Wednesday 30 December 2015

Another bear

Every time my mum meets one of the bears I've made for someone else she tries to steal it.  "He's so cute," she exclaims, "I want one!"  So for Christmas I made her one of her own. 

I would have liked to make him a jumper like my first bear, seeing as I know he's going to be living on a building site for a bit (my parents are renovating their house) and I know it will be cold there but I only just had time to finish him, never mind a jumper too.  At least he is a wooly bear - that should help.  Hopefully any more bears I make will be safe from her clutches now!

If you know a charity which could do with some friendly knitted bears please let me know.  I love knitting them, but want them to have a purpose.  If they can go out into the world and help make someone's life a little better I think that would be a pretty good purpose.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Lester the Lion

I've been knitting again (mostly as a stress buster while studying).  It's another pattern from HuggableBears called Lester the Lion, and while I've been wanting to try this pattern out for a while this particular Lester will be going to another set of friends who have just had a baby.

Except for his nose seeming to be a little wonky I think he came out really well.  I've never tried knitting the the eye lash wool before (his mane and tail) but it wasn't that bad - the hardest part was finding lion coloured wool!  
He's about the same size as the bear's I've been making, but with much bigger paws and a nice long tail.  I hope William Leonard Ashley likes him.

Sunday 13 December 2015

A Christmas wreath

Its been a little busy these past few weeks, what with job searching, interviews, starting a new job as a Junior UX Designer and getting everything ready for Christmas.
So in the past where I've made my own Christmas wreaths, there just hasn't been any time this year.  However a friends daughter has just started her own floristry business, Briar Rose Floral Design, and so I very happily purchased one from her.
She had a few to choose from, but I love this design the most.  Very simple and clean, but also a beautiful mix of colours.  I can't wait to see what other displays she creates.

Saturday 21 November 2015

My portfolio

You might remember this image from Week 7 of UXDI when I started working on my portfolio
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a bit, might have noticed that my little logo has now appeared in the top right corner along with the links to other social media.  If you're brave you might even have clicked it and found yourself on my portfolio.

This portfolio has been long in the making and is in fact my second attempt.  The point is to show my UX skills off so people can see the sorts of projects I have worked on and my design methodology, and because I like a challenge and I like to learn new things I built it from scratch in HTML and CSS, rather than use a template.  This does mean that its not responsive yet, but I'm working on this and soon it will look just as good on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop.  Normally I would have build it the other way round so it looked good on the mobile first, however I had a deadline to work to.  But I did have the mobile version in mind when designing the desk top, so it shouldn't be to hard to amend.

Feel free to go have a look and if you have any comments do let me know.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Business Cards

After all the work on UXDI to learn about UX design, now I have to go and show potential employers why they should employ me rather than any of the other guys from my course.
First things first - I need a business card!

They arrived today and I'm really excited.  I've never had business cards before and these rather fetching 'green' cards from Moo have come out just how I wanted. 

I designed myself a logo after week 6 - visual design week, but wasn't sure what it would look like in print.  I shouldn't have worried, they came out perfectly.

And I might have got a little excited and bought some stickers too, but they are very excellent.  At least you'll know if I've been around if you find these stuck all over the place.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Knitted poppy

Last summer I came across a knitting pattern for a poppy.  As I'm trying to improve my knitting skills while creating things I actually want I thought it might be quite a nice project.  I ordered myself some wool and had a go.

Detail of the leaf
However, while the stalk, leaf and petals came together quite well I got stuck on the tiny black centre.  I tried so many times to make it and in the end actually snapped the end off one of my bamboo needles! And so I gave up.  I couldn't knit it with one needle.  
Then on the stars and snowflakes crochet workshop a couple of weeks ago one of the ladies had a knitted poppy with a button centre.  Perfect!  I raided my button jar as soon as I got home.

I am so please with how its come out.  I deliberately worked a safety pin into the stalk while making it up so its easy to attached, but maybe a tiny bit too big to wear.  I think it looks great on my bag.

But while this was a nice project to work on and I am happy with the end result I have not forgotten why we wear our poppies.  

We will not forget!

Saturday 7 November 2015

UXDI - Week 10

Me with Ben, Zhenjie and Simon - last rehearsal 
So there it is 10 weeks done and UXDI complete.  Except it’s not really - now the hard work begins as we sort out our portfolios and start to look for jobs.
I have had an amazing 10 weeks!  I’m so glad of all my previous reading, I think I would have found some of it much harder without it, and of course there were ups and downs, but right now I am just amazed at the amount I have learnt and how well our final project went.
Coffee shop paper prototype - a little bit of last day fun
Week 10 was all about Wednesday.  On that day all our clients came, one by one, to hear us present the work of the past 2 weeks. My group were last and the bar was high after watching everyone else’s presentations, but when we finally stood up there it went really well and ALL the feedback was so positive!
To have the client ask if I would continue on the project was another real confidence booster.

The final presentation
I have to say a huge thank you to everyone at GA - not just Andrew and Luis but all the people like Laura and the TA's working behind the scenes just making it all happen.  Also to the rest of the class, everyone has been so nice and supportive - it made it so easy to work with them.

And finally I have to say a massive thank you to ‘im outdoors.  For all the lifts to and from the station, all the dinners cooked for me and for all the UX stuff he’s had to listen to and read every day without a word of complaint.  I might have been able to do it without him, but it certainly wouldn’t have been such a good experience.

So in true UXDI style here are my three key takeaways from the course:
1. Don’t be so precious about your work.  Be ok with chucking it out and starting again (once you’ve taken photos)
2. Take photos of everything, you never know when you might need them
3. Time management is key (I already knew this, but I think it might have been a new concept to some of my class mates)

So now is the start of a brand new adventure.  I don’t know what comes next but I’m excited to find out…

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 on UXDI. 

Saturday 31 October 2015

UXDI - Week 9

Luis explaining something to me
Another busy week as we went into the second week of our client project.  This week was all about design and actually started on Sunday when we spent the day at Ben’s house working on a first rough paper prototype.
This gave us something to test on Monday and as the week progressed we made changes and made it clickable, then into hi fidelity mock ups.
We met with Rishabh on Tuesday and Thursday and I think he was happy with the work we’ve done.  We’ll find out for real when we present the proposed design to him on Wednesday.
Second Home where our client works
Again it was another great week.  We’ve worked hard and I’m tired and suffering with a bit of a cold, but I’ve come home happy most night’s knowing that we are really making headway with the project.

Me with Simon, Zhenjie and Ben
To keep me going I’ve started to listen to some podcasts in the mornings when there is nothing I can do on the train.  My favourite is the Design Details podcast where Brian and Byne talk to designers based in San Francisco.  It is always interesting, inspiring and full of things that I can identify with and as long as I don’t think about the fact that most of them are younger than me by a good 5 years but are still talking about 'full careers', then it’s fine.
Having my photo taken
On Tuesday we had headshots done.  A quick photo session with a professional to give us good photos for our portfolios and social media.
On Thursday I attended the Mobile UX meet up at ustwo.  It was a really inspiring session called UX for Good.  I could have stayed there all night listening to the stuff they’ve worked on and their process.  One of the project was MoodNotes which feels like it really might help people.  These are the sort of projects I want to work on!
And then on Friday afternoon Christian and James from Sword and Stone came to help us with our presentation skills.

Creating our first paper prototype
With just a week to go, there still seems to be an awful lot to do but the idea of sleeping until 7am, going for a run any time I want and a bit of evening knitting are beautiful things I am looking forward to and will keep me going for the last 7 days.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on UXDI. 

Saturday 24 October 2015

UXDI - Week 8

Creating personas
This week has flown by but its gone really well.

Week 8 was probably the one I was most worried about.  For the last 3 weeks of the UXDI course we are working on a client project - this time with a real-life company who really do need our help.  It is also another team project (and you know how the last one went), and it means there are only 3 weeks until we finish the course and are released out into the wild!  All reasonable things to worry about I think.
However there was nothing to worry about (as is so often the case with these things).
We were given our teams and briefs last Friday and I found myself assigned as team mentor working with Simon, Ben and Zhenjie.
Capturing possible user tasks
My role as team mentor is to keep the team organised and make sure we keep to schedule, along with all the other UX stuff, and as I love planning this is my perfect role.
We started the week by meeting with our client Rishabh to get a better understanding of his company and the issue he needs help with.  Then it was into the UX process which we’ve just spent the last 7 weeks learning, concluding this week with a ‘design studio’ on Friday afternoon where Rishabh and his team joined us in generating ideas.  It was a really fun session and and we got some really interesting ideas out of it, perfect for next week which is design week.

Idea generation in our 'design studio'
Thanks to anyone who filled in our survey or let us interview you!  (The survey will be up for another week so if you haven’t done it there is still time!)  Without your input we wouldn’t be able to start designing tomorrow.

This week we also had lectures on Working with Client and Content Strategy, and Olga from Red Badger visited us on Friday to talk about Kanban - a method of organising your time and work.  Sadly we missed some of that due to the ‘design studio’.

Presenting ideas back to the team in the 'design studio'
If next week continues in the same vain as this one then we have nothing to worry about, although I can’t help but be glad that we gain an hour tonight.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 on UXDI.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Crochet stars and snowflakes

Ages ago, in the summer, when I still had a job and didn’t know what GA was, I attended a workshop to learnt how to crochet.  It was great fun, kinda like knitting but a bit more relaxed and I took to it like water.  When I saw they were also running a workshop on crochet stars and snowflakes I signed up straight away.  I love stars!  

And it would be something to keep me motivated to use the skills I had just learnt.
So tonight I rushed home from London and out to Stitched By You for a couple of hours of crochet.

We started with a simple snowflake.  Then made a slightly bigger one (I also have the pattern for the next size up too).  Then I moved on to star’s; one with 5 points and one with 6 (because I miss-judged the spacing).

You can’t really see it in the photos but the wool has a sparkle to it, which is perfect for both stars and snowflakes.  If they were hung on a christmas tree, for instance, they would twinkle as they moved.

It was a lovely evening, maybe because I was concentrating so hard I didn’t think about UX once!  Or maybe just because I’ve missed creating things like this.  I wonder how many I can make out of one ball of wool?

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Another Survey

Writing survey questions
This week we start on our last project.  This one is with a real client which is really exciting but a bit scary too.  They are a small start-up who want to help people save money on their energy bills.  More about that at the weekend.

So if you pay for energy, please take 5 minutes to fill in our survey, or if you don't pay the bills and know someone who does - pass the survey on to them.

Thank you!

Saturday 17 October 2015

UXDI - Week 7

This week was Front End Web Development (FEWD) week.
About 7 years ago I did a part time distance learning course on all things web.  At the end of it I was awarded the Master CIW Web Site Manager certificate, but didn’t really use it although it did give me the confidence to apply for the role in the Digital Team which kinda got me to where I am right now.
At the end of the course I created a website for ‘im outdoors but other than that in the last 7 years I haven’t really done any coding, just some basic stuff for HTML emails or web forms for work.

My code
So I wasn’t sure how this week would go, and while I was pretty rusty I was surprised how quickly it came back.  I also really enjoyed having someone to ask when things weren’t going quite to plan, something you can’t really do when distance learning.

Andrew made the classes fun and even those who had been feeling worried about it came up with some great results.  We also had Keith helping, a graduate from the Web Development Immersive course.

And how my page actually looked
The point of the week wasn’t to learn how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery in a week, but to help us understand what developers are doing and get us to start reading code, even if we can’t write it.  From experience I know this makes it a lot easier to work with the development team and makes it a quicker and more pleasant experience for everyone.

So now I have to decide if I want to code up my own portfolio or use a template.  Both solutions have their own pros and cons but I have to say I’m leaning towards doing it myself.  I guess it will all depend on how much time I have to do it, and maybe even how much support there is too.

The UXPA panel
In other news I am feeling pretty exhausted now as I attended the Ladies that UX meet up on Tuesday and the UXPA meet up on Thursday.  Ladies that UX was held at Google this month and covered International Research, while UXPA covered The Role of UX in Advertising.  Both were really interesting and gave me much to think about, especially about the ethics of UX.

The other thing to think about this week was my CV.  We had a CV workshop on Wednesday afternoon which gave us some good tips on things to include (or not to include) on a CV.

And finally we no longer have the top floor to ourselves as the next UXDI class started this week.  Its odd not being able to spread out anymore.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on UXDI.  

Saturday 10 October 2015

UXDI - Week 6

Week 6 was all about Visual Design and after the last 5 weeks it was a nice change.  There was still much to learn, but it was a little less intense.
Andrew was taking a back seat this week as Tricia was running the class.  She’s from America and has run the UXDI course in New York and London so knew exactly what she was doing.
The aim of the week was to take our app designs from Week 1 and make them look nice.  To do this we used a programme called Sketch (although some people stuck with things like Photoshop if that’s what they were used to).
Not only could we make our old designs look nice but we could fix the problems which were now obvious to us after 5 weeks of intensive UX training.

Dan's app Dare, allows you to dare your friends to do activities
 I was sitting next to Dan this week and was intrigued to watch him create his rocket icon for his app.  I’m new to visual design and Sketch so I’ve been learning as I go along, but I’ve learnt lots from just watching what he’s been doing and asking for help when needed from the guys who have visual design backgrounds - particularly Dan and Stratis.  Thanks guys.  The TA’s Tom and Mollie were also invaluable resources. 

Moodboard for my app
We also had a field trip out to the Design Museum to look at the Design of the Year nominations.  The range was amazing, but I did find myself drawn to the designs which aimed to improve life by filtering city air, removing plastic from the sea, or responsive street furniture which helps disabled people, amongst others.  It was nice to see Monument Valley (see week 2) nominated! 

Style Tile - helps me to keep my design focused
And as we aren’t going to present any projects in the next couple of weeks, we were asked to do flash talks (2 a day) - 5 minutes on a subject we’re interested in.  I had the privilege of going first on Monday afternoon, so put together some slides on making paper (what else?!).  The photos from this blog came in very handy.  I made sure to take some samples with me too which everyone loved!

Before: How my app looked by the end of week 1
After: How my app looked by the end of week 6
 So all in all a very satisfying week.  It was amazing to see the metamorphosis of my grey design of week 1 into a beautiful colourful butterfly.  It’s hard to even recognise it.  I’m still no visual design expert but maybe with a little practice I can do this.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on UXDI.

Saturday 3 October 2015

UXDI - Week 5

Walking across the Thames to catch the late train home
Hello October!  Hello week 5!  Where did September go?!

I think this has been the most difficult week so far of UXDI.  Second week of project 3 and everyone is feeling the pressure. 
Project 3 is a team project and so while learning more new UX methods we have also been learning how to work with each other as a team.  
Teams are tricky things at the best of times and can take a while to really gel, so expecting perfection in 2 weeks is a bit silly but I’ve worked in teams for the past 15 years and never had problems like this!  
I have thought about this a lot over the last week or so and have come to the conclusion it is mostly because no-one on this project had a job title and so no clearly defined set of tasks to do.  The fact we also had 4 strong personalities probably didn’t help either.

Redesigning a remote control - not as easy as you might think
The week was mostly workshop time letting us work on prototypes of our design and test them, before putting together the presentation for Friday.
We did have a lecture on Interface Design and one on how to use Axure but I think we all agreed that we’d maybe leave Axure to another project.  It’s an amazing programme but looks like you could get pretty complex pretty quick.

Pin up of all our work so far
On Wednesday we had a guest speaker Jo Phillips from BlackRock.  I found her very inspiring.  It was so nice to hear someone being so honest about the challenges of working in a large business and trying not only to bring UX in but Lean too.  Some of the things she said really rang true from where we tried some of these things at the University.

Anyway, we got there in the end and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about how  teams work.  The Friday presentation went really well and we got some good feedback.

Next week we’re back working on our own and onto Visual Design week which should be very interesting.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1, 2, 3 and 4 on UXDI.