Previously we’ve discussed unconventional UX training resources. In this post, we focus on design training tips that can help you refine your skills or get you up and running if you’re new to user experience (UX).
In 7 UX Deliverables: What will I be making as a UX designer? Andreas Komninos offers useful descriptions of common research deliverables for those new to UX.
Komninos continues by explaining brainstorming and user flows:
That’s why at UI UX Training we concentrate on user flows more often than brainstorming. A focus on user flows keeps the attention where it belongs, on users, while still offering flexibility. As with most design activities, there is more than one way to approach a user flow. What’s important is devoting time and thought to how a persona would be able to step through your app.
UX and UI designers skip user flows at their peril. The results are obvious and sometimes dire: Confused users, angry users, users who leave your site or app never to return. Do the up front work; it’s worth it.
The third group of deliverables Komninos includes site maps, low-fidelity wireframes, high-fidelity wireframes, and interactive prototypes. Again, for those new to UI and UX design, Komninos provides a clear of these core deliverables ranging from hand-drawn low fidelity prototypes to sophisticated interactive prototypes that closely resemble a real site or application.
In Shared lessons for actors and user researchers Agnes Pyrchla offers a fresh perspective on user experience.
Acting is about listening. You have to be paying very close attention to what your fellow actors are giving you to respond to. Instead of waiting for your turn to do your line, you have to respond as the character would (almost without thinking.)
Active listening also applies to user research:
This is also true in user research. As researchers, our primary job is to listen and look for clues — what is motivating this user, within this context and more broadly? What actions were taken (or not taken) in a given situation? Why?
The point, explains Pyrchla, is to gather the information necessary for creating behavioral archetypes. These archetypes describe how certain personas might act and the motivation behind these actions: “Designers use these archetypes to create products that feel most natural to those users.”
Active listening is not a new idea. What Pyrchla offers is a useful analogy to help UX researchers of all skill levels consider how to better understand users.
Just as listening and looking for clues is essential to understanding users’ motivations so, too, is observing how users handle pain points. Pyrchla explains the benefits of understanding how study participants handle pain points.
Does the participant avoid a certain feature because it’s inconvenient or do they muscle through because they absolutely need to take that action? Pain points teach us about participants and the product simultaneously. We are on the lookout for these “antagonistic forces” (either with the product we’re working on or with competitor’s products) because we want to a) discover what’s wrong and b) understand any workarounds users invented to explore potential new solutions.
In some cases, even active listening and observation might not yield clear results. When that happens, techniques such as card sorting often shed light on users’ mental models about terminology, features, or attributes.
In Aesthetics vs Function / Art vs Design — A Timeless Debate, Micah Bowers and Miklos Philips debate the meaning and purpose of design.
Bowers is a brand designer and illustrator who conceives of art as encompassing various disciplines. Of which design is only one. In his view, therefore, design is art. He bases his argument about the meaning of art on this paraphrase from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Art exists and has existed in every known human culture and consists of objects, performances, and experiences that are intentionally endowed by their makers with a high degree of aesthetic interest.
According to this definition, design is art that is used to create objects, performances, and experiences. Designers purposefully infuse aesthetics into their work.
Philips concedes that branding, illustration, and graphic design could be considered “somewhat art.” In the case of product and industrial design, however, design is not art; it is functional.
Great design is part science, part process, and part a practical set of solutions with a dash of aesthetics thrown in. Going beyond the surface, a designer inevitably discovers that great design is more about delivering solutions to problems.
Philips quotes Jonathan Ive who referred to beauty as something working intuitively. Art, argues Philips, doesn’t get us there. An intuitive design is “driven by user research and testing. Good design is also data-driven.”
How does this debate relate to UX design training? Simply put, those who subscribe to Bowers’ view will likely focus on philosophy and the fine arts while those who agree with Philips might wish concentrate more heavily on human factors, cognitive psychology, and interaction design.
Certainly, art and functional design are not mutually exclusive. They can, however, lead to different UX design training paths.