Tuesday, July 30, 2013

MOB'dUP: Eliminating Frustration & Bringing It Home

In looking over my notes from the MOB'dUP conference Saturday I notice several interesting themes and a heck of a lot of good quotes. I am going to share just a few. And then I am going to give you a small task to test your ability to implement some of the tools and techniques learned at the conference.

Theme: Frustration. No, I don't mean conference attendees were frustrated. Quite the opposite. However, bleeding through many of the talks was evidence that UX professionals feel they have a tough row to hoe. Whether sharing strategy to outwit a corporate mindset that thinks that because mobile devices are small, the budget for mobile UX should be equally small (theme picked up in Greg Zapar's talk) or that there is inherent antagonism between developers and designers (themes included in talks by Guy Meyer and Asa Williams - bios in here), I sensed a certain amount of angst.

"Being a _____ just doesn't cut it anymore" [fill in the blank with just about any traditional job title]

"We aren't artists; most of what we do is Business Design" [said in the context of a rude awakening]

"I sometimes think designers go to the color wheel and just point and pick - every time. So you never get the same color twice" [said by a developer with great frustration]

Theme: Non Linearity. If ever the dominance of the Waterfall Method of doing anything was gone, it was Saturday. Just as OOP greatly displaced imperative programming, and parallelization is now de rigueur, speakers were drop kicking any lingering notion any audience member might have had that design and development were sequential activities. Designers and developers were exhorted to work together from start to end. Designers were exhorted to become more technical.  Crossing boundaries, blending perspectives, eliminating silos.

"The designs are finished. All you have to do is implement it" [Does anyone actually fall for that line anymore?]

"Be nice to your Developer. They work really hard to make it perfect" [Encouraging the manifestation of compassion in a frustrating world]

Now, for your challenge. It has to do with overcoming suffering. Because this is most definitely not what you want your users experiencing.

Setup: Despite the overall presence of non linearity, there was one particular linearity, found in Chad Martin's talk, that I really glommed onto. The "Delight vs. Frustration Map". This is an incredibly practical and useable technique for charting the story of an experience. Either predicted or completed.

Put on your UX Designer creativity hat and intuit the storyline that your software created that resulted in this  Delight vs. Frustration timeline:

Got it?

Now here is the actual storyline as it took place:

1. (bright and early morning): Boot up computer
2. Launch browser - notice it seems a bit slow to come up
3. Attempt to log in to mail - it is really slow
4. Attempt to read mail - painfully slow
5. Give up on mail and try to join video conference
6. Give up on video conference and attempt to send email explaining absence
7. Telephone colleague
8. Colleague suggests running a Speed Test
9. Make coffee while Speed Test application loads
10. Run Speed Test with anticipation
11. Get results: Download speed: .04 Mb/s; Upload speed: .10Mb/s
12. Try to reach Cable company online
13. Give up and telephone cable company. Have a pretty good interaction with support desk.
14. (Bright and early the next day): Cable guy comes over
15. Cable guys cleans up exterior wiring apparently messed up during recent renovations
16. Computer is faster
17. Cable guy finds other unrelated technical problems that are outside his purview.
18. Enjoy chatting with cable guy anyway. Cable guy then leaves.
19. Make coffee and get on with the day

Your Challenge: 
What would you do to help your user to raise those Frustration ratings and transform them into Delight?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Alert: Mobile Technology Could Lead to Moments of Zen?

I didn't exactly expect a conference full of super energized mobile technology professionals, with enough gear expertise to send your head spinning off into space, to get me thinking about the potential uses of technology to  s   l   o   w      t   h   i   n   g   s     d   o   w   n.

Nonetheless, after a day spent at the MOB'dUP, (Mobile Design Uprising) conference, that is what I most can't stop thinking about. It all started with the keynote speaker, Josh Clark, the guy behind Global Moxie.
At first when he started talking, I was trying to figure out what the very faint trace of an accent was. East coast.... New York? Perhaps, as that is where he flew in from.

Then, launching into the power of mobile mobile mobile (it was the theme of the day after all), when Josh started talking about the ubiquity of mobile and said:

"The question is: How can we do MORE?" 

I found myself thinking: information overload! - more? we want more?? True, I was not only sleep deprived but trying to take photos of the guy, who never stopped moving, and trying to take notes, but the thought of sensing and transmitting devices chatting silently away from the fluorescent  bulbs over my head, or the potted palms lounging unobtrusively around the halls, or in your stomach lining - these things exist. Well, it was almost too much.

But, guess what? That was part of the point Josh was trying to make. Moments after I thought it might be time to plan a vacation to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, Josh challenged the audience with the question:
How can we get to a more Zen-like experience? 

When he said that sensors, placed in things you'd never believe (cows for example, to let you know via text message and Bluetooth that they want to procreate) give us Super Powers, he was about to draw attention to the fact that we have to use our creativity to figure out how to tell us more about what is going on around us. At the same time doing so in such a way that we don't find ourselves having to tune into a zillion linguistic sets of technological chatter (i.e. a zillion different operating systems).

We know, we hear about it every day, how much all this technology, cool as it can be on a drooling geeky level, pulls us away from people and things all around us. People who can't get their faces out of their phones, who miss the crosswalk entirely and wander in front of traffic, or drive practically onto the sidewalk, because they are texting. People who don't get out enough because they are doing all their communication over the internet. I'm as guilty as anyone. Conference calls, video conferencing, email, Skype, G+, etc etc etc. It makes me type faster and faster just thinking about it. Can we slow down please?


Josh said, we are so good at communicating across the planet, but what about using that technology to help us communicate better right here? To make life simpler, not more complicated.

Radical thought. The idea that instead of having to unplug completely to be more mindful of what is around us, that we use that technology to help us do it. And put a little more Zen into our lives.

Josh's ideas were to use the power of sensors, which are now so small and sensitive that we can embed them in the strangest places (you can put one in your body that will buzz you when your posture is bad) to focus you on things in the Here and Now. And not just the Over There and Later. The technology exists for much of this, as we kept seeing up on the screen yesterday morning. It isn't science fiction anymore.

It is Tricorder territory on a very advanced level. I liked that thought. And Holodeck territory. I liked that thought too. Beam me up - no wait.... Keep me grounded.

Here is perhaps one of my favorite devices: the Hapifork. It monitors how fast you are eating and can tell you to slow down -  help you  e  a  t  m o r e   s  l  o  w  l  y. For those of you who have a tendency to mindlessly shovel it in while sitting in front of the computer this could be a wonderful item.


An excellent reminder that we make decisions about the technology we create and what purposes we put it to. There are times (yes yes yes) when we want to, and probably should, go off the grid. But we can't always just do that. And not everyone on the planet has (or wants) a meditation practice. So the rest of the time - hey, we are making this stuff, testing this stuff, buying this stuff. The people attending MOB'dUP yesterday got a great message from their keynote speaker that they can be creative as all get out and swim in as much mobile technology as they like - and if they so choose, they can use it to make life more simple. What a lovely idea!!!!!

Not zombies; UX professionals in sunlight

To Be Continued.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

UX Not as Weird as Usual, unless you Count a Penchant for Insults & Mobsters

It was a surprisingly tame evening for the UX Speakeasy crowd - I have no idea what got into them. I was
on my usual scoping mission for the odd and bizarre and everyone...ok almost everyone...was on their best behavior.

Maybe it was because there were a few Suits in the room. Perhaps because someone listed our event as part of San Diego Tech Week. No one is willing to fess up to having put us on their web site, but the result of that nice advertising was that of the 120-ish people there I spoke to several people... in ties...

(we tried to cut it off at 100 but apparently we were just too popular....go figure)

We were situated at EvoNexus, an incubator for up and coming tech entrepreneurs, so that probably had something to do with it. Nice place, nice people. The food and beverages were provided by our trusty friends at Vitamin T. Yes, this is a blatant advert for both of them, but they really are good people.

About that bizarre moment. After a rapid fire group activity to practice an entrepreneurial design process under tight time constraints one group made a pitch for sending "the perfect insult". As in, you designate who you want to insult, plug it in and the system comes up with a customized, really rude and offensive insult and blasts it off almost instantaneously. My first reaction was that no one in their right mind would put up venture capital for such an idea. My second reaction was that, sad to say, I bet they would.

Then there was the pitch to create a matching service for gangsters. Something akin to online dating. Was this inspired by all the Whitey Bulger news stories I wonder? The idea was that there are kingpins out there who need henchmen, and henchmen in search of a job. This team had all the pieces worked out. You sign up, fill out a profile, and a match is generated. Part of the process involves asking about ethical boundaries, opinions on weapon usage and, if I recall, modes of preferred violence. There was a loyalty test. And a trial run. You have to do something horrific and if you leave a trail you are out. Completely out. As in kaput. With this product, headhunting could take on new meaning.

In case you think there is a theme here... other groups made serious and well presented pitches for non violent, creative ideas. Unfortunately I can't remember what they were. That tells you something about ... something.

I sat with a group that was trying to come up with an answer to: "We want to provide the safest most connected experience while driving. With our forward thinking, we've achieved a safer commute without sacrificing connectivity".

[I neglected to mention that every group was given some sort of blurb like this to work off of]

It was fascinating to watch a microcosm of the real world in action when the group did the all too human thing and jumped right to wanting to describe a really geeky cool product. Skip the hard stuff of really delving into the analysis process and working towards figuring out a minimum viable product (yes, the notorious MVP).

It was fascinating to watch the classic developer sinkhole start to develop. It could be a cool product but would anyone care? Would anyone outside of the designers want it? At one point someone (me) pointed this out, and the comment back was "we only have 20 minutes. we have to come up with something". Well.... there is never enough time is there? There will always be pressure to cut corners won't there?

Another fascinating twist I observed in one group was when someone tried to simplify things by changing the problem so that it only tangentially addressed the original statement. The rationale was to simplify things, but the end result was that a problem that wasn't "the" problem was proposed because it would be easier to solve.

In the end everyone involved recognized what was happening and things got back on track. That was the whole point I suspect - experience the experience of trying to design user experience without experience.

Post Script: we are holding our next exciting event really soon - the MOB'd UP conference.  It promises to be incredibly professionally useful, fun, and yes, there will be some weird people there along with the random suit. But not too many suits. Promise.