So, I have officially started work on my thesis.  I am designing a Digital Media course for the graduate students at Southern Utah University.  I’m really excited about the project.  However, I’m going to be pretty much “out of commission” for the next three months.  See you then!

For the past couple of years I’ve been proposing more user experience strategy in our process at my place of employment.  It’s been an uphill battle for many reasons, from lack of understanding to territoriality.  The authors address one important issue, that most executives simply do not see the value of UX.  They want to know how it translates into the bottom line.  The case study presented shows how you can visually show your boss the contribution a UX designer can make to the end result of a product.

I submitted this tumblr theme like 2 months ago, and it looks like it was finally approved by the tumblr team.  I originally designed it for my site, and then decided to generalize it for use in the theme garden.  Enjoy!

There is a thin line between making a digital experience engaging and making it annoying.  Gamification rides this line, and I think a lot of people get it wrong.  I’ve been guilt in past projects of designing activities that I think the user will like just for the sake of fun - not having any real value.  The game part of the experience has to be closely tied to the ultimate goal of whatever the user is doing.

During my years as a flash developer I always felt that the thing that made flash widely used was not the deployment system (flash player) or the underlying actionscript framework but rather the flash interface. It appealed to what was then a sort of niche market of designer/developers that is much more common now. The interface was visual, but logical from a coding perspective. I believe that animations in HTML5 won’t really catch on until someone makes an editor with similar appeal. This looks like a great start!

Storytelling & User Experience Design

One of the most beneficial parts of the User Experience design process for me is imagining the product in the context of a story. In my personal process, this step usually falls somewhere between discovery and wireframing. Defining the scenario(s) where the product will be used is a great way to share the ultimate vision for the app with your team. I’ve been involved with too many projects where the team members had no clear understanding of the business objectives. When your team doesn’t have a clear picture of how the product will be used, they will make decisions based on how they think it should be used and you end up with a product that has no clear purpose. Storytelling also helps me identify an initial flow for the project that usually extends fairly quickly into further documentation like a flow chart. In many ways this is the hardest part of the design process because you’re working out details of how the app will be used - it is the most beneficial for the same reason. Once you understand how the product will be used in real life, you’re just writing down what you already know. Here is my patented (not really) 5-step process for creating the User Experience story:

1. Get down and dirty with your business objectives
Get specific. Don’t just say, “Our objective is to sell toothpaste”. Each objective should be accompanied by at least a “How” and “Why”, if not “Who” “Where” and “When”. This level of detail isn’t always available from executives and project management but giving it some thought will help build a good foundation for the project.

2. Brainstorm possible solutions with the team
Once we know what we are trying to accomplish, I like to meet with the entire team. At this phase I try to stay open to any possible solution. For instance, I may have had it in my head that the best way to accomplish the objectives was through a mobile app, but after brainstorming our developer may suggest that we’ll get more leverage with our use base out of an optimized web app. Brining the team in at this level gives them a sense of ownership and gets them excited about the project.

3. Create the characters (Joe Shmoe)
This step requires a fair amount of research and discovery. In order to design a great experience, it makes sense that you would need to know about the people who will be using it. The best way to is sketch out a quick bio of your main target audience and things about that person that will help you as you tell your story. I usually include basic demographic information and add any psychographic generalities I can extend such as preferences and aptitude.

4. Write a script
Now it’s time to bring it all together. After writing a brief summary about Joe Schmoe, I create a basic two-column script that has dialogue on one side and actions on the other side. Then I walk through step-by-step what the user would do while using the app. Each of the steps should show how the user is using the product to satisfy one or more of the business requirements. How are they accomplishing their objectives? What are they doing with the mouse or fingers? What appears on the screen? You’ll also want to put some thought into what the best perspective to write from is as well. For instance, I usually write mine from the 3rd person as an observer, but some projects may need to be viewed from the 1st person user’s perspective.

5. Present it to the team
Once you feel like you’ve ironed out any significant wrinkles in your scenario, call the team back together and present the vision. They can help spot any potential pitfalls you might have missed, and can contribute new scenarios. I like to use this as my principal reference document going forward because it includes the business requirements, the user profile and the basic idea for the interface.

This could be the messiest desktop I have ever seen.  It belongs to one of the scientists I work with.  Seeing this makes me feel sticky all over.

This could be the messiest desktop I have ever seen.  It belongs to one of the scientists I work with.  Seeing this makes me feel sticky all over.

Spot-on description of the biggest pitfalls in creative agency work and some really good methods for avoiding them.  I especially like the idea of giving the client a factsheet about working with designers in order to preempt some of the common issues that client/designers face.  The most important thing is to remember what the client’s objectives are, and that your role is to accomplish those objectives.  Make that your source of pride in a project rather than becoming invested in “doing it your way”.

I think I speak for most people in the media biz when I say it is very hard to achieve a good balance of work/family life.  As Ryan alludes to, part of the problem is that we actually like our work, but we also love our families so the two are at constant battle. For, alot of time I end up feeling like I fail at both.   Ryan suggest following rules and drawing lines in both environments to help you be a productive worker and human being.

I’m really interested in how news diffusion is changing with social media.  I found out about the death of Osama Bin Laden through a text from a family member.  Says Magdalena Georgieva:

I don’t know about you, but I first learned about the story from Facebook. The status updates of all my friends had started to reflect the evolving story. They were leaving comments and heatedly discussing the news. In fact, Adam Ostrow wrote that within hours of the reported death, ‘a Facebook Page titled “Osama Bin Laden is DEAD” had already accumulated more than 150,000 ‘likes.’’

Really exciting implications for news diffusion research and digital media.

UPDATE: More diffusion info