“…it’s the truth
I’m like inception I play with your brain
So don’t sleep or snooze…”
~On the Floor by J.Lo featuring Pitbull
UX Design Plays with Your Brain
Ideas and how people think is one of the things that fascinates me about the field of UX design. I love the fact that you can indeed influence someones emotions and shape the way they think about a company, website, brand, etc. by incorporating design psychology. Or make an interaction more enjoyable by removing obstacles that frustrate; like poorly planned navigation, page layout, or confusing site structure.Removing these “obstacles” clears the way for the finished design to plant the idea – or should I say tell the desired user story.
One of my favorite movies is the 2010 movie, Inception. In the movie, the characters are able to travel into a person’s brain to the place where ideas are formed, and plant the seed of an idea. I believe the practice of UX design seeks to accomplish similar goals. In addition to creating a user-friendly web experience, I believe one of the main goals of the UX designer is to plant the seed of ideas. In effect – play with your brain.
Inception – Part One
Inception is defined by Merriam Webster as an act, process, or instance of beginning. I thought inception would make a great title for the new category I’ve just added to my blog. It’s called Inception – A UX Project. I’m in the process of beginning my first official UX Design project. While I’ve designed and produced my own clothing line in the past; drawing sketches, creating prototypes, and delivering the finished product of ready-to-wear garments. This week I started my first big UX web design project. I’m super excited about embarking on the process of design problem solving that involves more interaction! My goal is to document the process and the experience, from its inception.
The Project: Website redesign for M.C. Twinklin’s – Atlanta’s Unique Christmas Store.
Deciding What to Plant – Creating the User Story
My goal for my first meeting with the clients this week was to determine the goal/s of the new website design, define the content categories, information hierarchy of the main categories, and get a clear picture of the users of the site and their story. I decided to use a card-sorting type activity using post-it notes to help with this process.
I began the meeting by asking the clients to write down the categories on the current website, one to a post-it. I then asked them to brainstorm products, questions, ideas, anything they thought could be addressed on the new website, and write down what came to mind; one idea to a post-it note.
Then came the fun- sorting.
I must admit, it took a minute for them to get the gist of arranging and playing with the arrangement of the post-it notes. However, once they got the hang of it, it was very productive – especially for defining the hierarchy of the content and categories. Of course a few “discussions” arose about certain post-its belonging on top of other post-its. This sparked discussion and conversation about their customers, users of the site, and feedback they’ve gotten about their current site. It also brought up issues the new website could address. For example, questions they currently receive the most phone calls for, and questions asked the most in the store.
Chess or Rock Band? Deciding What Game to Play – Preparing to Define the User Experience
The sorting process helped us all clarify the main goals for the website redesign and get a clear picture of the sites focus, it’s users, and their story. The clients liked the activity because it allowed them to feel fully vested in the design process and experience ownership of defining the categories and pages. I loved it because all those post-its lined up gave me an immediate “visual” of the site flow and navigation.
Another thing I loved – I was able to “stack” all those post-its (e.g. website pages – at least in my mind), bring um’ home, and re-post them on my office wall above my laptop. Instant site map, of course it may need to get tweaked a little.
For our next meeting, I’m using our collaborative “site map” to create a couple sketchy electronic wireframe mock-ups for the home page layout. We used Balsamiq in the HCI course I just took on an extended free trial that was offered to students in the course. I love the hand drawn, sketchy quality of Balsamiq. I wanted to achieve a similar look for the mock-ups for this project, but using a free program.
I tried out several different programs including Lumzy, Mockingbird, and Mockup Builder, before settling on Pencil Project. I like Pencil the best out of the options I tried because of the amount of “sketchy” elements the program offers. I believe the sketchy quality of the mock-ups will make the clients feel more comfortable making suggestions on parts of the interface they think need changing.
In addition to the mock-ups, I’m using the site-map to start a content inventory document that will be used to keep track of the redesigned sites content.
Keep an eye out for Inception – A UX Project Part Two. I plan to share how the next client meeting goes, talk about the design point-of-view for the project, and dig deeper into the interaction design of the new site!