Saturday 26 September 2015

UXDI Week 4

Team Quora
Week 4 and I think everyone is starting to feel it a bit.  We are all tired and some of us are ill (yep me too) and we’ve had our first drop out taking us down to 17 students.  (I think this was a joint decision as I don’t think her English was good enough for the pace of the class)

This week we start on Project 3.  This one is a team project and I’m working with Liv, Walter and Zein.

Zein and Walter discussing personas
Not living in London hasn’t been an issue, and I’m not sure it’s an issue now, but it has meant the team have had to plan more.  On Sunday we had to meet up to discuss the project.  But I couldn’t really afford or face the hour and a half journey up and back for an hour and a half meeting.  Luckily Skype stepped in and allowed us to meet to discuss everything we needed to be ready for Monday.  Then during the week Trello and Slack have helped us keep in touch out of class hours.
Lessons over the week included project planning, user research and its deliverables, creating surveys, contextual inquiries, mobile design, personas and designing to be accessible.  All fascinating stuff.

Affinity map of our research so far
Our brief looks at the website Quora so our research needed to look at Q&A’s and AMA’s (Ask Me Anything).  First things first we needed to create a survey to send out to as many people as possible.  

A big thank you for everyone who took the time to fill it in!  Without your answers we would have nothing to base our design on!  

If you haven’t filled it in and want to the survey will be live for a little longer.
By the end of the week we had enough survey result and user interviews (thanks to anyone who allowed me to interview them too!) done to allow us to run another design studio - to help us come up with ideas before making our first paper prototype.

Purely by chance I attended the monthly UXPA event this week, which happened to be a panel Q&A discussion on ‘Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about design (but were too afraid to ask)’.  Perfect for our project!  It was a great event and I took many notes on how a real life Q&A session works.  
I’ve been volunteering with UXPA for about a year now - normally I’m on the door handing out name badges and ticking people off the guest list - for doing this I get to sit in some really interesting talks and discussions.  All of which have helped with my understanding of UX and Design.

On Tuesday we also had a panel of ex UXDI student come and speak to us about life after GA.  They are all doing some really cool stuff now and look pretty happy.  Maybe in the future I’ll be able to sit up there and try to inspire and reassure some future students.  That would be really cool.

And on Friday we had a guest speaker, Ross Robinson who was a recruiter before he did UXDI.  He came to give us tips on working with recruiters to find a job after the course, or as he said why wait till then - get looking now!

Friday was also Graduation for the UXDI7 cohort - the guys who did this course over the summer.  GA is all about community so we were invited to come along and meet them and celebrate with them.  But before that we were kicked out so they could get the rooms set up, so we went for a class dinner together at a local pizza place.  So nice to just chill together with no deadlines or need to talk UX.  These guys are all amazing.

Class dinner before going to graduation
Then back up the 4 flights of stairs to the party.  I didn’t stay too long as I was starting to feel pretty ill (its just a head cold), but the bit of the party I saw was great.  It's weird how big the classrooms look without tables in and no post-it notes on the walls.

I’ve plenty to get on with over the weekend, but hopefully I can catch up on some sleep too and feel better for Monday.

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

Wednesday 23 September 2015

User research

Coming up with questions for our survey
So we’re into week 4 now and rather than just be given pre-done research to base our projects on we are now starting to do our own research.  So if you’d like to help me out on learning how to conduct user research please give me 3 mins of your time and fill in my survey.  Come back on Saturday to hear how I’m getting on.

Thank you!

Saturday 19 September 2015

UXDI - Week 3

Wireframe for one of the pages on my mini site
So that was week 3 and project 2.  It wasn’t quite as intense as week 1 and 2 in the sense that there were a few less lectures but there was still a tonne to do.
It helped that I had spent the weekend creating wireframes for my site, so on Monday I was in about the right place.  But I know that some people have started to feel the strain a bit.  I have to say that the two hours on the train every day have actually been quite helpful.  Time to work and no internet to distract.

Pin up of all my work so far (that day) for project 2
We started the week looking at Navigation and how it is important that we make sites that our users can learn, rather than having to remember where things are.
We then looked at web forms.  In my old role I created many web forms and yet I never thought about half the things covered in the lecture!

Wireframe sketches before getting them into OmniGraffle
We also looked at creating another clickable prototype this time using inVision.  Its quite a nice site to use and made my prototype feel like a real site, even if it didn’t look like it.
With clickable prototypes all set up we could then start testing and collecting feedback, before fixing any issues and testing again.  Over the week I think I managed 4 iterations, but there are still things I could do to improve my prototype.
On Friday we presented our projects to the class which went quite well.  I got good feedback with some good pointers for improving.  And before we'd even had time to congratulate ourselves we were given the brief for project 3!

Presenting Project 2
On Tuesday evening I went to the September Ladies that UX London meeting, this month at AKQA.  I’ve been going to these monthly meetings for nearly a year now and always find them interesting and useful.  I couldn’t help but smile when the subject this month covered prototyping.

And on Wednesday we had another guest lecture.  This time it was Amit Patel who is an ex UXDI student from this time last year and is now a Product Manager at ADIO (launching later this month).  It was great to see how UX fits into his role and to see how you don’t have to have a job with UX in the title to be using it.

Testing my prototype with Ayo
So another grand week with the only problem being my jealousy of the runners I see as I walk from Waterloo to class.  I’d much rather be running, although with a 15lb (7kg) pack I’m not sure I’d be able to.

I look forward to much sleep this weekend to start week 4 and project 3 fresh and full of beans.

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

Saturday 12 September 2015

UXDI - Week 2

So that was week 2.  It didn’t feel like week 2, we’ve done so much that each time Andrew says something like ‘don’t worry about that now, we’ll cover it later, remember its only week 2’, I am shocked every time.

Writing out index cards on the train
So as you can tell another busy week.  We kicked off Project 2 on Monday.  This one runs for 2 weeks so shouldn’t be quite the mad scramble of last week.
We started off by getting an understanding of the design process and how this relates to our brief; this project is a mini site for an e-commerce website.  Most of the research has been done for us, so we have a good basis to work from.
We then looked at Information Architecture (IA) which is the name for sorting information and giving it meaning.  To do this we created a card sort.  

A completed card sort
Basically we took 100 index cards and wrote down items of information on each, in my case groceries as I’m working on a food website, and then asked people to group the index cards together depending on the information on each.  Once they had groups we asked the user to give each group a title.  For instance a group of cards with ‘coffee’, ‘tea’ and ‘hot chocolate’ on might sit in a group called ‘Hot Drinks’.
Our first attempt, in groups, was with sweets - surprisingly difficult, but fun.  It's easier when you can't eat your 'cards'.

Card sorting with sweets
From this information we created site maps which show all the parts/pages of a website and show their relationships to each other in one diagram.  
Then we started to look at Interaction Design (IXD) which takes the information from the site map and turns it into the navigation of the site, but is so much more than that - think of every interaction with a website you have - think buttons and carousels and sliders etc.  I imagine we’ll be covering more of this as we go.  If you want to see some amazing IXD check out Monument Valley.  Its a game with the most amazing IXD as well as being beautiful.
Next we used a method called Design Studio to create ideas to solve a problem as a group.  This was great fun - lots of sketching and stealing of ideas.  You’re not really stealing as you are all working together to solve the problem and by doing this you end up with a better design.

Learning OmniGraffle
And last but not least we then learnt how to use a software called OmniGraffle, which helps us to build site maps, user flows and wireframes in a way which should communicate our ideas in an easier to read format than our messy sketches.

Starting to sketch wireframes
On top of this we had a guest speaker on Wednesday.  Murat from Marvel App came to speak to us about setting up his own business and creating an app to help UX designers prototype their designs.
Not only was this interesting but insightful too - if we have a cool idea there is no reason why we have to go out there and work for someone else.

In other news Mollie and Tom were both away this week so Neej, another past student, was helping out.  It’s so useful talking to them as they know exactly how hard it is, and can explain things in a different way from Andrew or Luis to help us understand.
And I’ve already worn out my first pen and had to swap to another one!  If that’s one pen a week I’m going to have to get some more pens.
Commuting hasn’t been too bad this week, it helps that I’ve not had to stay late for anything.  We worked out that I must be walking about 17 miles a week now, which is way more than I would have run (depending on my long Sunday run), so at least I’m still getting some exercise.
And ‘im outdoors is learning way more about UX than he thought he would; good value for money - 2 for 1!
So another good week.  I’m looking forward to really getting to grips with my design for Project 2. I wonder what we’ll learn next week.

Read about why I left my job and Week 1 on UXDI.

Sunday 6 September 2015

A little bit of sneaky knitting

A lot of people will recognise the cable above as a typical power cable for a mac.  The week before UXDI started it was suggested that as most people would be attending with a mac it would be sensible to mark our cables up so there wouldn't be any confusion.
I started with some washi tape, but it wouldn't stay stuck down so I had another think (and looked on google for inspiration).
There were quite a lot of people using knitted i-cords for headphone, which I loved the idea of, however when I tried it the power cable was just too thick.  So I did it another way - knitting myself a tiny strip of knitting - only 10 stitches wide, then sewing it to the cable.

I'm very pleased with how it's come out.  There is no way anyone can confuse this with their's now and I think it looks pretty good.  If I was doing it again I think I'd use only 8 stitches, but we live and learn.
I have had the suggestion that as I've made the cable a scarf maybe I should knit the plug a balaclava, but I think that can wait till another day.

Saturday 5 September 2015

UXDI - Week 1

Sketching global elements of a web page

It’s a week since I started my new adventure on UXDI (User Experience Design Immersive) with General Assembly (GA).  It doesn’t feel like a week, it feels more like a year with all the information and activities they have packed into it.
We started on a wet Bank Holiday Monday - too much to cover to miss a day, and who really minded as the rain came down outside.
Weirdly we are based exactly opposite where I did my paper making course a couple of years ago!
There are 18 of us, mostly guys but I’m used to that, with tutor Andrew and Luis, Mollie and Tom in support - all ex students from the course.
The atmosphere is great, with lectures in the morning and workshop in the afternoon, letting us put into practice what we’ve learnt that day straight away.

This first week has been all about learning the basics; a little bit of user research, some sketching and some prototyping.  Put like that it doesn’t seem like so much but the real list goes:
Stand up (were we cover what we did yesterday, what we'll do today and any problems we're having - all in 30 seconds)

User Research
User interviewing (including the 5 W's and a H - Who, What, Where, When, Why and How)

Participatory Design (where you work with your user to create designs)
Concept maps (bit like a mind map)

Sketching ideas and interfaces
User flows (both tasks and page flows)
Paper prototyping
Prototyping using the app POP

User testing (to make sure your idea works)

All of this with the premise that we design an app for our design partner which will help them in their day to day life to be presented to the class by the end of the week.

Paper Prototyping

It felt like a bit of scramble, but we all did it, and some of the ideas and presentations were pretty good, with, I think we worked out, only really about a day and a half to work on them.
We should get a bit longer for the next project…

My first project presentation
My biggest issue has been the commute into and out of London every day.  The whole journey door to door takes just over one and a half hours which has knocked my morning runs on the head and cut the amount of time I can spend with ‘im outdoors.  But I have tried to make use of that hour on the train each way, sketching and writing notes although there is only so much you can do on a train.  I have no doubt that this will get better the more I do it.

My office on the train
When they named the course Immersive they really meant it and with 9 more weeks I feel a mixture of excitement about what we will learn next and slight trepidation about the work still to come, but I imagine that’s because its 7am and I’m sleepy and writing this on the train (see, I told you I tried to make good use of that hour).
It’s been a good week, and I can say I have learnt tonnes, I know that I will learn tonnes more and I haven’t been bored at any point (one reason for leaving my job).  I look forward to next week and building on what I’ve learnt so far.