Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Primates of usability

The point to this post is to talk monkey (and gorilla) business. It's kind of funny how much of your usability testing might rely on primates.

MailChimp was built for marketing emails but makes a great usability list service since they make it very easy to do branded HTML blasts.
SurveyMonkey is a super easy way to make a survey which you could use for traditional research or to screen usability participants.
Silverback is my favorite screen recording software ever. I've used Silverback both for tutorial videos and for usability testing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Everything I ever wanted to know about makeup I learned from YouTube

You've no doubt experienced the power of movies. More recently, I've been fascinated by other dimension of video that's being exploited less in movies and more in YouTube is how-to videos and talent sharing.

In 2010, I experienced this first hand--I dove head first into the world of make-up by watching online tutorials (Michelle Phann & Kandee Johnson). I learned enough to do my own wedding makeup.  

I'm not alone. Chris Anderson,  curator of TED, speaks of many other examples of the power of video to fuel learning and innovation. Given our innate love for storytelling and our visual nature, why wouldn't we gravitate towards watching? Access to new communication channels has clearly shown that the medium strongly impacts the message. **

Another bonus to this video is a demonstration of the presentation tool, Prezi. For how much people complain about how much PowerPoint sucks (Tufte and many many others), I'm glad someone created an alternative.

**Some say the medium IS the message. False. If this were true logically, everything on YouTube should be the same since they share mediums. (Dwight from the Office voice used here)


Monday, August 6, 2012

Dressing is Design

"That it is shallow to judge by appearances is a well-known saying. That it is shallow to dismiss appearances is a lesser-known truth" - Poet Yahia Lababidi*

At one of my first jobs I told a group of dude coworkers, as an aside to a long, yet interesting, story, "I'm not very feminine."

"Yeah, no kidding!" my coworker responded, precisely .001 millisecond later.

I had no idea. I actually thought I was sharing a deep, unknown opinion about myself, not a hard fact. The resolute and lightning fast response truly shocked me.

I have the social perception of an felt tip pen so all this time, I figured my long hair said "I'm a lady-like lady!"

I didn't think I was being compared to ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE...not simply my coworkers.  It's amazing how we can be clueless. I thought my long hair and occasional jewelry was saying something. I guess my deep voice, swearing, and swagger negated my sterling silver hoops and ponytail.

The gloves and pearls say I'm a lady, fighting to get out!
In more recent years, I've taken up makeup and more dressy (ladylike?) attire at work because it is arty, more professional, and I like it. I haven't changed anything else and I actually, really don't dress well (picture the sum of dork + job interview + $100 JCPenny gift card), so don't think I pull off mid to high-fashion, but I'd like to think that with a bit of gloss and a skirt, no one will leap at the chance to dismiss my femininity  something I like having, thank you very much. 

I felt defeminized. As in "I saw the most beautiful pig, Miss. Piggy and realized I'll just never be as much of a woman compared to her... I felt so defeminized" (thank you, Kal and Jill!)

You, Miss Piggy, you are a Lady and a Scholar

I learned clothing is not merely a tool to prevent awkward nudity, but to assert some statement which in turn, directly impacts how one is perceived.

Even if you don't pay attention to how you look, other people do In other words, dressing is a very personal way to design.

Quoted in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and taken from The June 2007 issue of The Week Volume 7 Issue 312.

Friday, August 3, 2012

UX designers should play more video games

Something I didn't mention about my aversion to games, was that I was afraid. I mentioned already that I was afraid of a scary controller and slow but competently mobile zombies, but I was also afraid of becoming addicted.

The day my husband came home with an Xbox 360, I was worried I would lose him to the vortex of the machine. I wondered if this was the beginning of the end of our communication. Would I ever be able to snap him out of his game-induced trance long enough to have a conversation?

In reality, it wasn't a worry. In fact, his enthusiasm for the first game he bought, Call of Duty World at War, made me so, I started sheepishly playing. Early on, I was awesome only at running into walls and getting killed by others. But after some practice, I was able to maneuver around and even got some kills in.

Playing Call of Duty World at War an epic experience. The environment is so realistic, it's actually distracting from the objective (to kill others and not die). Water is crisp, flames are mesmerizing, bugs fly around, and your gaze can follow planes in the sky. It just looks amazing. Watch the Trailer here (but buy a more recent Call of duty if you like multi-player since cheaters have ruined this mode).  

Later, I'd shoot real guns, and surprisingly found myself with a host of knowledge. Without picking up one book or reading wikipedia, I could identify World War 2 weapons on sight.

How do you like that?

Later, again because my husband loved it so much, I started playing Starcraft (another amazing game, for very different reasons), trailer here. Again, there were side benefits I could not have imagined. SC2 replays and professional, yes, I said professional, tournaments became another channel to appreciate the game, the players, and the huge community of passionate people that love the game. Watch a great replay screencasted by Husky, who's voice has got to be golden ratio.


So what's the point of this blog post, aside from being a valentine to COD and SC2? I guess to say that we all need video games, especially over 30 female user experience designers, like me.

Though their information architecture and menus are generally awful (they need you!), they've always  pushed tore up the envelope. In doing so, there are many design lessons such as situation awareness, head-up displays, maps, real-time collaboration, and communication. These are all practical patterns that haven't been done well on the web because the web cannot match desktop application or console game processing speed (yet?). Of course they're addictive highly engaging, by design which is the most compelling aspect worthy of study.