IA Konferenz 2017 | Prototyping Conversations

Auf der diesjährigen IA Konferenz habe ich von meinen Erfahrungen mit der Entwicklung von Conversational Interfaces erzählt. Hier sind meine Slides und einige Twitter-Reaktionen:

UX Research Reader | People's Expectations and Product Experience

What I learned from The Evolving Role of Expectations in Long-Term User Experience by Sari Kujala and Talya Miron-Shatz (published in September 2015):

  • People’s expectations before using a product influence how they evaluate it after using it.
  • People with high expectations tend to be overly positive about their experience — especially during the first days of use. If you ask them about their experience then, you won’t get reliable answers.
  • That’s why you need to be careful asking people about their subjective experience after first use. Compare their assessment with their initial expectations and ask them again after having used the product for several days.

User Experience Design With Distributed Teams - Part 1: Ideation & Sketching

UPDATE: Instead of continuing with part 2, I decided to not label articles “part 1”  again and instead talk about the topic, collect more ways to do ux work remotely on Twitter and write more specific articles on the subject.

Lately, I’ve been working more and more with teams spread across different cities, countries and timezones. Though there are times when it’s difficult not having everyone in the same room (you know the drill), user experience design can work quite well remotely when you give thought to the tools and methods you are using. Starting with ideation and sketching, I will have a closer look at how the different steps of the ux design process are affected by remote work.

Co-located ideation kickoffs

The ideation phase of a project is the part of the design process, where I recommend having a co-located meeting if possible. Getting everyone together and sharing ideas visually is a great way to start a project. With a whiteboard, post-its and a good facilitator, a design studio session can produce a lot of output in a short amount of time. This can make working remotely later on easier, as you have created a shared vision early on.

Remote ideation sessions

But what if a co-located ideation kickoff is not possible? A whiteboard and post-its are so effective as everyone can share their ideas immediately — no one needs to wait to give input. That’s why a simple voice or video call does not do the trick here. People need to be able to write and sketch freely and need to see in real-time what others are sharing. Laïla von Alvensleben has carried out an interesting study on this subject. She describes her experience with a distributed team implementing remote design thinking using tools like Murally and Slack. She points out that getting used to the collaboration tools and having a good plan and facilitation is important for a productive ideation session.

Using digital tools for ideation instead of physical tools can be awkward. That’s why I really like the approach of EightShapes. They use document cameras to share what other team members are sketching on paper. When your team needs to do a lot of remote sketching, this might come closest to the co-located experience. Jeff Gothelf, author of “Lean UX” shared his experience with a similar approach.

What's next?

More and more great products are designed with completely distributed teams. I think we can learn from these lead users and integrate some practices into our mostly co-located teams. Even if you only work remotely from time to time, it’s great to have a good setting available to do a quick ideation session remotely. When working with remote clients you can do more iterations and do not need to rely on in-person meetings only. There definitively is some preparation and discipline necessary to make it work, but new tools like Murally and Deekit make it easier to replace the whiteboard and post-it we are so used to as user experience designers.

An Architect's View On Design Process, Limitations And Context

Today's awful weather was perfect for rereading 101 Things I Learned In Architecture School. It's a short book I bought a few years ago for a UX Book Club meeting. Matthew Frederick included a few thoughts particularly interesting for user experience designers:

101 Things I Learned In Architecture School
Improved design process, not a perfectly realized building, is the most valuable thing you gain from one design studio and take with you to the next.
Never rue the limitations of a design problem – a too small site, an inconvenient topography, an overlong space, an unfamiliar palate of materials, contradictory requests from the client... Within those limitations lies the solution of the problem!
Always design a thing by considering it in its larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.
— Eliel Saarinen
Design a flight of stairs for the day a nervous bride descends them. [...]. Create a seating area for a group of surly teenagers to complain about their parents and teachers. Designing in idea-specific ways will not limit the ways in which people use and understand your buildings; it will give them license to bring their own interpretations and idiosyncrasies to them.

Spiekermann on Government Communication and Form Design

Some interesting thoughts from 7:16 to 9:02 on how governments communicate with their citizens and how designers could fix it.

There is still horrible government communications. If I look at the text forms. They are just as bad as they were forty years ago. And I could make them a hundred times better in two days. But they don't realize it's something that people can do. They go to their advertising agencies, and their advertising agencies aren't interesting in forms. You know, they do big campaigns. And if they came to me, I would do the form, not the campaign. [...]

Cross-Device Prototyping Tools - Beyond Paper Sketches

Two weeks ago, I spoke at World Usability Day in Hannover. Among great talks on flat design, feedback forms and gestural interaction, I had the pleasure to talk about prototyping in cross-device design projects. Unfortunately, I could not go into details of the tools I presented (in German). I would like to take this as a starting point for a series of blog posts.

A prototype is a question rendered as an artifact.
— Scott Klemmer

I won't dive into the merits of prototyping, but rather jump directily to the tools I reviewed for my talk. All these tools try to make it easier to build interactive models in order to test them on your devices. Following Fred Beecher's prototype fidelity scale, I'll take some tried and true deliverables like sketches, wireframes and design comps and discuss how they might evolve when designing across devices.


In this first post, I'd like to start at the lower end of the fidelity scale with an app called AppSeed.

From static to interactive sketches: AppSeed

AppSeed is an iOS app that has recently been funded on Kickstarter (I'm a proud backer). It's based on the same concept as PoP – Prototyping on Paper:

  • Take a photo of your paper sketches
  • Make your digitized sketches interactive
  • See your sketches in action on screen.

AppSeed takes it one step further though. By using computer vision – as they call it – the app decomposes the individual elements of your sketches and lets you process them digitally. You can then move elements of your sketch on-screen and (where it gets really interesting) you can define your sketched boxes as input fields or as scrollable map elements. What they promise is, that you can take your sketch from flat boxes on paper to interactive modules on screen.

In January we will see if they can keep their promises. I'm looking forward to using the Kickstarter version and test how good the computer vision really is.

What I really like about this approach is that it adapts smoothly to my design process. I can start on paper and can proceed digitally. Of course, the fidelity will most likely not surpass basic interactions (and basically you could also do this with other tools) - but the direct transition from analog to digital is really interesting.

What's Next?

In my next post I will climb the visual fidelity scale. I'll talk about wireframes and how they can evolve in times of responsive design. So stay tuned!