I recently had the pleasure to attend a couple of Andy Kirk’s talks (one being at the Data Visualization In New York Meetup) on the topic of, well, Data Visualization. I’ve known about the field for some time but I hadn’t had much of an introduction up until this point. After spending a day in data vis. information sessions and presentations, I’m interested in further exploring the field. This post will serve as my initial high-level understanding of data vis. but I plan to dive deeper in future posts. Also, I am not a designer or developer so my writing will come more from a theory-type angle.Read More
PERSPECTIVES is a forum where I write about my professional experiences, opinions and interests. Most everything here is in some way connected to the broad and ever evolving realms of Design and Product Development.
Here I solidify and strengthen my own experiences and learnings, writing and offering commentary fully unique and opinionated...These are my perspectives. I hope that as I experience, learn and write, I can also inspire you in some way...and if nothing else, at least stimulate interesting conversation.
Hey man, it's like, a blog.
Right off the heels of the Lean Startup Machine NYC weekend, I participated in last night’s Agile Experience Design Meetup where the topic/workshop involved running through how to test an ACTAUL user problem through forming a super low functioning, but TESTABLE MVP. LSM began its focus at point 0 in the process where we needed to validate who the customer is, if the customer actually has a problem and what the actual problem is. Last night we came into it assuming that there is a user that does have a problem. Unique to a lot of Meetups I’ve been to, we spent some time running through the high level process in workshop form to get us thinking along the build, measure, learn feedback loop. Some of the thinking is counterintuitive to how people may want to think (jumping into solutions without thoroughly measuring and learning…) so the exercise was helpful.Read More
Everyone met at the Alley NYC, a coworking space in Times Square, Friday evening over pizza and conversation. Soon after, people who brought product ideas had 50 seconds each to pitch to everyone in the room. After the pitches, everyone had 3 votes and the top 10-15 ideas were chosen – people then formed teams. I didn’t get an exact count, but I estimate that there were 12-14 teams in total.
I decided to join a team working on a product to create a program for 4th year undergrad students entering the professional workforce to join a recognized and visible industry rotational program.
Immediately we began to explore the idea by subjecting it to the Validation Board. We first identified our customer hypothesis (4th year undergrads) and problem hypothesis (students are ill-prepared to find the right job fit). We recorded our assumptions, chose which assumption we believed to be the riskiest and then our team agreed upon validation criteria for our assumption. As it was late in the evening, we decided to save the in-person interviews for Saturday but sent out a survey, leveraging twitter (#college).Read More
Lean Startup Machine is a movement aimed to educate entrepreneurs and industry professionals alike on how to build products that people actually want. Using Lean Startup methodology, LSM is a 3-day workshop where 50 people gather, pitch ideas for a product and teams form around those pitches. At the end of the weekend, winning teams are chosen based on how well each team adhered to the process and how they were able to handle change throughout the journey. Teams are not judged on how marketable or creative a product idea is. Although many people who attend the workshop were entrepreneurs, I participated interested in the methodology and how it can be applied in enterprise situations. Also, LSM is NOT a hackathon. I was actually surprised to see that a majority of the participants were not developers but come from another discipline within tech or even different industries.Read More
Last night I attended my first Product Group Meetup where people in the field of product development get together to discuss best practices and knowledge share. The discussion is split into two parts: Part one focuses on a discussion topic and the second part of the evening is dedicated to a product showcase where a representative (usually a founder) talks about roadblocks, best practices and successes in creating the product.
The discussion last night focused on product related disagreements – What are common root causes and how do people manage disagreement? Although billed under the “product” umbrella, many of the points discussed are applicable to most work situations, but let’s keep the focus on the product development process.Read More
One of the grievances I had with my last role (as a grants manager at a large Pharmaceutical company) was the physical space in which I worked. We were lucky not to work in cubicles, but had our own offices each with their own door. The hallway that I worked was comprised of a lengthy row of these closed off spaces where people tended to shut themselves in for most of the day…Sometimes I wouldn’t see my coworkers unless it was in a public space. We mostly all worked on our own projects, and with teams literally in buildings across the street. There are many things wrong with this scene but here I’d like to focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing.Read More
Last night, the NYC Agile Experience Design Meetup hosted a panel with 3 companies speaking on how they incorporate UX in an agile environment. I found AppNexus’ talk particularly interesting in that they brought up the point that there seems to not be a good standard to this point for incorporating research in an agile (scrum) setting. They believe that it is the designer’s role to incorporate the research into scrum (makes sense) and they typically follow a process broken up into four distinct phases:Read More
Last night I attended a StackUp on startup design practices where four startups presented some ideas and methods they use in regards to their design practices (mostly front end). As this was for “designers only” I was able to penetrate the high level security of three flights of stairs and a bunch of friendly people.
Although I don’t have any immediate plans to become a visual, UX or UI designer, I’m interested in understanding the language these guys speak and I need to know the various processes designers use and why- At some point I will have a say in these processes as I work with design teams.
Points of interest:
- The term “designer” is broad and, especially in the startup realm where definitions aren’t so much spelled out, can include an array of functions.
- Agency processes have been heavily studied and documented, but the startup body of knowledge is only starting to grow.
- Processes: Designers at Kickstarter code their own work- this provides a greater sense of ownership and alleviates some handoff issues when the designer gives their work to a developer/engineer. Product managers meet weekly for product road mapping sessions. Branch pairs designers and back-end engineers for a few hours during the design process so that they can develop relationships and allow for smooth hand-offs. HowAboutWe… relies on design focused weekly sprints, daily reviews with the CEO and product and retros (lessons learned).
Last night, General Assembly hosted a panel of UX designers (J. Crew, IDEO, Spotify, Charming Robot) to discuss what “good” UX means to them. It’s interesting to note that all of the panel members had varying ideas of what a positive user experience is to them, although unsurprising due to their widely varying backgrounds and the fact that they all work in different organizations. This is also unsurprising because depending on the product and type of experience in question, the meaning of an effective user experience should vary.
My very broad definition of a good user experience is that a user is able to achieve a predetermined goal/outcome successfully with little frustration. An excellent user experience is all of that plus the experience being a memorable one.
Some interesting takeaways from last night:
- Where does UX fit within the design process? This generally depends on the project and the organization. For example, IDEO likes to incorporate the UX process at the beginning of a project with a "synthesis session" where they identify users and, in person, get an idea of how they interact with a product and what the problems they encounter may be. Spotify uses lots of up front real world testing and iterating. Their process is not as defined but it works based on the nature of their product.
- UX work is never finished. Just like for digital product releases, it’s important to continuously iterate and refine.
- A definition of a good UX design is one that is clean and simple. Designers will tell you that this sounds easy, but as a product is iterated and more features are added, the level of complexity will increase and it will become more challenging to maintain simplicity.
James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas is a classic writing on, well, formulating new ideas. Young spent his career in the advertising industry and writes this book in reference to that, but it’s easy to see that the simple concepts in the book can be applied anytime there is a need for a creative, useful idea.
The combination of old elements + the ability to see relationships between these elements and concepts (sometimes seeming disparate) = the formation of new novel ideas.
This is so true for a lot of innovation we see today and can be especially seen in the digital realm. Take the concept of the API for instance which allows an application or program to incorporate functionality of another app to assist or enrich the experience of the new creation.Read More
As I mentioned previously, I’m super intrigued by the “Design Thinking” concept. I’ve always had a thing for process and methodology as I see it is a good way to organize thought and get to some point of solution- When applying the right methodology to a question, I’m confident I’m making progress because the process has most likely been validated with rigorous testing.
…Anyhow, the above schematic is a simplified depiction of the design thinking process that includes 5 phases. These are meant to proceed linearly only in the sense that there is a full intention to iterate and begin the "Empathize" phase over again after “Testing”.Read More