end while you are coding. Grab some really nice food!
Some people prefer to study and work with coffee. Oh well, that could be that case as we were doing this for 24 hours. But water and brain food as nuts and dried fruits could help. For me, what helped was chocolate and the idea of finishing the project with a very good result (why not?).

You can sleep. This will let your friends to take pictures like that:

Also, things like that could happen:

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What about your skills?
First of all I got a little bit insecure about my skills and those very experienced “coders” around the team. What can I do being as I was not a “coder”? I knew I could do something around interface design or UX design. And there is where I put all my energy in. I tried everything I could till get the best wait to present our idea to the rest of the other teams. But the greatest thing I’ve learnt was: trust your skills and go for it!

In the end it doesn’t matter if you can’t code as quick as your colleagues. Just have fun!

Choose one idea and defend that till the end
The theme of this project was about collecting data from different areas regarding transportation, roads, weather conditions, floods and so on in order to build a good maintenance plan for streets. The event, created by SmartStreetsHub had a lot of good references about the internet of things, sensors and the “internet of places”, which is about context and people. For this theme, we had the idea to create the tool called CycleSport.

The main idea was to transform the data into something meaningful to people. In that case, our target was cyclists that use roads and streets everyday and need to know which route is the safest. The main idea should be always the creation of relevant things for people. That’s why we are here.

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Work with people that make you laugh and don’t go alone!
Spending 24 hours with people that are boring is not that good. For the team you need to combine skills and analyse the possibility to have fun with those people. This is a very big challenge and in the end, it will be what really matters. Imagine if you start doing what you think it’s the best, and other people from your team are doing another thing? Or imagine that you start coding in one language and then the team is working with other language. It doesn’t work like that. You need to have fun, learn and do what you like the most (that could be programming, planning, testing or even buying some chocolate for the members of the team).

In the end, this experience could open the doors for more projects with the same team in the future. Why not?

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In the end…
I can talk about my role in this project. I was the one designing understandable interfaces to people. In other words, I combined UI with UX into the main idea, creating an identity for the project and a website.

As a result, I must admit that I’ve learnt a lot. Combining the concept of internet of places and contextual data, it was possible to draw significant experiences to people and help cyclists to get safe routes. In this situation and working as a team in a small amount of time made me feel responsible for the design field as much as my other colleagues felt responsible for their areas.

In the end, we’ve managed to win a prize in the competition. But for me, this reward was more than just a few pounds. The final reward was to work with an amazing team of talented people, which I hope to stay in touch and keep doing projects like that.

I can’t wait for the next hackathon. There is nothing best than teamwork. :)

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And thanks for the brilliant team:

@CaryDing

@SimonBox

Gary Wills: gb@soton.ac.uk

Cherrett T.J.: T.J.Cherrett@soton.ac.uk

Storyboarding: a tool for game user experience research

User experience research is a field in design that includes research methods, iterations, insights and maps of experiences. A lot has been done regarding the evaluation of interactive environments, including the analysis of the gameplay experience.

There are a lot of tools that can be used to collect relevant data from users, like physiological methods (Biometrics) and physiological processes. In the case of gameplay experiences, this is not different. The use of integrated methods is each time more common. The challenge is how to be clear and logical.
Studies show that designers don’t want to get the solution from an user research report, they want to know what is the main problem first. In other words, that sounds obvious but, the story that the data tells is more important then finding an answer at first sight. The objective of a report is to show where is the problem.

Biometric Storyboards: visualising meaningful gameplay events from Kiel Gilleade on Vimeo.

There a few ways to tell stories, like data visualisation, texts and storyboards.

Tools like Tableau could help designers to understand the process. However, considering the features of a game, the aspect of the data collected is more linear, as it is related to a level or a journey, combined to the story from the game.
This is why storyboarding could help to tell the story from the player experience. The format and logical process of the data drives us to an insightful evaluation.

A lot of researches have been done regarding the methods of user experience research in games. Biometrics storyboards is a method of user experience research that helps the designer to map the gameplay experience through storyboarding, that combines the designer’s intentions, UX evaluations and physiological player reactions. The combination of iterations, like traditional user test (surveys, interviews), physiological reports and a creation of a game as a control model based on designer’s expertise. The data is arranged according to the time and game events (combats, mechanics, etc).
So, if we consider the analysis of a game level, this is a very interesting approach to help designers to optimize their work, according to the problems highlighted in the reports.

Other formats of collecting data through games show us that the game itself has a lot to bring in terms of information about engagement and feedback. ResearchThroughGaming is a project that does market research using game mechanics, narratives, sound effects and graphics to collect data in an immersive survey. A very interesting approach using games to collect relevant data.

And what the data can teach us about storytelling?
Everything. If we could test the games with people of different backgrounds, including cultures and genres, it could be possible to create a framework of a general gameplay experience. Also it could be possible to include the context and medium of the gameplay design. In which situation is the player? At home? In bed? Playing during the morning? Is he/she playing a game in a mobile phone or console games? Those could be questions to be considered.

At some point, the context seems to be hidden. It could be interesting to establish a way to understand the aspect of gameplay during the day of the player. However, this doesn’t underestimate the value of this research. The evaluation of a positive experience is extremely clear by the Biometrics Storyboarding.

Presentation is everything
It is possible to collect data from different methods, as we know. However the way we present that information is still one part that needs attention. The research is only “over” when it is possible to highlight a problem or an insight. The storyboarding fits the gameplay research because games are systems that have elements like narrative and story. So the format of a storyboarding is totally applicable.

Using this approach it could be possible to measure the aspects of immersion in a game and positive/negative reactions to each event. When game designers create a game, the plan and objective is very clear, however it is not known if the response form the player will be the one as predicted. Also, the use of this approach in game design could bring contributions in designing “behaviour” in the gameplay. It is evident that a lot of publications and tests will still bring us more findings not only in Games User Research, but in all User Experience Research field. So, let the games begin! :)

Read more
Biometric storyboards: visualising game user research data
University of Sussex
Video game storytelling: The real problems and the real solutions
Storyboarding for Games User Research

Let’s create better questionnaires (or just get rid of them)

Why do some questionnaires or surveys suck? This seems to be the most boring method to get data from people. Usually part of academic world, questionnaires and surveys are just… not engaging. I’m saying this because since I started my PhD, I’ve been interviewed, answered to questionnaires and had to publish some questions. However the feedback is always terrible. People just think this is really a waste of time – even if it will take 5 minutes. It’s like a nightmare.

Books say that offering prizes or rewards to have more people answering to your questions could work. Well, it could, but actually it doesn’t. Maybe after a few questionnaires you will have to be rich to give people money or other material prizes.

You can try to use your friends to answer the questionnaires for you – they will make you this favor. But, again, this is just friendship. In the end they will think, well “you owe me a beer”, or “that was really boring, I’ve done it just because you’re my friend”. Hopefully they stay friends after it.

That brings us to this magical word: engagement. Well, so we are not talking about marketing strategy at the moment. The meaning of engagement here is to call people’s attention to one cause and make them do something for you. It doesn’t sound simple. Try to remember when you wanted someone to do something for you – you normally give something in return, right?

But why we just don’t do that because it could be meaningful? That’s the point that we need to come to. It is important to us (specially us from the academia) to make things relevant to people.

So if you want to make a good questionnaire, there are a few things that you need to consider:

1. Make it meaningful to people
Explain the main purpose of the questionnaire. You don’t need to give money or a prize. The motivation should be the idea of collaboration.

2. People are not numbers
You are dealing with people not an excel. Talk to them, in their language. If your sample is young, why not making it more interactive?

3. Talk to you public
Use the right words. You don’t need to be so formal or not too informal, but you need to know who are the people you are asking questions. This is simple and it doesn’t take time. If you don’t know your public, you can’t create a good questionnaire.

4. Make it look great
No one likes big questionnaires. I could quote lots of researches about it. We just know. So, if your questionnaire is big, at least, try to make it breathe! White spaces, please. Good typography (readable).

5. Be objective
Please do not make rounds and rounds about the content. They will not read. Be objective, and strict to the point.

6. Give feedback
“I’m giving you my data, and what are you going to do with that?” – Imagine if you’re giving inputs about some subject and you don’t hear about it in the future? It’s like doing something for nothing (really). Also, do not forget (please) to say how many questions people need to ask. They want to know. This is important.

7. Make them care about your research
Now this could be difficult, but just let think. How would you make people listen to your research questions? Well, just make them understand your thoughts and ideas. Explain in a few words what are you looking for and how people are important to you (Yes, they are very very very important).

8. In other words, make it user-friendly!
Nielsen already said: “Engagement requires usability”. So why do we still make the same mistakes why making a questionnaire?

Remember, people do not have time. We live in a world where everything is online, fast, quick and full of information. This is why we need to understand people and care about them too!

However, I won’t leave this post without any links. So, please if you need, some good websites created tools for surveys that are really useful. However, do not forget: you’re the one to provide the content and the flow of the questionnaire. So choose well your tools. Or just do not use questionnaires for everything. What do you think?

Some tools
http://www.allourideas.org/
https://quiz.typeform.com/
http://fluidsurveys.com/mobile
http://dotsurvey.com/
http://www.wufoo.com/

photo credit: Exam via photopin (license)

It’s all about flat, and I’m sick of it

The widely expected day that Apple would launch new features has come. The Apple’s annual WWDC conference brought lots of suprises for the community. The most commented fact was that iOS7 has been completely redesigned, becoming flatter… And….

I must say that it seems that everyone just got interested by the flat interface. I believe in context + funcionality. I think that making things more simple is always the best choice. Why we don’t call flat as just interface? Sometimes it sounds like an artistic movement, like surrealism.

Visual design is in the top of the UX iceberg. That’s the feature that people really ‘see’ but and the rest of the structure? Where is it? I believe that one app/system should work well for what we really need in a specific context. What I mean about it is that, in my opinion, interaction should be meaningful. It should work according to people’s needs. I don’t mind if this is flat. Maybe it’s better for my reading. I need to test it before saying anything. But the keyboard is going to change? And the gestures? Are we ok with this interaction? Is that ok?

 

 

 

I will tell a story. My dad is a businessman and he told me: “I got a good app in my tablet (showed me Google Translate) and you don’t need to type anything, just write and it recognizes your handwritting.” Well, this is good because in my app in my Ipad I need to type. And I must say, I don’t like typing in my devices. Why? I don’t feel this is the best experience for me. And I think this can be other people’s problem. But we are always getting used to new technologies.


And what does it have to do with flat? Well, again I don’t mind if it’s flat. I don’t need flat. I need something that works for me in my context. I don’t need 3D icons, fliters, rainbows.

Is that really important?
I’m not saying that I don’t agree with iOS 7. I just don’t think flat is more important than a new interaction or solution for an old problem (keyboard?).

Wait till fall
However we can’t judge an interface without interacting with it. That’s the main problem of all the discussions. We are only looking at the top of the iceberg and forgetting all the rest. How do we know if this really works? We all know that interfaces work better in their contexts. We can’t say it doesn’t work or not without using it.

Make something better, then criticize
I remember listening to Don Norman’s presentation at Interaction South America last year – we can’t say that this is a bad solution if we don’t have any other solution. However, WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING MEANINGFUL. So I will leave this post with just a suggestion. We have a LOT of work to do.

See more:
http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672780/why-jony-ive-is-flattening-ios-7
http://thenextweb.com/apple/2013/06/10/apple-2013-wwdc-keynote-ios7-revealed/
http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/design/
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-10/apple-revamps-iphone-software-in-push-to-end-product-funk.html

Brazilian references:
http://youpix.com.br/viral-2/top-10-reacoes-ao-lancamento-do-ios-7/
http://www.techtudo.com.br/noticias/noticia/2013/06/apple-apresenta-novidades-para-o-ios-e-mac-os-x-na-wwdc-2013.html

photo credit: Glamour Cat via photopin (license)