January 16, 2018

What Exactly Does A Creative Director Do?

It never fails. When I tell people I work as a creative director at a digital agency, the next question is typically some version of, "so, what is it that you do exactly?”

Many people think a Creative Director’s role involves sitting in an ivory tower spouting design direction to their underlings. Others seem to think the role is obsolete, a relic of traditional ad agencies. While it’s true that the Creative Director often holds the keys to the proverbial creative gates, the modern day Creative Director’s role is more integrated, subtle, agile, and collaborative.

On a typical day, it is equal parts creative facilitator, design advocate, team cheerleader, and idea defender.

Below, I've laid out what my typical day as a Creative Director looks like:

Good morning, Sunshine at 7 a.m.

I’m not a morning person by any means, but my dog Marshy seems to think otherwise. She wakes me up at 7 a.m. on the dot every morning so that I can stumble out of bed and feed her.  Not only does my dog dutifully act as my daily alarm clock, she also serves as a source of stress-relief and pet therapy whenever days are draining and chaotic. In fact, it is scientifically proven time and time again that pets help lower your blood pressure as well as cortisol levels, a natural hormone triggered by stress. After some light stretching and a brisk walk around the block with my furry friend, I continue on to my morning routine of showering, getting dressed, and eating a hearty breakfast, usually consisting of a bagel, eggs, and fruit, to prepare for my day.

digital agency - Creative Director dog

In the office by 9 a.m.

About two hours after stumbling out of bed, I roll into the office, grab a steaming cup of joe from our fancy espresso machine, check emails, and make a mental checklist of what I want to get done for the day. In the fast-paced environment of a digital agency such as YML, it’s important to always have a game plan for what I want to accomplish. Whether it’s brainstorming with team members or preparing a presentation, I want to be as efficient and intentional as possible with my time.

digital agency - office

Getting my hands dirty by 9:30 a.m.

Creative Directors do a lot of delegating when it comes to actual design work, which makes sense given the amount of projects and people one must oversee. However, while I do delegate the majority of the designing and crafting to my team, I jump at any opportunity to get my hands dirty. Whether its helping to define a product concept, prototyping a new experience, or animating a slick interaction, I stay involved in the creative process.

After all, being creative is why I got into design in the first place. I still remember staying up late into the wee hours of the morning designing and coding websites as a prepubescent teen, gleefully discovering the joys of creating something tangible out of clicks and keyboard strokes. I try to make sure I never forget the reasons “why” I do things — that’s what drives us, differentiates us, and yet simultaneously, also connects us.  Designing is my passion and I constantly remind myself that I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living.

Creative ideas are brought to life by 11 a.m.

The Creative Director’s role requires combining technology, strategy, and design in order to bring an idea to life. It’s often a push and pull, both internally with your team and externally with the client. It’s getting that delicate balance just right; the one where you can give your team autonomy, manage expectations, and encourage innovation.  All of this necessitates constant communication and collaboration, and I like to do it in the form of whiteboarding, internal reviews, and client working sessions. Here at YML, this creative process often takes the form of a Design Sprint, a week-long jam session of solving business problems through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. This is the ultimate crucible of creativity where your design, critical thinking, and problem solving skills are put to the test. In a recent Design Sprint, a startup in the Cryptocurrency space called Nimiq came to us with a challenge. How might we create a product that helps to differentiate it from the plethora of cryptocurrencies in a unique and engaging way? We debated, we slogged, we struggled, but ultimately we came up with a viable solution that was worthy of testing.

Which takes me to my next point: the role of a Creative Director is hardly glamorous nor is it often visible. It is usually messy, with dozens of ideas scrapped before landing on “the one.”  If you’re doing a good job at it, your role can seem invisible, elevating your team and making the whole creative process look easy and seamless.
digital agency - computer

Taking the time to eat a proper lunch at noon

My days are usually pretty jam-packed but I try to make sure I set aside time to eat a proper lunch. I try to keep it light with a salad or a small sandwich in order to avoid the afternoon food coma slow down. Lunch is also the best time for me to connect 1:1 with coworkers or have team bonding with folks that I don’t interact with on a daily basis.

digital agency - lunch

An inspirational walk at 2 p.m.

I make an effort to step away from my desk at least once a day to go outside on a short walk. I’m lucky to have an office located right next to a beautiful lagoon that was once the home of Marine World. Not only do these walks help clear my head, it also sparks ideas whenever I’m feeling a creative block.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking a walk among trees and nature—as opposed to an urban environment—can improve your short-term memory by 20 percent.  In another study by Jerome Singer, intentionally allowing your mind to wander allows it to access memories and meaningful connections, helping to lead us to those coveted “lightbulb” or "aha!" moments when we least expect them

digital agency - go for a walk

Always searching for new talent

Recruiting is a big part of my job at our digital agency, so I’m constantly talking to potential hires. I typically try to do this later in the afternoon, around 3 or 4 p.m. after I've completed the bulk of the day's work. Aside from their portfolio, the most important thing to me is whether they’re a good cultural fit. Maintaining the culture and health of the team is always top of mind for me.

I’ve been lucky to be able to see the team grow over the past four years from a handful of designers to a team of 17 across two offices. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Creative Director: building a team of wonderful, creative folks who you’re able to watch grow to spectacular heights.

Spread the word: 4:30 p.m. is playtime

We often have random activities in the office to break up the work day.  It might be an ice cream social one week, cocktails and karaoke another, and a few rounds of Mario Kart in-between.  It’s important to carve out some time for play and to give the brain an opportunity to replenish its creative juices.

digital agency - party time!

Closing time is 5:30 p.m.

I usually try to wrap up whatever I’m doing by this time and make notes of what I need to do the next day. I try not to make a habit of working too late as I believe it’s important to maintain a balanced life. I’m a big believer in the mantra “work smarter, not harder.” Dedicating a good chunk of time hanging out with family, exercising, or just vegging out on the couch is super important in order for me to feel recharged and motivated to do my best work the next day.

December 21, 2017

The Ultimate Mobile Design Trends for 2018

As 2018 gets underway, the tech landscape is already remarkably different from just a  few years ago. Mobile is ‘large and in charge’ now, as the following mobile design trends will confirm.

A study from IDC estimates that more than two billion of the 3.2 billion people on the planet who access the web in 2016 will do so from a mobile device. Mobile design hasn’t just caught up with desktop—it’s crushing desktop in terms of sheer user numbers.

With mobile and user experiences being front and center more than ever, designers are looking to perfect their mobile-design skills for clients. By studying app design trends, they can be inspired by the best UI design ideas, and then create their own innovative and upgraded versions.

When it comes to mobile UX and UI design, they have to prioritize the user experience,.Designing native mobile apps that offer a richer experience than mobile web apps is the way to go. While there’s our list of the best mobile app design trend blogs to help you with some mobile design inspiration, native mobile app design is a constantly evolving thing, which is why future-proofing any piece of code is so important.

With that in mind, here are the 10 hottest mobile app design trends in 2018 that we predict.

1) Both Native Mobile Apps and Web Apps Will Surge

For some time, there’s been a dispute over what type of mobile app works best: native mobile apps that you open by tapping on your smartphone’s home screen or mobile web apps that you access from mobile versions of browsers like Safari.

app design trends

Designers and developers in the question of native vs. web app would argue that native mobile apps are superior because they’re faster for users, can be monetized in places like the App Store, and offer users access to mobile operating system features like the camera, contact lists, etc. That’s definitely true!

However, recent research by Google’s product director, Luke Wroblewski, indicates that there’s great demand for both types of mobile application designs, in spite of the apparent limitations of web apps. According to his data, native mobile app users spend 18 times longer on native apps than on mobile web apps…yet to add fuel to the native vs. web app fire, mobile web apps see almost 9 million monthly visitors compared to native apps’ 3.3 million monthly visitors.

Average monthly minutes per visitor of native apps compared to mobile web apps.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize mobile native apps that have a better UX.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue researching UI design ideas and serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize native mobile apps that have a better UX.

2) The Increasing Influence of Wearables in App Interface Design

Wearables are gadgets like the Apple Watch, and they take the concept of mobile application design and development to a whole new dimension. Gartner predicted at that start of last year that the 2017 wearables market would rise to 310.4 million units sold, which is a 16.7 percent increase from 2015 sales.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch

So how does this affect UI design ideas? Not only is the screen smaller than a traditional mobile device, but wearables also encourage people to use mobile technology in different scenarios than smartphones and tablets, leading to necessary changes in the touch screen interface design.

For instance, the way you’d tap the screen of a smartphone to open a native news app is different to how you’d have to reach over with one hand to touch your Apple Watch to use its features.

Here’s a video to better illustrate how the Apple Watch works.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch Apps

As a result, 2018 will see wearable designers and developers race to create intelligent, user-friendly native and web apps that are unique to this type of mobile device, especially by adjusting their touch screen interface design.

3) Better UI Design Ideas for Gestures

What’s a gesture? In mobile application design, it’s divided into two groups, according to Google:

  • Touch mechanics (what your fingers do on a screen)
  • Touch activities (what they accomplish, as a result)

Double-Touch Drag

For example, if a user taps on their iPhone’s native mobile mail icon, they’ve produced a touch mechanic, that in turn creates the ensuing touch activity, which is their inbox opening.

With projections of smartphone users at more than 6 billion globally by 2020, it’s high time that designers explore new UI design ideas to better accommodate a range of mobile gestures.

Touch screen interface design mechanics include:

  • Touch (tap)
  • Force Touch
  • Double touch
  • Drag, swipe or fling
  • Long press
  • Long-press drag
  • Double-touch drag
  • Pinch open
  • Pinch closed
  • Two-finger touch
  • Two-finger drag, swipe or fling
  • long press with two fingers
  • Two-finger long-press drag
  • Two-finger double touch
  • Rotate

Some native mobile apps, such as Starbucks’ use an unappealing mobile UI design that makes, for instance, validating a free drink reward more cumbersome than it should be. If you have a free drink, you have to actually shake the phone by using your entire hand to get the barcode to appear on the screen for it to be validated.

app design trends 2018 - Starbucks App

It’d be much better to integrate a different touch screen interface design that allows the user to simply tap or swipe to get the barcode to appear.

With the number of mobile devices ever-increasing, mobile application designers have no choice but to create a better mobile UI design that uses a wider, more intuitive range of gestures for a better UX.

4) Multi-app Split Screen Catches on in Android UI Design

Multitasking or task switching is ubiquitous in our always-on world, so why shouldn’t this be the case in our mobile world? The multi-app is split-screen work flow that allows users to do two things at once on their screen, That means you can be on on your Evernote native mobile app and email colleagues at the same time or be tweeting and looking something up on the Internet simultaneously. The convenience of this UI design idea is beyond amazing, as it saves users the time and trouble of tapping the home button, looking for the native mobile app they want, and then constantly switching between two (or more) open app windows.

app design trends 2018 - iPad Pro

With the iPad Pro outselling Microsoft’s Surface tablet and similar offerings from Samsung in the last quarter, it’s clear that impressive mobile UI design features such as split-screen capability have made all the difference for consumers.

With Android fans clamoring for, and wondering when Google’s finally going to introduce the mobile split-screen feature on its devices, the time seems right for designers and developers to focus their efforts on finally producing split-screen multitasking for Android.

app design trends - Android Split Screen

Google seems to already be making baby steps toward this Android application development innovation right now, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with later this year.

5) Material Design Captivates the Mobile Application Design Community

Unsurprisingly, Google will be a big player in influencing native mobile app design trends this year. Material design is not completely flat anymore because it uses techniques like gradients, shadows and other subtle, 3D effects. As a result, this slightly different approach to native mobile design has people excited because it’ll drastically improve the UX on mobile devices.

Material Design UI - Mobile Design Trends 2016

Though material design was slow to be adopted to various Android apps last year— we’re talking Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps—that’s changing in 2016, as more native mobile apps from companies outside of Google take note of this app design trend and join the material-design bandwagon.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.04.10 PM

Facebook’s popular Messenger app is getting a material-design makeover on Android while IMDB’s Android app has material-design touches added to its navigation, search and action bar.

Beyond mobile application design, Google’s Chrome browser is also set to incorporate material-design touches in its interface, and Google is all set to unveil its new material design-influenced Chrome browser soon.

Look for more popular apps to follow this app design trend and adopt material design as the year progresses.

6) Moving Animation in Native Mobile Apps

People are naturally programmed to take notice of movement, so incorporating movement into a mobile UI and UX design can be the perfect way to highlight a specific product. This app design trend makes moving animation a superb tool for e-commerce sites. This also has a secondary, more useful purpose: Letting users move products around on the screen before they buy it makes it easy for them to inspect it from all sides…almost as if they were in a real, tactile store.

app design trends 2018 - Moving Animation on Smartphone

With Web Designer Depot proclaiming that “animation is no longer a novelty for web app designers…it’s becoming the basis of effective interaction design,” moving animation is set to take off in a large way this year as designers increasingly realize that movement helps tell a story, and that helps the UX.

app design trends 2018 - Bugaboo Mobile Site Urban Stroller Product Page

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

7) A New UI Design Idea: Subdued Color Contrast

You’ve probably been taught that contrast should be high and loud to facilitate an easier reading experience, but 2018’s app design trends go against the mainstream conventional wisdom by toning things down a bit.

app design trends - Weather Apps Color Contrast

The usual typography contrast is black font on a white background—there are even various color-contrast calculators on the web (like Contrast Ratio) to help you find good contrast for readability.

In 2018, though, contrast is expected to get more subtle, which is actually easier on the user’s eyes and  has real mobile UI and UX design advantages in that it facilitates a better reading experience. Some of the the biggest companies in the world are already moving to this subdued form of color contrast for their websites.

Airbnb Mobile Site Homepage

Take Airbnb’s mobile site as a web example of this app design trend: Note how many of the fonts on the homepage are actually faded black or all-out gray and how the white space around the blocks of content and images is really gray space. As a result, there’s still exceptional contrast for easy reading, but it’s easier on the eyes.

8) Flat UI Design 2.0 Begins to Replace Flat UI Design

One of the few, but big, criticisms of flat design is the lack of signifiers on things like icons and buttons, which fail to adequately communicate functional design elements. This touch screen interface design has a negative impact on user experience since what users can click and tap isn’t necessarily obvious at first.

app design trends 2018 - Flat Design UI

This might not seem like a big deal to veteran users, but the point of good native mobile app design—mobile and otherwise—is to make the UX design easy enough that even novice users can find their way around your native app or mobile website.

Flat design 2.0 is like Material Design in a sense because both use more 3D UI design idea effects like shadows, gradients and lighting effects. However, whereas Material Design is more of an aesthetic and design philosophy based on paper and ink (read: tactile elements), flat design 2.0 is an actual response to and way of addressing the shortcomings of flat mobile application design.

Evernote Android Screen

As 2018 wears on, look for more mobile sites and apps to retain the flat look in their touch screen interface design, but with noticeable shading to indicate subtle 3D elements. These will make it easier for users to figure out where to tap and slide, such as Android Evernote’s native mobile app above.

9) Micro-interactions on Native Mobile Apps Become More Prevalent

Micro-interactions are focused on the UX design of a native mobile app. They’re subtle tasks that work around four elements.

  • The Trigger
  • The Rules
  • Feedback
  • Loops and Modes

Slack is an awesome example of this native mobile app design trend that is replete with great micro-interaction examples.

app design trends 2018 - Slack Direct Messages

I tap the “plus” sign next to Direct Messages. This is the trigger because it starts the micro-interaction. Now, I get to communicate directly with my Slack collaborator, which forms the rules or the way the interaction functions. How do I know this? Because, thirdly, the feedback Slack gives me on-screen shows a “New Conversation” box opening up, where I can chat directly with her. Finally, the length of this micro-interaction—or loop—is as long as I want it to be, as I can close the new message when I want to.

app design trends 2018 - Slack New Conversation

As you can see, these micro-interactions in app UI design let people instantly observe the results of their on-screen actions by providing helpful and understandable feedback. This greatly improves the mobile UX design. As more mobile application designers see this innate value to users, micro-interactions will get more widespread.

10) Increased Tracking in Typography Improves Mobile UI and UX Design

So much of the mobile web today deals with readability. One of the most important aspects of readability is tracking, or the consistent space between all letters in a word. The greater the tracking, the easier the word is to read because users don’t have to squint to read the word.

app design trends - Tracking in UI

With the big focus on native mobile app usability, designers need to look at increasing the readability of their content.

Typography authority Typewolf released its list of the most popular fonts of last year, and the big app design trend for this specific area is spacious and generous tracking between letters of the most popular fonts, which will continue into 2018. With Gartner predicting the number of mobile devices increasing in 2018, readability is going to be increasingly vital to mobile UX and UI designs that will attract native mobile app users in even greater numbers.

app design trends 2018 - Dell Mobile Homepage

Note how Dell’s mobile site uses this generous tracking evenly in between the letters of the type on its homepage.

Bonus: Mobile Design Trends That Have Died!

We didn’t get to where we are in mobile application design without some significant mobile design failures. Here are some notorious mobile design trends that simply died off.

1) The Flip Design

Remember that old Motorola Razr phone your buddy had? It featured and popularized the flip mobile device design that everyone at the time thought was cool…yet it failed to stand the test of time. For some time several years ago, people thought it was trendy to whip out their cell phones and flip them open before talking. Now, the instant gratification of the touch screen interface design of iOS and Android smartphones that you can just whip out for talk and data rule the day.

app design trends - Motorola Razr Flip Design

Confirming the death of this mobile design trend for good is news that Lenovo, Motorola’s new owner, is actually going to completely remove the name “Motorola” from its phones. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

2) Push to Talk

Another mobile design that was popular before Apple and Samsung popularized their version of smartphones with unique touch screen interface design, push-to-talk was essentially turning your phone into a walkie-talkie. Its selling point was letting users talk to an entire group of their friends at once instead of just one friend at a time.

app design trends - Push to Talk Nextel Phones

However, as the years wore on, designing phones for this service became so unpopular that it’s now a relic of a bygone era.

Confirming the death knell for this outdated mobile design trend was the Sprint announcement, four years ago, that it would totally kill off its Nextel push-to-talk network. Goodbye!

3) Infrared Ports

In the early 2000s, many cell phones had infrared or IR ports. These offered wireless transfer of your data over very short distances, and they demanded that your devices had to be side-by-side for it to work.

app design trends 2018 - Infrared Ports

Because IR ports were restrictive, it was no surprise that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi soon came along and banished this mobile design trend for good.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find many phones with this feature.

What the Future Holds for Mobile Application Design

Look for these trends to dominate the native mobile app design landscape as the year progresses. It’s clear that now is the time of mobile design, as evidenced by mobile users now completely outweighing desktop users…. Don’t hold your breath waiting for these stats to reverse.

With this focus on mobile application design, it’s no surprise that the design community is looking for increasingly interesting app design trends to improve the user experience and get people on native mobile with greater comfort than ever.

November 22, 2017

How to Talk About Blockchain Technology And Sound Smart at the Same Time

A few months back, we learned that Bitcoin mutated itself and the other strain is called Bitcoin Cash (what?).

Let’s be honest: it doesn’t matter how undeniably ingenious you are -- discussing cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology behind it is sure to make your brain squirm a little.

But as digital assets and fintech technologies become a larger part of the conversation, it’s essential to understand the basics, and you don’t have to mine a cryptocurrency to achieve this. Even the most untechnical of us can carry on a conversation about blockchain. Below is a simple guide, in straight up layman’s term, to help you do just that:

The current “real money” system

Before we get into what blockchain is, let’s discuss why and how it was created. To keep things super simple, consider this scenario:

Your younger sister needs you to send her money, so you log into your online bank account to transfer money to her.

Afterward, you call your sister to let her know you’ve come to her rescue again. It’s a simple process that you’re used to it and it's easy enough. But, the reality is, a number of things can go wrong. For instance, what if the system was hacked and your information was stolen? Or what would happen if the systems just blew up? Caught on fire? Then what? Those are the problems that digital assets and fintech technologies are trying to solve by eliminating the current “real money” system where your entries are logged into a register that a third-party, or middleman, entity owns. Because it’s a centralized database, the system is extremely vulnerable, not to mention the fact that it excludes billions of people around the globe who lack access to resources and capital.

Birth of a new kind of system

Back in 2008, motivated by the broken system that led to the financial crisis, Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity is unknown and could be a person or a group of people, designed Bitcoin. Along with the cryptocurrency, Nakamoto also created the first blockchain database. Because the fintech technology was created to answer the question, who did what and when did they do it?” a lot of the issues that come with relying on the middleman or intermediaries like banks, commerce platforms or governments, are eliminated. Instead, a peer-to-peer protocol is used. Since the network is constantly updated, and every blockchain is connected to another one across every ledger of the network simultaneously, hacking is virtually impossible. For that to happen, every single block would require hacking.

Think of it sort of like a massive Excel sheet, or a notebook, that maintains a continuously-growing list of records, called blocks. In each block is a list of transactions -- grouped together by a timestamp -- and every transaction recorded and processed is done so by members of the network called miners. Once a block is time stamped and added to the network or chain in chronological order, it can never be changed or removed. This means that every time you buy a share, it’s recorded as a line in your Excel sheet, or notebook. And your notebook isn’t the only one that exists. There are thousands of notebooks located around the globe, and every time a new line is added, it’s simultaneously replicated in every notebook.

This public distributed ledger is the most important concept in a blockchain, says Vivek Rajanna, senior vice president of engineering at YML.

“When you make a transaction with a bank, they keep the transactions to themselves and only they know,” Rajanna explained. That’s called a private ledger. “But in a blockchain,” he continued, “it’s a public ledger, meaning everyone can see.”

This kind of extreme transparency prevents history from being re-written by a single entity.

Additionally, a major advantage of the blockchain technology is anonymity, said Rajanna. "It's not like if Vivian sent me 100 USD the whole world will know Vivian and Vivek [are sending each other money]," he explained. Instead, a "sort of encrypted Bitcoin address represent Vivek and Vivian so no one can track who the real person is." A disadvantage, though, is if you lose access to your account, there's no middleman or third-party entity to help you "log back in," so to speak.

In a blockchain world...

What’s most exciting about the blockchain technology overall is that it's able to disrupt industries across the board. Think of any third party you have to go through for services, from an art dealer to real estate agent. Since the fintech technology is able to validate and secure anything, it can be used for health information, proof of intellectual property, government records, and so much more. In the future, if blockchain becomes trusted enough, it can certainly be used to speed up time to market for any system that’s had enough of the headaches that come with a middleman.

SEE ALSO: What YML is doing to help reshape early education learning in a screen obsessed world >

November 10, 2017

Now you can train to be a drone pilot without ever leaving your living room

Scan the headlines these days and it’s hard to ignore drones. They’re shooting photographs and videos. They’re surveying sites and properties. They’re carrying blood samples over deserts.

Aside from transforming industries, drones are just tons of fun. Just ask around and likely the majority of people you know have dreamt of flying a drone at some point. But to do so takes real skill. This can get tricky especially if you live in a city where space is limited and the intended pilot face risks of crashing, hefty fines, endangering pedestrians, and even legal charges.

But what if we told you that the future is here, and you can now eliminate all the red tape and hazards of the past? That you can take the skies without all the confusion and risks? Because you can’t crash this drone.

Here’s the deal: We recently teamed up with Epson -- yes, the people who made your printer -- and drone company DJI to launch the world's first augmented reality drone flight simulator app optimized for Epson Moverio BT-300 smart glasses.

The best part about this augmented reality collaboration is that the virtual drone responds exactly the same way a real drone would. Through the use of a DJI drone controller, users can essentially train for real drone flying because the physics are accurate. And the virtual drone isn’t a toyish-looking, generic one. Instead, it’s a ghost version of a real DJI drone.

There are also games built into the augmented reality app, so you can practice your pilot skills by flying through hoops and picking up powerups.

Eventually, we see this expanding beyond the singular experience into multiplayer drone flying. As long as your friends have Epson’s Moverio BT-300FPV smart glasses, you can soon take the skies together.

Want to try out the experience of this AR design? Now you can at any DJI store.

And if you want to learn more about us, check out our featured case studies.

August 23, 2017

How Do You Measure Product Success?

Having clear and measurable product goals is the key to defining success and deciding what to build or improve upon next.

When it comes to measuring product success, one could argue that defining which goals the product is trying to achieve is more important than the product itself. For product goals to succeed, team members and stakeholders should be aligned on what success means for your product and rationalize decision-making to optimize the experience around set goals.

So how can you be sure you're setting the right product goals?

Beware of Vanity Metrics

When defining product success (or failure), vanity metrics like MAU (Monthly Active Users) are thrown around far too often. MAU is often defined as a number of users who have completed at least one event in your app within a 30-day window. The pitfall here is that this can be any event. MAU is an easy metric to quickly rattle off when not further defined, so it can also easily mislead you when measuring the success of your product.

Product goals should instead be centered around a critical event that you want users to complete. 

A strong product goal should be achievable and quantifiable within a given time span and is generally based on three things:

  1. The company’s mission (ex. provide a global online marketplace)
  2. Product features that align with user-validated-needs (ex. instant check out)
  3. Business goals (ex. driving revenue growth)

For example, a critical event for an e-commerce platform could be a new user completing an order within the three days of signing up. Retail giant Home Depot encourages users to order online or via mobile and pick up in store because research has shown that 25% of customers who pick up in store purchase additional items in store.

Or take Uber’s driver-side goal which encourages drivers to complete 25 trips within their first 30 days. Why? Uber understands, through data, that driver attrition rate significantly drops if 25+ trips are made within 30 days.

 

The Uber driver app and the Uber ride hailing app are products. These products each have an overarching goal, like increasing # of rides per day, and then aligning sub-goals, like decreasing the car arrival time. You can unpack each of these more into sub-goals based on different user types: for example new users, power users, and dormant users. These sub-goals should align with your overarching goal to quantitatively improve the experience over time.

Do product goals ever change?

As your product is refined, your goals and subgoals will need to be refined, too. Your product goal might change after you launch, release a major update, or gather new insights into your user base. Analyzing behaviors of different user segments could help you refine these goals. And when your product goals do change, make sure to clarify this to everyone on the team in order to stay aligned.

 Takeaways

    • Define product success via product goals
    • Product goals should be clearly defined, measurable, and actionable over a given time span
    • Communicate product goals across all teams
    • Optimize experience around goal and sub-goals
    • Product goals will change over time

October 26, 2016

Microsoft Finally Created a Launch Video Better Than Apple

I have no business wanting the just-launched Microsoft Surface Studio.

The new Desktop PC is for designers and professional creatives. As a marketer and not a talented designer like my colleagues, I’m nowhere close to being an artist.

I saw the news pop up that Microsoft just released a new product and I figured I would watch their new launch video. I fully expected to close the video, within 15 seconds.

I watched the entire video. Three times, to be exact.

The music.

The lighting.

The suspense.

The exploding colors.

The animation.

The opening line: “Come with me... And you’ll be in a world of imagination”, straight from the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,  is a fantastic opening.

It’s almost like they took everything from Apple’s launch videos, and dare I say, made it better?

They didn’t need Jony Ive and his beautiful mispronunciation of aluminum.* The singer's voice already mesmerized me.

They didn’t need to talk about the great features; they showed it.

This was the closest I’ve ever been to wanting to learn to design.

surfacenighthawkoverview_9_featurepanel_v1I quite literally have no idea what I would do with that color wheel device. But, for a split second, I wanted it. I needed it.

It made me forget about my iMac 27”.

Great job to the Microsoft Team.** I hope the rest of the launches are similar to this. It helps that the Surface Studio looks amazing as well. 

*Yes, I know he doesn't actually mispronounce aluminum.

**This makes the second device that is up to the caliber of Apple Products. The Google Pixel launched last week and now this. Google failed to create a video as good as this one though.

October 10, 2016

The superpowers of UX & UI designers

 

Creating a great mobile User Experience?

If you live and breath the mobile world, you'll agree with me:

UX should be the number one priority for a company; after all, if your app is confusing or hard to use, the customer will abandon it.

Let's focus now on User Interface....

How important is it? And what's the difference between User Interface and User Experience?

Ladies and gents, welcome to the UX vs UI wars.

 

tumblr_inline_mwl0shfVmk1qzex79

 

To begin, it's frustrating because the two concepts are often used interchangeably.

In addition, it doesn’t help that each of these job roles are often also listed under other names/descriptions. A quick search on Indeed shows that UX designer and UI designer jobs are listed under at least 15 similar titles!

With this article we'll try to clear the confusion regarding differences between UX and UI roles. Who does what, and why?

 

 

In particular, we are going to focus on:

1 - Let's start with design, and the main differences between UX and UI.

2 - UX and UI Designers: Different job descriptions, different day to day work expectations.

3 - The same business problem, completely different mindsets. Which point of view should prevail?

4 - The connection between emotional intelligence, psychology, UX and UI.

5 - The myth of a "UX and UI blended role". Will it work?

6 - The future of UX design.

 

Knowing that UX and UI design are two completely different roles, there's only one thing left to say:

"Each role deserves a specialist." (Thanks Craig Morrison)

Ready to learn more? Let's dive in!

 

Let’s start, of course, from the beginning:

What are the main differences between the UX and UI design?

The term “UX design” refers to the process of creating and enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided through the interaction between the user and the product. In short, customer satisfaction means everything. If your UX experience doesn’t satisfy all three of these criteria, it will likely fail.

UX work happens “behind the scenes”. You don’t think about it unless it’s done poorly. If you ever ask yourself “ what the heck am I supposed to do now to complete my task?” then you are looking at a bad user experience.

In short, UX, as a discipline, focuses on the scientific method or architecting a user experience in line with findings from industry best practices, user research, focus groups and usability studies.

 

yml_superpowers_3

UI work is a form of art and the UI designer is the person who focuses on all the elements that make a website beautiful and fun to use: colors, button styling, graphics, animation, typography, diagrams, widgets, on click/tap behavior, etc.

The UI elements on any given page all come together to create the overall aesthetic nature of any given app or website.

Some examples of UI work that companies expect their designers to produce on a day to day basis include animations, audio cues, illustrations, app logos, and so much more.

In short, UX work is about how people interact with a website, and UI work is how users feel about that website as they use it.

UX vs UI - KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JOB DESCRIPTIONS & EXPECTATIONS

Look at the image below. This is a great starting point for defining the high level differences between UX and UI developers.

Unlike other visual representations of the two roles (as we will see next) this one clearly calls out how the two jobs are different.

What do User Experience designers do?

User Experience designers define the end-to-end experience users engage in when using an application or a website. What often goes unnoticed is that UX work is a science. The output – how the information is laid out on the screen and how people interact with it - is the result of working closely with internal stakeholders to define and implement the business goals in a way that makes the most sense for the person who will end up using a specific feature.

 

A good UX designer is primarily concerned with a user being able to complete a specific task. Through research, user testing, sketching and prototyping, UX designers will make sure that a user can “do a specific thing” based on specific business goals in a seamless and intuitive fashion.

Great User Experience designers do not just sketch a functionality by copying...

 

copyofacopy

It's not good to just copy Amazon or any other website.

The UXA’s job is to make sure that the product flows logically from one step to another. In other words, the UXA’s responsibility is to create an experience that feels right and is intuitive. Something is intuitive if a user goes through screens, tasks and flows without even thinking about what they’re doing.

Like a scientist, the UXA needs to choose the quickest way to solve a problem out of a known list of paths that lead to the same result. A UXA is like a doctor – he or she can prescribe you five different type of medicine that will cure your cough but based on all they know about you as a user they choose the one that makes the most sense for you.

What do User Interface Designers do?

In contrast, User Interface designers take the output of a User Experience designer and turn it into a form of art. If the UX designer controls what a person does on a page or inside a flow or funnel, then the job of a UI designer is to define how that page/flow/funnel looks and feels.

Google has a standard introduction to all their UI jobs which is worth looking at to really capture the expectations tied to a UI designer role:

“At Google, Visual Designers weave iconography, typography, color, space and texture together to help our users successfully navigate our products.

We believe that all of our products should be beautiful and accessible.

As a Visual Designer, you’ll delight users with designs that inspire, engage and excite them. You’ll rely on user-centered design principles to produce high-quality visuals.” Source

 

This description is critical because it highlights the core responsibility of a UI designer: make people feel good while using your mobile application. A product is not only functional and intuitive (a UX job) but it also feels darn good using it.

UI designers take prototypes and sketches to the next level by ensuring that customers feel completely in their element when navigating your website. It’s not just pretty pictures, warm backgrounds, and flat or material design. It’s creating a state of mind for the user to feel 100% confident when using your mobile product. To give a simple example, a UX resource may decide that on tapping a button a user is redirected to another page. A designer will visually signal to the user that they are going to another page through animations (spinning wheel) or changing the colors of a button to signal loading the next page.

 

A great designer thinks through every single interaction and provides small but critical cues to the user to visually signal what’s ultimately a very simple and warm message:

“Buddy, you’re on the right track, you’re doing great, keep going.

UX & UI DEVELOPERS APPROACH THEIR WORK DIFFERENTLY

As we saw in the introduction to what UX and UI developers are expected to deliver, the UX designer focuses on what a user does on the app while the UI designer zeros in on how users feel about the app as they’re interacting with it. In order to deliver the two complementary experiences, both groups of experts develop very different attitudes towards their work, but also their users.

uxui-1

Source: The Importance of Agile UI/UX Design in Mobile Development, by Francisco Anes

Amber Leigh Turner, writing for The Next Web, makes a very valid point about consumer behavior: the most important action you want a user to take on a specific page should be the focal point on the page.

This is a very good observation because, especially in the digital world, most of us suffer from ADHD.

Very few people, if any, ever take the time to read through all the information on a page. Instead people skim through rather quickly trying to accomplish a task.

UX designers focus on a logical progression that a user will go through to make a decision whereas UI designers focus on the look and feel and the interactive design of the page as the means through which to convince the user to make a decision.

 

But they do so through the lens specific to their profession and training.

Dain Miller, in an article about the differences between UX and UI roles, captures the essence of UI work: great UI resources design for emotion.

The diagram below shows just how much breadth of knowledge is needed to do the job right:

This is equally true for the UX and the UI work done on a digital project.

Great designers understand that customers come to a website or a mobile application with a very clear set of goals, which are usually emotionally charged. The user has a goal and the company needs to be able to achieve that goal swiftly and conveniently so that the customer can feel good about what they just did.

 

Both UX and UI designers should be at least vaguely familiar with the German Gestalt theory which explains that human beings tend to organize visual stimuli into groups. Our brains interpret reality by organizing everything we see, taste, feel, smell, touch in an orderly fashion. Based on the Gestalt principle our entire interpretation of the world we live in is a collection of small parts which come together in a fraction of a second to create the “sum of parts.”

It is this sum of parts that ultimately produces emotions and reactions to the external world. And that is exactly what both UX and UI designers do on a daily basis. The UX designer literally builds from scratch the ecosystem of parts that make up any given page, providing an easy way for the human mind to interpret the message the business is trying to convey. UI designers bring these elements to life through harmonious colors, animations and other visual cues that constantly try to elicit the desired reaction from a user.

A good UI experience is like going to a good psychologist: no matter how you felt before going in, you get out feeling at peace and content with what you just did.

UX-UI BLENDED ROLE: IS THAT POSSIBLE?

In this article we focused on highlighting the key differences between UX and UI designers and as you can see there are plenty of distinct areas of specialization that employees in either role may choose.

But the natural question is:

Can one person do both roles?

The short answer is – yes, it is possible. But we don’t recommend it.

Here’s why.

Jenny Fan is a UI designer who gradually moved towards UX work. As she points out:

The two roles have a lot of overlap and small companies may choose to invest in only one resource who can wear both hats. When you’re trying to get off the ground and the budget is tight, this is certainly the best approach.

 

However, what you need to understand is that there are very few amazing UI and UX designers out there. Sure, almost all of them can deliver high quality prototypes and compelling visuals.

But a trained eye evaluating the overall solution and knowing the industry best practices for either UX or UI can make all the difference. So finding the right person for either role who has the breadth of knowledge and experience to deliver on a great design or UX prototype is an amazing achievement in and of itself.

But when you try to get people who do both, you will only rarely end up with an amazing product that wows everyone – stakeholders and users alike.

 

The reality is that a single person could potentially fill both roles, as long as you understand that this is a Band-Aid solution, not a permanent one.

Companies should only do this if no other options are currently available, and as soon as possible transition to having different people in these critical roles for the overall success of your mobile application.

WHERE ARE WE GOING NEXT: THE FUTURE OF UX DESIGN

There will always be a place in this world for UX and UI designers. Of course, the roles will change and adapt to new realities. We are already seeing new industries emerge that pose new questions and challenges from a UX/UI point of view.

The Internet of Things and its myria products and screen sizes is already leading the trend for a “leaner” UX/UI design pattern.

Virtual reality and its fairly recent rise in popularity is also blazing a path for a new breed of design experts – those who need to think in a tri-dimensional fashion in order to create meaningful experiences that preserve the overall look and feel and usability of the virtual world.

Another standard that has yet to reach its overall potential is around “zero UI” and the rise of personal virtual assistance which despite having no physical interaction in place, very clearly poses complex UX issues that need to sorted through.

Wearable technologies are also joining the club forcing UI/UX designers to think creatively around providing enough functionality to users while making sure people can still interact comfortably with mobile apps on nothing more than one square inch of tappable area.

All these trends will continue to develop as they reach maturity and much of the design effort over the next five years will be dedicated to perfecting the overall UX and (when applicable) UI work associated with each of these trends.

We hope this article shed some light on the main differences between the two roles of UX and UI designers and the differences between the two forms of design.

What we’ve learned:

  1. UX is a science, UI is a form of art.
  2. UX designers focus on the overall usability of a digital product, UI designers focus on the overall look and feel.
  3. UX designers pay attention to the logical progression through a website/application while UI designers work on creating visual cues that put users at ease as they navigate online.
  4. Both UX and UI resources design for emotion: they try to make users feel at ease, comfortable and relaxed as they use a digital platform.
  5. It is possible for the same resource to do both UX and UI work but it’s very unlikely that that person can be really good at both.
  6. The future of design work will be driven by IoT products, virtual reality, wearable technology and "zero UI" innovations, which are becoming more and more popular.

We hope you enjoyed this article - feel free to share it on your favorite social platform and help us spread the word about how important the jobs of UX and UI designers are!

May 31, 2016

How Should You Design Your Mobile App for Maximum Growth?

Everything on your app goes back to the user experience. How your users ultimately feel when they’re using your app dictates whether it’s a winner or a loser. Do your users feel like they can navigate through it well, or do they feel like it’s hard to use and can’t be made sense of? Designing and developing a successful app that gets many downloads is based on designing an excellent UX.

In the following infographic, we cover seven huge strategies that will get you to UX stardom. Your app won’t be well-received without them!

MOBILE APP UX DESIGN STRATEGIES

This infographic originally appeared in the Product Maven blog of  Appsee.

As you just saw, UX is what makes or breaks your app, so it has to be at the top of the list of considerations when you’re designing and developing it. A whole variety of factors combine to create the best possible UX for your users and customers. Don’t let them down!

Because we’re so highly enthusiastic about bringing you the best info on apps on the entire web, here are three links we suggest you read to discover even more successful app strategies:

https://ymedialabs.com/mobile-app-analytics/ - Here’s a rundown of 17 powerful mobile app analytics strategies to help you measure your app’s success

https://ymedialabs.com/ux-vs-ui/ - Here’s the complete guide on the difference between a UX designer and a UI designer, so you can be 100% clear

https://ymedialabs.com/mobile-design-inspiration/ - Here’s a monster list of 47 resources to help you do so much better on your next mobile design project

May 12, 2016

The New Instagram Logo is Amazing, and Nobody is Happy

Hi,

My name is Robbie, and I like the new Instagram logo.

Actually, I love it.

I'm not a designer.

I haven't opened up Photoshop in a good 5 years.

All I know is this.

I went to open Instagram.

instagram_logo

I saw a shiny new icon.

I liked it.

It stood out in a sea of other infamously bland app icons.

I clicked on it.

I went on with my day.

Everyone else?

Well, they weren't going to let this opportunity go by without adding their feedback. This is a GIF that started circulating fairly quickly.

 

Instagram knew that they couldn't just publish this new logo without, at minimum, defending this very new look.

So they did what any iconic company would do.

They created a video that details HOW they came up with the new logo. They wanted to show the work behind the scenes, and that it wasn't just a, "Hey guys, how does this new icon look?"

I don't have any information besides what is publicly known about this logo.

But something tells me they knew people weren't going to like it.

I think the behind-the-scenes conversation went something like this:

Designer 1: Okay. This is variation #435 of this app icon. I think this is it. This is the one we push to production.

Designer 2: I think we need to defend it a little bit. I don't think people are going to like it because it's something they aren't used to.

Designer 3: Lisa has a point. I say we create a blog post and video that shows how we came up with the new design. Let's dive deep into the history of Instagram and what it means to be part of our community. Let's start from the beginning and focus on how this icon was inspired by the community!

Designer 1: Sweet. Let's do it!

Designer 2 & 3: YESSSSSSS!!!!!

Designer 4: They're going to hate it. It doesn't matter what we do. Nobody is going to like it.

Somebody give Designer 4 an award.

Nobody liked it.

The head of design for Instagram created an in-depth story of how they came up with the new design. It was detailed, inspirational, and everything you could ask for from a head of design.

The result?

This comment with almost 2,000 likes.

instagram_logo_comment

"New logo looks eh. Like it's dying for attention."

Umm... Correct me if I'm wrong. But isn't everyone dying for attention on Instagram?

That's why they're posting on the app in the first place.  They want to be noticed!

Ian wrote something beautiful:

While the icon is a colorful doorway into the Instagram app, once inside the app, we believe the color should come directly from the community’s photos and videos.

Here's what I learned from the Internet.

Apparently, the story doesn't matter anymore

As a marketer, I can appreciate a good story. The secret to marketing is the story you tell. Stories sell.

But when it comes to logos, no story is good enough.

If the icon uses a gradient, the Internet will throw a fit.

Airbnb tried a new logo.

Uber tried a new logo.

The memes were almost immediate.

Nobody tries to understand the story. Instead, their immediate reaction is to judge this small icon based on what they perceive to be the latest design standards and what they're familiar with.

Even designers are skipping the story and the new branding.

Nobody likes change. Not even the people who advocate change.

I know what you're going to say.

Coca-Cola hasn't changed its branding since its inception.

Starbucks has stayed consistent!

McDonalds hasn't changed!

Instagram's logo is iconic! Why change it?

starbucks_logo_evolution_large

[source]

quote

Another powerful quote from Ian's Medium post.

Think about this for a second. We're now operating at Internet speed. Where else could a company go from nothing to selling for a billion dollars in two years? Isn't it possible that the platform reaches a wider audience than you originally thought and the iconic camera is no longer relevant?

Can a re-brand end up in a disaster? Absolutely. Look no further than the Tropicana rebrand disaster.

Will Instagram suffer the same fate?

I doubt it.

Snapchat is going to change their logo and the Internet is going to lose its mind.

I'm calling it. Snapchat is going to rebrand within the next 365 days.

Snapchat is going to change their icon for the same reason Instagram changed theirs. The icon no longer represents the community.

social-lg

 

This icon was perfect for the first use case of Snapchat, which was sending private images that are destroyed after 10 seconds.

The ghost can't even make eye contact with you.

It was perfect.

It's no longer perfect because kids and grandmas are using the app to share their life publicly.

They're going to change their iconic icon and the Internet is going to lose its mind.

I hope they post some epic story of why they made the change.

I hope they use a gradient.

I hope they don't use yellow.

I hope that, for once, the ghost looks us in the face.

I'm just here to say everything is amazing and nobody is happy.

[featured image source]

May 4, 2016

17 Ways UX Architects Will Help You Shape Your Next Mobile Project

Companies that saw huge commercial success in the last ten years – be those startups that became giants, or traditional companies that changed gears and adapted to customers’ increasing demands – all had one thing in common:

A great customer experience.

Successful digital companies show respect for users’ desire to complete a task as fast as possible. They help users find the things they are looking for. They help people transact or interact with confidence with an online or mobile platform. And at the core of any great company is an exceptional user experience.

To understand the world of UX we asked 17 experts from companies all over the US to help us understand and see the world through their eyes.

17 UX Architects - Y Media Labs

This group of experts on user experience architecture (UXA) and design gave us their real, actionable strategies and examples that will help you achieve your design goals.

As you read through these excellent points of view ask yourself: is your company doing everything possible to allow user experience architects to succeed at their job?

If not, you should; your financial success depends on it!

Let's start, shall we?

 

Nolan Figueroa

nolan_figueroa

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UX designers need to possess vision, empathy, and adaptability more than anything as specific as experience in graphic design or knowledge of computer programming principles. With that being said, you need to be well-balanced if you are to join the elite user experience design group. When you take a look at the different disciplines that fall under the UX umbrella, you’ll find many fields of study working in conjunction: usability, content strategy, user research, interaction design, information architecture, and visual design, to name a few.

For those just starting out, some hard skills you’d want to have a background in, or at least be familiar with, include front-end nomenclature, information architecture, project management methodologies, and visual design. Don’t expect to conquer all of these branches of knowledge all at once; it takes time to understand the gist of each subject.

Isaac Leverett

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The hardest part to me about UX that often goes unnoticed by consumers is always going to be time and effort. Those two things are difficult to quantify as they are pretty intangible. Also, many people do not fully understand the whole iterative process. It takes 10, 50, 100, 1000 tries to get something right.

Secondly, there is a great deal of work that goes into keeping updates regular and worthwhile. Mobile products have a tendency to fade in novelty faster than websites so keeping those updates regular and worthwhile will keep a great user base.

Greg Becker

 

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Believing that shipping “something” is better than shipping nothing is a flaw. You have one shot at wow-ing your user, and if you give them some half-baked (we’ll get to those bugs in 2.0) experience that breaks the pattern of achieving their goals they’ll laugh at you and find someone else to love; probably your competition.

The MVP mentality is also something that really irks me as a designer. Please don’t ask me what’s “viable”; ask me to create the Minimum “Badass” Product. Focus on user empathy at #1, and how our process fits into that at #2. That doesn’t mean it has to take 3 years to create. But it is how the user is going to look at your product. We can’t expect the user to care about our process, or what saves us money. They only know what’s put in front of them and whether or not they enjoy it.

Eugene Korolev

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I believe the biggest challenge with releasing a mobile app (or a mobile version of the product) is to get noticed by the target audience. Since the mobile market is overwhelmed with tons of mobile apps, having a mobile product which helps solve frequent problems will enusre better results.

I also think that startup companies take too much time to release the first version of their mobile product and spend most of their funding on making it perfect. Once they get to the second version of the product, they simply run out of money.

Sam Jennings

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I so often see mobile products get pushed out into the marketplace with such terrible UX design work that it’s clear the team and/or company did not consider it to be a big enough value to invest in.

Too often UX design is seen as an afterthought or something pushed onto a development team that, despite their best intentions, has not been trained for UX design. This is at the corporate level as well where often development staff outnumber design staff 100 to 1, creating an environment where designers have to face an uphill battle of budgets, time constraints, and even condescension to get their work into the end product.

Matthew Lippl

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There is certainly a core set of skills a UX Designer should have from User Research to Visual Design. But, there are some important skills that seem to be left out of many job descriptions that should reflect what’s in a UX Designer’s bag of tricks. Sure, having technical skills like front-end development and understanding engineering limitations is a big seller but I find business skills are becoming much more essential in this emerging market.

Business skills such as project management, writing and communication skills compliment any UX Designer and can develop that logical, data driven UXer into a confident leader and entrepreneur.

Being familiar with project management is a great way to understand budgets and timelines while keeping the team aligned and on point.

Writing & communication gives you a skill set that not a lot of designers may particularly think about. Understanding how to write PRDs (Product Requirement Document), getting involved in SEO, and marketing initiatives are very powerful especially within the walls of a growing startup.

Amy Mcclure

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A user experience architect is similar to a waiter.

If the job is done right, you hardly notice the person behind the service at all and [most] all of your needs have been met. If there's one part of UX that does often go unnoticed it's the amount of ongoing research that goes into our decisions, particularly within the scope of defining the interactions. There are conventions but there's always the conversation of when and/or how to tweak/push those conventions to achieve the desired effect or experience. It can be as delicate as comedic timing, and just as important to pulling it off well.

Eli Silva

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I think there's a lot of focus on MVPs these days. People often take that to mean ship something quickly and hope it sticks with enough people to gain traction. That speed, however, may come at the expense of a minimum viable experience. That's backwards.

Start with the right questions and validate both your problem and your solution. If you know your problem, and your users, that's a great start.

Because so many poor decisions are made when it comes to defining a proper MVP, a UX resource should really understand how business works. After all, the design and UX decisions they make can really impact the future of the business. Design is no longer a layer of gloss at the end, it's the core differentiator. With great power, comes great responsibility. Designers are not allowed to take a pass on their business acumen anymore.

Josh Yarnall

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The concept of UX is the most difficult to explain to a consumer, although, if you did the job correctly, you've achieved your goal, right?

UX professionals have the difficult task of understanding what the user needs. It's difficult to ask what customers want because more often than not most users are not in tune with the actual product shortfalls and communicate conflicting request regarding what is best suited for them.

Defining the problem on a larger level, dissecting it, and making subtle but crucial changes can make all the difference in the world. For example, customers are abandoning carts, but why? Maybe they are distracted, confused, the checkout process isn’t clear, or the checkout or process order button just isn’t in the spot they expected it to be.

UX professionals spend a lot of time trying to understand the most basic issues users are having and how to make products more intuitive. There is a lot of hard work, interviews, trials, and errors that go into making websites and applications easy for people to use.

Mike Lemma

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What goes unnoticed is the dedication and effort that user experience architects must put into building a mobile product.

When we use products, we use them without thinking; they're just a part of our everyday lives. We tap or click on a couple of screens, get the information we need, and move on with our daily lives. If you actually stopped and looked into how these products are built you would be shocked at how much research, time, and effort goes into making them.

Take Spotify’s App for example. It’s a great app to use. We use it to listen to music but if you think about what went into building it, the way it operates and flows, it’s a lot more complex than people think. The UX Designers had to think of many different scenarios to make the app work. For example, how many album covers will we see before they go off screen? What is the size of those album covers? How would this differ in iPhone 6 vs 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6/7? When filtering search results how many suggestions should come up before the list goes behind the automated keyboard that pops up? How many character will be the max before we need to eclipses them?

There are many details a UX Designer has to figure out to make sure everything works. So the next time you open Spotify on your phone or any app look at it from a UX Design standpoint. Look at every screen and think about the thought process of how it was built.

Sunit Sharma

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A lot of product companies are just blindfolded replicating their web features on mobile and that's totally wrong. I would say your product strategy should be very different from the web as the behavior of your users for the same product is very different on a mobile platform.

Understand user needs and give a tailored plus personal experience. Mobile app products should be intelligent enough to understand user needs and show them the right features at the right time.

It needs to do so through simplified experiences and interactions, allowing users to complete a task in the least amount of time and steps possible; it has to provide the user with a clean and intuitive design.

Erik Miller

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I believe the hardest part of UX, often going unnoticed, is the deep understanding of processes or experiences and their translation into a living, breathing digital product. Typically, these processes or experiences are outlined during research phases and can be derived from a variety of artifacts such as user flows, journey maps, or service blueprints.

These artifacts allow us to articulate when and where specific information should be available to the user in order to allow them to accomplish the task at hand, as well as identify areas of an experience where a user might actually step away from the digital product.

After all, UX is more than just the interaction with a digital product; it is the combination of analog and digital experiences working together which creates the full customer experience.

Daniela Pardo

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A UX designer should be a great communicator at all levels; not just when selling a design concept but also with all people in general, including developers, product managers, and consumers.

Furthermore, a UX designer has to be a good listener and facilitator. He or she has to be able to facilitate constructive discussions because design is ALL about empathy and feedback.

David Achee

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User Experience professionals who are really good at their job usually succeed at making their design invisible. If you do your job absolutely correctly, no one should care. Chances are, if something is noticeable or flashy, you're actually getting in your users way.

User experience architects also need to narrow down on the actual feature they are building. A well-built, focused feature is worth far more than a lot of substandard features. When building each feature, the UXA needs to have empathy for the user. Without that, the most beautiful design is absolutely useless.

Bethany Lankin

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A significant amount of my time is spent explaining what UX is and convincing people that their company, project, or group can benefit from a UX practice. UX designers are constantly collaborating with people who don’t agree with them, who don’t understand what a UX discipline is, and who don’t understand why you’re on the team.

And many people assume that hiring one or two UX design “experts” means they won’t need to “waste” additional time on additional research, analytics, design, or testing.

Almost every decision a UX designer makes results in a design, development, cost, or scope compromise. Often, UX designers are seen as people who can only give ambiguous answers to questions and keep reminding everyone that there’s always room for improvement. A UX designer needs a strong backbone and a thick skin.

Brian J. Crowley

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Good UX means that we spend as much time as possible talking with our users, learning from them, getting our prototypes in front of them, and trying to fail as fast and often as possible for us to learn.

You have to use the data to make the experience better for the users because you've talked to them and you need to know what a pain the process was or what a delight you can create for them.

Too many companies are chasing trends without testing their hypotheses first. Too many startups are thinking, hey, it’s just "Twitter for Dogs!", and don't properly vet their ideas with any users or figure out who the product is for. I worked at a startup many years ago as Graphic Designer and they would put things out before really thinking about who the audience was or using the available data... they would instead just chase what was hot at the moment. By the time we would go to production the shine had already worn off.

Kevin Cadigan

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We all know that Enterprise App projects are governed by a number of factors. Companies look first at their budget and timelines for a project. Then they establish their hard rollout plan and date for a production release. Finally, they look at the available resources that can implement the project.

UX testing usually gets a lower priority in the development consideration and if the enterprise has not embraced a UX first approach that results in a lower priority ranking. The lower the priority the higher chance testing will be reduced or cut. It would be an interesting exercise to see how many enterprises utilize testing in the UX design process and how many utilize persona building, card sorting, and journey mapping followed with wireframes and prototypes.

Over the last 20 years, a significant shift has been happening behind the scenes of American companies.

From the “webmaster” that took care of everything in the late 1990s to the various roles in online/mobile business units today we have come a long way from the mental model of one person wearing many hats.

With time, certain roles have become more cemented than others.

Take backend vs frontend developers for example:

Most companies define these roles clearly, and expectations of who does what are rarely up for debate.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have user experience architects.

As we learned from these 17 world class User Experience Architects, UXAs wrestle daily with internal stakeholders who don't understand the value of UX, or fight to ensure that users get the most seamless experience possible.

Others struggle with giving user testing, persona building, usability testing the attention, and prioritization the techniques required to make a remarkable product. And others need to fight to ensure that a Minimum Viable User Experience is built.

In this article, UX experts provided great insights into a wide variety of topics:

  1. The skills UXAs should have;
  2. How UXAs should go about building a user experience;
  3. How bad experiences reach the market despite best intentions;
  4. The challenges UXAs face to create the best experience;
  5. How to deal with difficult stakeholders.

What will your company do to ensure your User Experience Architects can provide the best user experience that will surprise and delight customers all over the world?

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