User Experience in Space

10EC2268_Diamond_aerial_view
 

I got the opportunity last month to speak with two talented designers/engineer/design-thinkers who are heading up the design team at SAC In Harwell, Oxfordshire. I was very curious as to what User Experience looks like in this ‘industry’, so I took a trip to Harwell.

First of all, I was impressed by the Diamond Light Source on the campus. Diamond is UK’s synchrotron. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce beams of light 10,000 times brighter than the sun that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

You can visit the Diamond on an open day

Now, when it comes to space technology there are three main areas of application; Navigation, Communication and Earth Observation. The designers at SAC were very keen on showing how space technology can be applied commercially. The facility will be handling a variety of projects from different industries. They would be pro-active in problem solving and they will be providing specific solutions for particular companies.

I have no doubt that this is one of the most important areas of development. We have years upon years of data that can be pulled into useful products. It is no wonder that it is one of Innovate UK‘s priority areas, find out more here

As a User Experience designer, it would certainly be an amazing opportunity to work in this industry, there’s so much to learn here and it opens one’s mind to the different possibilities and areas of application in everyday living. Innovation is certainly not far off, given that it usually occurs at the point where various fields meet, in this case, <Space science, User Experience/Design, Business, Engineering, Art >

nasa_logoSpace_apps

I’m also very happy that the Space Apps challenge by NASA made Lagos and Calabar, Nigeria, a part of this. I love that people from my part of the world are taking part in global challenges for products that would benefit all of Earth’s citizens.

UXCampLondon, Spring 2014

UXCampLondon is the first UX (un)conference I’ve been to in a very long time. I was really looking forward to the talks, there’s always something different, unique, compared to the usual conferences with set speakers. I also decided to talk about something I had written about some time ago, UX in big ships: How To stay The Course.

In UX or even life, I am way more concerned about people than tools or processes, so I seek to understand people and their interaction with work, and other people. In my talks, I hope to appeal to people to think more about the way they communicate and how they might do it better.

The Camp

Basically what happens is that at the start of the day, there’s a board with time and room slots and anyone interested in speaking, starting/facilitating a discussion, running a workshop for 35mins can fill in when they want to do it.

First, started off by attending a talk given by some designers from Ustwo, it was about Making Money Valuable I thought this was a very ambitious talk because anything that tries to cover morals and ethics ends up on a slippery slope. They asked some valuable questions though. Things like, “Do my beliefs match my behavior?” ‘What is your core value?’ because that affects the things you design. One ought to design in human language and with cognitive limits in mind.

Second stop, I went to see a presentation on the Burj Khalifa by Hammad Khan of Entropii. It really wasn’t what I was expecting but it was interesting to see that they were going to get a better online experience. I was expecting something like this, Gas Machine from Statoil.

Third talk was Mine!

Oh boy, I didn’t expect the large turn out. I was nervous.

[Read] UX in Big Ships: How To Stay The Course

Sketchnotes "UX of Big Ships: How To Stay On Course" talk by @tonianni - UX Camp London, 22 March 2014 (Drawn by Makayla Lewis)                                                                                                                                                                    Sketchnote by @maccymacx

I had all round good discussions afterwards. One guy said, the only option he’s had in a big ship was to jump off the ship when things got too hard to handle. We also talked about ways to communicate better, sharepoint, wikis etc. Another guy talked about considering the captain of the ship, which is a very good point. If you have the opportunity to get to know more about your CEO before joining up, you definitely should. There’s also the subject of on-boarding new staff, ways of doing this better.

It wasn’t until after my presentation that I realized I hadn’t even introduced myself! yikes, I’ll do better next time.

After the talk, we had a break and then I had long conversations with two ladies, one a product manager and then a developer transitioning into user experience. We talked more about our experiences in ‘big ships’ and also in startups, the differences, pros and cons. There was an idea of exploring how environment affects the way we work, suburbs vs inner city for example.

I also went to a talk on Introversion and Extraversion, by Kim McGuire. Anything about personality always interests me, however I don’t think the introversion and extraversion scale is sufficient enough to qualify a person. I find the MBTI a better way to absorb this. I am an INFJ via the MBTI. I particularly liked the angle about the implications for user research and the way we user test.

Next, went to discussion about B2B vs B2Cs by Red Gate’s Marine Barbaroux (love her name). She asked what our preferences for projects were.

I strongly hold that curiosity is what drives passion and that’s what any and every kind of project whether B2B, B2C, B2E needs.

I personally like having a variety of things to work on. It could be airport kiosks today, trading software tomorrow or fashion applications next.

The remaining sessions covered Agile. My favorite quote was ‘Silos are for farmers’ talking about how we need to shed the us vs them mentality. I thought there is still a dire need for a proper online collaboration tool.

I’m really glad I went, can’t wait to do it again.

Learn by Prototyping

Untitled

For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of prototypes. Each time has introduced something new to my knowledge bank. I also did up a portfolio recently which is live. I decided to create it in Axure, a protoyping tool so there will be no question if I can use the application amongst other things. It was something that was quite quick, after sketching out what I wanted to do, i went straight into prototyping. I also went responsive with it, which was quite the challenge. I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did while doing this.

It is important to test assumptions. I thought I understood responsive layouts, but this showed me how much was lacking in my knowledge, and I’m going back to the drawing board now.

It’s in the details. Again and again, you’ll find your mind straying. The ability to bring it all back together, whether by talking to people, meditating or reading something is a necessary skill to have in design. This comes easy to me but we all forget things.

Skills depreciate or appreciate, work on them. As much as we have talent to do something, it is skill that makes it productive and takes it to the next level. Always find the time to work on your skills.

A world of opportunity. While working on this, I realized there was hardly a thing I couldn’t prototype in Axure, and as for content, it challenged me to start working on new things, which I will be uploading as I go along.

Is this perfect? no, but  I am committed to lifelong learning.

A successful prototype is not one that works flawlessly; it is one that teaches us something

- Tim Brown

Stay positive. Have hope.

Ladies That UX

UX Ladies

The Beginning

It’s hard to remember when I first got to know about Ladies That UX but I remember being really happy about the idea. When an opportunity to meet up in London came, I got a ticket immediately.

Ladies That UX aims to help grow a community of like minded women who support each other. It was started by Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley in Manchester. You can read about their story Here and Here. It is women-focused not women-only, yes, men are invited.

The Meetup

The event was at a nice bar in Holborn for 7pm, organised by Sophie Mitchell, Lizzie & Georgie. I didn’t know what to expect other than a room full of ladies that are in UX. Given it was the inaugural meetup, I was going to be in observation mode. Before and after getting a drink, I got to speak with Lizzie and Georgie, both interesting, enthusiastic and committed ladies. They came down to London just for this.

Aside talking to each other, we got to write down our ideas for Ladies That UX London. A number of people did not want recruiters to be involved, which I found hilarious. Some ladies wrote about themed events, mentor/mentee programs, organised workshops, advice on tackling workplace issues e.t.c. Things I’m really behind as well. I’m not very good at hanging about, small talking so there has to be a challenge, activities that we get involved in.

I thought it was a good start, there were about 30 ladies in total that made it there, maybe more…Looking forward to the next event and would be wonderful to see if any of our ideas went into making it happen.

Why Ladies That UX is Important

As long as women still have less than 30% representation in the UX community, this is necessary. It  gives women the opportunity to meet and be around more women in UX than they would at a standard UX event.  It can become a good source for conference speakers. As we build each other up, we get to offer mentorship to a wider community communicating the fact that women make great designers as well.

Next Event

Ladies that UX  will hold on March 26 2014. Get your Tickets Here

We’ll be meeting in at the centrally located Square Pig Pub in Holborn from 6.30pm until 9.30pm.

The pub does food and has plenty of drinks to choose from.

Coping with Misophonia at Work

Barbie girls walkman
What is Misophonia?

Ever since I was a child, I found certain sounds absolutely life-threatening. Hearing them made me very angry (up to murderous rage) and anxious. I recently realized that there is a name for it, misophonia and it was such a relief knowing I wasn’t alone.

It is described by American Neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff as

A neurological disorder, in which a person feels anxiety, and even rage in response to certain sounds, which may be loud or soft

It  puts you in a fight or flight mode instantaneously. One of such times was the day my sister asked me to go shopping with her. She had come to London for the first time and we were on the tube heading to Oxford street. Along the way, a man chewing gum loudly and noisily came into our carriage. I was immediately angered and also at myself for leaving my headphones at home. I looked around the carriage and no one seemed bothered, this even enraged me more. I really wanted to hit the guy but as the train came to a stop at the next station I jumped out, thinking my sister was going to follow me, but she didn’t…

The Work Place

Open Plan offices might be straight from the devil. As someone who is largely introverted and with misophonia, it can be hellish. The continuous stimulation for over 7 hours is a massive drain on all my faculty.

Daily triggers at work include; loud voices and sibilation, furious keyboard typing (surprised the keyboard hasn’t broken), slurping and chewing noises.

One particular day I was in a rage and thinking seriously of quitting my job. Thankfully, it was a Friday, so after work, I got some comfort food and watched a movie. As I lay on my bed, coping ideas began to materialize in my brain. I told my friend I was so glad that depression hasn’t been added to my anxiety and misophonia!

Coping Strategies

Noise Cancelling Headphones – These work a treat, I use them all the time and because I love music, it’s an amazing solution. Now, I need to rest my ears every now and then so to fill the gaps the next solutions come in.

Ear Plugs – I am currently testing a few I got from Amazon, 3M makes some called earfit, which I am using right now. It is ok, but the level of comfort could be better. It tones down all the sounds, which is good enough. Only issue is having to take them out often because you have to talk to people.

Regular Breaks -  I try to take a 5 min break in a quiet place every hour, or 10 mins every 2 hours. This not only helps my misophonia but all the other stimulation which gets overwhelming fast like movements, lights, sounds etc. Definitely helps to stretch your leg so you can avoid deep vein thrombosis.

These are the things that help me cope at the moment. It’s hard talking to people about this because for the most part they can’t change ( voice for example ) and they can’t understand.

If you have some other ways which you use to cope, please let me know! all the best.

Support for People With Misophonia

Misophonia UK

Misophonia.Com

Misophonia Treatment

To learn more about Misophonia, here are some related articles

Enraged by Everyday Sounds – Psychology Today

When a Chomp or Slurp is a Trigger For Outrage – NY Times

The Chewing Sound and The Fury – New Republic

Boyfriend Chewing Makes Me Want to Strangle Him – Daily Mail

How Sounds Trigger Rage and Anxiety – Daily Record

Living With Misophonia – Tribune

Developing Your Core Competencies

tumblr_muu3urpiZj1st5lhmo1_1280

It’s that time of the year again, you have to set performance goals. There’s a tendency to go along with what is popular at the time but it’s way more beneficial to question and listen to your self and sometimes, people who work with you. You should be thinking about your core competencies.

Core competency is defined by Search CIO as

 Fundamental knowledge, ability, or expertise in a specific subject area or skill set. The core part of the term indicates that the individual has a strong basis from which to gain the additional competence to do a specific job

Ever since I’ve known myself, I’ve known how to draw and tell stories. I remember vividly when I found out not everyone could draw like I could. This opened my eyes in seeing the unique aspects of people. While working in the UK, the 5 UX managers I’ve worked with have had 5 different core competencies (From my first at 1. to current manager at 5.)

1. User Research

2. Visual Design

3. Information Architecture

4. Strategy

5. Technical (Code development)

I thought this was quite interesting, because they seem to cover all the important aspects of UX design, I am one lucky person. They have all been good at what they do, but these were the competencies they built their practice upon.

A Unicorn is still a horse at it’s core.

While we strive to acquire many skills, these core competencies are what differentiate us. In addition to the personal stamp we put on them, they give strength to the other skills.

Some Steps to Development

1. Take on personal projects – Especially if you aren’t able to use these skills at work

2. Teach people - This is a tried and tested method of solidifying and expanding a skillset, do more of this.

3. Find people with similar core -  Look at what they have done to excel, they should give you a good example of what you can do as well.

4. Find a way to work it at work - You should bring yourself to work, it’s that simple.

If you feel like you don’t have a core competency, even after heavy soul searching, find one. Find something that interests you and that you will be committed to. Build on that. Like that tree in the picture, that’s how you want to flourish. You want a strong trunk and root that will support all that you branch into. If that root is shallow or trunk thin, the whole edifice will come down soon enough. Those who have excelled do not have seven heads, you can too.

Best x.

UX in Big Ships: How To Stay The Course

Ship ahoy!

When most people think of UX, it’s shiny surfaces and snazzy interactions that come to mind.  You think, start ups and the Airbnbs of the world, but it isn’t always so.

Some of us have the opportunity of doing things much different but with the same principle, yet no one seems to talk about this. Sometimes you work on internal software that will never be shown to the internet, yet you have made your customer service agents or your developers work a lot better. Sometimes your work consists mainly of making incremental changes to existing software. The little things that matter.

There was a bit of culture shock when I had to move from a big start-up company (300+ people) to a real big one (13,00o+). From one were I could clearly see the chain of command and I was  number 5 from the CEO to one where I’m number 30, 50? A place where a color change to a single button can take days to get signed off, yet we have to work, and we work under such circumstances without pulling our hairs out. How? I think these are some of the important things to know when working in such places.

These principles are from the Shipping industry.

1. Big ships cannot stop on a dime. 

Ships may require as much as 5 miles to stop (with gears in full reverse). The solution is simple: stay out of their way.

In big companies, User Experience would ideally cover Platform, Content Tools, Fraud + Risk Mgmt, CRM/Loyalty Tools, Payment Processing, Marketing Content, Back Office operations where if one of these goes down, UX is compromised. There is a lot at stake, and big ships which have been operating on legacy systems cannot simply stop one day and migrate all systems. You need to have patience, understand the background of the system and focus on creating something worthwhile in the area you find yourself or just stay out of the way, you could be crushed by the politics.

2. Big ships do not turn very well. 

A 500 foot, 8000-ton ship needs over a third of a mile to turn around.

Most organizations will claim that they work in an Agile way but the reality is the best you get is a hybrid of systems. Even when a particular team has migrated to a certain technology, relics from the past show up every now and then.  Don’t be discouraged, the ship is still on the move and on the sea.

Sometimes, people will fall off the ship during the turn, it pays to keep an eye out on them, throw a lifeboat or just make sure they are safe but there’s still a ship and many other people to attend to. UX managers need to stay positive but realistic with their team, protecting them from the ongoings of the wider company. There’s no way anyone can do their best work in a negative atmosphere.

3. Often, crew do not speak your language.

Do not assume anything.

Too often we go into organizations filled up with terminology, designer jargon that makes no sense past the Jared Spools of the world. Legacy mindsets are often more of a hindrance than tools or processes. Try to get into how people understand things and what their needs are e.g speak figures and numbers to business people so you can communicate better. When people are on the same page there’s hardly any limitation to the things they can get done.

One last thing, never stop caring about people. You may have to care much more in such organizations, but when a UX professional loses their empathy, hope is lost. The big ship will turn eventually, Once such a ship commits to a turn, it will not waiver. Maybe not in one year, two or five years, but one small step for a User Experience designer can lead to a giant leap for an entire organization.

Making Carousels Work Harder

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 14.45.25

Almost everyone who has access to the internet has come across a carousel. They are also called sliders, rotators, mostly used for images with CTAs (buttons). They recently came under fire in the design and UX community.

Carousels are condemned here, herehere and tracked here

Personally, I like them and I think they are a good design pattern when used correctly. Many, in their web design trend speech for 2014 want to see the carousel dumped and replaced by a huge picture banner, which might be worse. A user recently said that for an ecommerce site having just one image banner feels like there’s not a lot of options in the store.

“If people cannot see it, they cannot buy it”

I acknowledge that carousels can be very tricky to work with and many have a high bounce rate. This is tied to content that does not appeal or just isn’t useful to people.

IMG_2616

But since, people are going to look at the carousel anyway, why not make good use of it.

Making The Carousel work Harder

Basics

> First off, make sure the carousel is appropriate for your content.

> Don’t use flash. It is bad for SEO as search crawlers cannot find it. There are many other options available to implement, HMTL5, Javascript.

> It should not be automatic. Keep the user in control, let them know the number of slides available and and an idea of what’s in it.

> Four slides max.

> Update Content regularly, daily. For ecommerce sites, you have ALOT of things on your site to sell, make use of it.

New Direction

> Don’t make Carousels dead-ends or a call to action to a dead end. If you are advertising a product, insert the options if any, and a ‘Add to Cart’ button, instead of making them click the banner and dumping them on a page where they still have to look for that item.

> Experiment with different content and sizes. Can you make your carousels responsive, so that they are useful to your different pages and manageable by your CMS team.

> Consider making them interactive enough, so your users can favorite, bookmark content.

> Some sites that work it!

- Airbnb

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 14.41.57The images have a profile and price, which makes me think, oh wow, this beautiful place is actually affordable! or maybe not and It’s a real picture. My only gripe is, the carousel is automatic

- Protest.eu

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 14.42.33

The images are massive, and the navigation of the site might be a bit confusing but The image has a drawer which gives you the option to buy the actual products being advertised in the image.

As always, test, test, find out what works and what you can discard but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Best xx