UXD Supernova is a weekly blog about my ongoing experience as a student in the Kent State Master of Science in User Experience Design (UXD) program.
Week Seven, Personas

This is the final week of the first class in the Kent State UXD program. I'm a bit sad because I kind of just want the class to keep going. It's is really engaging and my classmates are all super smart and supportive. But I am excited to start the next class and continue learning.
For the final week we were tasked with creating mock personas. I say mock because if these were real personas we would be getting out of the proverbial classroom (my house and pajamas) and interviewing a bunch of different people to get real content. Creating this persona was more of an introduction to get us familiar with the concept. In a later class we will be creating actual personas and hopefully talking to real people. Because this was a more of an introduction to personas I took a bit of liberty with the content which I would never do if I was dealing with real content meant for a real project.

There are two upsides to adding or adjusting the content. First, it added more visual interest. The document giving to us was rather copy heavy. It didn't have any stats or interesting points I could easily pull out a make something visually interesting. I added content to create that visual interest which also made the user (Jayne) more human. You can see below that this persona lists Jayne's favorite books and the social networks she uses. This content will immediately help you understand and empathize with her in a different way than the original copy can. 
Second, by adding this content it also got me thinking about what questions I would ask when interviewing. Not only content that is pertinent to the product, but what makes the user more relatable but hints at personality and product usage. The books for example let you know that while she is interested in learning about UX, most of what she reads is fantasy. From that information you can deduce that Jayne is very creative and enjoys experiencing new and exciting alternative worlds. You would get a different feel about who Jayne is if her favorite books were historical fiction or horror. 
I created two versions for this assignment. The first has more personality but is quite a bit larger. It could be printed in large format printer and hung in a work room. The second option doesn't have as much personality and detail but it is something you could print and keep at your desk. The first option is directly below.

This is the printer friendly version with
slightly less personality and information.
Week Six, Type System

Week six was all about typography. While I have some knowledge in this area, it is always good to review. For instance, neither I, nor anyone at my work can ever remember if the last word in a paragraph that ends up on a line all by its lonesome self, is a widow or an orphan. Luckily we reviewed that this week. Knowing that I still might the difference  I came up with a silly visual that will help me remember. If you look at the image below you can see that the Widow is the last word in a paragraph that is on a line all by itself. The orphan can be several words, but it is on the next column or page. The silly way to remember the difference is this:
- a widow is surrounded by their friends and family (other paragraphs) but they feel all alone.
- an orphan is starting out their life (page or paragraph) with no one.
This week we also also  created a type system. This means choosing the typeface(s) you would use for a project and figuring out the hierarchy, and laying it out. This was really fun but without context, I had a lot of questions. 

- What is the project? 
- What's the medium?
- Is it digital or print? 
- How and where will it be viewed? 
- What is the audience supposed to feel? 
- And soooo many more questions.
All those details were for us to us to explore (or not). Because I could, I quickly explored Unsplash, got some inspiration, and threw together a mock website. This helped me choose two fonts that felt right for the medium and content. Below is is the mock website I created and the type system that explains my type choices and sizes.
Week Five, Banana UX
Describing UX can be difficult. Every time I've tried, the explanation is too short, leaving the person confused, or the explanation is too long, and their eyes start to glaze over. In our weekly assignment of finding great UX pins and sharing them, a classmate found an explanation that just might be the solution.  
The breakdown:
- The color of a banana makes it easy to know it is ready. Green bad, yellow good, brown bad. 
- A banana can be eaten when and wherever. They are mobile and not messy.
- Bananas are easy to eat. They come in a package and don't need to be washed.
- Bananas are grown on almost all continents and are full of awesome vitamins.
- The overall package of a banana is better than any other fruit.
Bananas are the perfect example of good UX. I'm excited to test this explanation out and see if this is the most effective way to explain UX.
And if you are interested here is a link to my Pinterest UX board
Week Four, Form Re-Design

This week our class was tasked with a simple form redesign. This exercise was meant to get us thinking more like UXers. When I first looked at this form, (below on the left) I thought it needed some serious graphic design help. It's pretty sad looking, but the more you look at it, the worse it gets.
• It was difficult to tell what it was, maybe a pop-up? If so, it was out of context.
• If it is a pop-up it should have an ‘X’ in the top right corner.
• Both sections repeated “only” unnecessarily. That is implied in the option.
• Copy was repetitive including “Add this” and “Alert me” multiple times.
• The order of the options in each step was not optimal and inconsistent. 
• The overall design is cramped and boring. More padding and visual interest needs to be added.
• “This company” is impersonal. If possibly, it would be nice to add the company’s name in the form.
On the right is my optimized form. In a real world situation I would ideally design a few variation of this form and A/B Test all of them. In the end I can have an idea of what works well but it is always best to see if it works for the user.
Week Three, CHEESE!!!
Problematic cheese layers leading to errors!
Cheese layers preventing errors!
This week I learned about a interesting theory call The Swiss Cheese Model of Accidents. It was in Chapter 5 of Don Norman's The Study of Everyday Things.  The theory, a human error approach proposed by James Reason goes like this:
"Defences, barriers, and safeguards occupy a key position in the system approach. High technology systems have many defensive layers: some are engineered (alarms, physical barriers, automatic shutdowns, etc), others rely on people (surgeons, anaesthetists, pilots, control room operators, etc), and yet others depend on procedures and administrative controls. Their function is to protect potential victims and assets from local hazards. Mostly they do this very effectively, but there are always weaknesses."
In an ideal world each defensive layer would be intact. In reality, however, they are more like slices of Swiss cheese, having many holes—though unlike in the cheese, these holes are continually opening, shutting, and shifting their location. The presence of holes in any one “slice” does not normally cause a bad outcome. Usually, this can happen only when the holes in many layers momentarily line up to permit a trajectory of accident opportunity—bringing hazards into damaging contact with victims (figure)." (James Reason)
And here is a pretty interesting thing Don Norman said in chapter 5:
"When major accidents occur, official courts of inquiry are set up to assess the blame. More and more often the blame is attributed to “human error.” The person involved can be fined, punished, or fired. Maybe training procedures are revised. The law rests comfortably. But in my experience, human error usually is a result of poor design: it should be called system error. Humans err continually; it is an intrinsic part of our nature. System design should take this into account. Pinning the blame on the person may be a comfortable way to proceed, but why was the system ever designed so that a single act by a single person could cause calamity? Worse, blaming the person without fixing the root, underlying cause does not fix the problem: the same error is likely to be repeated by someone else. " (The design of everyday things by Don Norman)
I liked the Swiss Cheese theory because it reminds me of how we operate where I work. We all rely on each other, but know that as we get busy, things can slip through the cracks. We purposely set up extra layers of  "cheese" protection to prevent accidents from occurring. These extra layers of cheese, if placed properly, reduce missteps, that protect our employees and our clients. In addition to extra layers, we diligently alert others to potential cheese holes, that could line up and cause harm.
Week Two
This week we learned about perception, and vision, and how that effects product design. In the chapter 5 of Designing with the Mind in Mind the author explains how the vision works; the parts of the eye, and how the brain interprets that data. One part that I found really fascinating is that in the eye there is a blind spot that is not covered by any rods or cons. This small are is where blood vessels and optic nerves exit the eye. (Jeff Johnson, 2014). Instead of having a slice in your vision where nothing exists, your brain fills it "like a graphic artist using Photoshop to fill in a blemish on a photograph by copying nearby background pixels." (Jeff Johnson, 2014) 
Follow the instructions below to to "see" the gap. (Click to enlarge image)
 (Screenshot taken from Designing with the Mind in Mind)
I learned a lot of really cool stuff this week, and this may seem relatively simple, but this demonstrates just how amazing our bodies and brains are. How over millions of years we have adapted to our environment, and I am so excited to learn how to best design great experiences armed with this knowledge.
Week One
I've just completed my first week of the Kent State UXD program and so far I am really enjoying it. The reading is engaging, extremely interesting and relevant, and best of all, I already feel a strong sense of community and camaraderie with my peers.  Rather than doing the bare minimum, as seemed to be the case in my undergrad studies, these people go out of their way to help each other out.
My favorite part of the of the class this week was the second discussion post about design thinking. We had to first watch a TED Talk by Tony Fadell about noticing the world around us and learning how to fight habituation, then we were asked to find small objects or tasks that were designed poorly but we've come to overlook and gotten used to. At first I couldn't think of much, but as I gazed skyward in my tiny home office, the flood gates opened. For my post I wrote about the poor design of ceiling fan speed indicators.
My Discussion Post:
Something that I have noticed for a while, and have just dealt with is the design of the ceiling fan pull cord. When you pull on the cord to either turn off the fan, or switch fan speeds, it is very difficult to tell how many pulls are required. Is the fan on medium, or maybe low? Dang, it was on high. Then you have to stand there and wait to make sure it turned off instead of switching to low. This isn't a huge issue, much like the fruit sticker from the TED Talk, but I'm always a little unsure if I pulled the cord the correct amount of times, and then always frustrated when I didn't.
Outlet covers that control the fans speeds help with this problem, but that doesn't work for everyone. I can't get into the attic to connect the wiring, so I am stuck with the pull cord dilemma. 
To fix this issue I would sketch out a variety of ways to indicate the fan speed level and then ask a few people if they had any preferences or suggestions.
There could be a simple rotating wheel in the medallion that switched positions every time the cord was pulled. Every fourth pull it would reset itself.
Inside the ornament there could be a electrical device that illuminated and indicated the fan speed. It could be touch sensitive so it was only visible when your hand was near it.
A way to tell the fan speed by just looking at it would also be useful. Perhaps the a blades emit a faint colored glow that intensifies/changes color depending on fan speed.
None of those options work very well for people with a disability like partial or complete blindness. In that case maybe the fan could emit varying tone when the user touched the pull cord.
Photo from ninabit at imgur.com/gallery/uaVpI
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