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Whenever I come across a conversation thread asking what characteristics are most valuable in a UX designer, I frequently see answers such as “desire to learn” and “creativity.” While I don’t disagree that those are highly valuable attributes to have, having interviewed too many designers to count I think there is one additional overlooked characteristic that separates good designers from truly great ones: the ability to think multiple steps ahead and game out their solutions. In the evolution from beginner to expert, designers go through somewhat predictable phases. As they move up the ability curve, most designers get to a place where they can take in the user needs for a particular interaction and come up with multiple options for combinations of UI elements and layouts that will achieve the desired user goal. Evaluating which of these options to move forward with is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s the depth of thought applied to those evaluations that really define the line between good and great designers. As a simple framework, we can think of design evaluation in 3 levels. At the first level, we assess the design to ask if it accomplishes the task we set out to do. Does our signup form allow the user to enter the necessary information to create an account? At the second level, we can evaluate the design for usability and even elegance. Is our form easy to use, simple, and even delightful? At the third level, we ask if our design is bulletproof. What are all the states the form can be in and does it still work in all of them? What happens if a user enters bad data? What if there is a connection error while submitting and also bad input? Taking a design solution from acceptable to awesome requires thinking past what we see on the page. We have to think multiple steps ahead and be able to visualize not just the next step the user will take, but potentially two or three steps down the path. We need to think about not just the easy path through the flow we’re creating, but also all the side paths the user may go down, and all the possible places that may lead. Further, we need to think not just about the simplest state of our UI, but also complex states that it could reasonably be in and make sure it works there as well. Even good designers often stop at the second level (or do a light pass at the third), and rely on user testing, QA, and/or product feedback once a feature is shipped to find the flaws. User testing does have its place for this sort of thing, but is insufficient because it is difficult to make sure you’ve covered the less common usage patterns. Also, space and time for user testing is something we rarely have enough of, and it’s better to put in the thought beforehand and save user testing resources for the most important feedback. Waiting until a product is in the wild to discover the flaws is something we want to avoid at all costs. As a very simple example, consider an overly simplified UI for an admin to add users to a product. We’ve decided already that we want to invite users via email, and the invited user will click on a link and create their account. The admin will enter the email of the person to invite, click the “Invite” button, and the rest is up to them. After coming up with a few directions, we may decide that this is the strongest direction for our Invite Users flow: Our level one evaluation seems to pass; this UI allows us to invite users. For level two, it seems relatively simple and straightforward, easy to understand, and quick feedback from others indicates it’s understandable. Level three requires us to start pushing on this until it breaks. While it would be good to actually draw out all of the states of the interaction (and best to prototype), we can start by simply gaming out a user interacting with this. First, they’ll enter an email and click invite. What happens then? We want them to know they’ve been successful and who has already been invited, so perhaps we can add a successful interaction and a cool animation to add the newly added user to the bottom of the list. What if they add another? And another? What happens when they've added 10, 20, or more users? Our list may be getting longer, and eventually, our user invite form elements will be pushed off the bottom of the page “below the fold". When a different user comes to this section later, after it already has 30 accounts in the list, they may not know to scroll down to the end of the list to find the form. We’ve identified a problem with our design already, and can adjust to fix it, perhaps by moving the user invite form to the top, like this: In addition to evaluating our design for problems that arise from pushing our interactions in their primary incarnation, sometimes we need to think even broader and evaluate our designs at a system level. When designing large and complex products, often the specific interaction we’re designing may need to be accessible from multiple places, or the interaction we are creating can be applied to additional interactions and it would be helpful to be consistent. Evaluating our designs deeply means thinking past just this page and applying our knowledge of the greater whole. Expanding on our previous example, perhaps in our product we also have the ability to create projects and add users to the project. While designing the Invite User form and gaming this out in our head, we can anticipate that sometimes our users might create a project and begin adding users, only to realize that someone they want to add doesn’t have an account yet and needs to be invited. We ideally don’t want to take them out of their project creation flow to invite the new user, so perhaps we want to allow them to access the Invite User form from the Project Creation page. After considering options, we decide that we can put the Invite User form into a popup accessible from the Project Creation page so that they can quickly invite a user and then return to where they were and add them to the project. Our popups have a limited height, so will we be able to adjust our Invite User form to work in a popup? We can add scrolling to the user table to allow for a fixed height implementation, so our design should work even in that future implementation. At this point, you might be either thinking that this is obvious and self-evident, or you’re asking how you can start to incorporate this type of deep thinking into your design process. Even if you’re in the first camp, we can always improve our evaluation skills and hopefully, there are some ideas here that can help. 1. Identify all possible states. In software development, when writing a particular function one of the first steps in testing is to identify all possible inputs that the function could receive so that you can make sure it handles all of them (even bad input). When designing an interaction, we should do the same with our user inputs and behaviors. It can help to make a list of every valid state the UI can be in, and also list out any possible invalid state as well. For something like forms, this can be somewhat straightforward (what could the user enter into this field that is valid/invalid?). For more complex UIs try to think of every valid/invalid permutation of the interface and list them out. If you have a long table of objects with actions, what are the states of this table? It can be empty, it can have a few items, and it can have lots of items. Perhaps we have a need to differentiate between having no items due to not having added any yet (first time) vs. not having any items because they’ve deleted them all (returning user). 2. Try to break it. It’s easy to fall into interacting with your design like your ideal user; after all, you were the one who designed it with them in mind. Instead, at every decision point in your interaction, try to think of how a user might “incorrectly” interact with your design and game out what happens (“incorrectly” is in quotes because there is no wrong way to interact with your design; it’s up to us as designers to facilitate successful interaction with our designs). 3. When in doubt, prototype. It’s generally ideal, given infinite time and resources, to prototype everything to make sure it works how we expect. However, design resources and timelines make it inefficient (and probably unnecessary) to prototype every interaction. If you’re doing something highly complex and gaming out every scenario isn’t possible or easy, building out a robust prototype can help find corner cases and interactions you didn’t anticipate. Be aware of the limitations of prototyping software like Invision however, and make sure that your prototype doesn’t only embody the happy path through the interaction. Sometimes the very act of trying to build a prototype to support every possible user behavior identifies problems we need to address.
A core tenant of our business at AMP Agency is that we strive to generate strategy that is creative, and creative that is strategic. But any marketing agency would agree that it can be challenging for the Strategy team to continually build briefs that present a unique POV and inspire the Creative team; on the other hand, it can sometimes be a puzzle for Creative to generate ideas that are both breakthrough in the marketplace and guaranteed to resonate with our audiences. This winter our Strategy and Creative teams were given the opportunity to push those bounds and work on a project, leveraging audience insights, that has made us into even more creative and thoughtful storytellers. Not only that, it’s revitalized the way our teams collaborate together. ______________ THE BACKGROUND We were selected to participate in the 2019 iteration of YouTube's South by Southwest (SXSW) Creative Agency Challenge. We were excited to learn the theme was "Signals and Storytelling." This theme pushed us to look beyond audience demographics and think meaningfully about consumers’ interests and intent signals based on how they’re using Google & YouTube--and more importantly how these insights could more strategically inform our creative storytelling. During the Challenge kick-off at YouTube NYC, we discussed how it’s no longer acceptable to fill the Target Audience section of a creative brief with simple, demographic information. The comical example that Google gave, and that stuck with us, is that by writing a demographic-led brief like, Aged 65+, British, high net worth, dog lover, we would unknowingly be creating content that tailored to both Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne! In addition, this year’s Challenge looked to harness the participating agencies’ efforts towards a greater good. YouTube partnered with the Ad Council, and we were asked to create two pieces of skippable YouTube video content for a select cause-based organization. AMP was assigned to work with She Can STEM. Our goal and our challenge was to use insights-based, creative storytelling to empower parents to encourage an interest in STEM. More specifically, we wanted to understand and reach the audiences of Bargain Hunter parents and Technophile parents, who we found, through working with Google, showed strong affinity for the cause. Below, our Senior Strategist, Jen Herbert, and Creative Director, James Hough, reflect on their insights, the process, and experience. ______________ FROM CONSUMER INSIGHTS TO CREATIVE STRATEGY Jen: When analysing interest and intent signals, what came as the biggest surprise was that bargain hunter parents like watching quirky videos featuring silly experimentation around the house, such as Making Slime and the Cheese Ball Bath Challenge. To resonate, I thus wanted to recognize their lives are full of creative, scrappy, playful discovery, and how through this they established a foundation that could translate to a career in STEM. For Technophile Parents, I saw that they are often shopping for gaming systems, but also interested in sports, TV shows, movies and news articles. So, to cater our messaging to Technophile Parents, I wanted to acknowledge their lives as multi-dimensional and well-rounded. ______________ THE CREATIVE PROCESS James: The Creative Team viewed this opportunity as a chance to see how we stacked up against other up-and-coming and established advertising agencies and marketing agencies. We felt empowered to ensure our storytelling was on point. Basic empowerment and “you’re a badass” messaging wouldn’t cut it when we need to tell parents they have a job to do – keeping their daughters interested in STEM through the 11 to 14 year-old drop off point. More simply, “She can STEM.” Based on the strategic insights in our creative brief, we presented four concepts and eight scripts to the Ad Council after sharing initial thoughts with Google. After the Ad Council chose a direction we storyboarded, found a director (Max Esposito), found locations, cast and shot– all within about a week. I think that the financial and time constraints coupled with the freedom to go out and create without check-in’s made for something special. While each of our spots are aimed at a different audience, they shared the same goal. In each of the stories we see relatable and tangible ways a parent can encourage their daughter at the right time to keep going. Instead of pushing future-focused images of a marine biology or coding career, we centered the seemingly minor moments of everyday life that could have a big impact on a girl’s interest, like a trip to the aquarium with mom or the gift of a tablet from dad. Check them out. We really hope you like them: https://youtu.be/-bxOcFJNEjs https://youtu.be/hWZrvXpace8 And check out the story on Adweek, Think with Google, MarComm News, and others: https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/youtube-wants-to-teach-marketers-how-to-create-more-targeted-advertising-at-sxsw/ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/advertising-channels/video/youtube-audience-behavioral-insights/ https://marcommnews.com/youtube-and-ad-council-tap-amp-agency-and-others-for-sxsw-challenge/ https://lbbonline.com/news/ad-council-spots-show-how-girls-can-be-inspired-to-work-in-stem/
Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes describes Trello as a simple online application. But simple doesn’t have to mean cheap: His company just agreed to acquire the web-based project management app for $425 million—a ridiculous-sounding amount of money that may well be worth paying. Despite being only the fourth-most popular project management tool according to Project Management Zone, Trello was the fastest growing in 2016 increasing from 4.5 million users in 2014 to over 19 million in 2016. Trello, it’s me.
For mobile marketing, a moment of transformation is at hand. This transformation will bring with it the following five trends: (1) Consumers redefine purchase boundaries; mobile marketing, brand partnerships deepen; (2) Department stores, mobile marketing partners tackle the 'Amazon Effect'; (3) Programmatic accelerates: brands, tech, marketing continue to invest; (4) Technology drives measurement, verification advances; (5) Next-generation creative, video redefine mobile engagements. New year, new trends.
Despite big promises from early adopters, bitcoin is still plagued by tax and regulatory issues. As San Francisco-based Coinbase backs out of services that let people buy and sell bitcoin, Circle is pointing these customers to another exchange, - it’s now focusing on running a new exchange where large institutions, not individuals, can move bitcoin. Bitcoin goes corporate.
Starbucks is placing tech at the center of its ambitious growth plans as the coffee giant looks to open almost 50% more locations by 2021. At an investor meeting yesterday, the company’s senior figures revealed plans to open around 12,000 new stores by 2021, bringing its total to roughly 37,000. The growth will be driven by enticing more customers with new products, store formats and technology, including offering members of its rewards program the ability to speak or message their orders into their mobile phones. Starbucks, caffeinated.
The advertising industry has made huge strides in targeting, but there's one more big step to take to make ads truly relevant: We need to adapt each creative message so it is interactive and personalized to every single individual. The key to achieving what may be the holy grail of advertising is a thriving branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning. It uses algorithms to mimic neural networks' capabilities to recognize and act on abstract patterns. Closer than you may think.
The past 30 years have set the stage for technological and cultural change at an unprecedented scale. The digital world, however, holds little resemblance to our physical world — after all, the former is still governed by screens and 2D imagery. But that’s bound to change. The recent rise of Virtual Reality has brought new ways of experiencing information into the light, inspiring a new wave of interaction design and experiential software that enjoys a true sense of presence in digital worlds. It's real and it's here.