"How to Love and Understand Your Audience by Probing Them"
by Chris Khalil

Monday, February 23, 2015

Now that I have your attention, I’ll let you in on what I’m really talking about.

The probe I’m referring to is a cultural probe, which is an in-depth, ethnographic research tool used to generate real audience insights—without spending thousands of dollars or investing months of effort.

In this story I’ll share with you my recent experience of using one. I’ll talk about how it enabled us to be innovative in our product design and share some of the tips I picked up along the way.

Once in a while a project turns up that has nothing to do with directly improving the user interface and everything to do with developing a deep understanding of the audience. Typically, this is because the stakeholder who owns the product wants to obtain an insight into the needs, behaviours and philosophies of their audience. Armed with this, they can forge a product strategy that meets both user needs and business goals. ...

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"Shaping Spaces" by Andrea Rosenbusch

Thursday, December 25, 2014

From Archivist to Information Architect. Digitising Finding Aids: I started out as an archivist. As a history student, I found a part-time job writing descriptions of the records of the district attorney and attributing keywords to them. Most of the records concerned petty crimes or car accidents in the 1950s. The photos of the accidents contained contemporary street views otherwise seldom found, and the records of suicides were both gruesome and fascinating.

What made the job interesting was that at the time the archives had just started digitising their finding aids. During my studies at university, library catalogues had gone from card indexes to stand-alone digital catalogues. When I was writing my thesis in the mid-1990s, the latest achievement was remote access to other library catalogues. The complicated and lengthy procedure of logging into external databases was explained on slips of paper taped to the table next to the terminals. Tedious as this may sound today, it was far easier than cycling furiously up and down the hills of Zurich and trying to leaf through the index cards of as many libraries as possible during their restrictive opening hours. ...

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"Culture Shock" by James Kelway

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Welcome to Denmark. Denmark, to an Englishman, can be summarized with four words: beer, bacon, butter and bricks. (Lego of course!) There is another “b”—the beautiful people that live here and that was how I was introduced to this small, fascinating land, through my girlfriend (and now wife). It immediately felt like a place I could live in and Copenhagen has a very human scale to it that is not found in all capital cities.

Making the leap to uncharted territories was always going to be tricky. Doing it in the world’s most severe recession for 70 years was just going to make it a little bit harder. A month before the move, our English mortgage fell through. But we made it, thanks due to a friendly Swedish bank. As the crunch became a crisis, I knew that if we had left it a few more weeks we may never have made the move.

Hello Hello. To be honest, the adjustment period of moving from London to Copenhagen never became an issue as there simply wasn’t any time to settle in. I landed on the 11th August and started work as a Senior IA on the 12th at Hello Group. ...

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(Image: sirgabe via Flickr)

"Cutting Through the Opinions"
by Eirik Hafver Rønjum

Saturday, June 21, 2014

It was in the Nineties. Fredrik, a Swede and former journalist, was walking to his job. For a couple of days he had been working as a web editor for a Swedish public website.

Something was rotten on the website. There was this ugly button on the front page. An ugly button with a strange word: “Intranet”. Fredrik didn’t know the meaning of the word, but he did know he hated that button. It made the clean, functional front page a mess. While walking, Fredrik’s mind was occupied with one thing: he had to get rid of that button.

Fredrik was not an anarchist. He was a Swede. Swedes follow rules and regulations. So he knocked on the door to his manager’s office, preparing himself for the battle for the button. ...

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(Image: Leshaines123)

"The Stamp" by Cennydd Bowles

Monday, April 21, 2014

It took me a while to realise that user experience was my calling.

Don’t get me wrong: I had been fascinated by it for years, and was slowly but surely nudging my job description from analyst to information architect. I voraciously consumed blogs, books and Boxes & Arrows and dreamt about life as a “proper” IA, but I was young and it was easier to stay in this university town with its cheap rent, beer and women, than make the move down South. However, my interest soon snowballed into passion and I knew that I had to make the leap. I took advantage of a well-timed redundancy offer and set off for London with a hangover and a new haircut.

London was everything I expected: vast, tough and quite unlike anywhere else in the country. I coped with the geographical transition surprisingly well—it was the culture of my new role that was the shock. I had landed an IA job at a well-known dotcom, and arrived at my skyscraper twenty minutes early fully aware that my horizons were about to change drastically. You never complain about an old employer, especially not in a book, and I am not about to here. It was a company that did a lot right and taught me a lot, but it was a big change from my cosy government job in the Midlands. ...

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(Image: Tower Bridgephoto by Nanagyei)

"I Am Feeling Lucky Strike Today" by Gennady Osipenko

Saturday, March 1, 2014

One day, a prospective client asked me to meet him to discuss some work over lunch. The weather was fine and at some point we changed the subject and started talking about websites, their souls and life cycles. Sitting in a quiet Belgian fusion bar in center of Kiev, I compared websites to living beings, suggesting they evolve like any other creature on our planet. The soothing ambient music accompanied our conversation and the imported Palm ale made things even more relaxing. I had to do something to stay focused, so I picked up the cigarette pack that was on the table and started explaining: “Imagine creating a site for Lucky Strike fans!”

I’d like to note that I don’t smoke and don’t encourage others to, either. The problem was, the cigarettes were the closest thing to hand; my iPhone simply happened to be a bit further away.

So, holding the cigarette pack right in front of my face, I said, “We start by launching a site for fans of—let’s see,” I looked at the pack, “Lucky Strikes. Those of us who adore these cigarettes would like to know that we aren’t alone in the vastness of the internet. So we start by counting like-minded individuals. Let’s show an image of a pack of Lucky Strikes to attract brand Nazis like us and place a button that says ‘I’m feeling Lucky Strike today!’ Visitors click the button and we show the number of times it was clicked. That will help our site to get underway and become at least a little popular.” ...

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(Image: Dominic's pics)

"Design is Problem Solving—
In More Ways than One"
by Sudhindra V. Murthy

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It all began on a cold day towards the end of October in 2005. I was rushing up to go over for a client meeting, 5 miles into the city. As I was about to close and lock my computer, I saw a message pop from the Resourcing Team. I gave it a cursory glance, thought with a sigh, “Another hard gruelling project” and locked my computer. However, I thought I had noticed something like a “travel instruction”. So I unlocked my computer and read it in full. It was indeed a new project I was to take up, but to my disbelief, I saw that I was to travel to Singapore in the next 3 days. Of course, I was shocked, unhappy and essentially disturbed since I was to travel at such a short notice.

“Let’s deal with this when I am back from the client meeting,” I thought. The meeting itself went pretty well and the clients were a happy bunch, now that we had turned around their rather clumsy news site into a more “new-worldish site” - in their own words.

I came back three hours later, went through the mail again and called the Resourcing Team. The first thing they asked me “Did you get your ticket yet? What kind of accommodation are you looking for? Please fill in the travel request form and send it back ASAP.” I fought to control my myriad emotions at play and asked them a simple question “Why is it such a short notice?” “Because the project has started yesterday and today, you will be talking to the client at 6.30 pm. Did you not get the invite yet?” was the reply. ...

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(Image: yeowatzup )

"UX Professional Goes
Car Shopping" by Timothy Keirnan

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In the winter of 2008 my most excellent auto mechanic, Jake, gave me the bad news: my beloved 12-year-old car should not be driven through any more Michigan winters. Too much corrosion was attacking the frame.

Many car parts can be fixed or outright replaced, but a frame with too much corrosion becomes dangerously weak and impossible to repair. Michigan is in what we Americans call “the rust belt”. The steel in automobiles competes with the salt spread onto the roads during the winter. Eventually, the salt wins because the rust spreads like crazy.

“If you really want to keep it forever as you’re always telling me, get something else to drive in the winter,” Jake said. Jake knows what he’s about. He rebuilt the engine for me at 217,000 miles. Replaced the clutch, too. He also modified the suspension and exhaust system for me over the years as we made the car more fun to drive than it had been straight from the factory.

So this car I’d bought when fresh out of grad school in 1996 was now too rusty to drive all year round. This was a moment of serious emotional import. This car and I had been through a lot together. It was even stolen in 1999 when I lived in Denver. Days after the theft, I bought another 1996 Saturn SC2 in nearby Colorado Springs because I couldn’t order a new one. (Saturn had ruined the model for me with Chapter 2 251 Timothy Keirnan UX Professional Goes Car Shopping some ugly revisions in 1997, and there were no other car brands on the market that remotely interested me. I wanted the same car back as I had lost!) But then the police found my original car partially stripped in a south Denver parking lot. So I had two 1996 SC2s in my driveway for a few months until my original car was restored and I sold the second one. ...

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(Image: Wikimedia)

"A Day at Acme Corp"
by Mark Hurst

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I spent a day at Acme Corp recently … you know, the multinational company that makes all the supplies for Wile E. Coyote and other avid inventors. (Hey, I figure it’s more interesting than “all names and details have been vastly changed” etc. :)

Anyway. Acme had a problem: research showed that their website was completely, unforgivably, disastrously hard to use for their customers. And ugly, on top of that, as if it was spat from a template circa 1996.

So I sat down with the executives, everyone with a stake in the online presence, to help them improve the business metrics by improving their website.

Here’s an excerpt of the meeting transcript, more or less. ...

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(Image: disney.wikia.com)

"Accepting Star Wars at Work"
by Henning Brau

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Red cascades of data flicker rapidly through my right eye. They move with me as I turn my head, telling me where to go; I now have to turn right. I mechanically follow the instructions, getting closer to my destination.

My mission is clear: find artifact A2000 4356 7832, pick it up, bring it back home. As easy as that. Yet I have never been in this sector before; I must rely on the information that appears in my eye.

I listen to the metallic pounding of my heavy boots on the floor, echoing and fading away. My hand wanders over the touch pad in the beltmounted device at my side and I change the intensity of the rays.

Distant machines stamp out their never-changing beat. The hall I enter lies bathed in dim light.

Although the walls numb the senses with their icy greyness, I am not cold; it is warm in here, maybe 27° Celsius. A bead of sweat runs down my forehead into my eye. I feel a sudden sting, but I do not dare to wipe it away, afraid to lose sight of the thin red lines.

A man comes round the corner and stops in his tracks as he sees me. His mouth opens in disbelief. He certainly wasn’t expecting me—the cyborg—to appear here. ...

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(Image: Peter Taylor)

About This Blog

This blog is a companion to the UX Storytellers project. You will find everything that's currently going on, what has happened so far and what is planned for the future.

Learn through storytelling

The best way to learn is through listening to stories. The best way to teach is through telling stories. Are you a UX Expert with stories to tell? We would love to hear your story.

Famous Quotes

The universe is made of stories, not atoms.
Muriel Rukeyser

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