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The AYCL Blog

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

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.

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.