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    ux toolbox: interaction animations

    Early and often
    In touch-based design, prototyping early and often is critical. When your team is deep in coding it's helpful for someone on your team to be able to do quick animated prototypes to speed decision making with stakeholders and check-ins with users.

    Using animation it takes far fewer annotations and arrows to communicate most gestures and interactions - particularly if they have complex outcomes. And, in products where it takes a long time to code and physically prototype your interactions, it can save months of programming iteration by allowing early testing of the gestures and actions that are critical to your user experience.

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    ux toolbox: interaction storyboards

    For 2D we have things like wireframes, storyboards and mockups that communicate and allow us to iterate the visual design. In designing the architecture we have things such as site maps, database diagramming and even code frameworks. In 4D we have scripts, flowcharts, outlines, animations and prototypes.

    As I taught designers to code and coders to design it became clear that there had be better ways to communicate across those traditional divides. So I tinkered with some of my traditional documentation and came up with a way to communicate coding, layout and interaction behaviors visually, in a single document that I call an interaction storyboard.

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    ux details: co-designing database interactions

    know thy database
    There are very simple and specific reasons you should concern yourself as a UX and interaction designer with how your database and database communication is designed and functions.

    For instance, if you're doing cross-platform design, every byte and data package is critical. And I've never met a project that has succeeded across different platforms with a one-size fits all approach to data delivery. Desktop and tablet web experiences tend to require a much more interactive cycle of data exchange in order to appeal to a person's sense of timeliness and things happening safely and efficiently. But tablets in general cannot store as much information at one time - so how are you as the designer going to work with developers to create a strategy that fits your target devices?

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    ux toolbox: flowframes

    Building on interaction outlines from my last post, flowcharts are really great for laying out an overview of a project or potential exploring decision trees within the details of a project. I should point out I don't consider flowcharts a good way to describe user decisions. I find most of the experiences I design these days are about making some good guesses at where to start with people interacting with you. This has made it less productive for my purposes to be able to create airtight user flows in the traditional form. I think visual flows are better for working out what paths you're providing, not necessarily what will actually happen.

    Over the years one of my favorite hybrids has become combining flowcharts and wireframes - or "flowframes" as I've dubbed them.

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    ux toolbox: interaction outlines

    Complex web applications
    Another great use for this kind of outlining is when you're working with deeply nested interactivity on a page. This is particularly critical if you're attempting to work around technological limitations that will not be resolved in your current revision. This is an example from within a very intense and tightly designed field entry. The level of complexity required to get around the technical limitations of the system made it very difficult to create a desirable user experience. At a minimum, we did manage to clear the visual barriers and make it more responsive and friendly through our UX work on the system.

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    ux toolbox: state of the _______

    When I go into most consulting situations there are a lot of questions about where I can fit in. As a person who is working on being ever more lean in my UX practice, I usually find that a quick evaluation of where everything is at allows me AND the company I'm working for to move a whole lot faster. This isn't exhaustive; it's more of a high-speed tour through the touchpoints that make up any story about a product or company.

    The goal of this meeting is to get an overview of where Company has been, is currently and wants to go, focusing on business goals and how they align with audience response to the company’s communication/branding strategy.

    Company Name

    PROCESS: The backstory section of inquiry can create a great shorthand timeline on the whiteboard. I like to move horizontally as we talk. Make sure you capture this by taking pictures as you go so you're self-documenting for later use.

    a. How did Company, Inc. start?
    b. Stakeholder additions
    - What do they bring to the mix?
    c. Offerings – blog, services, products
    - Why were they added?
    - What was the response?
    - If you ended this offering or shifted direction - why?
    d. Brand growth – visual, technology, organization changes

    PROCESS NOTE: This section usually turns into a very nice pictoral flow on the whiteboard. One company took our whiteboard, cleaned it up and turned it into stunning content for the web, marketing and sales.

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    mobile UX: plastic click vs metal glide

    The next time a commercial for any mobile device comes on, close your eyes. What do you hear? Interestingly, what you hear may say more about the "feel" of the product than any visual will ever be able to communicate.

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    brand play in ux sandbox

    Over the past few years, I've been involved in several major brand design and re-designs as a part of my overall UX offering. To me “brand” is just one of the many factors that we need to take in account in our designs. And there are as many ways to climb into the brand and identity of a company, as there are practitioners.

    A favorite set of tools for working with logo and brand design as it applies to both strategic and brass tacks UX design is the word play that is a part of the process of honing in on the "ideals" and symbolism that need to be communicated.

    After determining the name of the company, and yes, even that has changed in a couple of instances, then we work on creating the adjectives and differentiators that express what the company wants to show the world.

    Here are some general ideas of the types of words we look at for a company or offering:


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    scalability as critical ux design criteria

    You've heard the term scalable for years in reference to hardware, databases, and enterprise software. In software design the basic idea is to design systems that can smoothly carry larger task loads and data or serve larger numbers of people.

    When we’re speaking scalability in terms of UX and UI design criteria, we’re talking about all efforts that allow the company to increase the amount of work and services they can offer without increasing the individual's workload or a large increase in staffing. This is about moving your company from reactive, ad-hoc pricing and process and into a more proactive and synchronous state.

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    shapes of innovation

    Over the past couple of years a few patterns have started emerge that have helped me become faster at improvising. It’s critical to not only recognize the lines of power and where the forward movement comes from in the company and teams, but also to recognize where we can position ourselves to be the most helpful in facilitating the collaboration.

    All of our relationships have shapes. We interact in millions of shapes every day. See if you can recognize any of the following shapes in your business life.

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