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. 

09 Feb

Celebrating Women in Tech Through the Years

In recent years, it’s been noted that we need more women in the technology field. The truth is, women have been involved in technology for decades. Unfortunately their stories haven’t made it to the forefront of our history lessons. To encourage more women to join the ranks of these pioneers, it is vital that we recognize those who have forged ahead and made advances in the tech industry. We need female role models in order to inspire young women to dive into technology at an early age.

Below is a brief history and timeline of women over the years who have shaped and impacted the tech industry. From designers to mathematicians, these women changed the world we live in with their innovative spirits and groundbreaking inventions.

Ada Lovelace – 1800’s
Recognized as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” design by translating lecture notes from French to English. During her work, Ada discovered many errors and realized the machine could be used for more than calculation. In 1843, she created the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine – thus creating the first concept of a computer operating system.

 

 

Edith Clarke – 1920’s
Known as a human computer, Edith Clarke was the first woman to earn her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She invented the Clarke calculator which computed electrical systems equations 10 times faster than existing methods and worked on the construction of the Hoover Dam. In 2015, Clarke was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 

 

Grace Hopper – 1940-50’s
Admiral Grace Hopper was a huge believer in change and fought the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way,” her whole career. Prior to language-based computer programming, computers used binary code. Enter Grace, who took on programming in English which sparked the development of the common business-oriented language (COBOL) that is still widely used today.

 

 

Katherine Johnson – 1950-60’s
Ever since she could remember, Katherine Johnson loved math. It was this love that eventually lead her to NASA where she worked on crucial missions including the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. At NASA, Katherine calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for numerous missions. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and recently NASA renamed a facility after Katherine to honor her efforts.

 

 

Susan Kare – 1980-90’s
Graphic designer Susan Kare is responsible for developing some of Apple’s signature graphics. Although the graphics look simple, they are incredibly difficult to design. Think about it – she created a way to communicate different technologies via pictures, making them crystal clear to each user. These innovations are still used as icons to this day. Susan was honored for her efforts with an AIGA Medal, a prestigious award in the design world.

 

 

Megan Smith – 2010’s
First female Chief Technical Officer of the White House, Megan Smith is a huge advocate for women in STEM fields. Before working at the White House during the Obama Administration, she served as Vice President of Business Development at Google and CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community. Megan is currently the CEO and founder of shift7, an organization that works in partnership on systemic economic, social, and environmental challenges.

 


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

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace. Digital image. Scientific American. 10 October 2017, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/image.
Edith Clarke. Digital image. Wikipedia. 27 January 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Clarke.
Grace Hopper. Digital image. Vassar College. 06 July 2017, https://stories.vassar.edu/image.
Katherine Johnson. Digital image. NASA. 24 November 2015, https://www.nasa.gov/image.
Susan Kare. Digital image. PLOS. 22 November 2011, https://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/image.
Megan Smith. Digital image. NPR. 04 November 2014, https://www.npr.org/image.

05 May

Star Wars Takeover: And the Winner Is…

And we’ve got a winner!!!

But first, just in case you missed the STAR WARS TAKEOVER on our social feeds, head on over to our Instagram or Facebook account. It’s okay, we’ll wait…

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Did you hear the one about the Star Wars text crawl walking into a bar?

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The bartender yells, “Get outta my pub! We don’t serve your type here.” (Reader’s Digest)

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Just a little designer humor for you…

Okay, so today, we’re announcing the most popular Star Wars character illustration. There were six total and it was a close battle…

So, are you ready?

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The winner is… BB8!!!!

 

Now let’s see how that magic happened…

 

We also wanted to share a little behind the scenes footage of our talented designers work.

Music: Williams, J. (1999). Dual of the Fates [Recorded by Abbey Road Studio]. On Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Soundtrack [CD].

 

Another year, another Star Wars Day gone. We hoped you enjoyed the takeover!!!

May The Fourth Be With You.

 

20 Jan

5 Podcasts that Inspire Creativity

Anyone else feeling the winter blues?

Here on the east coast it is oddly not frigid, which somehow makes winter even harder to get through. We keep looking over our shoulders for the “real winter” to get here. Regardless, even with the 50-something degree temperatures, right now it feels impossible to get the creative juices flowing, especially early in the morning, when the sun isn’t even out yet. Where are you sun?

As much of an over-exaggeration as that was, sometimes it’s just plain hard to sustain creativity. We all have our slumps. When we, at Eleven Peppers, hit one of those speed bumps we find it extremely handy to look toward the creative community for inspiration. One way we do this is by tuning in to our favorite podcasts; so here is a starter set that we believe will burst open the figurative imagination-dams and let the brilliant ideas flow.

99% Invisible: Episode 128 – IKEA Hacking
Because who doesn’t love a good IKEA hack? This episode dives into the worldwide phenomenon with guest, Jules Yap (pseudonym), creator of the popular website. The site allows innovators around the world to contribute to an extensive library of “hacks”, share their how-to guides, and trade tips with each other. Although we rarely hack apart and put back together furniture for our clients (okay, never), the ingenuity packed into this podcast is awe-inspiring.

After the Jump: Episode 62 – Sources of Inspiration
Literally a “jumping-off” point for figuring out where to look for inspiration and more importantly, how to harness it once you’ve found it. The show’s host Grace Bonney discusses her personal sources of inspiration. We find that hearing about how others’ stay creative only fuels our own creativity.

How I Built This: Episode 1 – Spanx
If you love TED Radio Hour (see next podcast suggestion) you may love this even more! Each episode features the founder(s) of popular brands and companies. In particular, their first episode with guest Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) is an inspirational, sweet, yet self-deprecatingly funny depiction of how the mega-brand started from the meekest beginnings. It reminds us that no matter how small our idea is today, we have the power to make it grow.

TED Radio Hour
And of course TED Radio Hour. Each episode combines TED Talks that converge upon a central theme.

The Power of Design: Design is all around us. This episode touches on how design is and can be used to influence personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, and much more. Just remember to use that power for good.

How Things Spread: The various speakers in this episode provide unique views on how things, like laughter or viruses, spread and how those same concepts can be applied to other endeavors. It will really open your mind.

Of course there are plenty more, but we hope that this little “booster pack” will evoke creativity, inspire innovation and remind you that “winter is coming”… just kidding, winter will come to an end, as will any slump you find yourself in.