26 Jun

The User-Experience, Experience

I remember graduating from college in 2014 and while Graphic Design was a hot commodity at the time, there was another fad I remember starting to emerge in full force– User Experience Design. While I was aware that this was something that has always been around, there weren’t *many* positions open for it and the title itself, was still a little taboo. Now, thanks to major tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google, we have a mainstream idea of what UX is and the importance it brings to any company– big or small.

If you’re interested in breaking into this lucrative field, I’m here to give you some tips as to what that experience is like and what are some of the best practices to stay AHEAD of the game:

There is no “one way” process. Depending on the needs and goals of the project and your stakeholders, it’s important to know that there is no “one way” of starting a UX project. Sure, you’ll outline needs/goals and conduct User Research– but when it comes to thinking through user journeys, will it make sense to create a User Flow or a Task Flow for this project? What about both? and yes, there’s a difference. Point is, what I’ve come to learn is that there is no specific way, and this is OK. It all depends upon the stakeholder needs, budget, timeline and of course, the users needs.

It’s all about how you think. Do you know what is going to set you apart from those wireframes and mockups you spent all week churning out? Your design thinking behind them. If you’re able to identify a problem, come up with a solution and defend those solutions supported with evidence in a succinct way, you’re already more than half way there. In the beginning of a project, UX managers are actually not all that concerned with your solution just yet, but more so how you got there. If you’re able to explain your rationale and show how it falls along user goals and needs, you’re bound to be successful!

Storytelling is your secret weapon. It’s important to be able to frame a situation/task/problem to someone who isn’t as familiar with design thinking or terms– which may be 90% of your stakeholders. Putting a “human face” to the analytical data makes it easy enough for everyone to put complex design ideas and decisions into perspective. It’s also a great way to understand existing scenarios and test the potential of any others. You can even kick it up a notch and use rough sketches and illustration to Storyboard. This can give you and your colleagues a low-level visual of the idea of each frame of the customer’s journey, but supported with a high-level narrative. This is a great way to keep iterating until every task is accounted for!

User Needs vs. Stakeholder Needs. While the needs of both users and stakeholders are incredibly important, you’re eventually going to find those needs conflicting. A great way to prevent those needs from clashing in the first place is to always keep them in the loop. Stakeholder participation can help remove any obstacles early on while user research could assist stakeholders in putting the goals and needs of the product into priority/perspective. Aligning your user research with stakeholder goals is crucial in product success and overall effective communication. Happy stakeholder + Happy user = WIN/WIN!

Always be ready to learn. Now that the supply of UX design has reached the demand, there is no excuse for not keeping up with the latest news, resources, toolkits and programs relating to UX. A genuine interest in the topic, outside of work, is important to have. We now live in a time where free, downloadable UI toolkits and Podcasts with industry experts are within our fingertips. So, be ready to continuously learn! This field is always evolving and it’s really important to stay on top of it all– from design programs to emerging experts, I’ve learned that while I am able to understand a lot of what I do on the job, it’s also important to learn the theory behind it all. This is something that will always resonate no matter what stage you’re at in your career.

So… to help you get you started, here are a few of my personal favorites to get those wheels turning:

Recommended Programs / Plugins:

Sketch (Industry standard! You know Sketch, you know them all!)

InVision Studio

Adobe XD

Framer

Sketch Craft Plug-In (Easy to update designs for InVision prototypes in real time)

Recommended User Flow programs:

Primary

Miro (formally known as RealTimeBoard)

Recommended programs for Development collaboration:

Zeplin

Figma

InVision Inspect

Recommended YouTube channels:

AJ&Smart

Jesse Showalter

The Futur

TED

Recommended Readings:

Nielsen Norman Group

Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Literally anything on Medium, but I do love the articles Tiffany Eaton writes (Product Designer at Google)!

Recommended Podcasts:

99% Invisible

The Hacking UI Podcast

Product Breakfast Club

 


WRITTEN BY
Ashley Philip

Ashley Philip has worked as a Commercial Designer at Eleven Peppers Studios for over three years. She has over six years of experience in graphic design and is currently pursuing a Master’s in User Experience Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Ashley has a profound interest in solving user problems with a focus on the development and design of products themselves. 

17 Jun

Pepper Talk with Kate Rodman

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and person with Kate. Just a little background before we get started, Kate is one of our Senior Designers, and has been with 11P for 4 years. She’s worked on a wide variety of print and digital projects and specializes in being an illustration chameleon and incorporating artwork into a lot of her design solutions. Read her Q&A below!


1: Do you have any nicknames?
One time, when we went out for Chinese food I accidentally pressed the gas when turning on my car (it was in park) and it revved really loudly, startling all the people passing by on the sidewalk. My friends absolutely lost it and came up with Kate “hotrod”man – my speedster, aggressive driver alter ego.

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Usually, just check my phone. I don’t open any emails that will require too much thought at that point, but I’ll just get an idea of what my day is going to look like.

3: How would you describe your design style?
In my personal work, I love organic details. The more flourishes and leafy bits, the better. I love to blend illustration and typography together – to me, custom type is where illustration and graphic design overlap beautifully. For 11P work, it’s very nice to have a creative director there to rein me in. I tend to start “over the top” with adding extras and things that excite me. I’d like to think this makes their job easier (much simpler to remove/edit than come up with new ideas for things to add)… but maybe that’s just wishful thinking 😉

4: How did you get started?
I’ve always been an independent artist since I was little – if my parents couldn’t find me, I was probably drawing on a wall somewhere, or giving the dog a new haircut (sorry…). But the “fine artist” life was never for me. I am too comfortable with structure and rules – graphic design was a natural fit. When I went to Towson University for my BFA, one of their requirements for a class was to attend AIGA’s Ink & Pixels portfolio review. Luckily, I happened to sit down in front of Kristen that day, and the rest is history.

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
For thinking & sketching, I use cheap mechanical pencils and copy paper. No fancy notebooks for me. I also adore my lightbox for tracing during sketching – don’t know what I ever did without it. On the computer, I spend most of my time in Illustrator but I also love InDesign. My least favorite are Office products… Microsoft & Apple don’t play nicely, and I have no patience for that wonkiness. Would much rather use Google products for those things.

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Generally, I start with information gathering. I start taking rough notes of important messages or goals, etc. Then I’ll probably start a private Pinterest board to just gather style inspiration. Once I have a handle on that, I roughly sketch (a LOT) until I have several options that feel right. After running that by the team, we usually pick 1-3 to refine. I’ll use my lightbox to re-draw the idea larger and in more detail – something that I can easily trace in Illustrator. Most of my thinking happens on paper. (If I find I’m struggling on the computer, it means I need to go back to the drawing board)

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Like everyone else, Pinterest and Instagram… I love following illustrators/artists that use color in unexpected ways. My favorite pieces of art are the ones that look great at a glance but then you dive deeper and realize, oh wow, that tree is actually bright orange because of the light. Or the shading on that person’s face is actually green. The serious color mastery based on light just blows my mind.

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Never
Sweet or Savory: Savory – love salt too much!
Favorite Movie: All the Harry Potters
Guilty Pleasure: Watching Friends and The Office on repeat, almost constantly
Hobbies: Board games/puzzles, plant-based cooking, socializing with people’s dogs, thrift shopping (most of my furniture and clothes are secondhand), and crafts!

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Hard to choose, but this piece is the one I keep coming back to for inspiration. Love the message too – I am a chronic procrastiworker.


Thanks for meeting Kate. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

05 Jun

2019 Web Design Trends

There are so many elements that go into creating and maintaining your website – user experience, functionality, navigation, speed, content, and design. One element that constantly changes and has shifts in trends is design. Research proves that 75% of users make judgements about a company’s credibility based on the website’s design. Given the importance of your website’s design, it is vital for you to keep up with the latest trends. Let’s take a look at what is popular for 2019 in web design.

Serifs

Associated with the past, Serifs are making a comeback in 2019 because of their adaptability and ability to communicate a brand’s personality. This trend toward a more vintage typographic style is possible because of better screen resolutions which allow serifs to read more easily. With their classic look and modern feel, serifs are best used with headings, logos, or titles and not blocks of text.

Mobile First

In the past, websites were designed with the desktop user in mind and then made to be responsive for mobile audiences. Now, people are designing websites for mobile users before developing a version that will also work for desktop users. It’s no wonder why, as mobile search has been the most popular form of search since 2015. Additionally, Google is now prioritizing mobile websites over those that are not.

Video Backgrounds

Video is still the easiest and most effective avenue to convey your messaging. Without the need for paragraphs of text, a video can illustrate your brand in a matter of seconds. Proven to increase conversions, videos immediately capture the attention of your audience and boost your SEO cred. For the medium itself, the best practices employ short, muted, and high-quality video.

Single Page Design

Single page design looks great on every browsing device and works better on mobile because users can access everything without needing navigation. Not only does it offer ease of use, single page design tends to have higher conversion rates. But it’s not time to completely disregard scroll, you can deploy a single page design with scroll features to increase engagement.

Bold Colors and Gradients

Designers are backing off “web-safe” colors and picking supersaturated and vibrant colors in 2019. Choosing bold colors can differentiate your brand and make you stand out from the crowd. Additionally, designers are using gradients to draw attention to text elements or highlight specific content. Gradients have been on trend for a while because of their ability to add punch to your page without making it look too busy.

White Space

In the past, extra white space was thought to be a waste of real estate, but now it’s an up and coming trend. Allowing for easier navigation, white space also draws attention to the focal point on your webpage. Better user experience and strong conversion rates are benefits to using this trend. White space doesn’t necessarily need to be white, it just needs to be without any graphic or pictures.


WRITTEN BY
Cindy Madden

Contributor at 11P, Wordsmither, Lover of Foods Wrapped in Dough, Proud Cat Lady.