Posts tagged “user experience”

The Insight at Scale track from Enterprise UX

A couple of months ago I moderated the “Insight at Scale” track at the Enterprise UX conference, which featured three presentations and discussion. The videos for each presentation (and our discussion) are below as well as links to the slide decks. There’s also sketch notes for the whole session.


Insight Types That Influence Enterprise Decision Makers – Christian Rohrer, Vice President and Chief Design Officer, Intel Security (slides)


Data Science and Design: A Tale of Two Tribes – Chris Chapo, Operations at ENJOY (slides)


Emotion Economy: Ethnography as Corporate Strategy – Kelly Goto, author of Web Redesign 2.0 (slides)


Discussion

Out and About: Steve in San Antonio

A couple of weeks ago I was in San Antonio, where I was one of the presenters and workshop leaders at the Enterprise UX conference. Here are some of my pictures.

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Out the hotel window, before the sun comes up.

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Welcome to the party.

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This toilet was flirting with me.

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Roasted? Iced? Local language norms or just really fancy catering?

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Conference breakfasts.

Epic FAIL: Takeaways from the War Stories project

Since 2012, I’ve been collecting War Stories, where researchers share the stuff that happens during fieldwork. There are more than 70 stories (start your reading here) and they’ve proven to be a valuable resource for the practice. I’ve been giving a talk over the past few months about the stories and what I’ve learned from the process of curating the stories as well as from the stories themselves. From UX Australia, here’s the audio, the (minimal) slides, and a few sketchnotes.

If you have a story about an experience you had doing contextual research, please get in touch! We want more stories!


To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

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Matthew Magain, UX Mastery

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Guillaume Hammadi

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Suj

Listen to Steve on the UX Discovery Session podcast

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I was interviewed by Gerard Dolan for the UX Discovery Session podcast. In 30 minutes we spoke about my twisted educational career path, the Interviewing Users book, some products and services I’m struck by and my fantasy of putting on a UX conference devoted to soft skills. You can listen to the interview below, or here (where Gerard has included a nice set of footnote-links).

To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac).

Advice for early-career designers

Last week I spoke at a fundraising event (Let’s talk design and help a kid with cancer) organized by Jorge Baltazar.

Glen Lipka, employee #1 of Marketo gave the first presentation, with advice about interviewing for a job in UX. In many ways, it was an object lesson in empathy, as he illustrated many ways that applicants fail to understand the mindset, goals or expectations of the person interviewing them. He described reviewing a portfolio with illegible yellow text over a gray background – but that he’s more focused on what transpires when he asks the applicant about it. A bad design choice is something he might expect in a less-experienced designer but the ability to explain a design choice and especially to acknowledge that a design decision could be improved was really what he was looking for. Some of his points are well-captured in How to Pass My UX Designer Phone Screen and his deck is here.

Aynne Valencia is a design strategist. She presented a “field report” from a number of conferences she’d been at in the last while (I remember IxD14, SXSW and some others in Europe), looking at the trends in interaction design that were here now, coming soon, and further out. Some examples included Brad the emotional toaster, and Berg’s Cloudwash. I couldn’t find her slide deck, either, but she continues to document the things she’s seeing on her blog.

Christian Crumlish, the Director of Product at CloudOn, spoke about what makes a great designer, acknowledging that he’s not a designer at the moment and further unpacking the challenging nature of trying to speak to such a big topic from one person’s biased point of view. Meanwhile, he identified three qualities

  • Breadth: Having creative pursuits outside of design that you can uses as sources of inspiration. His ukelele is an example of something he does for fun but will occasionally provide a surprising new perspective or framework. You can read a bit more on this same theme in my review of Debbie Millman’s How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer
  • Passion: Apply everything to your work, or refocus on new work if your passions leads you there.
  • Restlessness: Never being fully satisfied and always looking for something new or better.

Finally, with some prompting from Glen, he played and sang a bit of “Satellite of Love” on his ukelele.
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I was the last presenter. I gave an overview of my own crazy career path (see Disciplinarity and Rigour? My keynote from the 2008 Design Research Society conference and then offered the following thoughts and suggestions

  • Network. Do it online, but do it in person as well. LinkedIn is good for a soft intro, but find people and talk to them. Take a long view about your career and your relationships that are part of that career. Be authentic. Be interested. Don’t think about what people can do for you or you can push people away.
  • As you go out and speak to people, take the approach of prototype and iterate. Figure out your story, your objectives, what you have to offer and your strengths by talking them through. Use informational interviews to live practice of what you have to say and how you want to say it.
  • I can’t really back this up but I suspect that in one era, you’d be told to get a job in an agency because that’s where the good design was happening; and then in a subsequent era you’d be told to get a job inside a corporation because that’s where the design work really was, and then people might be telling you to work in a startup because (although not always the case) startups were really making design part of their thing, and now it doesn’t seem like terrible advice to do your own startup. Given the tools that are available for small teams to design, develop, build and deploy significant pieces of technology whether it’s the App sSore or AWS or whatever, it seems open to almost anyone now. Personally, I never really wanted to make a thing once I discovered facilitating others to be making a thing.
  • Look for your advantage in moments of upheaval. Design is changing; industrial design is really suffering, firms and agencies are suffering, teams are downsizing; UX is increasingly important but where the jobs are and what they entail keeps shifting.
  • There’s also something with increasingly alternative forms of education. Jon Kolko used to teach at SCAD and then he went and started his own school – the Austin Center for Design. Jared Spool is in the process of starting a school in Chattanooga – the Unicorn Institute. These people are seeing the gaps between the jobs that need to be filled and the people that are trained to do them and they are trying to address that. Even if you aren’t seeking education yourself, there are patterns emerging and it’s worth your while to keep an eye on it, keep trying to make sense of it, and keep trying to connect what you are passionate to do with what the opportunities are
  • For me, career has been struggle in various forms all the way along. It’s great to have the benefit of time because then you can have hindsight. Struggle might be another way of saying that it’s about finding the next challenge and pursuing it, because the ground doesn’t stay still beneath your feet. There are plenty of rewards along the way; and the struggle sucks the most in the early days; it is suckiest when you are at the bottom of the Maslow pyramid and are concerned with survival not spiritual fulfillment. Over and over again I keep being reminded that no one will come and hand it to you. I keep waiting to be discovered and given a magic solution but really it’s about moving forward in small ways.

Thanks to Jorge for organizing this and the speakers for some really compelling talks.

Steve quoted in “Digital Products Flunking User Test”

I was interviewed by CruxialCIO about how companies can design and redesign digital and mobile products that engage rather than frustrate. The article (Digital Products Flunking User Test) is broken across three tabs (SituationSolutionsTakeaways) and the quotes from me appear on the second two tabs. FYI, the pages are a bit slow to load.

Remember the precedents. While copying competitors isn’t necessarily advisable, it doesn’t make sense to design, for example, a fly swatter that you use by swinging a string around with the flat swatter piece attached to it. People expect a stick at the end. “You can’t fail to acknowledge that there are precedents out there,” says Portigal.

“There’s some history about how customers are going to expect something to work. Everyone is a consumer so in an enterprise situation, we bring in expectations about how something should work.” If people expect that swiping left or right, double clicking, or other gestures will have a certain outcome, the lack of that outcome will be confusing. After Apple came out with the iPhone, for example, it became quickly clear that when consumers wanted a smartphone, they expected something fairly similar in form factor and function to the iPhone.

Steve interviewed for UX Magazine

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When I spoke recently in Los Angeles I was interviewed by Luke Swenson of Media Contour.

The interview has been published on UX Magazine.

When should our clients invest in user research?

There are two things that you should watch for that can indicate it’s time. One is when you realize that you don’t know the answer to an important question. For instance, maybe you’re not sure who you’re targeting with a product or service. The second one is more difficult: it’s when you believe you have the problem already solved but you’re operating without any type of humility—you’re believing your own hype, so to speak. You’re making assumptions without any facts or evidence to back up those assumptions.

Steve interviewed in UX Matters

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UXmatters has just published their interview with me. Here’s a snippet; please see the whole thing here.

Jeff: Someone reading the unassuming title Interviewing Users might at first think that you’ve written an impersonal reference book. While there are sample documents and practical tips aplenty, there are also what are almost philosophical passages that refer to the self-control and mindfulness that a successful interviewer must cultivate. For example, you explain how to accept awkward situations and “check your world view at the door.” Do you feel that the many years you’ve spent practicing these skills professionally have bled into your interactions away from work?

Steve: Your question makes me happy. I think that was something I could bring to the book that might take it beyond a catalog of tips and tricks. The work that I’ve done and the opportunity that I’ve had to reflect on it over many years has given me a richer perspective. And you’re right, it comes down to a lot of fundamentals about who we are and how we deal with other people. I don’t mean that one can literally replicate the interviewer persona in every context-and to an introvert like I am, that would be a horrible idea-but what you’re saying is right on. My work has given me a lot of tools with which I can look at myself in other kinds of settings-both in social settings and in other kinds of professional settings. That’s obviously not the thrust of the book, but it’s there for the taking if you want to reflect a little bit on who you are, how you interact, and how that can inform your design work, your creative work, and so on.

Interviewing the Interviewer – Steve Portigal talks with Maish Nichani

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UX Booth has published a two-part conversation I had with Maish Nichani of Pebble Road.

In Part 1, Maish interviews me (excerpt below). We explore a few aspects of the research process, including how a project plan is negotiated.

MN: What is an appropriate response to give clients who insist on specifying aspects of your research methodology?
SP: Whenever a client approaches me and has already specified the approach we should take with their study, that’s usually time for a conversation. Sometimes teams create a research plan as a stake in the ground when what they actually want is feedback and a recommended approach. Sometimes, though, their plan is a good one, and we might just suggest one or two changes to see if they are amenable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve received a detailed request, exclaimed “what?!” and then had a really excellent conversation to better understand the reasons behind it. Obviously, no one should take a project where they don’t believe the method is going to produce results. An examination of a prescribed approach is one of the first tests of (the potential for) good collaboration.

In Part 2, I interview Maish (excerpt below). We talk about how to improve the organizational learning user research.

SP: If you could wave a magic wand and create any kind of tool or artifact to support the research process, what would it be?
MN: Research is really all about creating new knowledge and the more people who have access to that knowledge, the better. Currently, our research findings and insights are all locked up in (what Karen McGrane calls) “blobs.” We need it, instead, to be “chunked” (as Sara Wachter-Boettcher says) so that it can travel more freely and be mixed and mashed up to create, again, new knowledge. I don’t know of any existing project or initiative but I was thinking about using a schema (like what is already available on schema.org) for research findings. That way anyone writing up research findings could use the same markup and then search engines and specialist apps could read and move those findings more efficiently.

Video from UX Lisbon: Discover and act on insights about people

The lovely folks at UXLx have just posted the video from my talk earlier this year, Discover and act on insights about people.

Some of the most effective ways of understanding what customers want or need – going out and talking to them – are surprisingly indirect. Insights produced by these methods impact two facets of innovation: first as information that informs the development of new products and services, and second as catalysts for internal change. Steve discusses methods for exploring both solutions and needs and explores how an understanding of culture (yours and your customers) can drive design and innovation.

If you don’t see the video embedded above, you can view it here

Our latest article: Stick to the Knitting

Stick to the Knitting, my invited editorial for the Journal of Usability Studies, has just been published.

Hollywood-that seller of dreams-has filled our heads with an American-exceptionalism-esque belief that we are entitled, even obligated, to strive and ultimately triumph when we are clearly outmanned, outgunned, and outclassed. Melanie Griffith lands her dream job in Working Girl. The Pretty Woman is rescued by a (metaphorical) knight on a white horse. The nerds of Tri-Lambs get their revenge and defeat the other fraternity. Sure, Rocky, the Bad News Bears, and the Spartans all lose but what we remember is how hard they tried. Hollywood has successfully promulgated the values of having heart and dreaming big, not only for Americans or even the West, but ultimately for everyone.

If we use that cultural framing, maybe some of the things that the design communities are spending time on would make more sense. By “design communities” I’m referring to the software and product people-industrial designers, user experience designers, interaction designers, information architects, content strategists, and what have you. I’ll even throw my tribes in there: user researchers, ethnographers, and strategists.

Lately, these folks-us-are taking on audaciously challenging problems. The sexiest endeavors are those tackling the systemic “wicked problems” in government, healthcare, education, homelessness, civic life, and beyond. Of course the genuine passion and compassion is to be commended, but I’m feeling worried. Let me tell you why.

Get the PDF here.

Out and About: Steve in Ottawa

Last week I was in Ottawa speaking at Carleton University as well as delivering the closing keynote for UXcamp Ottawa. Here are some photographic highlights of my time there. Look for the rest of my pictures on Flickr.


Joseph Henri Maurice “The Rocket” Richard


Suzy Q Donuts.


The Canada Hall in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Depicting 1000 years of history, this was an outstanding exhibit. In addition to the familiar elements of contemporary museum design, it had just enough realism, sort of the heightened-fakery from a movie studio backlot. The open-ended design enabled an immersive stroll through recreations of the past. As you wandered you could go in and poke around stores, schools, mills, airports, and so on. It was almost like being in a holodeck, strolling through time (and from east to west).


Building environmental control module or splash screen for circa 1974 television news magazine?


Recreation of the Robert Frank image used on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street cover.


Stickers stuck to poles outside of the National Gallery. I took the picture without knowing what the heck I was looking at, though. It was only when I got my ticket for the National Gallery and was asked to put the same sticker on my clothing did I realize how those poles ended up like that.


That about covers it.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Mice as Stand-Ins in the Fight Against Disease [New York Times] – Looks like this has been happening in some measure for a while, but some new methods are increasing the usage. The most science-fiction thing you’ll read all week.

In what could be the ultimate in personalized medicine, animals bearing your disease, or part of your anatomy, can serve as your personal guinea pig, so to speak. Some researchers call them avatars, like the virtual characters in movies and online games. “The mice allow you the opportunity to test drugs to find out which ones will be efficacious without exposing the patient to toxicity,” said Colin Collins, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Australia 2012 [Flickr] – My complete set of pictures from Australia earlier this month.

Chinese families’ worldly goods in Huang Qingjun’s pictures [BBC] – We’ve seen other projects like this, but the focus on China captures a material culture in transition.

Amid China’s tumultuous dash to become rich, one man’s photographs of families posing with their worldly goods will soon seem like records from a distant era. Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities. But seen more closely, they also show the enormous social change that has come in a generation. So the photo of an elderly couple of farmers outside their mud house reveals a satellite dish, DVD player and phone.

Four Big Things, a phrase dating from 1950s for most sought-after goods for newly married couples: sewing machine, bicycle, watch, radio. It’s since come to refer to whatever is most fashionable at the time. By 1980s the four big things were: TV, washing machine, rice cooker, fridge. Now, consumer goods flood China’s cities, it tends to be used to describe people’s aspirations for the latest thing.

Must-See Video: How a Woman With No Arms Dresses Herself. What Assistance Can Design Provide? [Core 77] – I love the reaction; that excitement of discovering how current solutions could be improved. Designers are so great at bringing that creativity and know-how to bear to make change for the good. But let’s remember, we don’t need videos to be posted by users to uncover what things aren’t working for them. Are designers waiting for broken products to appear in front of them so they can spontaneously improve them, or are they out there looking at current behaviors and solutions in order to proactively find opportunities. Designers: you don’t need the disabled (or anyone) to post their own videos, go and shoot your own!

I hope that more folks with disabilities make videos like this, not just to share with others what their particular trials are, but to enable us designers to improve upon the objects they use.

FILMography – a Tumblr with an incredible series of images where a printout of a still from a film is held up in the actual location where that scene was shot. It’s a “trick” I’ve seen before but mostly as a one-off; the breadth here is fascinating.

FILM + photography = FILMography.

Come to Steve’s UX Australia workshop on interviewing


I’ll be teaching Immersive field techniques: Interviewing and observing for user research, a full-day workshop at UX Australia in Brisbane, in August 29th.

Interviewing is undeniably one of the most valuable and commonly used user research tools. Yet sometimes we forget that it’s a skill we need to learn, because:

  • It’s based on skills we think we have (talking or even listening)
  • It’s not taught or reflected on
  • People tend to ‘wing it’ rather than develop their skills

Without good interviewing skills, research results may be inaccurate or reveal nothing new, suggesting the wrong design or business responses, or they may miss the crucial nuance that points to innovative breakthrough opportunities.

In this day-long session, we’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll try some practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills. Through a homework exercise and a field trip during the workshop, we’ll also practice observation of users in an environment.

This workshop is an evolution of something I’ve been teaching for a number of years (and continue to refine). Over the past couple of years I’ve led forms of this session in Istanbul, Vancouver, Savannah, Toronto, Lisbon, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and San Francisco. Now it’s Australia’s turn.

I believe some of the conference workshops have already sold out, so if you might be going, please sign up soon! I look forward to seeing you there!

Out and About: Steve in Lisbon (2 of 2)

More observations from last week’s trip to Lisbon. See part 1 here





Street art.


Body-enhancing undergarments.


Clooney.


Eat box? Yum!


Y’arr! Pirate Bar! That’s some great neon. Perfect place for Drink Like A Pirate Day.


Scented dolls? They look pretty intense. Perhaps they inch forward menacingly as you pass by their window.


The design museum was redoing its facade with sticky notes. We watched their progress over several days.


This is the take-a-number device for a retail queue. Far more advanced than the familiar North American paper ticket dispenser. And also unrecognizable if you don’t read Portuguese and don’t know to look for this.


Detail of a building exterior. Tiled buildings are ubiquitous, with many different beautiful tile designs of various vintages.

Series

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