Small businesses can face challenges such as human and financial resource shortages when trying to access the benefits of social media. With little money to pay someone to focus on this for them and little time or energy to do it themselves small business owners sometimes don’t even know where to start. Using one of my favorite small, local businesses – Scratch Baking in Milford, CT – as an example we’re going to walk through how to approach evaluating and planning your business’ social media presence.
The sheer amount of information social media now presents us to digest is enough in and of itself to overwhelm us in to being less discerning about the truth. Add into this mix every individual’s opinion and the voices of those interested in misleading others or sowing division and social media becomes a very chaotic and confusing source from which to get your news. I decided to find out just how much of a filter I had to apply to find factual news on my social media accounts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives, perhaps forever, in countless ways we are still trying to grasp. But as a social media professional I’m acutely interested in how this crisis is affecting the medium I work in. What I’m seeing is the possibility that we are moving into a new phase of our relationship with it.
There comes a time in every project when an idea transitions from conceptual to actual. In website and app design that time generally comes during the prototyping process. Prototyping can be done in a range of fidelities, or levels of detail, from low to high. Low-fidelity prototypes can be a great tool for quickly iterating design ideas and starting usability testing early in your design process, but the type of experience they offer is quite removed from a product’s endgame. High-fidelity prototyping is when things start to feel and look real.
Good, usable design comes from an iterative process in which you create and revise designs in repetitive cycles, coming closer to the desired result with each cycle. One of the best ways to learn how a design needs to be revised is usability testing. Many development process eliminate this important step or leave until the final product is built for a number of reasons. Learn how I used the Prototyping on Paper app and Zoom to push forward with usability testing of paper prototypes for an app I'm designing despite the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19.
Sometimes when designing technology, you have to forgo technology and get back to basics with good ole pen and paper. With so much tech around us every day it’s pretty easy to just jump straight to software to start designing when the most helpful tools are actually the ones already sitting in our desk drawers. If you’re designing a website, app, or other tech product one of the best tool to use to start deciding what it will look like and how users will interact with is a paper prototype.
Flowcharts are a common tool used for a variety of purposes in a variety of industries, including engineering, business, and education. UX designers create a type of flowchart called a user flow to depict and communicate the process of user movement. User flows utilize the same symbols as flowcharts in order to represent every route users can take to achieve a specific goal on a site or app. See how I've developed user flows for a proposed Resident app for the city of Milford, Connecticut and how these charts can improve user experience design.
Information architecture (IA) design involves creating an organized structure in a website, app, or product that helps users navigate and understand where to find what they need easily and quickly. Hear about my experience creating a proposed site map for a resident companion app for my hometown and find out how and if designing IA for apps differs from websites.
What else is a website or an app, but a container for copious amounts of information like a library? Left unorganized or badly organized, a website experience for a user can quickly become consumed with simply trying to find what they want instead of accomplishing their intended goal for visiting. Information architecture (IA) design is about creating a structure on a website, app, or other product that helps a user understand where they are in it and where they can find the information they are seeking.
What if there was an app for centralizing and connecting those in our communities with resources and will to help with those in need? So many of us are ready and willing to help our neighbors and local communities, but we just don’t know who needs help and where to look all the time. Our efforts often siloed by our social circles. I decided to do some ideation on this problem of how to crowdsource a community to see if I could spark the beginning of an app solution.
There are an endless number of ideation techniques you can try. You should pick one, though, that works best for the kind of ideas you need and the experience and abilities of those who will be participating in your ideation session. My current abilities, being the frazzled mess that they are because of the current pandemic and social distancing, called for a technique that could help me get my perspective and spinning thoughts in order: mind mapping.
To be a UX designer is to understand the holistic picture of an experience while simultaneously paying attention to minute details in the pursuit of identifying and solving problems. Whew! Approaching this subject may seem overwhelming or intimidating at first, but good UX design is an invaluable asset for a product, service, or brand. That’s a tall order. No matter your project, to create a good user experience you must understand some of the key principles of UX design.
For businesses, it’s important to know the points in a user’s journey that they influence or need to consider in order to provide the best user experience possible. Journey maps are a great visual and shareable tool for understanding this important information.
Knowing where to start is the hardest part of any project. In the design thinking process, you spend a lot of time learning to empathize with your users through research, then properly defining the problem that your project needs to help them with. At some point, though, you have to pivot your brain to put all this understanding and definition to use. Luckily, there are ideation techniques that you can employ to add guidance and structure to your efforts, sparking creativity and innovation.
One of the obstacles to good ideation is that people often practice it in a haphazard or chaotic way. Everyone today likes to talk about the value of brainstorming, but they often think of it as unstructured imagination that magically and randomly produces ideas. Effective ideation requires that you stop thinking in terms of these amorphous activities and instead apply a rigorous and purposeful set of rules to your efforts. One technique to help guide you in brainstorming is mash-up ideation.
Being a UX designer is, of course, about designing a solution to a problem that users of a product or service have. It can be really fun and exciting to brainstorm, come up with new ideas, and maybe even change the world. But if you base all your work on the wrong problem, you won’t change anyone’s world with your designs. This is why you use a tool like point of view (POV) statements to add rigor and structure to your problem definition.
You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about. Seems like an obvious concept, right? But too often we don’t follow this advice. We assume we know what the problem is going into a project and just jump straight to coming up with solutions. To find out what users need, you spend the first stage of the design thinking process conducting research - often in the form of interviews, observations, and surveys – in order to empathize and better understand the needs of all users in a product’s ecosystem. Your research findings then inform the second stage of the design thinking process, define, and help you craft your project’s problem statement.
No one website, app, or piece of software can cater to the infinite number of differences its users may have. You simply can't design everything for everybody. You can, though, look for the common denominators in people and solve for those problems. While a website may have a million users, each with a unique experience on the granular level, you may create just 3 or 4 personas into which most of them would relate in some way. You would do this in order to keep your project user-centered, but out of the weeds and focused on attainable goals.
By using empathy, a UX designer can recognize people’s needs and design products, services, or experiences that work for them. The reality show Undercover Boss is an example of how someone can gain empathy for users. I watched an episode featuring the CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop to show just how much user information you can gain in a relatively short amount of time. My empathy maps of the company's CEO and an employee demonstrate how multiple people can have different experiences, even within the same company, and why UX designers must gain insight into every type of user in the ecosystem of a product or service.
Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their feelings, even if you haven’t had the same experiences as them. It's an important part of the design thinking process. In order to gain empathy for users, UX designers conduct extensive user research. Empathy maps are a great visual tool for organizing, communicating, and synthesizing this research into helpful user insights.
When Disney Plus, the company’s streaming service, launched last November, I was intrigued by the possibility of adding some Disney magic to my life again, if only through the TV and movie content I’d loved as a kid. That content has proven as satisfying as I remember, but the Disney Plus experience has left a bad taste in my mouth. Learn how I used a feelings and needs website analyzation of UX and UI elements on Disney Plus and Netflix to find out if Disney's design is the root of my negative opinion.
Feelings are the most powerful force in the decision-making process. In fact, research has found that people with injuries in the area of the brain responsible for emotion are incapable of making decisions. So, if you want to successfully use design thinking—a human-centered approach to problem-solving—then you must understand humans’ biggest motivator: emotion.
Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to just jump in head-first. The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford—also known as the d.school—offers those interested in learning design thinking an opportunity to do just that with their aptly named Design Thinking Crash Course. Through a video, you and a partner join instructors from the d.school and a room of students for a wild, hands-on ride through the steps of the design thinking process in just under 90 minutes. Your assignment? To redesign the gift-giving process for your partner. I took the crash course challenge and it was one of the most unique, memorable learning experiences of my life.
Design thinking puts the topics of emotion, intuition, and human behavior at the core of the problem-solving process. It has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years and is now used by businesses and organization worldwide to solve some of the most complex problems. For anyone possessing the right mindset, or willing to learn it, design thinking is a valuable skill to have in our future economy where people's experiences will matter more than ever.
Sometimes the best way to learn something is to hear it, but not everyone is talented at speaking. Enter the Pecha Kucha. This presentation style limits you to 20 slides and just 20 seconds per slide to convey your message. Thus, encouraging a swift pace and simplified delivery.
Is Alexa your child’s role model? As voice assistants become ubiquitous in our children’s lives, they are beginning to act as pseudo-parents in a way that has some doctors and researchers concerned. Children’s inability to distinguish computers from people has AI teaching developmental lessons in manners, patience, perseverance, and gender.
When you think of branding, you may assume it’s something only businesses should be concerned with. But everyone can benefit from doing the work of defining who you are and how you want to be perceived professionally. It can help you stand out from others and give you an edge in your career.
Reading can be much like eating, sometimes you want the whole meal and sometimes you just want a snack, sometimes you want to sit for the 5-course dining experience and sometimes you just want to hit the drive-thru. I’ll be posting an in-depth piece soon and I thought I’d provide a menu of promotions for it to show how you can use shorter forms to grab readers’ attention and persuade them to invest time in your longer-form writing.
The podcast 99% Invisible showcases the design elements that we never notice. Host Roman Mars argues that thoughtful design means we don’t recognize individual parts as they are so well integrated. The same is true of effective writing. As a result, it’s often easier to critique only what is wrong. To be a better writer you need to learn to examine writing for what it does right as well.
Every actor wants to play Hamlet—Carl Sandburg even wrote a poem about it. A lauded portrayal of the great Dane can be career-defining. Actors and writers are similar in this manner as both practice a craft in which success depends on audience approval. How important, though, should the audience be to the writer?