Category: Software Design

Random Thought (more or less) – Wake Up San Diego, UX is here

I read an interesting article posted this morning through the UX Professionals LinkedIn group, in regards to why UX salaries will continue to rise – the article is here.

It goes on to say that UX Designers and UX folk in general are in high demand but in short supply. Okay, I’ll buy that. I get that a lot from recruiters about how we are hard to find, especially good UX designers.

I’d say the software companies (custom solutions, government, video games, e-commerce) and retailers in the big markets get that, and the importance of UX design. Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, the San Francisco surrounding bay area — they all get UX and covet the importance of having great user experiences designed. It’s mature in those areas. There are LOTS of openings for UX design folks in those places.

But somehow, the place I grew up in and love so much, San Diego, isn’t really getting it. I don’t know why, but it was kind of the same back when the web was forming. Those other places got it and San Diego was slow to the race. Okay, to be fair there are a few companies that get it, and there are single champions of UX in lots of companies shouting out loud how good UX is needed, the importance of it, and to the point of going hoarse because no one is really listening. In San Diego, for the most part, UX is a luxury. Most companies figure they have good developers who can code really well, and that’s good enough to get the job done.

The problem with that is even though developers make good code, they don’t have the insight to make a good product, or good customer experience. I often tell people that UX designers are like an architect and the developer is the builder. We listen to what a client wants and needs (we emote and listen to their feelings), and then design the perfect house or building (their app or website) for them. We design the plans, pick out the colors and furniture, or in some cases work with the interior designers to create a great experience. Then the builders come in, follow the plans, build it, and see the thoughts and vision come to life. THAT is one of the most amazing and rewarding parts of being a UX designer.

But a lot of companies are happy with having the builders. Until they hire or contract a UX designer. Then suddenly all the stuff they’ve built in the past pales in comparison to what the UX designer has created. And hopefully they get that UX design IS important. And sometimes they don’t.

So, when companies here in San Diego interview or are looking for a UX designer, most don’t seem to know what to look for. At least that’s been my experience as I’ve either worked on contract for, or interviewed at. Usually when I leave after an interview, it makes them consider really what UX is, and that they need to reassess their needs. The good thing is I’m helping them understand what UX design is. The bad thing is they then aren’t ready to hire – anyone.

Some want a UX designer who can do wireframes (check), interaction design (check), visual design (check) and program (uhh..). Okay, so three out of 4 ain’t bad. Some places I interviewed at have interviewed other UX designers who won’t even touch visual design (what??), and would rather farm it out (again, what????). Some want a UX designer who only wants to create wireframes… and some want them to come up with great ideas and leave all the other stuff to the experts.

So, I guess I’m not like a lot of UX designers, since I grew up drawing, designing, storytelling, engineering (you should see my plans for a flying Delorean..), taking really complicated things and making them simple, and yes, at one point even programming. Okay, so I don’t program now, but I get programming enough to know what can and can’t be done, to be able to look at code, or talk to coders and understand what they’re saying and respectfully speak their language enough that I don’t sound like some design lunatic. I can tell them what I want, point them to good examples, design out the kinetics so they get what the experience is supposed to be for the customer, user, audience.

I’m very passionate about great user experience design. And there are a lot of great user experience designers here in San Diego. It’s time companies stopped relying on doing so-so, “good enough” projects, whether they’re e-commerce, government, educational, consumer, marketing, or even entertainment based.

Time to wake up San Diego. UX is here and we’re ready to do great things.

And that’s my Random Thought for the day.

Greg – Renaissance something or other guy.

Advertisements

Random Thought- Responsive Web Design (an Analogy)

I thought I’d get this down somewhere, recorded in history before someone else claims they came up with it.

“What is it?” you ask. Once in a while, somehow I come up with clever thoughts and analogies for everyday things. Interestingly enough, someone in the office brought up the subject of responsive design,  and how difficult it is to do well, or at all. My thought and then answer was “Uh, no, it’s not.”

And to be truthful, really, it’s not, or shouldn’t be. Really.

It’s not that I was being cocky, or arrogant, or too sure of myself. I just feel deep down inside that people make a big deal a lot of times about things that are really quite simple, if you take the time to really look at them from a less-cluttered mind. Or even from the eyes of a child. I’m not saying one should be childish and immature. That gets you nowhere fast. But as designers, we need to be child-like at times – seeing things with wonderment and simplicity.

That afternoon I had an interview with a local creative agency to do some UX contract work, and the subject of responsive design came up again (coincidence?). The project would be for a pretty big web site, but had to happily live on the web, on a tablet, a smartphone, and even on someone’s big screen at home. So, the manager asked me what I think of, or more so, what does responsive design mean to me? How would I approach it?

My answer (and this is why I’m recording this for history): Responsive Design is pretty much the same as branding (if you worked in advertising or marketing you’ll get this – if not, then wait and you will). Take regular Coca-Cola as an example. It’s a good brand – everyone knows what to expect when they drink it, no matter if it’s from a bottle or can, i.e different packaging, but it’s the same exact experience.

So when designing a site, it needs to be the same exact experience — people need to feel like whether they’re on a smartphone or tablet or computer, there’s no shock in moving from one to another. And I truly believe in designing for the smallest thing first, where you don’t have a lot of real-estate, as well as people on the go want to get to what they want and need immediately. It’s good design. I highly recommend reading the 10 Principles of Good Design by Dieter Rams.  Or look at it this way. If you buy an 800 square foot house, are you going to buy a ton of furniture, or enough to make it a nice place to comfortably live? Also, think about what you need so that if you go up in square footage, it will work equally as well – but the idea is it still works and still feels like home. You might add on a few extra pieces to compliment what you already have, or lay it out a little different, but it’s still the same content.

Now that I have that recorded for all history, I can move on now.

Design – Taking the Complicated and Making it Simple

I love to find ways to make something simple out of something that can be so complicated when it comes to designing an app or product. I just have this innate feeling that no matter how complicated something can be functionally, for the end user that something should be the most simple approach to create a great experience.

There’s some great examples of very complicated products or devices we use everyday, that in the end are a very simple solution for the end-user. The iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, a toaster, a clock, a pen, a mouse – and so on.

Usually in software development, a business case is made along with requirements, and sometimes those requirements are very complicated. I tend to have some crazy idea pop in my head (really!), especially when put on the spot and there’s no real time to do research, or flesh things out, that almost all the time solves a complicated problem in a very simple way. It’s something I’ve done since I was very small (I’m now very tall..), and maybe it comes from approaching things from both a user perspective, and sometimes a child-like innocence as well.

So it dawned on me today during a conversation to use a leaf as an analogy for design from both the complicated to simple.

To the average person (the user let’s say) a leaf is nice looking, pretty, leafy.

When the seasons change, it changes color- still leafy and pretty to the passerby.

And that’s the simplicity of a leaf- at least to the user.

Now for the fun part…

Ever look at a leaf up close? Really up close? There is a LOT of coding going on in one of those little guys. Complicated coding.

First off, look at all the structure. Lots and lots of structure. There is no mistake in what’s going on in a leaf. Next, it converts carbon dioxide into breathable air. Nothing else does this as easily or efficiently. Who thought of this? (answer: God)  And the whole changing colors thing? WOW!  Millions of people flock to the east coast to watch the changing of the colors…

So next time you’re designing and developing an app or product, think of the leaf.

 

Software Design — This is Different

I just noticed while on LinkedIn it’s been 33 days since my last post. A lot has happened between then and now- namely I got a job with HP (as a contractor for the time being) at the beginning of February. As a software designer nonetheless.

Actually, I’m currently doing interaction design and eventually some prototyping in Flash for what I think is one of HP’s coolest products – the web enabled Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web printer. The kicker is after working in film, television, animation, graphic design, multimedia production, and then the web, I never saw this coming.

I have always loved good product design and industrial design to some degree, and know it takes a team of people to make a product go from concept to completion.

That’s a process that has always intrigued me, and I even had some experiences on my own with it on a very small level – one in developing a licensed consumer video game for Mac and Windows, which was basically me at the helm (with TONS of God’s grace), and a few friends to help out; and the other with the motorcycle fiberglass luggage I designed, developed, and had manufactured.

So, I guess I can say that even though I have had some experience to some degree in product development (and no where near what HP does…), I never saw myself as a software design engineer, or interaction designer, or prototyper, though in my past various jobs and own projects, I have been all of those at one point or another, but I never held the title of any of those, nor thought that was part of my career path.

My point is it’s amazing what one sees as their profession or career path, yet never sees all the job possibilities that can and do happen during that when we’re so focused on just doing our job that we were hired for, or working on some sort of hobby, learning new skills without even realizing it until someone else sees that in us, and sometimes just letting God be the one to direct us as to where we need to go next.

I am so blessed…