Tag: tips

The top 5 usability testing myths

If you want to find out more about usability testing, there are still a few places left for Bearded’s introductory workshop on the topic at Generate New York on 27 April. 

Usability testing is by far the most widely used usability evaluation method. Nonetheless, it’s often conducted with poor or unsystematic methodology and so doesn’t always live up to its full potential. This article presents five controversial beliefs about usability testing and discusses if they are myths or if there is some useful truth to them. The discussion leads to practical advice on how to conduct better, faster and cheaper usability tests.

I have listed the beliefs in the table below. Before you read on, I suggest that you pause and deliberate. Please mark your opinion about each of these beliefs. Which are correct, and which are myths?

The Comparative Usability Evaluation (CUE) studies

The results reported in this article are based on Comparative Usability Evaluation studies and the author’s experience from conducting quality assurance of professional, commercial usability tests.

In a Comparative Usability Evaluation study, teams of experienced usability professionals independently and simultaneously conduct a usability study using their preferred usability evaluation method (most often usability testing or expert review). Their anonymous test reports are distributed to all participants, compared and discussed at a one-day workshop. Websites that we’ve tested include Hotmail.com, Avis.com and the website for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York.

The first CUE study took place in 1998. Until now, nine CUE studies have taken place with more than 120 participating usability professionals. The number of participating teams has grown from four in CUE-1 to 35 in CUE-9.

The key purpose of the CUE studies is to determine whether results of usability tests are reproducible. Another purpose is to cast light on how usability professionals actually carry out user evaluations. After the first studies clearly showed that usability test results are not reproducible, we started to investigate why and what could be done to make results more similar.

More information about the CUE studies is available at DialogDesign.

Learn how to recruit usability testing participants, test on multiple devices, analyse sessions and more

01. Five users are enough to catch 85% of the usability problems in practically any product

Myth. The CUE studies consistently show that the number of usability problems in most real-world websites is huge. Most CUE studies found more than 200 different usability problems for a single state-of-the-art website. About half of them were rated serious or critical.
Few teams reported more than 50 problems simply because they knew that reporting more than 50 problems is unusable. Many teams tested eight or more users and reported 30 or fewer problems – just a fraction of the actual number of problems.

Even in CUE studies with 15 or more participating teams, about 60 per cent of the problems were uniquely reported. Chances are that if we had deployed 100 or even 1,000 professional teams to test a website, the number of usability problems found would have increased from 200 problems to perhaps 1,000 or more.

So when you conduct a usability evaluation of a non-trivial website or product, most likely you will only find and report the tip of the iceberg – some 30 random problems out of hundreds. Even though you can’t find or report all problems, usability testing is still highly useful and worthwhile, as I will explain later in this article.

This myth is hard to defeat, partly because the usability guru Jakob Nielsen kept promoting it until a few years ago. His website still says it, at least indirectly, in the graph:

Jakob Nielsen’s claim and graph is not in accordance with CUE results

I agree with Jakob that you only need to test with five users. But the correct reason is that five users are enough to drive a useful iterative cycle. In other words, once you have conducted five test sessions, stop testing and correct the serious problems you have found. Then conduct additional test sessions if time and money permit.

Never claim that testing will reveal all usability problems in a non-trivial product.

02. The main goal of a usability test is to discover usability problems

Myth. The primary reason for conducting usability tests should be to raise awareness among stakeholders, programmers and designers that serious usability problems exist in their own product. Some development teams believe that usability problems only exist in other people’s products.

Of course, we also conduct usability tests to discover usability problems so they can be corrected. But usability testing is an expensive way of finding usability problems, so finding problems should not be the only purpose for conducting a usability test.

Use usability tests to motivate your co-workers to take action to prevent usability problems.

03. Usability tests provide results that are more reliable than those from expert reviews

Myth. The CUE-4, 5 and 6 studies compared results from usability tests of a website to results from expert reviews of the same website. The studies clearly showed that there were no significant differences in result quality. Actually, results from expert reviews were slightly better and cheaper to obtain than usability test results.

It’s a myth that usability testing is the gold standard against which all other methods should be compared. The CUE studies have shown that usability tests overlook problems, even serious or critical ones, just like all other usability evaluation methods. There are several reasons why usability tests are not perfect. One of them is that they’re often conducted with poor or unsystematic methodology. Another one is that the test tasks often do not adequately cover all important user tasks. A third reason is that test participants frequently are not representative.

This CUE result only applies for reviews conducted by true usability experts. It takes many years (some say 10 or more) and hundreds of usability tests to gain the experience and humility necessary to conduct fully valid expert reviews.

In an immature organisation, inconvenient expert review results may be brushed aside by the question, “These problems are your opinion. In my opinion, users would not have any difficulties with this. Why are your opinions better than mine?” Usability tests are much better than expert reviews in convincing skeptical stakeholders about usability problems. It’s easy to question opinions. It’s hard to observe one representative user after the other fail a task completely without admitting there are serious usability problems.

Expert reviews are valuable, but they are also politically challenging.

04. Positive comments in a usability test report are useless because they are not actionable

Myth. Do you appreciate occasional compliments about your work? Sure you do. That’s why usability test reports should contain a balanced list of both positive findings and problems.
Usability test reports most often tell inconvenient truths. Substantial, positive findings serve at least two purposes: they prevent features that users actually like from being removed and they make it easier to accept the problems. Remember: even developers have feelings.

At least 25 per cent of the comments in a usability test report should be positive.

05. Usability testing can be conducted by anyone

Correct. Anyone can sit with a user and ask the user to carry out some tasks on a product. So, in principle, anyone can do usability testing.

But quality usability testing that delivers reliable results is different. Quality usability testing requires skills like empathy and curiosity. It requires profound knowledge of recruiting, creating good test tasks, moderating test sessions, coming up with great recommendations for solving usability problems, communicating test results well, and more. The CUE studies have shown that not every usability professional masters these skills.

We need to focus more on quality in usability testing.

Better, faster, cheaper!

Project managers tell me that, just like everyone else, usability evaluators need to improve their efficiency. My suggestions are:

1. Better

Today, a usability test should be considered an industrial process. Gone are the days when a usability test was a work of art and beyond criticism. Industrial processes are controlled by strict rules that are written down, reviewed and observed.

Strict rules enable quality assessment of our work. As responsible professionals we should welcome this.

2. Faster

Test with between four and six test participants. More test participants are a waste of time since it’s an elusive goal to find ‘all’ problems – or even all critical problems.

Focus on essential results. Write short reports that can be released quickly, ideally within 24 hours after the final test session.

3. Cheaper

You can’t control what you don’t measure. Measure cost and productivity of your usability tests. Keep a timesheet so you always know exactly how much a usability test cost your company. Compare your productivity and quality with your peers.

It’s hardly ever cost-justified to have two or more specialists working on a usability test. You could argue that a usability specialist may overlook important problems that a co-worker would notice, but the CUE studies show that, even if you deploy 10 experienced usability specialists, important problems will be overlooked.

Consider carefully whether an expensive usability lab is cost justified when two ordinary meeting rooms with inexpensive TV equipment will make it possible to observe usability tests equally well.

Consider remote or even unattended usability testing to reduce costs. Recent CUE studies indicate that these methods work almost as well as traditional usability testing.

Prevention is better than cure

My personal experience is that about half of the problems I find from usability testing are violations of simple usability heuristics that we’ve known for more than 20 years such as ‘Speak the users’ language’, ‘Provide feedback’ and ‘Write constructive and comprehensible error messages’.

Usability tests are expensive. They are an inefficient way of discovering usability problems. Many of the problems uncovered by a usability test should never have occurred in the first place – they should’ve been prevented by the designers’ or programmers’ knowledge of basic usability rules.

The main lesson from myth two is: use usability tests to motivate your co-workers to take action to prevent usability problems. In other words, consider designers and programmers as the primary users of your usability test results. Let’s use usability testing to motivate our primary users to learn about common usability pitfalls. Let’s focus on preventing problems rather than curing them.

This article was first published on 27 Feb 2013. Main image used courtesy of Smart Chicago Collaborative via Flickr under the Creative Commons License.

There are still a few places left for Bearded’s Introduction to Usability Testing at Generate New York on 27 April. If you buy a combined workshop and conference pass, you will save $125! Get your ticket now!

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36 startup logos that innovate and inspire

A technology company logo has to convey your brand; not just what you make now, but what the future holds for your business. You might make a dating app today, a foodie app tomorrow and a mobile game after that. Your startup’s logo has to encompass all of your ambitions and philosophy. A product logo,…

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This post was originally posted on 99 Designs and can be found here!

12 top Photoshop resources

Photo editing software Photoshop – a key part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud – is a popular choice among designers, which is is evident from the hundreds of Photoshop tutorials and resources around. But sometimes too much choice can be confusing, so we’ve picked some top sites that will really help you get to grips with the image editing software.

01. Adobe

Photoshop resources: Adobe

Adobe.com is the obvious first port of call for information on Photoshop

Adobe, the company that makes Photoshop, is the obvious first port of call for information on it, especially for beginners. You’ll find some great tutorials for beginners and a ton of excellent videos.

02. Pluralsight

Photoshop resources: Pluralsight

Learn, master and discover the creative possibilities of Photoshop with Pluralsight

Formerly known as Digital Tutors, Pluralsight has an extensive range of tutorials to help you learn, master and discover the creative possibilities of Photoshop. A subscription is required to access the majority of the training, but you can also sign up for a free demo account, where you’ll find a number of free Photoshop tutorials at your disposal.

03. Adobe KnowHow

Photoshop resources: Adobe KnowHow

Hundreds of Adobe tutorials have been made available for free

Adobe KnowHow promises an immersive and personalised learning experience across a range of its tools, including Photoshop. You can mark up or add notes to the videos as you watch them, making it even easier to master that new skill. You can also jump to cue points created by your annotations to review both your notes and the associated video content, so you’ll be up to date all of the time. Some course are available for free.

04. Pixel2life

Photoshop resources: Pixel2Life

Take advantage of the thousands of Photoshop tutorials on Pixel2life

Pixel2life is a huge tutorial search engine on the internet, which caters for graphic designers and programmers. It has an extensive section on Photoshop training with literally thousands of tutorials to choose from. The site also features a really useful sidebar of sub-categories to help you find lessons in the effects you want to achieve.

05. Photoshop Essentials

Photoshop resources: Photoshop Essentials

If you’re a beginner, then Photoshop Essentials is a great place to start learning

If you’re a newbie to Photoshop, then head over to Photoshop Essentials, which has easy to follow, step-by-step style training. It offers lessons on everything from Photoshop basics to photo editing and retouching, text effects and more – and it’s all written with beginners in mind. The site is clean, tidy and easy to navigate. It also has helpful sidebars highlighting the latest and most popular tutorials.

06. Photoshop tutorials on DeviantArt

Photoshop resources: Deviant Art

Find a wealth of helpful Photoshop tutorial on online art community Deviant Art

There’s a brilliant range of Photoshop tutorials on online art community DeviantArt. Divided into seven different categories, including a beginner and web design section, it is easy to find the specific tutorials you’re after. This site isn’t just for people wanting to learn though – you can submit tutorials too. See the site for terms and conditions.

07. Phlearn

Photoshop resources: Phlearn

Phlearn is owned by Aaron Nace, who has a unique and entertaining style of teaching

Phlearn is a fantastic, free online resource offering lots of high quality photography and Photoshop instruction. Owner and creative director Aaron Nace also aims to make the training interesting and dynamic, keeping the viewer’s attention by throwing in the occasional joke or singing and dancing on screen. Informative and entertaining: what more could you want?

08. Envatotuts+

Photoshop resources: Envatotuts+

Envatotuts+ offers an extensive library of tutorials for users of all skill levels

Envatotuts+ is a blog that offers some of the best Photoshop tutorials around. The site has an extensive library of tutorials covering many different areas, including 3D, illustration and text effects to name but a few.

09. Tutorial9

Photoshop resources: Tutorial9

Tutorial9 is a fantastic online resource for free Photoshop training

Tutorial9 is a fantastic resource for Photoshop tutorials, all of which are entirely free. There are currently 30 pages of training available so you are sure to find something of interest here. There is also a search option so you can filter your options to find the newest tutorials submitted by either Tutorial9 itself or submitted by other users.

10. PS Hero

Photoshop resources - PS Hero

PS Hero not only offers Photoshop tutorials but an inspiration gallery and free goodies too!

PS Hero is a brilliant Photoshop resource run by Hero – a surfer, photographer and graphic designer based in Southern California. With a large selection of free tutorials, this site offers training in the areas of graphic design, photo and text effects. It also features an inspiration gallery and goodies section where you can take advantage of free PSD files, custom shapes and more.

11. Lynda

Photoshop resources: Lynda

Get access to professional Photoshop tutorials on training site Lynda

If you haven’t got to know Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin’s extensive tutorial video library then you should. Lynda doesn’t deal exclusively with Photoshop but the site offers a wealth of training in the software for the beginner to intermediate user. Some of the training is free but to access the majority of it you will need to subscribe to the site.

12. PSD Learning

Photoshop resources: PSD Learning

Access brilliant Photoshop training at PSD Learning

PSD Learning started back in 2008. It is owned and edited by designer Ross Aitken, who has an avid interest in computer graphics and shares his knowledge through easy to follow tutorials. It has a clean layout and is organised into different categories for easy navigation. Learn everything from Photoshop scripting to creating a dramatic movie poster here.

Like this? Read these!

  • Discover the best photo editing apps for iOS and Android
  • Automate effects with these amazing Photoshop actions
  • Free Photoshop brushes every creative must have
  • Free Photoshop actions to create stunning effects
  • These Photoshop plugins will boost your skills

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29 education and school logos that get an A+

Your school needs a logo. And let’s face it, as adorable as it would be to have one of your kindergarteners draw one for you, you’re probably better off getting a professional design. But where to begin? When it comes to education logos, there are so many options—from mascots to wordmarks to simple acronyms—each conveying their…

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This post was originally posted on 99 Designs and can be found here!

Working with a simple colour palette

Whenever I start a new painting I always use a complementary colour palette (i.e opposite colours on the colour wheel), specifically reds and greens. I find there is a tremendous range of colour to be found in such a simple palette.

I built on this technique while teaching, as I wanted to give my students a simple approach to creating a portrait.

  • Capture natural light in your paintings

I paint in gouache, and use round brushes in sizes 2, 4, 6 and 10. The important thing with these brushes is to ensure they have a sharp point, so it’s easy to paint details. The point of a brush is like the point of a pencil. Talking of which, it’s essential to start your painting with a pencil drawing using a strong reference, like a photo – you will need it throughout the painting process.

I usually paint on cold-press illustration board. I apply a thin layer of acrylic gesso to the surface as well as the back – this creates a more stable surface and allows paint to be removed at any stage. Some student painters are terrified of making mistakes, so knowing you can lift the paint off is reassuring.

01. Get the drawing right

Good pencil work is the foundation of most paintings

Make sure you have a strong drawing to work from. Use a hard pencil, such as an F or 2H. If you use a soft pencil like 2B or 4B, you will wash the drawing away with your first application of paint. You want your pencil-work to be bold, as you will be looking for the drawing as you continue to layer the paint.

02. Lay the initial colour

The initial washes should be broad and transparent

Using a palette of reds and greens, I put down transparent layers of paint. Starting with a large brush (no 10), I broadly lay down the initial colour. I’m looking to create a flesh colour for the face, which in this case is a mix of Cadmium Red and Oxide of Chromium (green). I’m working to a mid-value base.

03. Let the layers dry

Paint delicately so earlier layers aren’t scrubbed off

Gouache dries quickly, so I let each layer dry before applying the next. It’s a good idea to apply each layer as directly as you can – if you scrub the brush repeatedly over an area, you will only pick up the paint from the first layer. Having said that, the ability to pick up the paint will come in handy at a later stage…

04. Add in the mouth, eyes and nose

Paint from light to dark

I continue to increase the values as I go, getting darker and darker. Using a smaller brush (the no 2) I start to fill in the smaller details of the eyes, mouth and nose. It’s important to hold onto the drawing at every step. You need to see the face smiling back at you as you go.

05. Increase the depth of colour

Build up the image as a whole, rather than concentrating on specific areas

As I darken the value of the hair around the face, it enables me to increase the depth of the values of the skin tones. Once again, I am building the entire painting as I go, not concentrating on a single area. As you see here, the painting could be considered finished, even at this stage.

06. Get your whites right

Bright areas are shaded to make them fit in better

I’m still pushing the dark values of the hair around the face, as well as defining the curls. I’ve also darkened the whites of the eyes, which is an important observation to make. The whites of the eyes are never actually white. Note that the teeth also change in value as they recede into the mouth.

07. Soften the edges

The viewer’s eye will naturally be drawn to areas of high detail

Here I’m working of softening some transitions. I’m putting a mid value in the background and softening the hair into it. The eye automatically jumps to areas of high contrast and sharp edges. The main focal point of this painting is the centred eye, as you see here – it’s the area of both the highest contrast and the sharpest edges. Hair should always be painted as softly as possible. I soften the transition as the hair meets both the face and the background.

08. Lift out highlights

Highlights are lifted out with water and a tissue

I’m now starting to look at the hair more closely, picking out the highlights. This is achieved by painting water onto the areas I want to lighten, then dabbing it with a paper towel. This is where the gesso surface comes into its own, as it means you can lift paint to create highlights or correct paint that might have gone too dark.

As I continue, I work on the nose, keeping the paint a little pinker with a touch of Bengal Rose. No matter what your reference might suggest, paint the nostrils with a warm red hue – the nose, eyelids and mouth all contain blood vessels close to the surface that should always appear warm in colour.

09. Add in the darkest areas

Fine details are picked out

I’m putting in the darkest parts of the hair and face now – it’s the final push in terms of values. I look for the darker tones on the side of the face and around the mouth, trying to capture each little change in value that I see. This will increase the depth around the eyes. I pick up the details of the eyelashes and also the hoop earring. I use opaque white paint to capture the highlights.

10. The finishing touches

The painting is only finished when you decide it’s done

I lighten the right cheek by lifting the paint – brushing with water and dabbing at it with a paper towel, as before. This last stage is all about softening transitions and working final details. Some of the harder edges that happen with the initial paint washes can be softened by using a damp brush and blending.

It can be hard to know when a painting is finished, I have often been accused of missing good stopping places. Some paintings I leave loose, while others I render until the cows come home. Ultimately it’s your choice.

This articles was originally published in Paint & Draw magazine issue 4. Buy it here.

Related articles:

  • The secrets to painting like Matisse
  • Paint an epic New York scene
  • 10 tips for an urban oil painting

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How Studio Ubique built a global web design business

Based in the Netherlands, Studio Ubique (aka Lennart de Ridder) got his start in the printing business with his father back in 2002. While he built his creative career in identity, branding and marketing collateral, it wasn’t until he began experimenting with web design that things really clicked. These days, Studio Ubique works passionately as a…

The post How Studio Ubique built a global web design business appeared first on 99designs Blog.

This post was originally posted on 99 Designs and can be found here!

Steve Fisher reveals how to run design and content sprints

Steve Fisher will host a workshop on running design and content sprints at both Generate New York (27 April) and Generate London (20 September). He will also close Generate New York with a keynote on why conflict is the key to great UX, and in London will present a brand new talk on how our products can change the world for the better. Early bird tickets for London are now on sale, and they’re still a few tickets left for NYC, too. 

2016 was the year of the design sprint,  a five-day process for solving, prototyping and testing design problems, first brought to prominence by Google Ventures. Sprint, the book by GV’s Jake Knapp, became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, and teams all over the world started adopting the framework to improve their products and ultimately their businesses. Steve Fisher, the founder of Canadian UX, content strategy and web technology consultancy the Republic of Quality, however, noticed one thing was missing from the sprints he saw: content.  

“The GV guys have been writing about design sprints for four or five years, and we’ve been running our own sprints for about as long,” he explains. “There are big benefits. A sprint allows you to leap ahead and see what’s possible without having to spend too much effort and time. But we found people weren’t really talking about content design and how that would help the product.”  

Quick pitch

Initially, the clients that Fisher pitched the sprint process to were sceptical. It seemed expensive. You needed to allocate four to six people and up to a whole week for it to be successful. However, they soon saw the advantages – especially in content and design, which are at the core of the Republic of Quality ethos. “Every single time those companies would see a huge saving and gains by the end of the project, because we had done sprints,” Fisher enthuses. “Once that word gets out, it’s pretty compelling.”  

The team tackles a lot of tricky problems in large organisations – the key, Fisher asserts, is working together. “There are so many times when teams are separated physically and departmentally. Often, the only time that people of different disciplines come together is when they hand off their work. Getting out of our silos and learning from each other was key for bringing content and design together.”  

Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the big benefits of the sprint methodology. The team might consist of a UX professional, a content strategist, someone from IT or a developer, a marketing person and the business owner or someone who has the authority to make business decisions. These teams are a mix of client and vendor or in-house teams.   

Getting out of our silos and learning from each other was key for bringing content and design together

The first thing Fisher does in the sprint is to establish a framework that allows everyone to work better together as a team, so they can come to an agreement rather than having to compromise on decisions. “Compromising is easy, ” Fisher explains, “but it leaves behind this terrible under- ground river of conflict.” Fisher will explore the theme of conflict further at Generate New  later this month.  

In contrast to GV’s strict approach, Republic of Quality’s sprints tends to vary in length, and will often last just three or four days. “We focus a lot more on content design, to really understand the complexities, ” he explains. “We might spend the first day digging into the ‘who are you?’ and ‘what’s the problem here?’ Then it quickly becomes about sketching out ideas, so at the week’s end we have a working prototype to test.” 

Steve Fisher will be at both Generate New York and London this year, giving two different talks and running his design and content sprint workshop

Government goals

Fisher and his team work with a lot of provincial governments and large municipalities in Canada, as the sprint approach is beneficial to organisations that have complex problems. They’re currently involved in running ongoing sprints for products owned by mid-size governments. “We come in every couple of months and run a shorter sprint with them – two or three days at a time – to solve a new problem. It’s really great to see their web, IT, and marketing teams participate and a government progress at a relatively quick rate.”  

The scale of the tasks that Republic of Quality faces can be immense. A recent project saw the team tackling a four year-old site that encompassed 20,000 pages and more than 100 content authors. With such mammoth projects, sometimes the result can be completely different to what they initially anticipated. For example, when working on a sprint to make a building permits app responsive, the team discovered that particular app needed to be combined with three other apps in order for people to really want to use it.  

“If we bring in external people, who are actually using products, to test and give feedback during these sprints, then we can find the real problem we’re trying to solve. That can be discovered quickly, but only if we bring in diverse perspectives and people from outside your group. We walked away having developed a much better product. It was a turning point for that government.”  

Steve Fisher juggles running a consultancy, his own conference and speaking across the world

Little and often

The prototype towards the end of the sprint is often created with Bootstrap or something similar, which is user-tested the following week. Fisher’s approach to user testing is to test early, often, and in bite-sized chunks.  

“If you test more often with smaller groups, you’ll discover 80 or 90 per cent of the issues right away. When your team witnesses someone struggle or succeed with your product, it’s very powerful. It changes hearts and minds.”  

A personalised approach can also have a big impact. “We like to go to people when we can, see them try something out and walk through everyday tasks in their environment, or make it as familiar as possible. If I have a MacBook with me and someone’s used to a PC, I’ll use a regular mouse and change the scrolling to what they’re used to. Little details like that  make a difference when user testing.”  

Fisher argues that often we get too bogged down in our tools, and sees the current fragmentation of tools as a big problem for web industry. The likes of Grunt, gulp and webpack might work for some people, but don’t fit well for others.  

“There’s this sense you have to learn all the things, now, which can result in too much distraction,” Fisher laments. “It’s essential to be a lifelong learner, but we also have to learn focus and accomplish our tasks. There are so many things out there for us to know and learn and keep track of.”  

He suggests designers and developers view the situation as an opportunity to discover products that will help them in their workflow. “We should talk openly about how we work. If we share with others what kind of system we develop with, for example, it will help our community learn.”  

Embracing diversity

Another, perhaps more persistent, issue plaguing the web industry is its lack of diversity. “It’s probably not going to change for a long time,” Fisher sighs. “We don’t have nuanced teams because we only have a narrow amount of voices in a lot of companies, and especially in leadership.”  

Fisher points out that the different voices, perspectives and ethnicities represented was what attracted him to net’s Generate conference. When conferences embrace diversity, everyone who comes across that event – in person, on the website, on social media – can see they themselves are represented on that stage.  

“White dudes in the tech and design industry never go through ‘rep sweats’. They never feel they’re not represented,” Fisher notes. “We’re represented everywhere! If you’re a person of colour in America, you’ll have a different experience in life, and you won’t have the same experience of privilege.”  
 

Steve Fisher loves his dogs, for more on Sloane the Vizsla check out our recent article on 10 design studio dogs

Taking advice

The web industry needs to continue to acknowledge its diversity problem. “Most people of privilege, white folks like me, get more opportunities more easily. I’ve seen that in my own life. It’s important I use my privilege to help the less privileged, the vulnerable in society, and not myself.”  

It’s no surprise diversity is a crucial ingredient of Fisher’s own conference, Design & Content. But this was not always the way. “When we organised the first conference, we had more women than men speaking, but one perspective producing the experience. A white perspective, which resulted in 80 per cent of the speakers being white. We were well intentioned, but we messed up,” Fisher admits. “It wasn’t until someone challenged us on the lack of diversity in our speaker roster that we recognised we needed to do better.”  

We need teams that represent a true picture of diversity we see in the world

Fisher decided to address the problem by putting together a diverse production team for the event, including people from a range of gender perspectives, backgrounds, ethnicities and age groups. Everybody has an equal voice and everyone is paid for their time. The process is documented on the studio’s blog.

“It changed everything for us. One of our team has mobility issues and attends the conference, so her perspective helps us plan for others. I wouldn’t have known; my biggest mobility issue is that I’m 40!” Fisher believes that introducing a similar focus on diversity and inclusion into tech firms would make a big difference to how these companies work. “We’d have the possibility of teams that represent a truer picture of diversity we see in the world,” he says.  

Diversity, it turns out, can improve every aspect of our industry, from product testing to conferences. The more diverse your company, the more views you can use to inform your product design and content decisions, which ultimately will result in happier (and more) customers.  

This article was originally featured in net magazine issue 291; buy it here.

Steve Fisher will be at both Generate New York and London this year. If you buy a combined workshop and conference pass, you can save up to £100.  

If you can’t make it to New York or London, there’s also a Generate conference in San Francisco in June featuring speakers from Netflix, NASA, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter and more. Get your ticket today!

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4 email design tips that just plain work

When it comes to getting in touch with your audience, building a customer relationship, and driving sales, there’s one weapon in your arsenal that’s more powerful than the Death Star, the Elder Wand and Oathkeeper combined (I mean, can you even get more powerful than that?): email marketing. We’ve got the four top email design tips…

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This post was originally posted on 99 Designs and can be found here!

The UX designer's survival guide

At Generate New York on 28 April, Lissa Aguilar will present the UX designer’s survival guide. The conference will also feature 13 other great speakers, including Sara Soueidan, Mina Markham and Jen Simmons, and will be preceded by a day of workshops covering usability testing, frontend tooling, information architecture and design and content sprints. Get your ticket today!

What do you do at Media Temple?
As a user experience (UX) architect, I do user research and design solutions that address customers pain points on our website and our web hosting platforms.  I work across multiple teams to help deliver a great experience to our customers.

How do you investigate usability problems?
Customer chats and calls are a huge resource. I’m also in constant contact with our customer service agents. They are our frontline and they have so much insight  into our customers’ evolving needs and workflows. They’re a huge help with identifying those usability issues with our website or our hosting control panels.

How do you decide how accurate a wireframe needs to be?
I’d say it depends on two factors: the stage of the development for the product/feature; and the audience.

I like starting off any project with sketching out a super rough wireframe of the page/control panel/ dashboard/ whatever it may be. Wireframes are used to focus the conversation whether it be about the requirements, the functionality, UI element placement, workflow, etc. 

As for the audience, some groups  require seeing a hi-fidelity wireframe to get a good sense of the final product, while other groups are just focused on the functionality and basic layout so a low-fidelity wireframe is best for them during that planning stage. 

What are your favourite tools to work with?
My faves are a pen and paper (for roughly sketching ideas and understanding the problem), Omnigraffle (for hi-def wireframing the layout and adding notes for the development team), InVision (for fleshing out the workflow and adding a bit of interactivity) and Framer.js (for more interactive prototypes). 

How do you collaborate with other stakeholders and teams at Media Temple?  
I like getting all the people at the table that are involved in the project first – the stakeholders, marketing if necessary, developers and designers – to understand  the problem we’re solving and identify any tech or design challenges. I’ll often meet with the stakeholders two to three more times to review sketches and wireframes and see the direction of the solution. 

Then a final kickoff meeting is held to plan out the  execution and share testing plans. I make everyone my bestie during this process because we’re inconstant communication.

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Generate New York?  
I always love learning about other creatives’ real-life challenges and techniques to tackle those challenges that we all end up facing. So, in my talk, I’ll be sharing more  about my own pain points and struggles as a UX designer and how I went about using particular tools and methods to address those situations and stress, hoping to maybe help or inspire another creative or two along the way… 

If you can’t make it to Generate New York, there’s also one in San Francisco on 9 June, which will feature Rachel Nabors, Aaron Gustafson, Stephanie Rewis and many other excellent speakers, covering adaptive interfaces, web animations, design systems, performance, prototyping and more. 

Meanwhile, early bird tickets for Generate London on 22 September have just gone on sale!

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Enter mixed reality with new Gorillaz app

Gorillaz – the co-creation of Blur’s Damon Albarn and cult comic artist Jamie Hewlett – has always operated just outside of normal reality. But you can get a bit closer to the animated band with this brand new app, just released today.

Gorillaz is about to launch its first album since 2010

Launched ahead of the band’s new album, Humanz, the Gorillaz App provides the first look at the latest manifestation of the band. There’s also exclusive content including a first play of new album in the form of the Humanz House Party – a worldwide shared listening experience allowing fans to visit the Gorillaz’ house and hear the new album together across 500 locations, from Tokyo to Santiago.

Developed by Gorillaz and B-Reel, the fully immersive mixed-reality app is a unique blend of real world, AR, VR and 360 environments, and enables fans to immerse themselves in the world of Gorillaz and join Murdoc, 2D, Russel and Noodle at home for the very first time.

The Gorillaz’ house isn’t your traditional rockstar pad

Featuring a wealth of exclusive content at launch, with more to follow over the next few weeks, it’s an amazing-looking app that perfectly captures Jamie Hewlett’s distinctive style and becomes a full VR experience in conjunction with Google Cardboard. And if you don’t have Cardboard you can still enjoy an immersive Gorillaz experience through the bespoke Augmented Reality menu, which is gateway to a whole host of exciting interactions with the band.

Davor Krvavac, executive creative director at B-Reel, explains: “Fans can now go through the looking glass, giving them a unique, voyeuristic viewpoint on their world. As last year’s Pokemon craze has taught us, people are increasingly excited and intrigued about experiences that mix reality and fiction – something that has always been part of the way the Gorillaz’ story has been told.”

Gorillaz’ new album, Humanz, is out on 28 April

The Gorillaz App is available now for iOS and Android; Humanz is out on 28 April.

Related articles:

  • Top tips for scaling up AR apps in 2017
  • 5 ways VR is changing web design today
  • 35 beautiful band logo designs

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