The Echo is catching Fire

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in Design | No Comments

A couple of years ago when Amazon had just released the Echo, I had written about the potential voice based assistants have also had concerns about implementation. But it looks like Amazon has hit a home run with Echo. The medium post is just an isolated example, but I am seeing a lot more acceptance and people are beginning to see the advantages of using voice based personal assistants.

View story at Medium.com

Change in rounded corner definition with Sketch 42

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Design | No Comments

If you needed you sketch to use rectangles with multiple corner radius, the way to do it was:

25/25/0/0 – Which would give something like:

Rectangle 16.png

However Sketch 42 to has a new way to do this:

radius.png

25;25;0;0

Apparently it is more in line with math operations.

Nested Symbol Overrides

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Design | No Comments

Been using this already and find it incredibly useful.

Sketch 41 has arrived with a fresh new look and an incredibly useful new feature: nested symbol overrides. Let’s take a look at how nested symbols can be used as placeholders and swapped out on the fly within different instances of a parent symbol.

 

InVision now integrates with Jira

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Design | No Comments

Jira Integration and InVision inspect are both nice additions that make the InVision + Sketch combination a lot more attractive:

http://blog.invisionapp.com/invision-jira/

 

 

16 Prototyping Tools & How Each Can Be Used

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Design | No Comments

https://blog.prototypr.io/14-prototyping-tools-how-each-can-be-used-1c804fab33a6?ref=uxdesignweekly#.x2cc9zk3l

Everyone is asking: “Which prototyping tool is the best?” That’s the wrong question.

The correct question is: “Which prototyping tool is the best for my current objective?”

2016 Product Design Report

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Design | No Comments

87%

An Invision commissioned industry report.

In late 2015, Invision commissioned column five to analyze data from an Invision-fielded online survey of more than 1,650 designers from 65 countries actively working in design. Respondents were representative in terms of their demographic profiles, and responses were weighted to ensure accurate segment sizing. The survey explored respondents’ education, career path and working environment; uncovered tool preferences, design-related behaviors, and income variables; examined purchasing habits; and more.

Product Design Industry Report 2016

As design continues to fuel innovation at leading companies, more look to harness the differentiating power it can bring to their organizations. But what does it mean to be design-driven? In the 2016 Product Design Report, we sought answers. Now, we’re sharing those answers with you.

Craft Prototype looks impressive

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Design | No Comments

 

craft_prototype

Sometime back I had posted about InVision’s acquisition of Silver and its integration into the Craft plugin. Craft is a nifty plugin and has already proved useful a number of times for me. However just looking at the capabilities that Prototype adds to it, I’m truly impressed. This beat Adobe XD hands down. I have used the preview of XD about two time since I downloaded it, and I’ve been vocal about that fact that it has failed to impress me. With this in store, I’m pretty much sure I’m not moving to XD.

View story at Medium.com

Figma

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Design | No Comments

OK the app design prototyping space is really hot (or overcrowded depending upon how you look at it) And the new entrant ‘Figma’ does not seem to fill in any unmet need. This still seem to have got $14 Million to get the idea out, but really, did they have to spend so much time to get a MVP out. 10 minutes on it, and I can’t see any thing that I can’t do better with a combination of Sketch+Invision. And that is a robust platform that they are going against. Sad to say, but I don’t see a future for them…

23-Year-Old’s Design Collaboration Tool Figma Launches With $14M To Fight Adobe

“Which version of this design are we on? Did you make the suggested edits? Why is it taking so long to export?” Today, interface design collaboration tool Figma arrives to eliminate these questions with its browser-based alternative to Adobe’s desktop software.

The new Sketch Update. A horrific way to deliver goodness.

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Design | No Comments

The new Sketch update has come cool features. Some of my favorite include:

  • Nested Symbols
  • Symbol Overrides
  • Preserving Missing Fonts
  • Auto resize artboards
  • Manual Style Sync

And more…

Now I would never have written about this had this been a normal update. It started of with a disaster:


I nearly had a heart attack when it happened and made me look up on what the update had and actually felt I wanted to update. No this gets me thinking, is there a UI technique (maybe it’s a Dark Pattern). Maybe not. What do you think?

Sketch 3.7 and New Symbols – Sketch Stories

Updates to Symbols isn’t the only thing that’s made it into Sketch 3.7. We’re thrilled to say we have even more enhancements, performance improvements, and bug fixes in store with this update. Here’s some of our favorites this version: Along with the overhaul to Symbols, shared text and layer styles got a small update too.

Clarity & Mystery

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Design | No Comments

Chip Kidd: The art of first impressions — in design and life

Book designer Chip Kidd knows all too well how often we judge things by first appearances. In this hilarious, fast-paced talk, he explains the two techniques designers use to communicate instantly — clarity and mystery — and when, why and how they work.

 

Very nice TED talk on graphic design

 

clarity_mystery

What are the most in-demand skills for a software product designer?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Design | No Comments

The single most important skill for any designer is the ability to understand the medium they work in an optimize the design for the medium. Without this skill you cannot design for the medium. You will be surprised by the number of designers out there who do not understand the medium.

So as a product designer who designs for the web or mobile that would mean a good understanding of how people use devices today. The capabilities of the devices. How technology is implemented in those devices. Including Android/Material Design, iOS and HTML5/CSS best practices.

Rather than being an in demand skill, I would consider the above must have.

The tools required for the above are: Good understanding of HTML/CSS/JS. Also the various screen resolutions and features of mobile operating systems. A fair understanding of backend software architecture. Enough to be able to carry out a decent (not heavy-duty) technical conversation with engineers and PMs.

Next is the ability to communicate a design. You can use sketches to communicate. Or static mocks. Or Keynote. Or InVision. Or even actual code. There is greater value in providing higher fidelity. But if you consider the time to deliver high fidelity, the law of diminishing returns would come into play.

In common use, the above skill will be called prototyping. I like to call it communicating, though.

Tools: Sketch (Photoshop is passé in my opinion), InVision, Pixate, Proto, Keynote

Next up is the ability to put the design in the context of a user. Engineers and product managers are good at thinking about technology and business needs. A product designer has to be the users’ voice.

You call call it empathy, or designing with the user in mind.

Tools: Persona development, story boarding, scenarios, use cases.

Then one needs some ability to look at the business side of things.

Tools here could include service design, customer segmentation, value proposition and other artifacts that could feed into a business case.

Having the above, apart from the regular design chops, can make you an in demand designer.

Navneet Nair’s answer to What are the most in-demand skills for a product designer? – Quora

The single most important skill for any designer is the ability to understand the medium they work in an optimize the design for the medium. Without this ski…

The Sprint Book: A Review

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in Design | No Comments

 

sprint-9781501121746_lg

Just got my pre-ordered copy of the Sprint book yesterday. And I’m done with it today. But over the next few months I think this book is going to be a constant companion. I think Jake, Braden and the folks at GV have dome a great job at coming out with this book and sharing the knowledge.

I remember when we were working with Charles Warren and team to an early user research in India, we had used the How Might We technique extensively.

The team at GV have taken the technique to a whole new level and there are some awesome tips here for making it work for you. This book is highly recommended…

Adobe launches XD

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in Design | No Comments

User experience, prototyping app | Adobe Experience Design CC

Design and prototype websites and mobile apps with Adobe Experience Design CC (Preview), the first all-in-one solution for UX designers. Download now to get started.


Looks like the UX prototyping space just got a lot more interesting. Adobe announced the launch of XD (previously called Comet)

This comes right along with the news of InVision buying Silver Flows.

It’s all good new for designers. But now a lot more to choose from.

Anyway, I’m going to try out XD today and give it a spin…

Edit: I just gave it a quick spin. Just a few minutes. First impressions. It is extremely responsive. But that is expected as it is right now nothing more than a clickable link creating tool. It does not have layers, scrolling or even fixed headers. A few basic things you would expect from any prototyping tool. Compared to this release, Principle is just an awesome tool. But they promise to keep working on it. Right now, my feeling is that this is not enough for me to shift back to the Adobe bastion.

Silver Flows joins InVision

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in Design | No Comments

InVision welcomes Silver Flows to bring prototyping into Sketch – InVision Blog

We believe the screen has become one of the most important places in the world. Creating and refining this new medium is both an art and science of profound complexity and sheer delight. The tools needed to forge the next generation of screen-based experiences will bear little resemblance to those that powered the era of print and graphic design.

 

Just the other day I had written about the eminent demise of Adobe Comet. Well there is more bad news for Adobe. Silver Flows has just joined forces with InVision.

 

With Craft and Silver Flows, the already powerful Sketch+InVision package just got a lot more powerful.

Adobe Comet Just Died…

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in Design | One Comment

Prematurely…

I was very optimistic about Adobe Comet and have been waiting for it for some time. But then today I just saw this post about Silver:

Ready to prototype from within Sketch? Then say hello to Silver

 

I really feel this is it. If this promises even half of what the videos tell, I predict it will completely overshadow the launch of Adobe Comet. Would love to get my hands to test this out…

 

View story at Medium.com

 

An open letter to newbie designers…

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in Design | No Comments

An open letter to newbie designers – InVision Blog

You know how design articles tell you that design critiques are great, and that you should appreciate them because they make you a better designer? And that you shouldn’t take feedback personally, because people are critiquing your design, not you?

The above is a wonderful article addressed to all those who are new to design. I personally have a philosophy of not getting too attached to your personal designs.  I think this article resonates well with it. By the way this is swell advice for experienced designers as well…

The rise of the contextual UI

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Design | No Comments

We are all waiting for HAL

hal-9000.jpg

The year of the artificially intelligent UI is almost here. The Wait But Why article on the rise of AI has predicted a phenomenal hockey stick growth for AI, and I agree. But we seem to be taking baby steps towards it. There was Chris Messina who predicts this to be the year of conversational commerce.

And this article on design being the bridge that AI can cross for adoption seems pretty apt. There are however some skeptics.

tweet.png

Personally I believe more than ever, designers should be building more contextual user interfaces. That is something that will get intelligent over time and be able to smoothly incorporate the power that artificial intelligence has to offer.

By the way HAL, do you think the time is right for you to make an appearance?

Essential Sketch Plugin – Magic Mirror

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Design | No Comments

I’ve given up on Adobe. At least till Comet comes out.  And since my favorite tool Fireworks was disowned, I have moved completely to Bohemian Sketch. And I just love it. It is just right and the community that produces the plugins is also amazing.

Recently I wanted to create  some perspective design mocks from some of the UI screens. Photoshop (and even Fireworks) has good image transform tools that let you map the screen to an image so that it looked like it was an actual photograph. I did not find the Sketch transform tool good enough. And I though I may have to revert to PhotoShop just for this task. That’s when I came across this amazing plugin called MagicMirror.

It let’s you create perspective mockups just like PhotoShop. And while Photoshop has actions to help you, this Sketch plugin makes things just as easy within Sketch. Give it a try today.

Sketch Plugin - MagicMirror

PS: Check the GitHub page for the latest update on the plugin.

How many design hats can you wear?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Design | No Comments

Are you Product Designer? Or a UX/UI Designer?

According to this article on Medium these happen to be the most popular job titles in the design community today. And apparently there is a difference between the two roles. It goes on to state that there are a number of articles that explain the nuances of each role.

I for one don’t know the difference. Maybe I’m not educated enough to understand the nuances. Or maybe there is no practical difference. At least, not from a software product development point of view.

The article, in its defence, is a survey, not a comment. But it happens to be a survey of the Dribble job board. Which is to say it uses a rather skewed pool of recruits. Don’t get me wrong. I love Dribbble. But it does have its shortcomings. That said, then there are not many boards that do a good job of giving hiring managers access to a pool of quality designers.

We also happen to be in a job market that respects design (for whatever reasons.) So, good designers rarely have to look beyond the usual suspects to find a respectable job. With a fancy job title.

However apart from the title and the prestige of a big firm, what are the other factors that make a job satisfying? Maybe you have a job that pays well. And despite the long hours you are expected to provide a predictable set of deliverables. But is that enough? Ask a few more questions.

  • Do you find your job challenging?
  • Do you feel your skills will remain future proof?
  • Is your current role pushing you further towards the role you want to be playing?

And, by the way, what is the role you want to be playing?

Do you want to be a Specialist or a Generalist?

This has been the traditional way job roles have been looked at. It is a little dated but useful. But what does specialization and generalization mean to designers?

knives

Most people have a simple answer. If you want to be an individual contributor, you remain a specialist. If you want to manage teams you veer towards being a generalist. But is that the right approach? Let’s look at some of the job roles and decide.

 

First the specialist roles.

You could be a Specialist Visual Designer. This is probably the most common understanding of what a designer does. You could take on interactions that are defined by somebody in the organization and make it beautiful. A pixel pusher. And a typical move up the ladder would be as an Art Director or a Creative Director. You would work well in an organization that has fewer unknowns and a lot more support for other creative and product disciplines. Including copywriters, product managers and researchers.

While the art direction may be an individual contribution role, as a Creative Director, you may have management responsibilities. So the earlier assumption of what it means to be a specialist and generalist does not completely hold true.

As a Specialist Interaction Designer, you will be moving on to take responsibility of the structure and presentation of the elements of design. You would have to be involved in make information architecture maps, wireframes, defining interaction behavior and working closely with a visual designer to brings the products designs into reality. You could work to become a Principal and could even go on to lead UX teams.

A Specialist User Researcher may have the choice between a qualitative and quantitative study. Sometimes there could be a contextual inquiry. However a bulk of the work may be usability testing. You could move up and become a Principal or even lead the research team.

These are the main fields that designers tend to occupy.

However there are many more fields like UI development, prototyping and project management that designers can move into. All these career ladders have respectable zeniths, but lately there is more emphasis designers who can do more.

This brings us to the generalist designer. As a generalist you are capable of taking on multiple roles, but may or may not be an expert in any of them. I’ve seen many designers use this as way to move into a people management role.

However as a design manager, you need to manage design. Not people.

But then a lot of startups have a need for people who can genuinely multitask. This leads to the search for the Unicorn Designer.

unicorn_1x

As a unicorn designer, you are expected to live up to the following description:

If you’re looking for a designer who can come up with your identity, design your site, create UIs with great user experience for your web and mobile apps, and on top of that code his or her work in HTML/CSS (and why not throw in Javascript in the mix!), then I’m sorry to inform you that you’re hunting unicorns.

This is a daunting responsibility. And I’m sure you feel it would be a challenge to fit into these shoes.

But this is a need that you will see cropping up from time to time. It may not present itself in the job description. But once you land the job, you will be placed in a situation that expects you to handle all the above functions effectively. It will be a trial by fire and the most likely outcome is a burnt-out designer.

However despite the above disadvantages, I still tend to prefer somebody who can at least aspire to meet the above requirements.

There is however one difference. I think of unicorns as wearing different hats. And nobody wears more than one hat the same time.

I don’t think a designer should either.

However depending upon the team composition and stage of the project a designer should be able to slip into multiple hats. It’s a useful capability to have in your arsenal.

hats

So how do you slip into a hat that does not fit?

The answer is not easy. And, sometimes, you cannot. There is nothing wrong with that. However once in a while you will find a hat that doesn’t YET fit you right, but with the help of the right mentor, you would be able to fit in much better.

It may be coding. Or user research. Or prototyping.

A good mentor can show you all the important stuff and point you to the right resources so when the need comes, you will be prepared to try on the new hat.

You should understand that this is not something that you fit in right away. It takes time. But unless you make an attempt you would not even know if that is a role you can play.

The advantage you have with being able to wear different hats is that you are temporarily able to fill voids. It’s an incredible value that you bring to the team. And as a result your climb up the career ladder may take a very different direction.

Eventually, it will be a lot more satisfying.

So, are you in a role that allows you to wear different hats? Let me know. I would love to hear from you. I also know of a few places that will allow you to wear different hats. I would be more than happy to share them with you.

 

The UI designer is dead…

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Design | No Comments

…Long live the UI designer.

Is it a time of transition? According to this article it is:

Nobody Wants To Use Your Product – Smashing Magazine

Every morning, designers wake up to happily work on their products, be they digital or physical, with an inner belief that people will want to use their products and will have a blast doing so.

Very interesting look at how people are expecting the user interface to function invisibly. I agree with most of the article, but looking at the comments there seems to be a fair amount of resistance to the idea. Quite typical of a transition I would say…

 

Using Principle for prototyping mobile apps

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Design | No Comments

Principle Test Animation (3.8 MB .mov File)

Above is the link to a small experiment I did to play round with Principle, the prototyping/animation tool. Unfortunately I could not embed it directly into the post due to the file size, but it will give you an idea. It took me about 4 hours to get this prototype built including the time spent learning the new tool and thinking up this design. The actual time it took to build the actual prototype was not much at all. To tell you the truth, I had fun with the process, and the results are much more satisfactory than the time I used Origami to build a prototype. I think this tool has real potential. But will it make me shell out $99 after the trial period, well I still have some mixed thoughts. Here are my observations:

Pros:

  • Quite intuitive
  • Awesome handling of transition animations
  • Good iOS integration
  • Ability to create .mov and .gif files to show animation
  • Works well to create micro-interaction demos
  • Works decently with Sketch for image export
  • Handles retina images quite well
  • Drivers can create some powerful visual effects

Cons:

  • Still very optimized for the iOS/Mac platform (not that bad a fact, though Android is a major platform to design for)
  • Can’t handle vectors outside of basic shapes yet
  • Lacks default widgets like status bar, text input, etc (text fields etc require complex masking)
  • Animation needs to happen between artboards, so having multiple micro-interactions on the same artboard become difficult.
  • My get very complex if handling a full application instead of micro-interaction (in fact I’m not sure if it is optimized for that use case)
  • Sharing use cases not well-defined. Mirror is iOS only and does not handle file saving very well.
  • Most of these animation effects can handled with Keynote. And .mov files can be created with ScreenFlow or something similar

I think when it comes to spending the money on it, I think the last point would be the most influential. As far as animations are concerned, what can Principle do that can’t be done on Keynote? It does give an option to interact, which is good if you are demoing on iOS, but I think the whole workflow of involving clients/stakeholders into the equation has not been well thought out. Overall, I think it is a tool with a lot of potential and mainly a big threat to Origami (which in my opinion is very difficult to work with). But given that the whole app prototyping space is so crowded with a whole bunch of tools already doing a good job, I think Principle has its work cut out…

Also check a related article: What is the perfect prototyping tool for me?

Read up on: Adobe Comet

principle

Running a successful design mentorship program. Part 2.

Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in Design | No Comments

design_mentor

In Part 1 of this article, we touched upon some of the challenges that mentorship programs in general, and design mentorships in particular, face.

Firstly, mentors, protégés and the organization have the right motivation in engaging in the program. Secondly the results have to be meaningful to all three of them.

Secondly we looked at the structure of the program. Do we just put people along together and hope they get along? Or can there be a better way to find matches within the organization.

Thirdly, expectations have to be set right. As explained earlier if mentors and protégés see the assignment as a precursor to a promotion it can be a disaster when expectations are not met. The organization needs to spend some time on getting this right. 

The fourth and one of the most important factors is the actual culture of the organization. Organizational cultures are well explained in the book, ‘Tribal Leadership‘ by David Logan.

Level 3 cultures as described in the book have employees who believe- “I am right… And you are wrong” Having such an attitude can be caustic for a mentorship program even before it begins. 

It helps for the mentor to have a level of empathy in what the protégé is going through. But more importantly there needs to be a desire to be of help. 

Firstly it helps to get an emotional resonance by engaging in competitive activities like protégé presentations or competitions where the mentor can see first hand some of the challenges the protégé faces. 

Next in what way will the mentor come in to assist the problems faced is also important. Can they provide feedback or lead by example?

Also when it comes to design mentorship the two have to be actively involved is a number of projects that have definite outcomes. And these projects are not executed in a month. So the most important aspect of a mentorship program is time.

The two have to commit at least a year for things to work out and for the protégé to imbue all that he or she can learn. 

Finally mentors are not born that way. You become a good mentor by having a good one under whom you learn. Or through practice. Mentors themselves need other mentors who can train them on being better mentors. 

So you can see, investing in a mentorship program is not about putting a couple of people together and hoping things work out. 

However, if some of the above points are considered then you might end up with much better results on your mentorship programs. And they will certainly work out. 

Running a successful design mentorship program. Part 1

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in Design | One Comment

rsz_shutterstock_128372408

We are all aware of the importance of good mentorship programs. They help propagate important technical and cultural know-how within an organization. However when it comes to successfully running one, we cannot always claim good results.

Sometimes the mentor and protégé hit it off well. Sometimes it is a disaster. But more often than not, both think of the relationship more like a chore.

A design mentorship program runs into a few more issues. The number of designers in any organization is much lesser than other employees so, as a designer, the opportunity to mentor is much lesser. Moreover designers tend to touch upon many different aspects within the company. I’ve seen designers being shared between product teams, marketing teams. And even HR.

So for a mentor to remember to share details on all areas of contribution is difficult. As is for the protégé to remember everything.

Ideal mentorship programs are ones in which the protégé finds value in the program.  The mentor feels they have made a significant contribution. But most importantly, the organization retains the knowledge, culture and talent.

If you keep these three goals in mind, you would certainly be running far more successful mentorship programs.

However that does not complete the whole picture.

Let’s look at how mentorship programs are usually structured.

People take up mentorship assignments either because they are forced to take on the responsibility or because it will help them meet their quarterly goals or OKRs.

A protégé, on the other hand, is new to the system and just goes with the flow of being assigned a mentor.

Wouldn’t it be better is there was mutual respect between the two people being put together? Chances of having a sharing/learning session would increase.

One of the ways you can do this is by having a interview based system and one that allows people to choose mentors. Maybe even a mentor ‘speed-date’ might work. Another way would be to match based on skills and aspirations. So the protégé can choose a particular skill area they want to work on and a skilled mentor in that area will then interview the said protégés and if they are satisfied with their potential, they choose to become their mentors.

In both cases there is mutual consent before entering into a mentor-protégé partnership. And chances of success are more.

In upcoming parts we will explore other aspects that make up a successful mentorship program.

Compressing design sprints.

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Design, User Research | No Comments

Design Sprints are great tools that help answer critical design questions using analysis, design, prototyping and validation. A design sprint typically compresses all these phases into a five-day intensive collaborative workshop.

A design sprint already squeezes weeks and months of design and product debates into a five day process so that the team can save time. It’s great and one of the main requirements of a sprint is to have most of the major stake holders present for the sprint so that critical business decisions can be taken during the sprint.

A sprint is usually divided into six phases:

  • Understand: This is where we understand business needs, user needs and technology capabilities.
  • Define: This phase is used to define the key strategy and focus.
  • Diverge: Exploring as many ideas as possible.
  • Decide: Do a prioritization exercise to select the best ideas.
  • Prototype: Something that gets the idea across.
  • Validate: See what stakeholders feel about it.

While the design sprint is strategically significant, it is time intensive and requires a lot of scheduling to have everybody available for five days. A number of stake holders I’ve run into feel they are unable to devote five days to a design sprint. At times I’ve tried to fit it into three days. While it is a bit cramped it is still possible. But there have been requests to fit the workshop into a single day.

Is it possible to fit a month of discussion into a day?

One of the experiments I’ve tried and been relatively successful is to take part of the process offline.

The idea is to make the ‘Understand’ and ‘Define’ processes asynchronous. Use collaborative tools to get the whole team to contribute. Collate all the responses and meet on a day where two phases ‘Diverge & Decide’ are carried out and the assimilation and validation can again be made asynchronous.

This would mean one day of actual meeting but more than a week of collaborative asynchronous input gathering and validation. It still feels like the whole team worked together on the consensus. But the actual time spent in meeting is drastically reduced.

Would you like to run a design sprint for your organisation? Get in touch…

The new Yahoo mail

Posted by on Oct 18, 2015 in Design | No Comments

http://fortune.com/2015/10/16/yahoo-password-security/
  
So in the new release Yahoo just bid adieu to passwords and hopes to say hola to returning users. 

The question is whether users will return for a better experience. 

Over the years Yahoo mail users have facing the terrible experience of getting locked out of their account that they have been using for years. Most of these users are well past middle age and Yahoo was mostly their first and only mail address. 

By locking them out Yahoo successfully broke their trust. Mostly irreparably. 

By giving a feature that makes it easier to get into their emails, you are not going to win their trust. 

The newer generation does not necessarily need email but more a form of online identification. Yahoo does not have the clout anymore to be the provider for that. 

So in my opinion, Yahoo will not get anything from this apart from ephemeral PR. 

Google on the other hand is planning on doing the same, and they will be given the opportunity to do some real world user research and come up with a better solution. 

Sorry Yahoo…

Project Comet from Adobe

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Design | No Comments

For a long time now, there have been only incremental updates from Adobe on its products. After it discontinued updates on Fireworks, I personally switched to Sketch. And nothing from the Adobe stable really compelled me to switch back to Adobe products. That is till now. I just read up about project Comet.

This is one integration of prototyping and design that seems very intuitive. I like that it is built from the ground up for mobile design and prototyping. Seems right and really hope it works right. I surely want to get my hands on it when it comes out.

Read more.

A change of status

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Design | No Comments

For years I have been working as an interaction designer and design leader for product firms where I have been involved with the entire journey of a product from research, to development, to deployment and eventually feedback. From the beginning of this month, I have decided to go out and become an independent design consultant provide user experience design, design thinking and even some level of design leadership to companies requiring them. I had taken a short break from work which is why updates to this blog were infrequent. I’m back in this new role now, and looking to keep this blog fresh with new information and ideas.

Google buys Pixate

Posted by on Jul 23, 2015 in Coding, Design | No Comments

In related news, Google is buying the prototyping firm Pixate.

Here’s the announcement:

Today, I am very proud to announce that Pixate has joined Google’s design team.

Pixate was started three years ago with the goal to make designing and prototyping native mobile applications easy and more accessible. Our early adopters helped guide us along the path of making tools and services that best fit the needs of designers struggling to turn their ideas into reality. Today, we have companies of all sizes, from single-person startups to global corporations, using Pixate to bring their app ideas to life.

We don’t want to stop there. Our small team at Pixate has some really big ideas, and with the help of Google we’ll be able to bring those ideas to the design community at scale. We’ve become an essential part of the workflow for tens of thousands of designers, and are excited about expanding our mission at Google to reach millions of product teams worldwide.

Starting today we’re making Pixate Studio free and dramatically reducing the cost of the Pixate cloud service. You can read all about that in our FAQ. I sincerely want to thank all of you for your invaluable feedback and the endlessly inspiring prototypes you’ve created with Pixate. The landscape of design tooling is changing rapidly, and Pixate is committed to staying at the forefront.

Read more here:

http://blog.pixate.com/post/124673189563/google

Should designers learn to code?

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Design | No Comments

There is a nice series of podcasts called ‘What is wrong with UX?’ by Laura Klein and Kate Rutter. It’s quite nice and should be on your subscription list. I especially liked their take on the subject of designers and coding. Still only 6 episodes are done, but it has good good energy and looks interesting…

What is the perfect prototyping tool for me?

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Design | No Comments

The answer is simple.

There is no one prototyping tool that will suit all your needs.

Not the answer you were looking for? Well let’s look at the scenario today and see if we can come up with a better answer.

Firstly if you are an old-school designer, some of the early work horses like PhotoShop and Illustrator might be your choice of prototyping tools.

Sure they are mature tools and have evolved over the years to keep up with all the changes. But in the last few years that smartphones has become such a dominant platform it is impossible to imagine a simple interaction that will work for most interface element.

You got to admit it. The click is a dinosaur.

Gone are the times when users were predictable. And buttons did just one thing. Even dragging was considered an advanced interaction.

Today, with multi-touch, users will tap, pinch, zoom, long press, drag, swipe and a whole lot more. Add to that the complexity of designing a responsive interface, and you are already stretching the limits. Image editing tools are just not cut out for that kind of prototypes.

Of all the image editing tools out there, I have personally started using Sketch a lot more. It provides multiple artboards for multiple screen sizes. Vector based editing to export to retina based devices easily. And an extensible plugin architecture to extend the framework.

Recently with its new offering, PhotoShop is also playing catchup, but Sketch is far ahead in the game.

But if you limit yourself to Sketch, you may not be doing your prototypes justice. Especially if you want to convey a much more interactive interface design.

So how do you move forward from Sketch?

You can take your screens into Keynote and stitch it together into an interactive version of the design. Keynote is an excellent tool that allows you to get in your artefacts and add interactivity like transitions and animations with no coding knowledge required. There are quirks, of course. For example, you can’t use a magic move inside a mask. And sharing Keynote files with the more prevalent PC community is more difficult than you can imagine.

Is there any other option?

Flinto, did someone say? Flinto is a bare bones mobile presentation tool, that allows you to create hit areas and small scrollable sections. It does little more. It is quick to move a static screens into clickable prototypes. But if you wish to add animations and more, it is a bit difficult.

So if you want to add realistic animation to your prototypes, you can use Quartz Composer. Add patches like Origami and Avocado to it, and you have a compelling prototyping tool that allows you to use native animation to create a very realistic prototype.

It’s great, till you see the actual Quartz composition. It is a literal interpretation of spaghetti code. Moreover, sharing these prototypes is not very easy. Given these two reasons, QC has not really caught on.

That’s where Pixate and Proto.in come in. Both used to be web based but Pixate now has a desktop based web application. Of the two, Proto.in offers a lot more  control and interactions and is actually quite powerful. Sharing the prototypes is also not difficult.

However the best prototyping tool available is none of the above.

It is a paper and pen. If you really have to convey your ideas the best way to present them is using paper on pen. You need tons of paper. Good sketching skill. And a whole lot of emotions to convey your idea. But at the end of the day, there is no better way of feeling that it’s a job well done.

So what is your tool of choice?

Are design schools better than MIT?

Posted by on Jun 18, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

There was an article on LinkedIn that brought to light a statistic that there more design school graduates at the top of Unicorn startups than MIT graduates. 

Firstly one should consider that this is a statistically insignificant data set. Sure it consists of most (maybe even all) the Unicorn companies, but that is not enough. Secondly Harvard and Sanford have its fair share of representation. 

But it is significant that design is getting recognition. It has been a hot field for the past few years. However in some sense I actually think this type of a comparison might not be all that helpful.

Hope there is no Unicorn bubble waiting to happen. And the worst case scenario would be if the emphasis on design gets blamed for it. 

In any case, enjoy the glory. While it lasts…

  

Security at the expense of usability

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Design | No Comments

I recently wanted to contact my bank customer service for some query and came to this form:

security

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see it asks me to select an email address to which communication can be sent. I’ve registered two email ids, both are Gmail accounts. Any idea which is which? Beats me…

10467136_10153290617279749_6494278659937380811_o

Maybe Dilbert knows 😉

Zero to One

zero_2-one

 

Zero to One is an interesting book about building companies. It has ‘Notes on startups’ in the title, but is a look at Peter Thiel’s analysis of what works and what does not in the tech industry. Some of the premises presented in the book are expanded below.

Competition is bad: Thiel actually believes that competition is contrary to the principles of capitalism and that operating in an environment where there are a number of competing organisations is bad for an organisation. They end up dissipating their energies by waging a war with each other. This does not necessary create better products. In fact it hurts profits. Thiel uses Apple, Microsoft and Google to illustrate this point. In 2010, both Google and Microsoft had more market capitalisation than Apple. But in 2013 Apple had more than overtaken the combined market capitalisation of Microsoft and Google. When you think about this, India is also facing a similar situation in almost every sector. In transport there is Uber, Ola, Meru and TFS. In real-estate, there is Housing.com, MagicBricks, CommonFloor and others. In e-commerce it’s Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. India is a war-zone as far as competing technology companies go. Thiel goes to say that the same concept can be applied to individuals within the organisation. If each person’s role is defined and they concentrate only on that task, internal competition is reduced. And appraisals are easier. People on the whole are more productive as well.

No technology company can be built on branding alone: When Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo in mid 2012, she had a one line strategy. People, the products, then traffic and finally revenue. Sounded good. And she went about in earnest executing it. Working at Yahoo was a lot cooler with free food and so on. She redesigned the logo. Almost single-handedly. And worked on products by acquiring Tumblr and re-launching core products like Flickr. These looked like steps in the right direction. But there have not been any new products or radical changes in the strategy. Thiel uses this as an example of not doing enough to impact the core company. Though a lot has been achieved for the brand. But is that enough? According to Their what is required is something like what Steve Jobs did on his return to Apple. Something that worked on the product impact directly. For example, a sharp slash in the number of products. Directly resulting in a 10x improvement.

Strong AI is like a cosmic lottery: If we win it, we get utopia. If we lose, we will be substituted by Skynet. However Thiel does not look at Strong AI as an immediate problem or opportunity to be dealt with. In fact Thiel sees the improvements in computing power more as an ally to humans. Tim Urban however thinks otherwise. And I actually think the future might be closer to Urban’s analysis.

Lean Startup does not work (not the way you expect at least): This is a slightly controversial if misunderstood point in the book. There have been talks on TechCrunch about how Thiel is wrong about this. What Thiel says is actually this “Leanness is methodology not a goal. But iteration without a goal will not take you from 0 to 1.” This does not deride the who Lean Startup philosophy but augments it. I’d also touched upon the Minimum Desirable Product in this article and it is an interesting way augment the lean methodology.

Overall the book is really thought provoking. Highly recommended.

Lynda + Linkedin

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

There are quite a few people out there declaring that the Lynda.com acquisition by Linkedin is probably the best money it has spent so far. I agree, Lynda.com is a great content company that is focused on making sure there is quality content and presentation that is available for viewers. And most people feel the deal is a great fit. I cannot disagree. But, I’m not sure how the model will eventually scale. Linkedin is not focused entirely on technology. Will we see aircraft maintenance or clinical research emerge as topics that will get added to Lynda’s already wide set of learning resources? I’m not so sure.

However, most people have a positive view at how the partnership might work out. In fact, Kirsten Bailey has some ideas about how it might all pan out:

1) Talent Solution Value-Add: LinkedIn has stated that they will keep Lynda.com operational as a stand alone product in the short term, but they will begin piloting the sale of it as a part of their talent solutions offering.

2) Increase Consumer Revenue: LinkedIn recognizes that many of its 350m+ professionals would be interested in the professional development + learning opportunities Lynda.com provides. Because both companies have similar, subscription-based business models, it would be easy for them to incorporate Lynda.com access into a LinkedIn premium subscription. I imagine this could be a fast follow once the acquisition is finalized.

3) Strong Market Position: In addition to stepping up its game within the recruitment arena, this acquisition is a pretty clear signal that LinkedIn considers itself a strong contender in the Professional Development space. Now that LinkedIn is an education provider, you can bet that makes a lot of businesses in the professional development, L&D and corporate training spaces are nervous given LinkedIn’s position at the intersection of professionals (their clients) AND companies (also their clients). I think it’s important to reiterate the fact that, with this acquisition, LinkedIn seems to suggest that they are looking to own the Global Talent Pipeline not partner their way to the top. It’s an opportunity for players in the professional development space to take a step back, re-evaluate their SWOT analysis and think through if this is indeed a threat worth taking seriously.

I do agree the acquisition completes the talent loop by offering micro-certifications that can add to the recruiting loop. However I believe there is a different temptation at play. Over the past few years Linkedin has also become a large crowd-sourced content generation platform. The acquisition of Slideshare and the introduction of the blogging platform offers two things. It establishes Linkedin as a go to destination for personal development content and also as a platform for content creators to showcase their expertise.

I feel Linkedin will be very tempted to follow a similar path for Lynda.com as well. In the short term there will be high quality content but soon it will open up as a crowd-sourced + professional skill showcase platform. The micro-certification story might take a back seat in my opinion. What do you think?

lynda

Apple after Jobs

I’m nearing end of the Steve Jobs biography, the one which Cook and Ive believe is better than the Isaacson one. Towards the end of what I think is more a memoir by a close acquaintance the author talks about AppleU an university that looks at developing future Apple leaders by looking and dissecting past decisions. The hope is to encapsulate the decision making powers that made Steve Jobs a legend.

While this is a laudable vision and the hope is to preserve the culture of the company. It actually functions as a way to maintain the legacy of one person. Steve. In some ironic way, this is essentially an implementation of an Orwellian big brother philosophy, albeit one that may be a little more aspirational than 1984.

So far Apple has been true to two of the three tests that Jim Collins puts to test for companies that are ‘Built to Last’. The book is not sure of the third, “Does Apple have an enduring legacy that can be displayed by across multiple leaderships?”

Having read this biography in addition to Isaacson biography, iCon, Infinite Loop, Pepsi to Apple and even the Ive bio, I really fail to see a pattern in Apple’s success. And neither does there seem to be a pattern amongst the competitors or even the individuals within the core team at Apple. Gates, for example, is an antithesis of Jobs but highly successful. And Ive, a brilliant designer that he is, could not have gained the recognition at Apple without Jobs. Even Jonathan Rubinstein who was extremely good at Apple was hardly able to make an impact at Palm. And anybody remember a genius named Avie Tevanian? 

So let’s look at Apple post the Jobs era. Despite the platform and the brand, the company has made a few false steps.  The Apple Watch was not exactly what people expected. And the new MacBook still has some naysayers. 

Others have been quick to pounce on this relatively lean period in the history of Apple. Mark Leslie, for example, talks about the innovation drought at Apple to Forbes and goes on to suggest that the problems began while Jobs was still there. Though, I personally believe that the duo of Cook and Ive have put up a rather good show. And with some upcoming rumors like the Apple Car, maybe the company could be on its way back to finding its footing.

So the question really is how long will Apple stay on this pedestal of good design and brilliant products? Want to take a guess?

Android Auto is here

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

A couple of days ago Google announce Android Auto and is not available on the Play store along with a few head devices that seem to be necessary to run Android Auto. Android Auto seems to be a little better built when compared to Car Play for use in the automobile. With heavy focus on voice navigation it seems ideal. The Physical navigations are not too bad either. Having them integrate with buttons on the steering wheel  is nice. But the head device should not be a necessity. You should be able to use you phone (read phablet) as a head device and having a heads-up display is also important.

 

Here’s an old demo of the product. More reviews should be coming soon.


Meanwhile you can check my old post on connected cars.

Connected cars are soon going to be a reality

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

Connected cars have been in the talk for over a year now.  Most people put it forward as a safe and convenient way to reduce traffic and and travel delays. It sure does. But that’s not the only reason connected cars make sense. There is one more important aspect. It improves the driving User Experience.

Now with Apple apparently joining the fray, and the fact the Google has already been working in making improvements for the automotive industry, we could soon see this happening.

So what could we expect from projects like this. Here’s a not so moonshot look at it.

Apart from a smart almost cockily irritating sense of humor that Siri tends to put across, most devices today seem to lack personality. Let’s hope that’s not the case with your car.

 

Meet your car. No really meet him.

car

By denying your car a personality, you might be blocking out a rugged, outdoorsy and jovial friend in your life. The one that accompanies you on all your hikes, vacations and even your commute. You probably spend as much time in your car as you do at home. Isn’t it time you got to know each other better? Well it should be.

Let’s start with giving your car a name. Does Jake sound right? Some, of course, might have Anne for their companion. While others might prefer Terry. Your friend has the personality that blends in with your lifestyle. While belonging uniquely to your car.

There should be a way to personalize this. You need not be stuck with the personality of a Siri or Cortana that you may or may not like.

One of the reasons most companies are looking at the car eco-system is because they realize there is not much advancements in phone technologies possible in the near future that will motivate people to upgrade.

The watch and glass are all devices that you would want to use to augment your necessity for the phone. No reason why a car should not do the same.

So as you would expect, you communicate with your car with a phone application. Something that also lets the car talk back to you. Your cars knows as much as your choose to reveal about it. And you can check your car’s health and performance based on the diagnostic information the app provides.

Let’s get started. You walk in to pickup your car from the showroom and when you finish the purchase of the car, the dealer provides you with a login to the website that lets you customize your new purchase. While you purchase the car, you also select the personality that you wish your car to posses. Jake, the jovial, outdoorsy and rugged SUV will surely be a hit with the entire family.

You connect your social profiles on the website so that the application has data to build a profile about your preferences and also checks profiles that let it find frequently visited sites based on Yelp reviews and other information available on the web.

None of this profile information is ever shared with anybody, in fact you can choose not to share the information. You can also shut off the location tracking feature in the car with a simple command.

One of the first things you realize on accessing your car once connected to the app is that there is a deep connect between the car and you right from the word GO. You unlock the car simply by having your phone in the vicinity of the car and thus do not need to search for the keys in your pocket with your coat in one hand and the bag in the other. You simply walk in and you can either connect through the hard network or even wirelessly though the car network. Your car has it’s own cellular network that communicates over LTE and also provides a network for all people using the car, so their individual devices can provide individual control for the various car functions.

The first time you enter the car, Jake welcomes you and the heads up display on the car gives you a tour of the car and it’s cool new features. Also asks you where you want to go. It already knows where your home is and provides you with a update on the traffic conditions on the way at the time and asks if you would require driving directions. Driving directions are conveniently shown on the heads up display of the car.

Placing your finger on the biometric identification on your phone actually starts the ignition on your car, and you and Jake enjoy your first ride.

For the application we focus on future and trust as keywords to drive the look and feel of application. While the application will be as unobtrusive as possible, it will basically be driven by an intuitive VUI and will use the heads up display to present information to the driver.

This will enable the driver to focus ahead on the road and will not have to shift between the touch panel on the center or oven the steering wheel to control Jake. Jake will also provide individual entertainment and information needs for all the other occupants of the car. This is especially useful when there are children travelling together who may not be interested in the same entertainment needs as the other passengers of the car.

It also offers you to connect to your Spotify, Audible or Pandora accounts and quickly shazam a song playing on the radio. In conversations, you can always ask Jake to get you information you would like.

e.g.
OK Jake, where is the closest ATM?
OK Jake, what is the average length of a bottle-nose dolphin?
OK Jake, when is the next show for ‘The Imitation Game’ at Century Cinemas?

Jake not only provides you with all the information but can also book tickets for you and can make dinner reservations for you. If for some reason, you make a dinner reservation at a restaurant, depending upon it settings it can even recommend for you a better alternative.

Jake also has access to your calendar, so it knows when you are on the way to a meeting. It can quickly send all participants (or just a few important ones) a short voice message. So you can let them know that you are going to be a few minutes late. Or you can ask your colleagues to go ahead with the meeting and you would be joining a few minutes late.

There are other use cases that the application would need to fulfil and these will be outlined in more detail shortly. Some of these use cases are:
Directions and traffic updates
Birthday and anniversary wishes
Hotel bookings and arrival alerts with automated check-in with participating hotels
Get car vital stats like fuel status and battery status
Know your car performance like fuel efficiency, average travel distance, mean load etc.
Individual control of entertainment
Networked games
Video call for passengers and not driver
Voice calls for driver
Read out messages (privately)
Marked read out messages as unread
Flight check-in

We will continue our journey on the evolution of Jake over the next couple of posts.

PS: There has been a long gap between posts I took some time off to do a long retreat and have recently joined an exciting new startup that has been taking a lot of my time. For good 🙂

Giving good feedback

Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 in Design | No Comments

The idea of feedback is to arrive at a point of mutual interest together in the shortest possible time. If this is the motivation, the person giving the feedback is as much responsible for the design as the designer himself/herself. So how does one give useful feedback? Maybe there are some steps to follow:

1. Have the interest of the project in mind. Usually one of the reasons people provide feedback is to feed their own ego. This is usually the case in design by committee, where the designer presents the work in a meeting and the person speaking is just doing so in order to make themselves feel important. Even if the feedback is important, having the wrong motivation while giving it might prove counter productive. Before you give the feedback, think for a moment. Do you really have the best intentions in mind?

2. Give a reason and a possible alternative. It’s easy to say you don’t like a particular color. But to articulate why you think the particular design won’t work and give an alternative that you think is right is quite important. Otherwise you are not being constructive in your feedback.

3. Have respect. A lot of time you may be unknowingly responsible for the design problems you see in other’s design. Are you respectful in giving feedback? It’s not about the tone. Or the body language. It is often about the attitude. You need to ask yourself, do you respect the person whom you are giving feedback to? If not, both are better off doing something else.

4. Better communication. Sometimes, your words may not convey the intent clearly. Use a whiteboard, a paper/pencil or what every is a quick way to illustrate your feedback. Doing this conveys a good interest from your end in making the idea work and also encourages the other person to communicate better the next time.

5. HIPPO opinions need not be the best. Google has the concept of a HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) while this might be good feedback it is good to remove this bias as each feedback idea should have the ability to stand on its own.

6. Build on what is presented. Most ideas that are presented will carry with them some form of attachment to the idea. It is very difficult if you trash the ideas and propose new ones in their place. Very often there will be some positive in that which is presented. Look for it and try and highlight the good. The rework the one that can be improved. Finally provide the new idea that you have the last and if possible try and show that the idea stemmed out of one of the ideas that were presented. This is a good way to feed the ego of the person looking for feedback and make them go back to the drawing board feeling good.

7. Have an open mind. Finally accept the idea that you could be wrong. There is nothing wrong on being wrong as long as the project moves in the right direction.

megaphone_feedback

 

Finally there might be rare occasions that you feel giving feedback is futile. Usually this happens when you feel you no longer want to work with the person you are giving feedback to. Firstly such occasions are very rare. But they sometime do come about. For example, at Google we never explained to interview candidates why they did not make the cut. While this might save a lot of time in the interview process (and more importantly save a lot of awkward interactions), in most cases you will run into people in the industry very often. So it might actually be a good practice to provide feedback just in case you run into each other again. That said if the person at the other end is not receptive to feedback at all it might be a good reason to reconsider. That’s probably the only time you may want to reconsider the time spent towards feedback.

That said this blog seems like it is not open for feedback as the comments are disabled. However, you are really welcome to provide feedback. You can either do it on my Flipboard magazine or my Facebook Page. Looking forward to feedback from you.

PS: I’m going to be away for a while as I take an extended break. Catch up with you next year…

The Buffet way to prioritize user stories

Posted by on Nov 23, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

Everybody today understands the importance of shipping early but in that process, the team inevitably makes a lot of compromises. What if you did not have make any concessions? What if you still had time to iterate? And what if you still made sure you listened to the user?

Crumpled question marks heap

You could say that is an ideal scenario. Maybe not.

There is a lot of focus today by companies to get a minimum viable product out early.

I had written some time back on the framework for user motivation. It works great as a framework for prioritizing the different amount of time we spend upon each part of the product. Ideally one would like to concentrate on getting each aspect of product right. This is ideal product focus which looks something like this:

product_pryamid1

But today’s market the reality is that you do not have the time to spend on getting all aspects right before you release. The idea is to get a minimum viable product out into the market as soon as possible and then concentrate on getting things right. Though an excellent plan in theory, most MVPs tend to focus on getting the functionality right and not rest of the aspects. An ideal way would be to concentrate on all aspects of the product. Something like what was mentioned in this article. So the actual MVP (which should be called a Minimum Desirable Product) would look something like this:

mdp

Now the question is how does one arrive at this short list of features that make it to the minimum desirable product. This is where Buffet comes in. Recently read an article about the process he uses to prioritize life goals. So here goes the Buffet way to prioritize user stories for a minimum desirable product.

Step 1: Write down 25 user stories that you would want to make it to the product. Keep the stories broad but not too broad. For example, for a product like a word processor, you may want to keep ‘work with documents’ as as story that includes create, delete, open and close rather than have stories based on these individual use cases.

Step 2: Now circle the top 5 stories from this list that you reckon as most important. Get some users involved in this process. Try doing a card sorting exercise where you can get users to do some prioritizing for you. Whatever method you choose you need to come up with the top 5 user stories you would want to concentrate upon.

Now halt. Have you done step 1 & 2 for your set of products. Now come to the next step.

Step 3: Now do the top 5 in the list. Ignore the bottom 20.

When you are iterating. Do all that is possible to keep this 20 out of your iteration cycle. Your initial definition of what the product should do might change but you will end up with a much simpler and focused product. Depending upon how the product is doing get each of the remaining feature in only after you feel there is no way that the product can improve without getting the feature in. Play the devil’s advocate up to the point that the feature wins based on the merit.

Try it out. This worked for Buffet, there should be all reasons for it work for designers and product managers.

Interviewing designers.

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Design | No Comments

There was a question on Quora about interviewing designer, which I gave an answer to. I hope the answer would benefit more, so just sharing it here.

There are various things you look for an interview, at the end of the interview you as a interviewer should have a good amount of data to make a decision one way or the other. One of things many people overlook in an interview is that while you are taking the interview you are also making an impression about your organization in the person’s mind. Have you impressed the interviewee enough to make him/her work for you?

That said, here are a few things I look for in an interview.

1. What are the candidate’s design philosophies and what motivates them? This is usually a round when you want the candidate to become comfortable with the process. So questions will revolve around more factual stuff. Some questions asked during this process:

  • What made you get into design?
  • Who are the designers you admire?
  • How do you keep yourself updated on design?
  • What are the books of blogs you follow?
  • What do you do in your free time/what are your hobbies?

2. Next try and get out a sample process that they follow.

  • What is a project you are most proud of, how did you approach the project?
  • If you were to do this project all over, how would you do it differently?
  • Depending upon their answer try and probe what was the rationale behind a certain step in the process. Try and give a counter argument and see if they are convinced of the decision they have taken

3. Technical skills. To analyze this aspect you could ask their skills on some tools, this could be ideal for UI developers or you could do a review of their portfolio if you feel the designer has enough experience to be skilled in the tools of choice. Not giving questions here since this would depend upon what tools or skill-sets the designer/developer possesses.
4. Teamwork. Try get answers on how the candidate works with the team. Some sample questions:

  • What are the various ways you have communicated your designs in the past? (Red flag if the designers has always used mock to communicate the design, good designers will use what ever method is best to communicate the design)
  • When was the last time you had a disagreement with someone on the team? How did you resolve it?
  • After you have finished delivering the designs, how do you ensure that they are developed as per your intent?
  • Tell me five ways you would improve the functioning of your current team? If it is really good the way it is, tell me why?

5. Design Exercise. This is a good way to judge how the designer thinks given a problem. This can be long so some may not be able to schedule this into the process, but it is always good to have. Of course once the exercise is done, ask the designer to present the solution and convince the group that it really works.

There are more things you might want to cover during the interview but you may need to improvise based on your need. Also you can check this post by Braden on how to give a good design exercise which is good article to read:

How to interview a designer with the perfect design exercise

 

 

 

 

What’s wrong with design?

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Design | No Comments

Recently came across an article about marketing and how it should be viewed within the organization, I felt the same to be true of design. So here goes some wrong thinking about design:

  • Design is a department within my organization. No it’s not. Design is a way of thinking. The best designs can come from anywhere. The designers just have the skill to communicate the idea. Sometimes they come up with the idea. But everybody in the organization should be responsible for design. Good design should be part of the organization philosophy.
  • Let me get an MVP out and get funded first, design can come later. A lot of times the good is an enemy of the great. And while it is important to get to market fast, if you just focus on the functionality and get an MVP out first, it may not be well received. This tweet, explain the way to look at MVP better. Maybe what you actually need is a Minimum Desirable Product.
    B0_gVMSIEAAj5SP
  • I am a user and I like it, why does the design need validation. Google Buzz was a big success in an internal dogfood, but the world outside Google was not ready for it. If you think all your users are like you and your colleagues, be ready for a surprise.
  • I  just need to find the right user. This form of attachment to the product and its design, might prove disastrous. If something does not work, learn to fail quickly. A good design department learns to fail quickly and get up back on its feet equally quickly.
  • All the product needs a new look and feel. Look at what the data tells you and be prepared to take hard decisions even if they are harsh. Giving users old wine in a new bottle is not the right answer.
  • My customers have been using the product for ages, I don’t need to change now. Sure but the world around you (and your customers) is changing. If you don’t change quick enough, your users might look for something else. May be a competitor…

 

Will Amazon Echo catch fire?

Posted by on Nov 8, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

Amazon recently announced it family digital assistant name Echo and a voice enable artificially intelligent assistant named Alexa. So much for Siri and Cortana, do we really need one more. Amazon seems to think so, and they have released a video so show the new device in all it’s glory:

Interestingly there is already a video that takes a fun look at what would happen if echo did not work as well as expected:

Given that voice is still something that people are not used to, though there is amazing potential (this is something I touched upon a while back.) The question is, will a product like echo actually make it? It will be interesting to wait and watch. And I would say, if  it does succeed, this would be great addition to the ever expanding set of devices we have to design for. If not, we will at least learn from the effort…

echo

Redesign for sharing locations

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Design | No Comments

I recently realized that you could actually share locations in the new IOS8 update. Avery useful feature, but it was not very intuitive. I in fact did know the feature existed till I had the same idea on my own, but did not think iOS had implemented the same. You can take a look at the current implementation and see for yourself why.

01_text    02_current_sharing

You can’t get to the screen while you are composing the message, which seemed to be a more intuitive mental model. Also the sharing only appeared once clicked on details. It certainly was not intuitive for me. Here what I thought was a slightly better implementation of the same feature.

03_current_sharing    04_text_modified    05_text_modified_click    06_text_modified_option    07_text_modified_option_click    08_text_modified_sent

 

Not the best possible implementation, but should be better than the current one.

 

What is wrong with speech recognition today

Posted by on Oct 26, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

I was recently giving a demo of Google Now speech recognition to a few people who had never seen it before (It could have been Siri or Cortana for all I care.) It was, to say the very least, a very impressive demo. Speech recognition has come a long way and the recent video that Google released is testament to it.

However over the years I’ve not used Google Now or Siri as much as I thought I would. Maybe I’m a victim of inertia. Maybe I’m not motivated enough by the lack of accuracy. Maybe it lacks enough features that are needed to make it a daily habit. Maybe.

But the truth is I’m usually an early adopter who would definitely give things a try and make it part of my routine, if I found the experience compelling enough. However since that did not happen; and since the demo I had given was impressive enough even for laggards to find the feature useful, maybe there is one aspect to the to the whole gamut of speech recognition that we are missing.

It wasn’t a need for more human like responses. In fact, I noticed that Google Now in India has started using an Indian voice for the responses to make it sound more natural. Not that it helps in my opinion.

In fact there was something that I was reading recently that made me think even more:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2014/10/09/siri-is-considered-one-of-the-biggest-distractions-while-driving-says-report/

According to the above article using Siri while driving was extremely distracting. Interestingly, the comment below seems a little telling:

Some of the participants also expressed disapproval with Siri’s “sarcasm and wit.”

I think we need to look into some of these features that make the response seem almost human like.

This may actually work against the experience. Especially when the input that we tend to provide completely natural.

Let me explain. When we talk with people (except maybe visually challenged people,) we tend to rely upon speech associated gestures to convey a lot of underlying meaning.

The frantic waving of arms to augment the immediacy of speech, or the increase in breathing frequency when you are angry are all providing inputs to your communication. This is lacking when we interact with a speech recognition system. However, when the response from the other end is extremely human like, there is a disconnect.

Being able to use speech associated gestures in addition to normal speech may be the next step to make this interaction more intuitive. Maybe we should put speech and kinect together to make things more intuitive…

Material design is flat skeuomorphism

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Design | No Comments

Google’s Material Design specifications have been around for a while and a lot of people have called it to be the death of skeuomorphism, however it may be a little too early to call for funeral. If you still have not heard about Material Design, you should take a look at the video below to get a basic idea.

Material Design works on three basic principles:

  1. Material is the metaphor
  2. Be bold, graphic, intentional
  3. Provide meaning with motion

If you look at principle 1 and 3, these are very close to trying to mimic a real world expectation of how things work in the real world and map it how it works in the virtual world. Somehow this seems like principle that have been heard before. Maybe in the world of skeuomorphism.

If you look at this article – The Untold Story Of How Steve Jobs Re-Introduced His Signature Design Style To Apple you will note the following:

Steve Jobs loved skeuomorphism. He thought it made software easier for normal people to use – more approachable and immediately familiar.

Maybe Steve Jobs was on to something. Maybe this is a nice compromise for of the Flat vs Skeuomorphism debate, that tries to get out the best of both worlds.

Interview with Jonathan Ive

Posted by on Oct 19, 2014 in Design | No Comments

This is a good interview, and while a lot of the process seems exclusive and heavily relies of great design talent, it is the motivation behind the design process that seems to stand out. Some of the interesting quotes for the interview that that I felt resonated with me were:

“Good design is holistic. Design that is beautiful but is not functional is ugly.”

Also

“You are seduced by a feature at the expense  of making a great product”

And finally, a quote I could not locate but I’m paraphrasing had to to do with design is motivated by being of service to people who are using the product, and that is a great motivation to have if you are starting out designing great products.

Playing around with Pixate

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Design | No Comments

pixate

 

If you are remotely doing anything around mobile design, you should keep your eyes out for Pixate. It is an incredibly simple concept that allows you to rapidly prototype of iOS and android devices, with bare minimum coding. You can easily create your assets in your favorite image editor and bring them into pixate and have the behave like native app elements. You can even share your ‘prototype’ with stakeholders and all of this without loosing time on working with existing prototyping tools. I see a bright future ahead for this tool. You can check out the site on: http://www.pixate.com/ Or check out to learn more on this site: http://learn.pixate.com/

From research to prototype

I’m doing a half day workshop at UXIndia and this is what I intend to present:

It is based on a technique I picked up at Google and found it to be quite useful. It’s something that is also used at IDEO and Facebook to name a few. Maybe you will find it useful as well…

Download PDF

Scratch banner ad

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Design | No Comments

Interesting concept.

Creative Director / Art Director: Peter Mix Willer
Art Director: Andy Borglind
Code / webdesign: Andy Borglind

A Cultural context to UI text

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Design | No Comments

why_you_have

A friend of mine got this notification on Quora and was a bit offended. He assumed that Quora was upset with him that he had so many unread notifications. The reason for this is that in colloquial Indian English the ‘Why’ is used at the beginning of a question and the friend assumed that this was a question Quora was asking him. And a rather rude one at that.

In this case the note is grammatically correct and tells you the reason why the notification count has gone up. It is not intended to be rude (I think)

Maybe a better note would have been “Are you seeing a lot of unread notification? Here’s why:”

That, of course, is one way to avoid a cultural bias in your product text that are part of your user interface. Something that a User Experience Designer should be cognizant of.

Top 3 Most Influential Ad Men in India

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

The top three most influential ad men – Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and Sam Balsara – come together to discuss their journeys, trials and tribulations and of course, their messages to today’s generation.

User Motivation

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

I did a presentation at D-Camp many years ago on a framework on user motivation. While a little dated it has concepts that are still relevant. Maybe it might help a few people…

 

mdp

Locking users into your ecosystem.

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

AppleWatch4

Whether the Apple watch is a success or not only time will tell (no pun intended.)

It has got mixed reviews so far. But one thing is for sure, it is another example of Apple trying hard to lock the user into the Apple ecosystem.

While this is not really a bad strategy, in fact, it plays well when done right. But even for Apple things don’t always fall into place.

The Apple watch works with iPhones 5 and above. So the demand for the watch can drive users to upgrade their phones as well. More over, the watch is targeted towards health freaks and the new iOS 8 health features make these duo high on the wish list. It certainly seems like an irresistible pair.

There are a few things that may not work for them though. The fact that the phone and the watch are tied together means people who are already invested in products like the Fitbit and Ginger.io will have to go for an upgrade. Also it alienates Android users which the other quantified self products serve rather well.

Microsoft has had tried the ecosystem game in the past. And failed.

So has Apple.

It has had successes like the iPhone and iPod. But also failure like MobileMe and G4 Cube.

To lock users into the ecosystem you need two products which are absolutely irresistible and work seamlessly.

This worked well for the iPod which paired will with iTunes and an incredible library of licensed music.

And the original Mac had Desktop Publishing.

However, it’s not worked so well for the Windows phone, which had a decent hardware but not enough support from the developer community to warrant a switch.

While the G4 Mac Cube was a beautifully designed machine, it was expensive. But more importantly, it lacked the support from other hardware and software components that make the deal complete. Imagine if the Cube came with a whole range of accessories that made it irresistible for gamers. Maybe we could have a winner on hand.

So when you design new products, see how they fit into the ecosystem. See if there is any pair available that makes your product complete. Make sure both the part of the pair are irresistible, the combination might just prove to be a winner.

Rational Design.

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Design, Product Management | No Comments

There is an interesting concept that Tim Parsey used to talk about. He thought of three levels of design. Design that is 1. Rational 2. Emotional and 3. Meaningful.

This is indeed a very useful framework to look at software development. Let’s look at how Tim defines these three parameters.

1. Rational Design: This is purely a look at functional design. It means that the design meets all the defined use cases. The basic needs that must be filled each day. This includes utilitarian things such as checking the weather forecast, finding information, and communicating.

2. Emotional Design: This is design that touches you on an aspirational level.  It includes the desires that people require to enjoy contentment. It includes being entertained, inspired, educated, and amazed.

3. Meaningful design: When the designs include ways to perform higher aspirations that bring about a peak of daily bliss. This includes sharing and receiving, and feeling like you are a part of something larger than yourself.

Tim talks more about meaningful design in this talk at TEDx Conejo

Personally, however I have a slightly different view of these three levels. At the lowest Level, I agree, the basic is rational design. Beyond rational design, I see software as being liberating and beyond that, fulfilling.

Rational design, according to me, however has three sub-levels. 1. Viable Design, 2. Persistent Design & 3. Lively Design

A question one may ask, is why a need for this sub-division. While software can be well designed visually from a usefulness point of view they become useful only when the reach the level of a lively rational design. Let’s see how these three sub levels can be defined.

One of the most familiar designs we all have at some time or the other designed would be what termed as the minimum viable product. While I completely agree with the fact that software development has to be iterative, the idea to release to your user base, a product that is just about viable is dangerous. Release early and release often, but do not make the mistake of releasing something that is so half-baked that your user does not come back to it. Viable design, by that definition, is something that takes care of the bare minimum use cases and is functional but does not motivate the user to use the product beyond handling the tasks the user set out to complete.

Persistent design, goes one level above it and take care of all the use cases and actually does a good job of motivating the user to use all the use the features on the product. It ideally also make sure it plays the catch up game well and has on paper all feature parity with competition.

Ideally a product should be released to users at this level. It is a point where you have the minimum desirable product. And delivers a lot more than a minimum viable product and ensures that early users are not lost while testing out the product. You can of course release to a closed, motivated, group of user at any point before this but the product should not be available for general access before this.

However the real ration design is one that delights the user and makes it desirable to use the product, hence the name Lively design. This is a design that makes sure all the features that competing products have are already worked into the design. It also does a good job on making sure that motivation levels for users to complete these tasks are met. It actually goes on to let the user use the product in ways that it was not originally designed for.

This is the level of design excellence that most designers strive for and is something that is quite prevalent. Beyond this level we see the two types of design that further improve on the experience.

Liberating design is the next level and at this point the product almost becomes invisible and the user is just concerned with the the task at hand. An example your be the default text messaging app on the phone as long as it does not add any cognitive load on the user.

Fulfilling design is the final level of software design where the software actually facilitates an ecosystem that allows others to build rational and liberating design without any additional cognitional overload.

I shall delve into these levels in other articles.