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The AYCL Blog

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

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.

Improving What Already Seems Fine

September 15, 2017
by Adam Churchill

There's not lots of urgency to improve something no one is complaining about, but that’s the challenge when we remove unseen friction.

The life story for unseen friction can be told with two ‘characters’:

1.   Someone super passionate about the product (platform or process) says “Wouldn’t it be better if…?” and then figures out how to make that ellipsis a reality.

2.   Users who, before the fix, never noticed the negative attributes in their experience, but now that it is improved say, “Wow! This is so much better!”

The reservation confirmation without the “Add to Calendar” feature; Gmail without the suggested responses; or a smart phone credit card form without the option to snap a picture of the card. These are all examples of processes we encounter that take (too many) extra steps and were widely accepted without much complaint until, when changed discretely, changed the game broadly.

The before and after for unseen friction makes a macro impact. The path to identifying these friction points and their solutions often requires ignoring the local maxima and exploring new technology. The results raise the bar for the competition and raise the expectations of the users.

Brett Harned’s “Project Management for Humans”

August 23, 2017
by Adam Churchill

17 minutes

Project management encompasses an important set of skills, such as communication, planning, and forecasting. But does someone need the title of project manager to actually do the work?

In Brett Harned’s book Project Management for Humans, he makes the argument that project management is always needed on projects but the role itself is less important. You should focus on the skills in order to manage projects well.

In this podcast, Brett shares some of the highlights from his book. Our hosts, Adam Churchill and Jared Spool dig into those highlights, in particular, whether designers already possess the skills that project managers have.

Listen Now

Want more from Brett Harned? You can see all of his recordings here.

Personas, IA, and Mapping Experiences top the List

August 4, 2017
by Adam Churchill

UIE's All You Can Learn Library is loaded with 317 UX seminars from the best experts in the world.  They solve your design problems, teach you new techniques, and inspire new ideas.  Here are the most watched videos in the first six months of 2017.

On personas: Give Your Users a Seat at the Table: The Characteristics of Effective Personas - Whitney Quesenbery

On IA: Collaborative Information Architecture - Abby Covert

On mapping experiences: Mapping Experiences: It’s the Destination and the Journey - Jim Kalbach

On defining the problem you’re solving: Discovery: The First Step of the Design Process - Dan Brown

On research: Making Sense of Research Findings - Abby Covert

On service design: Service Design Thinking - Marc Stickdorn

On research: Demystifying Usability Tests: Learning the Basics - Christine Perfetti

On design systems: And You Thought Designing Buttons Was Easy - Nathan Curtis

On product management: The Experience Is The Product - Peter Merholz

On analytics: From UI21: Is Design Metrically Opposed? - Jared Spool

On stakeholders: Preventing the Swoop-and-Poop with Successful Stakeholder Engagement - Kim Goodwin

On MVPs: Designing To Learn: Testing Your Minimum Viable Product - Melissa Peri

On taxonomy: How To Make Sense of Any Mess - Abby Covert

On simplicity: Simplifying Designs - Giles Colborne

On research: Infectious Research - Cindy Alvarez

On onboarding: Onboarding for Behavior Change - Samuel Hulick

On research data: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research - Laura Klein

On collaboration: So… what do I make? Exploring the World of Modern UX Design  - Dan Mall

On design systems: Design Tokens: Scaling Design with a Single Source of Truth - Jina Bolton

On strategy: Defining a UX Design Strategy - Jim Kalbach

 

Of course, there are 297 other great seminars to watch. Which ones make the list next time?

Kevin Hoffman’s “Meeting Design for Managers, Makers, and Everyone”

July 28, 2017
by Adam Churchill

16 minutes
 

There’s a stigma surrounding meetings. They’re often seen as unproductive wastes of time. But in Kevin Hoffman’s view, meetings are actually a design problem. In his upcoming book, Meeting Design for Managers, Makers, and Everyone, Kevin lays out strategies to make meetings better for all those involved, making them gateways to success. In this podcast, Adam Churchill and Jared Spool discuss some of the highlights from Kevin’s book.

Listen Now

Want more from Kevin Hoffman? You can see all of his recordings here.

Managing And Satisfying Stakeholders

May 20, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Kim asks,“what makes stakeholders so difficult to pin-down, and how can you satisfy them?”

Stakeholders get a bad wrap for coming into projects late and upending them. They tend to be busy, time-strapped people who bring expertise to projects, but are not always around to share feedback or ideas. It’s up to teams to gain the trust of stakeholders, and a keen understanding of their desires, despite these challenges.

To mitigate the threat of the executive swoop and poop, start your projects with a RACI exercise to define team roles: who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. Create project plans with milestone dates and specific points where stakeholders can provide critical feedback. Adapt to the ways of your stakeholders and proactively communicate with them to ease any anxiety they might have about the project. Make sure stakeholders know when they’ll have an opportunity to provide feedback. Listen to them, parrot back what you’ve heard, and communicate your next steps. The more stakeholders hear you reflecting their concerns and wishes, the more likely they’ll accept your solutions.

Collaborative Design Discovery

May 5, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Our mindset—the attitudes and assumptions we hold—influences how we work with others, how we receive criticism, and communicate. To a large degree, it can determine success.

Dan Brown shares three mindsets that he believes designers need to cultivate to work successfully in collaborative environments.

Adaptable
An adaptable mindset allows you to roll with the punches. You are comfortable giving the client options and adapting your techniques to the unique needs of the client and environment.

Collective
A collective mindset allows you to accept perspectives and contributions from other people on a team. You understand that other perspectives can improve your work, and that more heads are better than one.

Assertive
An assertive mindset is confident without being arrogant. You can be comfortable in a situation where not all of the answers are available, but decisions need to be made based on where you are at and what you know in the moment.

What Is Your MVP?

April 22, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Melissa knows that not all experts agree over the nature of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Is it a first release, a product rushed to market, or part of an iterative product approach? Product Manager and UX Designer Melissa Perri explains that MVPs are part of a process. They are an experiment to learn more about our customers: the problems they have and the solutions we can offer.

Before you get started on a product solution, and to minimize the risk of creating something that won't find a foothold with your target audience, Perri recommends asking the following questions:

  • Do our customers really have this problem?
  • What do our customers expect to gain in the end?
  • What are our customers doing to solve their problems now?
  • What do they care about in a solution?
  • Where will they use the solution?

Stakeholder Interviews

April 8, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Kim Goodwin says that stakeholder interviews are a critical step to setting the foundation for a project and establishing clear expectations and goals. These interviews are an opportunity to understand the perspective of the stakeholder: what they want to accomplish and why, and what ideas and expertise they bring. Interviews are also an opportunity to identify discrepancies in the goals and expectations shared by stakeholders.

When preparing for your stakeholder interviews, put together a set of basic questions. These questions may even seem dumb, but it’s important to encourage stakeholders to explain in their own words the challenges that may (or may not) seem self-evident.

Some of those basic questions may look like the following:

  • What do you think this project is about?
  • Who is it for?
  • When do you need it completed, and why?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • What should it accomplish for the business?
  • How will YOU define success?
  • How do you want to be involved, and what’s the best way to involve you?
  • Who else will influence the outcome?

Site Performance Budget

March 25, 2017
by Adam Churchill

Dan Mall knows that users are not in the habit of sticking around while a site takes nine seconds to load—and even nine seconds is a stretch. There are a few culprits behind heavy pages, like typography, code, and images that haven’t been optimized. If we develop a performance budget, and test our page load times, we can identify the fat that needs to be trimmed and improve load times. We can also use a performance budget to make content and feature decisions, such as how many images we use on a page.

Create a spreadsheet and run your website through a free webpage test tool. Note your page times for start render, visually complete, and fully loaded. Now list your competitors and compare their times against yours. Tools such as webpagetest.org will generate a report that can help you make the decisions you need to improve your site’s performance.

Cultivating The Right Mindset for Discovery

March 18, 2017
by Adam Churchill

In discovery, we embark on a set of research activities to gain knowledge and make decisions. As Dan Brown explains, discovery is not so much a phase of a project as it is a mindset that we bring to the work. A discovery mindset involves asking questions and making decisions – a creative back and forth between inquiry and action.

There are three qualities , or mindsets, that Dan Brown believes are essential to the discovery process.

Curiosity

A curious mindset understands that there are gaps in one’s knowledge. When we are curious, we ask questions, follow hunches, and give ourselves permission to explore ideas. We find excitement in the process of learning new information.

Skepticism

A skeptical mindset does not accept all of the assumptions it sees at face value. When we bring a skeptical mindset to a project, we are able to assess ideas, play devil’s advocate to challenge assumptions, and approach a problem from different angles.

Humility

Humility reminds us that we don’t have all of the answers; regardless of the experience and knowledge we bring to a situation. Cultivating humility allows us to listen to the opinions of others, and be okay when we don’t know what we don’t know.