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what the voices in my head tell me to write

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This is both inspiring and though provoking 

I came across Leagh Buley's presentation on Being a UX Team of One the other day. I have to say I watched more or less every minute of the video and followed the slides too.

Leah seems to have experienced some of the same problems I have come across when working as the "Front End Developer / UX guy" and has some great ideas for overcoming them. So often someone has come up to me and said "can you come up with a page to do XYZ?" and I go away and think for a bit and come up with one design solution. In the bad old days I would have started coding straight away. Now I can write html and css quickly but not that quickly.

Then I got into using graphics packages to create high fidelity mock ups before I started coding. Almost the old slice-n-dice photoshop table layout days all over again. Of course I obsessed over details and didn't come up with a coherent design.

I was never that keen on sketching UI with a pen and paper. Mainly because I am really bad at drawing I think. It brought back bad memories of sitting in an art class aged about 13 with no idea what I was doing there. Then I joined I ♥ wireframes on flickr. Yes there are some very beautiful wireframes created in graphics packages but the most interesting ones (IMHO) are sketched.

Leah definitely is a big fan of sketching and I think am now converted. The main thing I got out of Leah's section on sketching was that you "brainstorm, a lot". Produce many ideas and mix and match. Let them evolve. Don't limit yourself. I think I might have frustrated my co-workers quite a bit in the past by coming up with one design and "evolving" it without really asking or telling them. Evolving the design on paper stops this sort of problem.

As an aside from all this there must be something wrong with computer based UI design in general if it limits this sort of creative process or other similar creative activities.

The next stage of working as a team of one is a bit contradictory. Basically don't be a team of one. Assemble an ad hoc team around you. Basically get some help from your co-workers. This isn't really a team of one thing if you ask me but there you go. I can see the point that your co-workers will put their oar in anyway so why not get their input. From personal experience I think this can go one of two ways. Either they will tell you to sod off and stop asking you to do your job for you. Or they will jump in with tons of unhelpful suggestions that stop you working that way.

I guess the trick is to fall between these two extremes and get coders to help you constructively. Leah and Adaptive Path have a range of techniques like sketchboards, open design sessions and the like. One of my favourite ideas is to decorate your workspace with your work in progress to get people looking at your work and commenting on it - hopefully constructively. The idea of passing someone who is commenting on your work a pen and saying. "Draw your idea then." is great.

The final section is a bit ass about face I think. I would be coming up with design principles at the start not the end. If I had to for instance come up with a set of designs for a hotel's site I would try and figure out the design principles at the start and then use them as a filter for ideas right from the start rather than at the end. Though that could mean rejecting ideas that don't fit the preconceived ideas which is a bad thing. So maybe this isn't a bad idea after all.

Watching the video and googling around the subject has really made me think. I can definitely improve my process for coming up with a design from this. I might not agree with all of it but hey that is bound to happen.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Saturday, November 14, 2009

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