Things I Like List, take 1

 Companies I admire

  1. Khan Academy. Making learning resources available for free to make better learning more accessible.
  2. Riot Games. They are continually trying to build a strong community in a field where bad behavior (online games) has traditionally been common. They take player feedback to heart, and they’re constantly adapting the game for balance and player experience. Also, they just released a visual and technical redesign of the main player space to improve the gaming experience.
  3. Adobe. Their programs’ integration with each other allows artists, designers, and other producers to be more productive.
  4. Apple. For having an integrated hardware and software ecosystem.
  5. YouTube (owned by Google). They gave individuals more accessible voices than just blogging could. Really useful as a knowledge-sharing platform.
  6. Ideo. In all of their designs, the importance of the people who use them. They also host courses to teach people the method of human-centered design.

Digital products I use a lot

  1. Gmail, Calendar, Maps (Google), desktop + mobile. They just help me keep on top of everything that’s going on.

  2. Splitwise, mobile. It helps me keep track of expenses in a shared living situation.

  3. Yelp (Yelp, Inc), mobile +  desktop. It helps me decide where to go when I want to try something new.

  4. Feedly (Feedly Team), desktop and rarely mobile. Manages my information flow by consolidating my online reading.

  5. OrderAhead (Kinetic Farm, Inc.) / GrubHub Food Delivery/Takeout (GrubHub), mobile. For when I don’t want to wait in line at a restaurant.

  6. Podcast Republic (NonlinearSoft), mobile. Easy way to organize the podcasts I listen to that’s more intuitive than Google Play.

  7. F.lux, desktop and mobile. Blue light keeps you awake at night by suppressing melatonin production, so f.lux helps me sleep better despite myself by turning some it down on my devices.

3) Digital products I admire or like

  1. Trello. Good for collaboration and task management

  2. Evernote.

  3. Instagram

  4. Shazam

  5. InVision

Topics/Ideas I'm really interested in

  1. machine learning and AI for research and to inform human behavior
  2. Internet of Things
  3. motivation, habits, behavior modification
  4. gaming and gamification
  5. health
  6. education and learning
  7. UI, esp. animations and information dashboards
  8. 3D printing
  9. assistive technology

Thoughts on The Elements of User Experience

If I were asked about 3 things that stood out to me while reading The Elements of User Experience, I'd have to say they were the breadth of scope of UX, the potential for change with better UX, and the UX mindset.

I think Garrett's illustration of the UX stack is a lot to take in, and justifiably so. There is a lot of inter-disciplinary practice in UX, with room for specialists and generalists. That's both a strength and weakness of the term: it means a lot of things, but as a result, can mean so little. Perhaps it's because UX can also be thought of as a collection of methods more than as a field (like human factors, human-computer interaction, human-centered design, etc.). The more I understand the diagram, the more I want to understand.

The second salient point is the potential for good if UX principles informed more design and engineering decisions. In chapter 1, Garrett outlines several benefits and potentially avoided disasters thanks to a good user experience (real and hypothetical). When I think of the purpose and the effect of UX design, I can't help but remember Dieter Ram's interview in the documentary Objectified and the similarities between user-centered industrial design and user-centered web design:

Lastly, the theme running through the book of right mindset of inquiry. We are asking questions about what is happening and why. We must know the problem and know the people who we're helping. To get closer to that knowledge, we continually hypothesize and then test these propositions.

why UX

Until two years ago, I didn't know User Experience Design existed.

I'm no Luddite, but I'd grown up using hand-me down Nintendos, hand-me-down winter jackets ('cause you don't really find them in the tropics), and hand-me-down computers. Most of what I knew about computers was networking and messing around with Myspace styling. So, like many people who want to graduate but have changed their majors many times, I got my degree in English, later going on to develop my interest in linguistics into a master's degree.

I like helping people, and one of the things I knew I could do with my degree was teach English to speakers of other languages, so in 2009 I started teaching ESL at a large private language school. In 2012, though, I jumped on the opportunity to work at an art and design university, where I saw the problems students wanted to help people with, and the tools each major used to try to help. I helped them communicate better, and they helped me learn other ways to solve problems.

One group of students I helped was in a UX course in the Web/New Media department, and I learned to notice why so many online experiences were so frustrating, and why others were so seamless. I learned about project scope, conceptual metaphors, information architecture, prototypes, and testing. But, most importantly, I learned that this was a process that I could be a part of.

For the next two years I taught, I saw the same user-centered mindset pop up in graphic design, industrial design, and even journalism. It's a similar mindset to many teachers who plan their lessons and tailor  activities to a specific audience. They provide a lot of value: they use their skill, experience, and attention to develop others (and the good ones let students develop them back). There's one thing the teacher-student (or mentor-mentee, or master-apprenctice) relationship doesn't have, though: scalability.

That's why UX. I want to help as many people as I can the most efficient way that I can by creating experiences that facilitate their achieving their goals.