What's the problem?...and finding a solution

So this past semester, I took a class called Ideation and Prototyping Websites. If you are wondering what that all means....at the beginning of the semester I would have been right there with you. But to quickly summarize, one seeks out a problem by observing surroundings and interviewing people to develop insights and a problem. From there you solve the problem digitally from an idea stack of inspiration and user testing to develop a solid solution. OK, so what did I do in that class. Well, we (the students) were divided up into four groups: Shopping, Jobs, Dining, Studying. From there we had to pick a genre within the group to develop a hypothesis of a problem. Once we determined what we thought the problem was, we went out to interview people in the environment. For my team, we were given Shopping. Once we whittled down the ideas, we decided upon observing Barnes & Noble store to see if there are any potential problems that we could solve.

We spent several hours in the store watching people's habits. Where they go when they first walk in store, if they even buy anything, what brought them to the store in the first place. Sorting through all the interviews and answers, we found out that half of the people go to the store and don't buy anything. They just like browsing around or don't really find anything worth purchasing. We developed the following insights:

1. People come to the store for an experience

2. (taking B&N into consideration as a customer) B&N needs to make money.

So with these two thoughts in mind, our team came up with a mobile app solution that would reward the customer by buying things in the store but also give them an exciting way to participate in the store while they are there.

We named it myBan. I personally dubbed it "Explore the Store" where customers would add some info about what their interest in books are and then myBan would lead them on  a book scavenger hunt through the store to find a book that it thinks the reader would enjoy. Once the user found the correct book, they would gain points to use in the future off a purchase etc. Also customers would gain more points by making purchases in the store similarly to Starbucks (which is the mother of all rewards apps)

I think the concept is a great one to help excite customers, while also making a new way for B&N to generate revenue.

Have a glance at our presentation: Study

Protohack...the non-coding hackathon

So I've been studying UX design and using various prototyping tools. Every weekend there is some sort of hackathon that I couldn't attend and deep down felt like I didn't have much to contribute because I can't code lol. I often wonder if my design skills would be up to par for the time limit of a hackathon. That mixed with having a dog, I never attended an event...until now.  

I found Protohack. Well what the heck is it (you may have wondered)? Well it's  hackathon for non-coders. You use prototyping software to create your idea and pitch to the judges to win prize money for developers, patents, etc. I thought it was a perfect fit and recruited some classmates to come along and (suffer... I mean) create with me.

 

So being on a team with my classmates, I an idea to create a food truck app that visually displays the menu of the food being offered. We surveyed people at the event and did some card sorting to find out what features should be in the app. The biggest one was picture of the food, so that is why we wanted to emphasize a visual menu.

We quickly made some sketches and talked about our various ideas to then come together to create one app. Quickly we went to work using Proto.io. (I wanted to try a new software that I hadn't used before to get some additional experience).

Everything was going great. Until it came down to refinement...a hour before the project is due, the wifi in the building went down and proto.io is only accessible through the internet! All the work we thought we had done was lost, so there went us pitching our idea... I was mad to say the least! We didn't have anything to present, but still enjoyed the other teams presentation and ideas. We ate well and had plenty of drinks (because what is a hackathon without alcohol lol), so all in all it wasn't that bad of an evening, but I really wanted to present our idea, because I think we have a cool looking product.

Well a few days after the event, I was still determined to finish the app and spent some time bringing the app to a medium/high fidelity. You can review the pics below. A functional prototype developed in day's work (plus a few hours more) isn't too bad.

 

Take a look for yourself...

http://bit.ly/15qPmJE

 

 

To the future me...

A letter to future me...  

Dear Me (lol),

 

Well who would have thought you would be here (as in New York...).  You left your reliably paying cushy job to be a broke college student in the Big apple. What a scary , brave, and exciting thing to decide to do. This past semester has been hard. So many projects and so little time. You learned some new skills that hopefully you can apply to have something fruitful come out of it. You now have a foundation for user experience design and developing insights to create meaningful and thoughtful products that solve problems. These skills are greatly paired to your previous background engineering where you taught how to solve problems mechanically, but now applying them creatively and digitally. A great "pivot" (ideation talk right there...) reapplying skills to a new genre. I hope in the next few years you are working successfully in the field of UX/UI.  Hopefully your internship at Cognitive Toy Box helped you learn how to interact with a client to produce real work and your classes in UX at NYU deepened your UI skills.

I hope your time spent in Grad colloquium helped you gain some insight on what the possibilities are when integrating art and technology and when you take creative coding next semester, you discover and creative some amazing art piece that you can submit in the next dumbo interactive art festival. I hope your connection with one of the presenters helps you gain some collaboration creds and you start making a name for yourself.

 

I also hope when you take iOS development next semester, you are able to take one of your prototyped sites you made previously and fully develop it to make and release in the apple store.

 

I hope you make some new goals and dreams for yourself as you have the world at your hand and I hope you take full advantage of your surroundings while at NYU.

 

Dream big, explore, create. I can't wait to see what you do in the future, the sky is the limit.

 

Sincerely,

 

Me (aka you)

My day at Uncubed...the uncareer fair

So a few months ago, I signed up for a tech conference and career fair called Uncubed. I read a brief description of the event and decided quickly that I should go. Intially, I thought it would be really geared toward IT developers and the like, but decided I would go anyway to see what this was about because it seemed like a cool thing to go to. So you may be asking...what is Uncubed? Well according to their website....

"Uncubed connects forward thinking folks with a new generation of companies, their fulfilling jobs, and the digital skills they’re built on.We make content, put on one hell of a startup careers conference series, and offer skills classes that do not bore. The content is irrationally free, of the highest quality, and appears magically in your inbox each day. The only people we’ve been able to get to read it are those interested in great products, fulfilling jobs, and the future of humanity. The conferences are a chance to meet the finest high-growth startups around, and to learn digital skills in tech, design and business. The online classes are bite-sized, definitively not boring, and taught by the companies you admire (or soon will). Stay tuned for more on this front."

Blah blah blah so what does all that all really mean? Well all the above means that it's the most awesome non-career fair eva!!! Part tech conference and a whole lot of connecting for work opportunities. It differed so much than any other career fair I had been to.

I was used to the traditional career fair where you dress up in a suit and hit the booths waiting in line for your turn to show your very boring and basic resume having a superficial conversation trying to persuade someone to give you an opportunity. Uncubed literally flipped all that on it's head. At tech fairs, the companies are trying to lure you...with a sense that their company is the coolest place to work and can be that of a Google or Facebook type work environment. They emphasize that by having a dress code of startup casual. I had never heard of that until going to Uncubed, so I decided to look up what start up casual meant so I wouldn't be out of place. (if you want to know more about startup causal dress code, click here.) After searching, I figured out my outfit of some skinny jeans, printed blouse, a blue blazer, and off I went to techlandia.

I purchased the earlybird ticket to attend the tech conference portion. The topics ranged from applying big data to creating a self filmed video in 30 min. All the sessions were very interesting even if I didn't know the full content of them all. By 2pm, I was ready for the main event...networking. I came just to attend the event and connect, but shortly before going I decided to include looking for an internship as goal as well.

With my updated resume in tow, I headed around to the various companies to inquire if they were hiring for internships. Most of the companies were hiring full time, but a few were offering internships, which I was quite excited about. All of the companies had something cool...whether it was some form of alcohol, swag, or food, there were something to be had by visiting each booth.

At first I was a bit daunted by the whole event as I hadn't been to such an event in over 8 years when I had last looked for a job. Everyone was super nice and easy to talk to as I meandered around munching on popcorn, candy, and drinking a margarita lol. As I was looking for a UX internship, I showed and handed off my resume to recruiters who seemed to like the content and layout alike. I collected several business cards and emails, and one company in particular stood out...Prolifc. I recall checking out their space and almost passed by the table when I caught the eye of one of the recruiters and we began chatting. After quick familiarities, we discussed if the company was offering internships (they were!) and she offered to meet up with me to have a coffee,  tour the company, and perhaps later meet with the team I would work with. I was super stoked for this and told her I would love to. She was the most personable person I recall meeting and look forward to following up with her on Monday to set up a meeting.

My overall experience was exciting and grand as I collected email after email inquiring about job opportunities. But next comes the real hard work...the follow up. I have a lot of connections to follow up on and hopefully I find a great company to work for to further my learning experience. Wish me luck! I'll need it!

Lauren's top ten UX blogs

As an aspiring UX unicorn...I find there is so much content all over the internet of what makes great UX design. So I decided to compile a top ten list of what I've found to be most useful thus far. Check it out! 1.  UX Magazine

UX Magazine is a one-stop resource for everything related to user experience. They provide a steady stream of current, informative and credible information about UX and related fields to enhance the user experience. UX Mag is especially beneficial to UX practitioners and those exploring the field as their articles are published by experienced professionals who work in all areas of UX and cover the field from diverse angles and perspectives.

2.  UX Booth

UX Booth is a publication by and for the user experience community who readers consists mostly of beginning-to-intermediate user experience and interaction designers. They have plenty of useful articles and resources on usability, user experience, and interaction design.

3. UX Matters

UX Matters is a site that publishes essays, articles, and columns on topics related to UX, in particular Information Design and Usability. It covers theory and practice, presents innovative ideas and practical solutions, and introduces abstract concepts as well as useful tips.

4. Nielsen Norman Group

The Nielsen Norman Group is a trusted authority on all things related to usability. They post many of their insights in their blog and have a lot of information on user experience research such as user testing and usability. I check it for some of the latest UX news and tips.

5.  Smashing Magazine

Smashing Mag's features articles that touch on usability, information architecture, interaction design as well as other UX related topics that can be applied to web, mobile, applications, and other products.

6. Measuring Usability

Measuring Usability is a research firm that focuses on the statistical analysis of human behavior and quantifying the user experience to provide useful insights about products and designs. They have a blog which list of articles related to usability testing and various UX topics.

7. Usabilla

Usabilla is a company that provides a tool for companies to receive user feedback to make better insights to develop a better product. Their blog content touches on visual design, analytics, usability, user experience, and remote research topics.

8. 52 Weeks of UX

This older blog contains discussions around UI and UX and provides useful tip for insights on design and human behavior from the former Principal Designer at Twitter.

9. Boxes and Arrows

Boxes and Arrows is a blog that discusses all things design related pertaining to graphic design, interaction design, information architecture and the design of business. It most useful for UI designers and that like that want to concentrate on the design side.

10. Designmodo

Designmodo is focused on both web design and development covering the aesthetic, business, and psychological elements of UX. They have tutorials, giveaways, and inspirational content that has something for everyone in the design and developer communities.

UX where are you?

I have been working the last month for s start-up. Before I began, the job description was to create some graphics and then go forward with UX design etc. I thought this was a perfect opportunity since I'm currently taking UX design classes and am interested in the subject. Once I began, they told they want new graphics for their app and need all of their previous objects redone. Like 100 varying objects when before they had 10 objects with just different colors of each one. guitars Oh boy...while I am proficient in Illustrator...I am not a graphic designer by trade and was expecting to complete a few objects and move on to user testing and all things UX related. Well like I stated earlier...it's a month later and with school projects and the like, I am still working on these objects! I'm trying to be done this week, so I can actually get to the user testing before the semester ends, but it is so challenging making all these objects look different. This month has led me to realize that perhaps I don't want to make graphics as a living if it has to be this tedious, not that I wanted to do this for a living, but I'd rather design the app interface than creating variable objects.

I'm glad graphic design is not my major. If I had to do this day in and day out...I think I'd be become an alcoholic or something of the sort. I'm pushing forward to get this objects done...please send your positive thoughts my way because the sooner I am done, the next step is getting the developer to implement the graphics for the app and going to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for real-time user testing of the app interface. I'm really looking forward to this step for feedback and going forward with the iteration process. Exploring the realm of UX design has me intrigued...while I may not be the best at the designing phase, since graphic design was NOT my major...I feel that my skills in the process and conceptual thinking are strong. From the development of user personas, insights, and getting to an actual product to be created (referring to my school projects here...switching gears a bit), I feel that I have something to contribute and my ideas are worth exploring. I believe my thought process takes thorough thinking approach through user flows of how a site is going to function and what happens after each interaction. I can't wait to find more opportunities to apply these design principles I am learning in school because so far I this UX is...

awesome gif

E-Commerce Website: Unicorn Kids Shop

Project Overview.

The second installment of project coursework was to work in small groups to develop the user experience of a prototype e-commerce website – The Unicorn Kids Shop. We were told that the site originally sold all sorts of DIY kits, but recently pivoted to focus entirely on innovative learning kits for children, with the intention of becoming the “#1 resource for parents that want to incorporate hands on STEAM education into their kids everyday learning experience.”

The project required us to take a list of the top selling products and three user persona’s and develop a sitemap, user-flows, wireframes, and an interactive prototype in a two week timeframe. So without further adieu, I give you our process:

The Process.

1. Sketch a Site Map

Similar to my last project – we all found it a good idea to meet up and just get our ideas on paper. First, we sketched out potential site maps and the pages needed for those layouts. We also began to look through the list of products to develop some categories (this would later require a card sorting technique).

Img. 1 - Sketch of potential product categories.
Img. 1 – Sketch of potential product categories.
Img. 2 - Sketch of Site Map
Img. 2 – Sketch of Site Map
Img. 3 - Sketch of HomePage
Img. 3 – Sketch of Home Page

After a few iterations of sketches, we had a good enough idea to start developing our site map – but this could not be finished until we had fully finished categorizing the products, which would require some card sorting.

2. Card Sorting

We all felt that one of the most important parts of a users experience on an e-commerce website was the ability to find particular products, which almost came entirely down to the categorization of the products themselves.

In order to develop the categories, we researched each of the top selling products given to us and tagged each of them with 2-3 words we felt that the product fit into. Each product and its tags were written on a card.

Img. 4 - Card Sorting
Img. 4 – Card Sorting

We then went through several iterations of sorting them into groups, and naming each group. Eventually we settled on the following:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UrJI3vKAP4?version=3&rel=0&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent]

If you didn’t catch that, we decided on the following categories:
  • Robotics
  • Electronics
  • Microcontrollers
  • Aviation
  • Green Energy
  • Chemistry
  • Audio
  • Visual
  • Games

From this, we could then complete our sitemap:

Fig. 1 - Sitemap
Fig. 1 – Sitemap

3. User Flows

Next we needed to work on our user flows. A detailed description of each user was given to us, ranging from an elderly woman who didn’t quite understand the internet – but wanted to seem young and hip to her granddaughters, to a tech-savy younger man, who felt that college degrees were overrated (they were quite in depth). For each user, we were given a task that they wanted to complete, and had to outline how the user would navigate through our website given their personalities – we could then test this on other users later.

  • Bev needed to buy a gift for her grandson (she likes sales).
  • Charlie (who had visited the site before) wanted to by a gift for his niece who likes bugs.
  • Linea was visiting the site to find a return policy.

With the persona’s in mind, we developed the following three user flows:

Fig. 2 - User Flow Diagrams
Fig. 2 – User Flow Diagrams

4. Build Wireframes

Next, we needed to develop a set of wireframes of the site. This was entirely done in Axure.

We wanted the site to be easy to navigate, intuitive, and call upon the standard e-commerce experience (we felt it best to stay away from anything to new, and hence – unfamiliar). Products needed to be simple and easy to find, and we needed the site to be accessible and usable to users of all ages – considering the target audience was quite large.

5. Clickable Prototype

An interactive prototype was developed based on user persona Beverly and completed using Axure.

Unicorn User Beverly

To experience our interactive prototype, please click here (password: ecommerce).

6. User Testing

Next, we ran through a few tests with fellow students at NYU.

Img. 5 - User Testing
Img. 5 – User Testing
Img. 6 - User Testing 3
Img. 6 – User Testing 3

Generally, the users were able to navigate the site well, nothing was too confusing or new, but there were a few things that were suggested in order to improve the experience. Some of the feedback we received included:

  • Adding an option to create an account on the page a guest enters their information (users don’t tend to want to sign up, when confronted with the option to check out as a guest).
  • Adding more images of “Best Selling” and “Sale” boxes on the home page.
  • Having the “Featured” banner on the home page be on a timed scroll, rather than on user click.

For each user test, we gave the user one of the persona’s and prompted them with questions such as “Where would you click now?, If you want to see the sales items, where would you click?” etc.

Overall, we were happy with how our prototype performed, and felt that with the help of the feedback we received, we were able to create a great prototype for the client.

Client Presentation.

Finally, we had to present our site to the client, and walk them through one of our user flows on the interactive site.

We outlined the goal of the site, the user persona’s we scoped around, and finally the interactive prototype itself.

The presentation slides can be seen here.

A lesson learned...

Ok...this past week has been so busy with classes and group projects galore. All my free time has been spent on the computer doing homework. I'm accustom to doing a heavy load of work, but trying to finish projects dealing with 5 other people's schedule is hard. In fact...grad school is hard period. I've never been more tired and thrilled at the same time. I'm so happy to know that I am expanding my mind and entering a new realm in technology, but the road to get there will be difficult. Theoretical readings on the beginning of digital media take up a lot time not only to read thru them, but to digest the words and try to comprehend the authors' main points. Classes are also very intense with a project due every week and this is just the first month! And then, there's the internship... Last week I began my internship at SPIKE incubator in Soho. A slow start to meet up with the owner of the start-up. After going to the internship orientation, and tour around the facility, I briefly met with the owner to discuss what I wanted to focus on in the internship/what I wanted to get out of it. I stated that I wanted to do some UX wire framing design as well as graphics needed to move along her 1st phase of her current mobile app. The next day she emails me a picture of a welcome screen and asks if I can give some design samples of a sign up screen and graphics of variant objects based off the current app.

After reading the email, I am assuming she is going to send me the previous files to see the design styles to base my design off of. Wrong...I received nothing. Getting a bit caught up with my classes and projects, another day passes and she emails me asking if I had any updates. I told her that I need the old files to work from to make the design and then another hurdle that I need to sign a non-disclosure agreement before she gives me any files. While I am ok with signing an agreement. Part of me was wondering how was previously going to work done if this was needed first. To me this should have been the first thing we discussed and signed when we had an in person meeting on Monday. I learned I should have expressed my needs as a designer right away when I realized that I needed the previous files to work from. Anyway, I signed the documents and finally was given access to the files on Friday. I was busier than I thought over the weekend and wasn't able to focus on this app, but later today will complete some sketches and then begin building the screen in Illustrator today to send over to the owner to make sure these designs are something that she would want in her app...Wish me luck!

In the beginning...

So I've just begun a new journey. Uprooting my life back in Michigan, leaving my cushy job to be a student at NYU. The first thoughts thru my mind were definitely that of pure terror. No big steady checks coming in, thinking about high New York rent...but I know I couldn't and didn't want to being working where I was until I was in my 60s. For the last 8 years I had been working as a product development engineer on automotive interiors for Ford Motor Company. Working in the design studio as a product development engineer was quite appealing to me as I love technology, working in 3D, and working on future model cars. But ultimately, I knew I wanted more. I felt that my creative side hadn’t been fully tapped. The automotive industry has its limitations due to government laws and internally imposed rules...at times you want to do more and have to tell the designers no. Their creativity becomes limited and I wanted to expand my mind to its fullest potential. I regret not realizing this enthusiasm a few years earlier as it may of led me to this point a lot sooner, but at least I have finally gotten to this point. I wanted to find a program that would empower me with the creative skills and knowledge that will enable me to join and contribute to the exciting, dynamic, and constantly evolving world of digital media. My search led me to the Integrated Digital Media program at New York University. I felt this program had the right mixture of courses, academic professionalism, atmosphere, and vibrant social scene that can help me grow professionally. It’s also located in the heart of the growing technology movement, New York, which keeps one aware of the trends and where digital media is headed or create your own new path.  There are so many opportunities to make your mark here in the city.

I recall the days in 3rd grade playing simple games on early edition Macs. I remember dying from chloera or starvation from not shooting enough game to feed the family while playing Oregon Trail and manipulating the mouse to eat prime numbers in Numbers Munchers. As I fast forward to today, I cannot be a hand’s throw away from my smartphone as it has become an integral part of my life. Playing games on my phone, shazaming a song, or tweeting an interesting recipe I made in the kitchen, it’s all in the palm of my hand now...3x4 inches of computer...incredible. Technology is truly amazing in how far it has come. And I hope to take it even further...

While I've only been here a month, my classes are leading me towards UX design. This semester I decided to do an internship to gain more experience in that field. I landed a position with the SPIKE incubator working for Cognitive Toy Box. This company is developing mobile apps for children to increase their vocabulary at an earlier age. I will be doing the graphic design and eventually wire framing the next stages of their second app. I hope to gain real world experience of what it takes to work at a start up, the challenges, the highs the lows. I want to be a sponge to soak it all in as I have thought many times about venturing off on my own to begin my own company. I'm not quite sure of what it would be, but I've always had that bug to do my own thing. This probably comes from my dad as he has been a freelance graphic designer for the past 30 years.

Anyways, my first day starts today and I'm excited. Excited to learn, grow, and develop. I have splashes of grandeur on the mind...I want to apply my knowledge gained and become an innovator. I see myself on the stage of SXSW presenting my ideas, my thoughts,...my creations. One day perhaps...

For now, I'll just be updating my posts about the high and lows of my internship at Cognitive Toy Box.

Transportation Problems

This post is about commuter transportation issues. Via paper prototyping, I learn the UX design process of developing a transportation app to help my friend Janneisy improve her commute from Yonkers to NYU in Brooklyn, a 2 hour commute! My first and last inclination is to tell her to move lol. But since she has no plans of moving...I went ahead to develop what I think would be a great app to help her through her morning and evening commute.

My friend's main problem with her commute is that the bus she takes on her initial embarkment is never on time. My solution is to integrate live GPS data of the Bee-Line with the NYC MTA transportation system to better time her departure and arrival so she can decided whether or not she needs to hurry up or can take her time getting to the bus.

Talking more with Janneisy, I learned that she is really into music discovery probably from being on the bus and train 4 hrs a day...so I thought what if the app pulled in the soft data from her favorite apps to stream songs thru a one stop shop. Then, there's no need to get out of this app and open another. If Spotify can stream iTunes, then my app can stream both and more with further development.

Lastly, the weather of New York is an ever changing thing. It could be raining one minute and sun shining the next, so with further discussion, we decided to add a weather page to quickly know what the weather will be like for the day. Once again adding this page into the app saves time from having to go into another weather app and as they say...time is money!

IMG_0015IMG_0019IMG_0027

After several iterations, I took my paper prototype to the app POP to demo a tappable simulation to verify my workflow.

IMG_6719IMG_6713IMG_6717

Please review my presentation and POP simulation link below.

Powerpoint:

Transportation Problems UX

POP (Prototyping on Paper):

https://popapp.in/projects/5415facd167d5e8b4e89ed55/preview