Being Awesome, Innovation, Lenses, Uncategorized, Understanding the Customer, User Experience, UX UI

Poetic UI UX Design

“I’ve got so many MBAs, but what I need is a poet. Poets are the original systems thinkers.” -Max DePree

Poetry uses “condensed or compressed form to convey emotion or ideas to the reader’s or listener’s mind or ear” as defined by Poetry.org. Which felt like the perfect site to define poetry at. If we re-word it a little, we get “the shortest path that gives a desired feeling to the user”. Just extrapolate that “feeling” out to include usability a perception of value, and good poetry becomes good user interface and experience design.

poetry (1)Now, this is a new analogy to me, something that I am going to try on my next prototype. I am going to design the user interface and experience through the lens of poetry. I will link to my findings here (when they exist). However some key components of poetry feel ripe for picking when designing.

Imagery

Imagery in poetry actually relates to the five senses (not just relying on images). What are ways that a good user-centered design uses imagery? The friction felt when moving components around that gives it a real feeling. The audio cue when an action is triggered. Even the icons selected play a part in the overall imagery scheme.

Rhythm

Poetic rhythms range from the famous iambic pentameter to the unknown by name (but you totally know it when you hear it) anapestic tetrameter. Rhythm plays such a huge part that a lack of rhythm is used to create its own feeling. What kinds of rhythms do we create in our designs? Can we keep the user in a good flow state? Do we break the rhythms to call their attention to important pieces? I envision a UX rhythm being the user experiencing the entirety of the innovation, with each major beat striking true.

Word Association & Connotation

In an effort to be concise, poetry uses what the read brings along with them to add extra meaning to words. Each word chosen by the poet is specially selected to bring across a bouquet of feeling to the reader, without writing the bouquet in. This is the “show, don’t tell” writing advice. Clearly a UX can use an envelope to signify email, and a disk to represent saving, but what other rich connotations can we bring? One word of caution here: this requires some strong empathy and knowledge of your core user if you are going to rely on the baggage they bring to tell your story.

Enjambment

First of all, its just fun to try to say “enjambment”. Enjambment is breaking up a line in poem across two lines to create a sense of anticipation and intrigue.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and asleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

Endymion by John Keats

Notice that the three middle lines can’t even stand by themselves. The line break pauses the reader in extracting meaning from what they are reading. How can we use enjambment in great UX UI design? Where do we need to create pauses or breaks that are beneficial to the user? Can we leverage that anticipation into a positive feeling while using our product?

Repetition

This is used over and over and over to drive a point home. Poetry uses it to call out the important stuff or bring certain images back into view. A good design uses repetition to make sure the user is comfortable knowing when and how to take action. But when does repetition lead to boredom? Maybe this has some parallels to rhythm?

I don’t have the answers yet. But I’m willing to try to find them. Like I said, this is a new lens / analogy for me and one I’m eager to test out. If you test it out or already think of it this way, let me know! I’d love to start a conversation around Poetic UI UX Design.

Being Awesome, Diffusion of Innovation, Going Forth, Ideation, Innovation, Innovation Mindsets, Systems, Tool, Uncategorized

Beyond the Right Tool for the Job

Today I did a few odd errands around the house. A typical Sunday afternoon. I finally went to hang the new tiles with our house number on them. For 30 minutes I bore into the front of my house. I switched screw types and drill bits. The sad truth was I had barely made a dent. The tiles lay on the front lawn mocking me.

powertools
Notice the state of the art powerdrill I was using. And Jebediah was no help at all.

I decided to do some research online and found just what I needed. And thus the standard pilgrimage to the local home improvement store rewarded me with some concrete screws. The tiles went up almost instantly.

I had chosen the correct power tool, my handy dandy drill with screwdriver bits, but I failed to be detailed in how to apply the tool. I was using the wrong screws and all that got me were unhung tiles and two shallow, but noticeable holes in the front of my house.

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhn

This can be the bane of the innovator as well. Powerful tools within their grasp, but the details about the application and the context evade them. This has two potentially disastrous outcomes:

  1. Problems remain out of reach, still unsolved.

2. You can cause new problems, like holes in your house.

It is important to invest time in identifying the details behind the tools you use. Even if your innovation toolbox is stocked with the best tools around, it’s the details and the context that can throw you off.

“Stop. Hammer time.” – MC Hammer

The following places have excellent tools for your innovation toolbox, and some supporting details to help you know when to use them.

Stratgeyzer by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda, and Alan Smith- Value Proposition Design is always within grasp. I may keep a spare in my glovebox. From learning cards, to testing matrices, Strategyzer’s VPD is a solid foundation for any innovator.

Designing for Growth by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie – This fantastic book has tools and details around the full innovation timeline. From “What is?” to “What if?” to “What wows?” to “What works?” No matter what your question is, Designing for Growth has something for you.

Joe Greaser has a post over on his blog about some tools for detecting weak arguments.

Also, we’ve got stuff right here at Go Forth And Be Awesome!tools

  • New Lenses for finding new ways to look at the world around you.
  • Donkey Dice for rapidly going through lenses with a little bit of chaos.
  • Premortems help you prepare for failure before you test a prototype.

Avoid the frustration and embarrassment of drilling all afternoon with nothing to show for it. Even if you’ve got the right tool, pay attention to the little details too.

Being Awesome, Failure, Going Forth, Lean, Learning, Like a Startup, Motivation, Systems, Uncategorized

Happy Systems Evaluation Day Eve!

It’s that time of year again! The internet is littered with “Top 10 [these things] of 2015” lists. Tweets and updates center around what friends and family plan on accomplishing within the next 12 months. But every time you see a “I’m going to lose X pounds this year” update, know that you are reading a goal.

“Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.” Scott Adams

I’m not saying they are losers. I’m saying they are playing a losing game. Boardgames are no fun when halfway through you realize that you have no hope of ever catching up to the leader. I’ve played these games with my younger brother who will CRUSH all in his path. I’ve looked over at his gargantuan pile of cardboard wealth and watched mine wither more than once. But a good game has mechanics that keep all players in the game. There are ways to get back up front. The Bullet Bill power-up is only available to those trailing in Mario Kart.

goals (1)Setting a goal is playing a game where you are constantly in failure, until you’ve succeeded. If my goal was to get a promotion, everyday that I don’t have my promotion is a day that I haven’t hit my goal. And even when I do, what then? I’ve reached a waypoint but I don’t have any other direction.

Goals are waypoints; places to be reached. Systems are a compass; they provide global direction.

Instead of setting a promotion as a goal, I should define a system that makes me more valuable to my company. Maybe, along the way I will earn that promotion. Both before and after, I have the ability to work successfully within my system. Success is within my grasp and in my control, each day.

“A good system shortens the road to the goal.” Orison Swett Marden

Don’t abandon goals altogether because when used with a system, they are still hugely important. We set them constantly in innovation. They are the success metrics for each prototype. They are the conversion rates in A/B testing. Running lean and using design thinking are systems; systems that leverage and make use of goals. One can not live on goals alone.

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” W. Edwards Deming

If you’ll allow me a short sports metaphor real quick, let’s talk about Notre Dame football. I don’t have details but I do have experience and I am 87.3% sure that Notre Dame’s players decide what their goals are going to be for the season. Probably “Beat Stanford” or “Play in a major bowl game” are in there. Until they play Stanford, that goal has not be achieved. When they do play Stanford, success and failure are equally within grasp. After the game, they cross that goal off as either DONE or FAIL and then… focus on a new goal? Drift directionless in a sea of college football powerhouses? No. Notre Dame has a system that is more important than their goals.

“Play like a champion TODAY.” Notre Dame Football’s system

Goals are good as measures of your system, but make sure your goals aren’t vanity metrics.

So as you and I and everyone on Facebook sets goals for the upcoming year, also think of a system that can help guide you through those goal waypoints to a you beyond your expectations. And we’d be honored if “Go forth and be awesome” was a part of your system!

Uncategorized

Uphill Both Ways… A New Appreciation

Stories have been a human tradition since the spoken word was first uttered. They are how we have shared experiences, traditions, and history long before any of them were put to paper. They have the ability to capture the minds and imagination of young and old alike and they hold the power to mold, shape, and share knowledge. Yet one type of story, passed on from generation to generation, has fallen on hard times.

“When I was your age we used to walk to school… uphill… both ways.”

Naturally our brain’s logic discredits the whole statement based on the phrase “uphill both ways”. We don’t even seem to care about the “I used to walk to school” part because “uphill both ways” is so illogical. A road can’t be uphill in both directions. Logic screams, “That phrase is wrong and, by association, your whole statement is wrong.”

Sorry logic, you’re wrong.

image

Let’s imagine a “stereotypical grandpa trying to be cool”. He is headed off to school so make sure you picture a backpack, sideways hat, a mismatched shirt and shorts combo, and definitely saying “I’ve got all my swag, yolo!” Oh “stereotypical grandpa trying to be cool”, you’re so funny!

Now imagine his school, on the opposite side of a hill. “Stereotypical grandpa” starts off heading uphill and then downhill before making it to school. On the way home he goes back up the hill and then down it again. I don’t mean to blow your mind here, but he went uphill in both directions. That means… shudder… grandparents have been getting that story right all these years.

“Aha!” you say, because you think you caught a mistake, and because “Aha!” is apparently a thing you say. “My grandparents never said anything about going downhill.” You’re right. No one ever tells the part about going downhill. Why?

Because going downhill is easy. Even inanimate objects can go downhill.

Now uphill, that’s the trick. Going uphill you get to duel with gravity face-to-face. Gravity is like a universal Goliath that affects even the largest of celestial bodies. Here you are, just a mere earthly David, spitting in gravity’s face. Each step up the slope signifies your defiance of gravity’s whims. When you reach the pinnacle of your ascent, you can stand with hands on hips and proclaim “Man has taken on gravity, and today, man won.”

Taking on a challenge, win or lose, is where good stories live.

Think about Mighty Casey and his baseball career playing for the Mudville Nine. As the story tells us, in the bottom of the ninth, he has an opportunity to win the game. He proceeds to take two called strikes first. Mighty Casey had a flair for the dramatic. He bashes his bat against home plate. He tightens ever muscle in his body as he stares into the sould of the trembling pitcher. Sawdust begins to swirl in the air because he is gripping the bat so tightly. The pitcher winds up, tosses the ball with his eyes closed in fear. Mighty Casey swings with the might of a thousand men…

Yet there would be no joy in Mudville, because Might Casey strikes out. Even though he loses, it is still a captivating story. We’re still drawn in because of the challenge of taking those two strikes first. Had Mighty Casey strode to the plate, swung at the first pitch, and hit a lazy flyball to centerfield for a routine third out, no one would tell his story.

Facing a challenge is the best thing we can do. It gives us a chance to grow, to be better, to learn more. No one got smarter by answering questions they already knew the answers to.

Challenges are where Awesome is forged.

At various points in our lives, we will stand at the base of a hill. Looking up, the top sure looks far away and the path can even look a little scary. However we must tackle that climb with willpower and confidence. It wont always be easy, but we’ll learn, adapt, and keep pushing.

No matter if we make it to the top or not, we will at least have a story to tell.

Challenge:
What uphill challenge are you facing? 

  • How will you know when you’ve made it to the top?

  • What are opportunities to learn / get better along the way?

  • Write an encouraging message to future you that will keep you climbing!