Tag Archives: meetup

London Content Strategy Meetup March 2012

On Wednesday, 7th March I attended the latest London Content Strategy Meetup at The Mermaid Centre. The topic this month was Community Management, Creativity and Content Strategy.

There were two presentations. The first talk by Rob Hinchcliffe, Community Strategist at TH_NK, was about Content Strategy and Community Management. Next up, Randall Snare, Content Strategy Lead at iQ Content, spoke about Content and Creativity.

Here are a few of my takeaways from Rob Hinchcliffe’s presentation about Content Strategy and Community Management:

Genuine Communities
I really liked Rob’s description of a genuine community being more than the sum of its parts. It’s a place, real or virtual, where members get more value out of it than they put in. Community members build aggregate value for themselves and other members.

If you are creating or developing a community based on something that people care about it’s vital that you share your plans and ideas with them. Work with them to gain insight and feedback and get them involved as much as possible, after all it’s their passion and input that will make the project a success.

Community members need to be motivated to create good, valuable content. Rather than adding gamification or pointification from the outset it can be useful to wait and see how your members behave and then create a reward system based on your observations.

Giving people ownership of the content they create will in turn incentivise them to create valuable content and in turn you may also find that members are happy and willing to play an active role in maintaining the community.

To end the evening there was a fishbowl-style discussion panel and speed dating with speakers and attendees both of which provided great opportunities to spark interesting conversations!

Looking forward to the next event!

Lightning UX March 2012


A little bit of everything…

Last Tuesday, 6th March, I headed over to City University to attend the first Lightning UX event of the year. There was five speakers in total and each person spoke about a topic of their choice.

Sophie Freiermuth began by talking about the many job titles that we hear in our industry ranging from UX Designer to Dev-igner(?!) and how this ambiguity can cause confusion for people who want to employ us.

Francis Norton then spoke about using business strategy as a driver for UCD and suggested that we use metrics to communicate how the services we offer can add real value in terms of the things that businesses care about and can relate to such as risk reduction and return on investment.

Next up Mike Atherton talked about domain modelling. I really enjoyed Mike’s presentation at UX Brighton last year so I was looking forward to hearing more. According to Mike, domain modelling is where IA meets Content Strategy. Rather than classifying content by document type, domain modelling breaks down a subject into it’s component parts and allows for abstract connections to be made. Content is aggregated and the subsequent cross-linking adds value both for users and SEO. Data is enriched by creating journeys across domains e.g. music can be broken apart into subjects like artist, genre and releases which leads to related topics like tours, venues, set lists and promoters. Through natural, social or editorial curation we can add context that makes information structures meaningful and easy to navigate. My favourite quote from Mike’s presentation (and the evening) was “Curation brings human love to a cold, robot heart.”

Tim Caynes shared his personal experiences about the UX challenges in designing a mobile wallet and the limitations regarding the framework and infrastructure that is already in place. There are also other matters to consider such as understanding the complex and varied contexts of use and how we can overcome the lack of confidence that users have when they don’t yet fully understand how a service actually works.

Lastly, Daniel Soltis talked about designing unfamiliar interfaces and how designers can improve usability and understanding by using clear explanations and familiar patterns, allowing for accidental inputs and providing feedback. Challenges for users include understanding the cause and effect of their actions, physical dexterity (can I actually use this thing?) and determining how much time and effort they are willing to invest in order to overcome the learning curves associated with using novel interfaces. People must be willing and able to learn a new system and this in itself is a challenge for designers.

Thanks to Lee McIvor for organising and to Propel London for sponsoring. Looking forward to next time!

For more information about future events check out the LightningUX website.

All of the presentations have kindly been made available on SlideShare.

London IA February 2012


At London IA last week the topic of the evening was Lean UX. Jeff Gothelf kicked things off with a presentation about getting out of the deliverables business and afterwards there was a panel discussion with Jeff Gothelf, James O’Brien, Johanna Kollmann, Leisa Reichelt and Mark Plant during which the audience asked questions about Lean UX.

Jeff Gothelf: Lean UX – Getting Out of the Deliverables Business

In brief, the goal of Lean UX is to bring the experience being designed to light much sooner without getting too focused on the deliverables. Designers and developers collaborate from the start to build a shared understanding. The iterative approach means that quality continually improves as you validate your design hypotheses and refine based on feedback.

Jeff shared his five practical tips for implementing Lean UX:

  1. Solve the problem together – One of the key aspects of Lean UX is that the team builds a shared understanding of the project early on. Everyone involved is engaged in the process which in turn creates buy in and momentum.
  2. Sketch – Putting pen to paper (or whatever you have to hand) helps develop a shared understanding and is a good way to iterate designs. People feel more able to make alterations to a sketch as they are seen as less precious than polished wireframes and are therefore much more malleable and open.
  3. Prototype – Get the experience out into the open as soon as possible and test your prototypes with real users.
  4. Pair up and get cross functionality within your team – Co-working means that developers can start building prototypes from sketches straightaway and they can give immediate feedback on what is and is not achievable without having to wait for a detailed spec which leaves the designers to get on with designing. Pairing sets designers free and empowers developers.
  5. Create a style guide early on that evolves as the project does – Put it on a wiki or on the wall for all to see so that it can’t be ignored and forgotten. Back it up with code snippets and assets to build up a library.

During the panel discussion Joanna said that when collaborating time should still be allocated for personal reflection. I certainly agree with this. Co-working can be hard and it is important to have some time alone to think and to formulate ideas.

I often feel under pressure to deliver the right solution, the first time. But there are always options and I’m not always sure which is best. A project evolves so much during design and having to decide everything upfront before moving into build can hinder the design process as it doesn’t allow room for manoeuvre. The time and effort it takes to produce beautifully annotated wireframes and sitemaps for hefty spec documents could be better spent on iterating prototypes of the actual product. In light of this we should be asking ‘What do we need to define now in order to get a prototype built and tested with real users’?

As Jeff rightly said, no matter how smart you are, every design solution you put out there is a hypothesis. He also said that as designers we are in the problem solving business but we don’t solve problems with design documentation, we solve them with elegant, efficient and sophisticated software. The true value of design is in the experience that we create.

You can check out Jeff’s presentation for yourself on Slideshare. I highly recommend it!

Thoughts on Diary Studies

Last week I attended the first of hopefully many meetups covering all aspects of user and design research organised by The Research Thing and hosted by Fortune Cookie.

The technique covered in this event was Diary Studies and there were three presentations: “Diary studies: A primer” by Boon Chew which gave a good introduction to this method of research followed by a run through of the benefits and pitfalls based upon his own experience, “Diary studies: Alternative approaches” by Lee McIvor which provided further insight into the advantages and disadvantages of carrying out paper versus digital diary studies and lastly Beth Duddy talked about her experience of using Posterous to carry out a diary study.

So, what is a diary study?

A diary study is a qualitative method of research that gathers insight over a period of time. Participants record events or activities in their own environment and this data is then collated and analysed by a researcher. Diary studies can provide an insight into the behaviour of participants and the context and environment that triggers certain activities. They can highlight rare and infrequent events and can be carried out remotely without the need for continuous direct observation.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Paper diaries are a familiar concept to most people so little or no training is required beforehand and people can start recording their activities straightaway. Entries can consist of notes, sketches, diagrams and lists. Paper diaries can be time-intensive to monitor and there is a potential delay before you see any entries so it can be worthwhile asking your participants to return entries back to you on a regular basis so that they can be moderated. The researcher can then provide feedback to ensure that the right kind of information is being recorded.
  2. Digital diary studies allows you to gather data in multiple formats such as text, photographs, video and audio. Activity can be recorded and received in real-time which can make moderation easier and has the added benefit of allowing the researcher to feedback directly to the participant as and when necessary using the same tools. Conversely, a purely digital diary study may be a barrier for some audiences and there are limitations in the types of data that can be recorded e.g. no sketches. Data may not always be recorded instantly and recording activities after they happened may lead to important details being omitted and forgotten (this is also a potential pitfall with paper diaries). As such the most rich and insightful diary study may well require a combination of methods that is based upon the type of participants and the activity that is being researched.
  3. During the study the researcher can keep participants on track by giving them reminders and feedback. It is often beneficial to provide progressive incentives to maintain participation. On-going moderation will allow the researcher to ensure that they are collecting useful data and allows for opportunities to re-evaluate the format of the study and the tasks being recorded. Having multiple participants means that there will be different styles of reporting so it’s important to be clear about what you are looking for in order to get useful material to evaluate.
  4. The amount of data gathered could potentially overwhelm the researcher so it is important to talk to participants beforehand, ideally face-to-face. This session can be used to introduce yourself, set expectations, explain when data should be recorded (at random times, specific intervals, based on activity), what sort of data should be recorded (activity, triggers, motivations, feelings, procedures, environment – let participants know that no detail is too small to record) and how the data can be recorded (text, sketches, video, audio, photographs, blog). This is also a good opportunity to make sure that your participants are comfortable with the tools that they will be using and you can also give them some examples of type of information that you are looking for.
  5. Once all of the data has been collected stories of interest can be mapped out and patterns identified. This information makes a great starting point for follow-up one-to-one interviews where key events and activities can be discussed in more detail.

I enjoyed the evening and left with an understanding of the benefits and limitations of diary studies and can see how, for the right type of study, they could be used to gather effective insight into behaviour and activity.

Many thanks to the organisers and speakers. See you at the next event!

Thoughts on Speaking about Design

I recently attended Speaking About Design, a meetup about Android tablet design hosted by The London Android Group (Londroid) at TechHub on 23 February, 2011.

Presentations and speakers

  • Greg Taylor; Head of UX at the digital design agency TigerSpike
  • Really fast wireframes – Kevin McDonagh; Novoda
  • Honeycomb UI Patterns – Nick Butcher; Android developer advocate at Google

This event was of particular interest to me as it’s theme was the partnership between designers and developers. After three very relevant presentations I came away with a new platform and OS to think about.

Here are a few takeaways…

Tablet devices offer immersive experiences
Designing for a tablet is very different to designing for web and mobile. Tablets allow us to exercise our primal urge to move things around with our hands. They are predominantly used at home in the evenings and it’s likely that you will be focused on a particular task. This differs from smart phones where we often have lots going on at once and dip in and out of apps as we go. All useful insights to bear in mind when designing.

In addition tablets are:

  • Portable; we can use them whenever and wherever we like, unrestricted by the need for tools and other paraphernalia
  • Consumable; we use them to absorb visually data such as news, photos and video
  • Personal; we might let others have a play but at the end of the day it’s our Facebook and Twitter accounts that are linked to the device and our own personal data that’s stored on it
  • Fun!

Gestural languages

A gestural language is evolving and patterns are developing. People are getting used to certain gestures producing certain results, for example the pinch zoom. It’s important to know and utilise these patterns as we expect certain things to happen and it can be very frustrating when a gesture that does one thing on one app produces a totally outcome on another.

Android Honeycomb 3.0

The recently released Android Honeycomb 3.0 has been optimised for tablet devices and includes smoother transitions and animations, support for multi-touch gestures, new widgets (including some great looking stacks) and drag and drop features. Rather than accessing other pages, actions and options from a menu, Honeycomb 3.0 has introduced an “Action Bar” UI element at the top of the screen that can be customised with different options depending on which application you’re using.

“Fragments are your friends”

(Some good advice from Nick Butcher!) Tablets can be rotated and used in any orientation that you like so this should be considered when designing. Some orientations are better suited to a task than others and you should optimise your design to make the most of each orientation. When designing think about separating content into fragments, the layout and relative proportion of which adjust on rotation. Fragments allow you to scroll through certain sections of content independently of others, useful for lists and sidebars against a main panel with full, expanded content.

The Honeycomb GMail app is an excellent exponent of this; in landscape mode you have a sidebar inbox panel that disappears when you rotate the device into a portrait position. This layout is often favoured for long-form reading as it provides the reader with a less cluttered interface. The sidebar can be easily retrieved by clicking the sidebar arrow that appears in this view. This latest release also allows you to drag and drop emails into folders.

Related articles

First Impressions Using Android Honeycomb, Google’s iPad Rival (TechCrunch)
Honeycomb Hands-on: Why Android 3.0 is Seriously Sweet (LAPTOP Magazine)