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December 8, 20063 Comments

ON:WStudio – Elan Skis

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This week this WStudio - Elan Skis site caught my eye.  I think they did a great job of integrating video as an education and branding tool.  I also like the concept of navigation that gets dragged and dropped.  Click here to view WStudio's site >>

What do you think???

ON:WStudio – Elan Skis via @jpenabickley

November 7, 2006No Comments

ON: A Passion Point Touched

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As most of you know one of my passions is skiing.  With the exception of a bit of a heavy load on the front, this site was soooo worth the wait. 
I am so digging the new woman’s skis.

Visit the site today!  Click Here to visit Salomon Freestyle 2006

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ON: A Passion Point Touched via @jpenabickley

November 3, 2006No Comments

ON: What is an XPlanner

For the last several months I have been conducting user studies in order to develop accurate personas for Ad Agencies that buy and produce online media.

Many of the agencies that I visit are "traditional" (Agencies that were not born digital) agenies.  In this setting and they often ask me what I do.  For years I was called an Interactive Creative Director, Then I was an Information Architect, today I am called an Universal Experience Planner.

Now you ask me, What the Heck is a Universal Experience Planner (XP).

The Experience Planner creates branded, interactive user experiences such as websites, games, mobile sites, digital media and applications for clients. The XP helps define and lead the strategic and creative vision; owns the information architecture, navigation, interaction and user experience; researches and defines user needs, business goals and requirements; and coordinates with the art director, technical director and account manger to inform visual design and facilitate build.

On a day to day basis I:

  • Takes ownership of the XP component of all assigned projects or brands.
  • Understands brands, and how to bring them to life online.
  • Serves as primary point of contact with internal team members and the client for all XP issues.
  • Provides expert usability and campaign wide interaction design recommendations to the project team.

An XPlanner Primary Tasks + Deliverables

  • Produces deliverables at a level of fidelity and detail appropriate for clients and internal team members.
  • Plans, conducts and analyzes primary and secondary research (heuristic evaluations, competitive analysis, one-on-one interviews, online surveys, stakeholder interviews, etc.).
  • Plans and conducts internal team and client work sessions (brainstorms,requirements workshops, etc.).
  • Defines, prioritizes and drives consensus on project requirements, including all features, functions and content.
  • Develops process models, user personas and scenarios.
  • Creates information architecture deliverables, including site maps, wireframes, interaction models and page specifications that describe navigation, content, and functionality.
  • Assists technical director with functional specifications.
  • Leads usability testing planning, facilitation and analysis.

As I wrap up my 12th Agency interview, I note that large agencies really need to study their organization and make sure that XPlanner is a key player within all of their interactive endevours.  I will not sit here and name the Large agency players that I have interviewed in the last months that do not have this player on their team and rely on a traditional creative team model of the art + copy = advertising.  In the legit interactive world the best brands are built in a team model that looks like this equation.

Strategy + XPlanner + Design + Copy +Technology = Fab Consumer Experience.

ON: What is an XPlanner via @jpenabickley

November 1, 2006No Comments

ON: Reframing My Product Design Life Cycle

As important as it is to have people with the right skills and appropriate team structure to implement user-centered design, it is just as important to facilitate a good design process. An effective design process involves several phases: researching, designing, prototyping, testing, and iterating.

Research
Designing for users presupposes that the product development team understands the users it is targeting. True understanding comes from extensive qualitative and quantitative research, which help the team identify market segments and user needs, behaviors, and attitudes.

Design
A fundamental premise of bringing design into the development process is that design happens before programming begins. If the foundation is flawed, corrections can be difficult to make after coding begins. During the design phase, objectives and features are not only defined, but also who the target user is, what their goals are, what the context of use is, and what the task requirements are. As mentioned earlier, design tradeoffs are made based on the business case for the product, so it is important to establish the business goals upfront. During this phase it is important that the team consider the product in terms of goals, which are generally more descriptive than features.

Prototype
As the product evolves from a conceptual framework and interaction model, it is important to create prototypes of the design. Prototypes not only help communicate the design, but also help the team visualize the design and understand task flow. They are also useful for gathering user feedback throughout the design process, whether they are storyboards or interactive mockups.

Low-fidelity prototypes may be created using pencil and paper or in Visio. Such prototypes are useful for visualizing and getting user feedback on task organization or conceptual ideas. Hi-fidelity prototypes are more operational and allow the team to get feedback on the mechanics of user interaction.

Test
User testing during the design process offers many benefits. Feedback from user testing can provide input into the current design, future releases, and related products, and offer general lessons about usability that might be applicable across the entire network. It can also provide the development team insight into the user’s perceptions, satisfaction, questions, problems, and general use. More specific information about user research methods can be found in the next section.

Iterate
Rarely is a product team going to nail down the best solution on the first try. Therefore, it is important to allow for time to iterate on the design so the team has an opportunity to modify the design based on user feedback. The more the design can be refined upfront before coding, the more time spent on development can be saved. Of course, additional lead time is needed for the design team to design, prototype, test, and iterate, so involving UED upfront and early is imperative to fostering user-centered design.

ON: Reframing My Product Design Life Cycle via @jpenabickley

November 1, 2006No Comments

Experience Planner/Designer In The Seat of Product Developer

Building the tool that online ad agency needs most has taken on new meaning for me. For months I have been gathering research that will lead to the formation of a set of agency products. I am developing my plans, product ideas and observing agencies business problems. I have defined the common agency process, developed personas and outlined the typical task analysis.   Now that I am ready to begin vetting out a new product specifications, I stepped back to answer the most important question of the day….

What is User-Centered Product Design?


User-centered design (UCD) is a method for designing ease of use into the total user experience with products. Key to this approach is the focus on understanding the users—their environment, their goals and tasks necessary to achieve these goals, their skills, and their abilities.

Throughout the development cycle, feedback and input from users is gathered to ensure that the design is based on real data, and not the product development team’s imagination about what users do.

Using this method enables the efficient design of effective interactive systems as UCD expedites and simplifies gathering user feedback and incorporates it into the design process.

Specifically, user-centered design means that product teams start by observing and working with its users. Throughout the design process, users judge whether the product meets their requirements by evaluating prototypes.

After a period of iterative evaluation and design, the technology is built to fit the mockups.

User-centered design is about describing the whole user experience, not just what the users see on the page. It is about relating user goals to application functions, as opposed to taking requirements from someone and turning out web pages.

The deliverable for user-centered design is a product that is useful, usable, and desirable to users, not just the final HTML, programming, or implementation.

Note that user-centered design is different from and complementary to market research. Market research strives to answer the question, “What product should be built?” Marketing knows what customers are asking for, what drives their behavior at the point of sale, what they will pay for, and what determines their purchasing habits.

User Experience, on the other hand, knows what customers or clients actually do, what makes a product simple or difficult, usable or not. Thus, User Experience is better suited to answer the question, “How should the product be designed?”

Marketing, User Experience, and Engineering offer a spectrum of perspectives in product development. Creating the right synergy between these functions so that a successful product is built is not an easy task.

Experience Planner/Designer In The Seat of Product Developer via @jpenabickley
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Talk: Making Magic with Ai

Ai is the tool of the modern magician. At the nascent stages of the another industrial and social revolution, magic + math, multiplied by design makes what is invariable hard — seem remarkably easy.

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