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The AYCL Blog

Learn about what’s new, what’s coming, and find blasts from the past.

Designing A Better Way To Meet

February 16, 2018
by Adam Churchill

The way we meet for group workshops, project check-ins, brainstorms, and all other forms of information sharing and gathering, can be comically ineffective. By designing better ways for groups to meet, we can address some of the classic challenges that undermine group gatherings, such as:

  • People talking too much, or holding back
  • People staying in their comfort zone by keeping comments at a surface level
  • False consensus: people going along to get along
  • Debate mode, when conversations have winners and losers

Marc Rettig explores patterns of participation, dialogue theory, and the elements of good gatherings in his virtual seminar.

Watch: Good Gathering.

Service Design for the Public Sector: A Case Study

February 8, 2018
by Adam Churchill

Service Design is about the design of services, from end-to-end communication materials, paper forms, call center scripts, to back and front-office software, and more. It’s a lot more complicated and bigger than a deliverable.

In this seminar, Chris details the challenges he and his team faced when trying to overhaul the system to book prison visits in the United Kingdom. It was a project fraught with complexity and not as easy to solve as getting people to agree on the research, or the problem.

  • Hear a real world application of service design principles that improved a public service
  • Learn how process and user-centered practices focused a team to find the right solution across a web of connected dependencies
  • Find out how a big legacy system challenge was solved by a low-tech solution
  • Explore creative ways to apply service design practices to big problems within a system

Watch this Case Study on Service Design

Qualities of Good Animation

February 2, 2018
by Adam Churchill

Most of us feel relatively confident in our ability to spot examples of bad animation. But what are the qualities of good animation? We might say animation is good when it doesn’t distract or take away from the user experience. What kind of animation should you be creating?

Val Head tells us that there are two things that great user interface animation has in common: purpose and style. Animation can augment an experience by creating context for users and showing them different ways of completing a goal. How can you get started?

  • Defining Principles: Find a meaningful space in your design for animation
  • Creating Continuity: Reinforce mental models in the interface to show how content is related

Watch: UX in Motion: Principles for Creating Meaningful Animation in Interfaces with Val Head.

Variable Fonts & the Future of Typography

January 31, 2018
by Adam Churchill

In this seminar, Jason Pamental guides us through the history and importance of typography and how the evolution of technology can bring us to a new design Renaissance that will satisfy style guides and content management systems, and delight users.

As the Internet has evolved, what was once difficult about executing typography well has fallen by the wayside. Now, the difference between having good typography and bad typography is based on choosing and setting up the proper systems and tooling to execute effectively.

Typography is design and a way of communication. It requires intention.

  • The communication value of intentional typography and its online evolution
  • The impact of variable fonts on good design
  • How designers can play a role in the spread of variable fonts and good typography

Execute Your Typography Well

The Name Game: Immersive Tech

January 20, 2018
by Adam Churchill

British designer Alex McDowell coined the phrase “immersive design” in 2007 to describe experiential storytelling, which is at the heart of user experience design. Today’s emerging technologies are allowing designers to create experiences that build a narrative into their work and design a world that feels tangible and immediate. Let’s define terms.

  • Virtual Reality (VR): We co-exist in virtual environments with digital constructs
  • Augmented Reality (AR): Information is overlaid on the world
  • Mixed Reality (MR): A merging of real and digital worlds

Adapted from: Explore the future of immersive technologies with designer Preston McCauley in his virtual seminar, “Entering the Immersive Design Revolution.”

Affordance 101: From Things to Screens to Things

January 17, 2018
by Adam Churchill

We're adding Andrew Hinton's Affordance 101: From Things to Screens to Things to UIE's All You Can Learn Library. This seminar recording is 40 minutes long.


Affordance is a key to understanding how your users make sense of every interaction you design in a product or service. Whenever your users don’t understand an interaction the way you assumed they would, chances are affordance is part of the underlying problem.

Just understanding what affordance is can be a challenge. The word “affordance” has come to mean different things to different people, causing a bit of confusion. Thankfully, Andrew Hinton can return us to the true meaning of affordance and demonstrate how it differs from signifiers.

In Affordance 101, Andrew uses everyday examples to explain the concept of affordance, its background, and how it applies to your design work.

  • Effectively define affordance and its importance
  • Distinguish between affordance and signifiers
  • Recognize how technology affects affordances and signifiers
  • Use signifiers to clarify your design for your users

Provide Context to Your Users

Designing for Emerging Technologies

December 30, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Virtual reality (VR), while long a favorite topic in science fiction, used to be a choppy experience. But as Preston McCauley explains in his virtual seminar, we are on the cusp of something new with emerging technologies, such as VR, that allow designers to create truly surreal experiences. Immersive design will push us to the next level of user experience in applications, as well as gaming.

  • Nearly all of the major companies are building products and platforms to support VR and immersive technologies
  • A talent pool needs to be cultivated and grown
  • VR design requires multi-dimensional and spatial design thinking
  • Crafting experiences takes planning and prototyping

Packing an Onboarding Toolkit

December 9, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Users should experience a product or platform in a layered way. The further they go, the more new features and benefits they discover. This means the user is always learning, and as designers, there is the opportunity to engage them multiple times and ways through their journey.

In building the onboarding experience, the key is to assemble a diverse toolkit to follow the user as they progress.

Starting at the beginning, choose a thoughtful default experience. Usually the homepage and initial user settings, this introduction can make an invaluable first impression with inspired design and content architecture.

Then, as the user continues, they’ll be informed and aided by inline guidance, highlighted suggestions that exist in the flow of the experience; reactive guidance, tips that are prompted by the user’s actions; and proactive guidance, alerts for features the user hasn’t discovered but should.

Of course, once the user is in the flow of their user experience, they'll also want to self-serve their support. For this, great onboarding toolkits offer on-demand guidance, an easy to find and clear set of answers to the frequently asked questions.

When onboarding is flexible and adaptive to the user, their journey, and timeline, it evolves from a first-run tutorial to become a trainer.

What UX Can Learn from HR

November 11, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Think back over your career and the first weeks or months of a new job. There are probably examples of good, bad, and ugly onboarding experiences. With those in mind, we can better empathize with users, and look to the HR onboarding process as a model for UX.

Good employers, who value their employees' experience, will design an onboarding journey that evolves and evaluates outcomes over months, and sometimes even the full first year. They’re investing in their employees to ensure a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

They know that onboarding has more than one job – to familiarize people with a job (or service). The onboarding process is also a time to learn about the employee (user), so the employer can tailor the experience to their needs. Onboarding also attempts to get people engaged in some way (conversion), and guide their continued journey.

Further, good employee onboarding is evaluated over time. This helps to improve things for the current new hire (user) and new hires in the future.

Continuous guidance and evaluation, as practiced in a comprehensive HR model, and as applied to UX design, results in continuous improvement for the individual employee, future hires, and the company.

Bringing Friction to your Team

October 28, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Because you have a finger on the pulse of your user’s experience, you’re in the know about what’s working or not. When you find something to change because it could work better, smarter, or more efficiently, it’s worth considering your approach with your team and management.

In UX, the mantra is “the less friction, the better,” but sometimes correcting or removing that friction just adds it to the team.

Start with backing up your hunch with research. Conduct user interviews, examine if desired outcomes are realized for tasks and features as intended with analytics and data. Then, test your theory. Assuage the worries of your team by showing them how it will work with prototypes.

Change can be a difficult undertaking, but it’s always those closest to the challenge that are best prepared to lead it.

Missed Connections: Effective Facilitator

October 13, 2017
by Adam Churchill

She or he:

  • Should be a neutral party in the debate. They will be tasked with and trusted to lead a conversation, but not influence it in any one direction.
  • Understands the entirety of a project and can break it down to size for each meeting. They will decide where to focus the team, what decisions need to be made and manage accordingly.
  • Ensures that everyone gets a chance to contribute. The facilitator will have the autonomy to determine the sequence of speakers and, like a debate moderator, make sure no one monopolizes the conversation.
  • Captures the ideas and conversations of the team in real time. They are not a note taker or commentator. They will close the laptop in favor of the Dry-Erase marker to keep the team present and focused on what’s right in front of them.

Facilitators play a key role in design meetings. If they do it well, they can seamlessly guide teams forward, encourage balanced participation within the group, and keep teams and projects on tasks.

Plan for Onboarding to Never End

October 3, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Like anything we learn, to walk, to speak a new language, to cook, or to navigate the latest web platform or app, we rarely master it on the first go. Users may not need 10,000 hours of practice to understand the cloud, but they’ll likely need more than 10 minutes.

The mistake that is often made is thinking that onboarding – the introduction to the experience – is finite and meant for the first run. Spoiler Alert: onboarding never ends.

UX designers and product managers should be encouraged to embrace “never ending” onboarding as a way to continue to nurture their relationship with the user and cultivate a lasting engagement.

Whether it’s developing a delightful first-run introduction and thoughtful default settings, to in-line tips and tricks, to reactive and proactive guidance, and of course on-demand self-service support like an FAQ, there are myriad ways to improve the user’s experience and assist them in taking full advantage of your product.