Trying to create again…

I studied studio art and graphic design for my undergrad. I enjoyed science and math, but it was an easy decision to make back in 2006, I was always more passionate about creating art, designing new things, and making people happy. After graduation, I began working as a graphic designer/marketing coordinator for a local computer store and realized that something was really missing. I was creating things which was nice, but all of the work was so subjective…people either liked a design or didn’t and for no reason other than personal preference. The lack of validation and reason was really getting to me and I didn’t feel passionate about making animated gifs and flyers.

I strongly considered going back to school for engineering. I wanted something more challenging and wanted to feel like I was making a positive impact on society, I wasn’t going to get that by working in a hybrid design and marketing role. In 2012, just as I was about to start applying for engineering programs, I was introduced to the field of User Experience. I couldn’t believe that our professors had never introduced the design students to it, I realized very quickly that this is what I wanted to pursue, a perfect mixture of design, engineering, and psychology.

Over the past 6 years I have been dedicated to learning as much as I can about UX design and decided to pursue a master’s degree in HCI. I have enjoyed it so much and really feel like I can contribute in improving user’s quality of living by designing tools that won’t interfere with their daily lives. However, I have been so deep in UX that I seem to have forgotten some of the basics of design and art. My focus slowly switched from visual design to interaction/strategy which has made working as a generalist slightly difficult as my visual design skills have degraded.

I felt bad about it for a while, I lost confidence and it felt as if I sold my soul to work in the tech industry. I couldn’t remember the last time I drew for fun, painted on my own, or designed something for myself…I became so career focused that I forgot what originally brought me here. So, over the past few months, with support from other designer friends and coworkers, I have been pushing myself to design new things that are out of my comfort zone and even paint again. I have been working in different styles and am learning a lot about my abilities and what I can accomplish, my confidence has been building back up which has been invaluable. Anyway…if any of you have been feeling the same, I highly recommend getting back to your roots, I have seen improvements in my every day work and the increased confidence has helped me become more productive. I’ll strive to be more active here and post new work as I finish it :). Thanks for reading!

TL;DR I was so career driven that I forgot what it was that made me passionate about the field to begin with.

Working with Proto.io and Lookback

I’ve spent a couple of weeks working with proto.io to build out an interactive prototype and conducted mobile usability tests using the Lookback integration. Proto.io was very simple to use, I was impressed with the power and flexibility the app provides with such a low learning curve…it has many of the same capabilities as Axure without needing if/then statements.

The only problem I have with proto.io is that it’s a web app, I would definitely prefer to work locally, but I could get over that. It also imports files from Sketch as images to save space and reduce load times, but it was easy to build components within the app so I chose to do that for most of my prototype. I love that its easy to build out specific controls as containers with different states that can be used later.

Play with the prototype here

Integration with Lookback
(gif above is a glimpse of how Lookback records the mobile screen and user)
Lookback is very impressive, especially for the price. The UI is intuitive and it offers very powerful features such as remote testing with a mobile device with front camera recording and audio, and great commenting and collaboration tools for recordings.

For this project, I was focusing specifically on mobile testing, and while the front camera recording sounds great, it didn’t actually provide much value as most people don’t hold their phones at an appropriate angle to record from that camera (it also happens to be the worst selfie angle ;P). It is a bit difficult to get Android users setup with the recording tool and recording really slows down the prototype which can make testing a little difficult.

Overall, I was pretty happy with both tools and could definitely see myself using them again in the future.

Prototyping in Flinto

Explore page created in Flinto

We have been looking into different prototyping tools for our team, but have been using Flinto for about a year now so I wanted to share some thoughts on it.

PROS:

  • The UI is fairly straight forward, especially if you are used to working in Sketch
  • It’s fairly easy to build out behaviors and micro-interactions
  • You can download the Flinto app for iOS to view prototypes on devices
  • You can add horizontal scroll and animations
  • You can record and save .mp4s and .gifs
  • Support is very responsive and resolves issues quickly
  • Easy integration with Sketch

CONS:

  • The app is still a little buggy
  • The mobile app for reviewing prototypes only works well in iOS
  • The mobile app doesn’t provide screen recordings
  • Exporting files can take a pretty long time

I’m working with a proto.io trial now and am excited to share my thoughts on that, they seem to offer a lot really useful features such as integration with Lookback and screen recording.

New Stuff Coming Soon!

It’s been a busy year, or two years I guess :P, but I’m finally working on updating and rebranding this site. I’m excited to reveal the new branding and layout, stay tuned!

The UX Team of One

As a current team of one I can really relate to this read by Leah Buley. This is one of my favorite all-around UX reads right now and I find myself referencing it often, it has really kept me motivated while working by myself.. This is a great read, whether you are actually a team of one or working with a larger group. Buley covers many techniques and offers invaluable advice for getting buy-in and useful information from stakeholders. I also love purchasing books directly from Rosenfield Media as they include all digital formats of every book you buy which has been fantastic while traveling.

Working as a lone designer has presented many new challenges and has been a great learning experience for me. With the help of study materials and support from my managers I have learned to effectively seek and organize the information I need to begin a project, analyze/prioritize projects from a business and design perspective, and how to show the value of design-thinking and bringing user experience on board early on. Working alone has given me the opportunity to dive into every facet of user experience including user research, prototyping, strategy, and of course, design. I’m very fortunate for the opportunity to develop a broader range of UX skills, but do look forward to working with a team again at some point :).

UX & Project Process

There is a lot of confusion about where UX fits into the project development process and it can be difficult to educate or convince the right people to get UX involved early on. Most development teams are under the impression that UX is UI design and should come in towards the end of the process, but by this time, it will be too late to make any actual improvements to the user experience. To alleviate some of the stress of explaining the process, we created an interactive process diagram designed for stakeholders such as product owners or project managers. The diagram shows the ideal time frame to bring UX into a project and explains the roles and deliverables throughout each stage. This is still a work in progress with stakeholder and other team member collaboration, but the feedback has been positive so far and product owners are finding it useful.

View Interactive Diagram

Motivation for Designing Soundrobin

When Three E Development came to me with the concept for Soundrobin I was really excited to get started in designing the app. As a natural introvert, I was intrigued by the social connections Soundrobin could contribute to. For people like me, large social events aren’t always very comfortable, but the app has allowed me to connect with people through music and can provide an ice breaker for starting conversations.

I’m a little camera shy, but hope you enjoy the interview.

My Tools and Workspace

I’m an Apple fan, I love the consistent experience across all devices and the simplicity of the interfaces, but Microsoft may have beaten them to the punch with the Surface Pro 3. I mostly work with the Surface that was given out at the Adobe Max conference in 2014 (nice marketing strategy Microsoft). The surface had some issues at first and still isn’t perfect, but it seems to improve with every update. I haven’t tried the iPad Pro with Pencil yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it out.

I love using the Surface as a sketch tool with Illustrator, Photoshop, and Bamboo, but I also can’t get away from sketching on good old fashioned paper. I almost always carry around my grid lined moleskine or composition notebook with pencils, erasers, a ruler, and a pen just in case an idea comes to mind. The Surface also handles my design programs pretty well such as Axure, Balsamiq, the Adobe CC Suite, and of course Office 2013.

My workspace also wouldn’t be complete without a cat crawling around on my desk or sitting in my lap :).