October 4, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, design leadership
How do you keep stakeholders informed and included during a user experience (UX) design process? Short answer: Be generous with representations — sketches, mockups and prototypes — right from day one of the design process. Yes, that’s right. I’m telling you that, in the context of tight budgets and short deadlines, you should be generous with your skills and talents as a designer or developer. Rich representations are one of the hallmarks of an intelligent and successful design process. And, the surprising thing is that it can save your project from going over budget and past...
September 27, 2017  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  ROI of UX Design, UX, UX Design
Thinking of building a new product, say a connected device or application? When a project is in the planning stage, one of the budgetary decisions revolves around the amount of time to allocate to design — specifically UX design — versus the time spent on software development.  Developers typically argue, often vehemently, that the lion’s share of the schedule should be dedicated to coding. Why? Because most software projects take longer than initially projected. Developers want the cushion of extra time just in case. But it is important to ask why these projects take longer than...
August 9, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, UI
People love beautiful things. Earthshaking information, right? What’s significant is that our appreciation extends beyond our conscious behavior. Over a decade ago, usability expert Don Norman made the argument in his book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things that “attractive things work better.” What he was really saying, with clever word omissions, is that by human perceptions, attractive things appear to work better. Is this true? Probably. Imagine you’re examining a new product. You likely believe that if the developers paid great attention to detail on...
June 7, 2017  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX, Usability
The software industry is moving at a faster pace every day and the bar for quality has never been higher. When I graduated from college in 1989 a guy working in his garage could create a best-selling game. Today, that would take as many people working together as to create the average summer blockbuster movie. Why? Because expectations are so much higher. Today’s savvy consumer will quickly become dissatisfied with poor usability and move onto a competitor’s application. So you need to develop rapidly while maintaining the superior level of quality your customers expect.   How do...
May 31, 2017  •  By Scott Lozier  •  gamification, interactive games, trade shows, web
Have you ever watched the DVD extras where you get a peek at how a film was made? See a camera on a dolly moving in synch with the actors as they walk down the street? Or glimpse the behind-the-scenes process as a make-up artist transforms a regular guy into a cyborg? That’s what this blog is about. Ok, maybe no cyborgs. But, I will give you a backstage look at how my team created a custom interactive game for medical device company Boston Scientific. About the Game Boston Scientific wanted to showcase one of its products at an industry trade show, using a game format to engage...
May 24, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX Design, UX design team
User experience (UX) designers and developers are different types of thinkers and approach the same problems from different vantage points. That can be a good thing if designers and developers can find synergy as they solve problems for users. Fortunately, over the past few decades both groups have become radically better attuned to the user. The awareness, knowledge, and research of users has increased steadily since the mid-century birth of the modern computer. Today, both designers and developers take humans more seriously in the equation of human/machine interaction. Still, there’s...
May 17, 2017  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX Design, IoT, medical device
For connected IoT devices — including smart home and medical devices — to be truly transformative they need to deliver a well-designed and intuitive user experience. Running. It’s my thing. My favorite form of exercise. A way to clear my head. Usually, running loves me as much as I love it. But not always. On a rainy day a few months back, while training indoors for a road race, I got into an altercation with a treadmill. Treadmill 1. Meniscus 0. Fast forward to April when I finally gave into the pain and went under the knife. My recovery had me couch-bound with just my Norwegian...
April 18, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, design thinking, design leadership
As a lead designer in our company, I evangelize design thinking and model the behavior of a design thinker. As a career designer, it’s tough for me to not apply design thinking to everything I do. So when our sales team asks me to support the pre-sales process on a prospective customer project, I am as usual in design thinking mode. I’ve found it has a positive impact. Our own customers know that ICS is excellent at engineering as well as UX design, but they may not realize that we are actively applying design thinking to try to make our services and products, including our sales...
March 29, 2017  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX
Participants in ICS’ recent webinar UX Design for Software Engineers posed so many interesting questions I couldn’t get to all of them in my first post so I’m tackling a few more here. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it on demand here. What are some good UX tools? That is a very broad question since it covers many aspects of the UX process, and tools can range from the tried and true (pencil and paper) to the technical and sophisticated (eye tracking techniques). Like most UX designers today, we use the Adobe Suite for much of our visual design work. As far as specific design...
March 15, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, design thinking
I would posit that there are two types of workers: those who are mission driven and those who are not. Mission-driven workers care about the outcome of their work and make an effort to understand and track its impact. The latter group enjoys doing the work they have chosen to do but don’t wonder about its impact. I fall into the former type. As a UX designer, my personal mission is to design products that are highly useable and well loved. In my effort to make good products, I pay close attention to users. Really close attention, listening carefully to what they do with and say about their...
February 22, 2017  •  By Jim Connolly  •  UX, UX Design
People are impatient and distracted. You’re probably scrolling through your Instagram while reading this blog. Or replying to your boss’ email. Or ordering sushi. Point is, you’re busy and don’t have time to waste navigating hard-to-use sites, apps or touchscreens. Neither do the users you design for. That’s why when designing presentations for large-format touchscreens, your goal should be to make the user understand immediately how to navigate. If the interface requires instructions, it is too complicated. Cleverly conveying interactivity is key. The Role of Design Affordance...
February 21, 2017  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX, UX Design
Participants in ICS’ recent webinar UX Design for Software Engineers posed a slew of interesting questions. I'm tackling a few here. Look for an upcoming blog with answers to even more of your UX-themed questions. You recommended designing for 80% of users but isn't that a lowest-common-denominator approach? Won't a UI designed for a 65-year-old frustrate a 20-year-old digital native, for example? This is a question designers wrestle with often. Like all technical problems, there are a lot of "it depends on..." parts to answer this. You have to consider many aspects of your...
February 7, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, design thinking
As a designer I love to create highly usable, beautiful interfaces. In fact, design thinking pervades every aspect of my work life. Empathy, sustainability, effectiveness and aesthetics are parameters that inspire any activity that I take part in, whether it’s managing staff, preparing proposals or contributing to business strategy. When people talk about design-centric or design-driven companies, they’re referring to businesses that apply design thinking throughout their operations. Why would a company want to do that? (Cue sucking sound of money flying out the window.) Because it can...
January 18, 2017  •  By Selene Chilton  •  UX Design
Remember when the Wii and the Nintendo DS first came out? They created the biggest buzz in the gaming world because of their revolutionary user experience (UX). The Wii featured innovative motion-sensing, gesture-recognition technology, while the DS featured a novel folding dual screen and touchscreen technology. Nintendo is at it again, this time with its new Nintendo Switch gaming system, set to launch in March 2017. For designers that design for interactive products, this is exciting news. Here’s why. Thanks to ingenious design, the Switch offers a consistent gaming experience...
January 16, 2017  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  Success in UX Design, UX design team
To effectively solve a design problem, you need to understand it fully. Makes sense, right? Yet between limited budgets, conflicting requirements and tight deadlines, how often do designers apply a “just get it done” approach and neglect to clarify a problem completely? Too often, I fear. That’s where design leadership skills can have a positive impact. By investing just a few minutes, expressing design leadership can help you deliver a more useful, higher caliber product. If you’ve met me, you know I don’t mind being the most annoying person in the room. It’s because I ask a lot of...
November 1, 2016  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX, UX Design, IoT
This year’s Qt World Summit has come and gone, and a good time was had by all. I had the opportunity to give a well-attended talk on user experience (UX) design tips for software developers. It was great to see that so many developers are interested in how users view software, and aren’t focused solely on the internals.   While my talk drew a nice crowd, I have to say that it was probably due to the amazing keynote presentation the night before. Josh Clark, a principal at Big Medium, gave a riveting talk — Magical UX and the Internet of Things — that really fired up the crowd around...
October 27, 2016  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, UX Design
Over the summer I visited some breathtaking castles in Northern Europe. Many were originally constructed as small fortresses and over the centuries have been rebuilt multiple times to reflect new generations of culture and technology. Unfortunately, all this change made it challenging to get even a taste of the history that occurred in within their walls. Clearly, the castles’ curators were aware because nearly every place I visited was equipped with large, touchscreen kiosks that visitors could explore to get a better sense of the historical events that occurred there and the significance...
October 17, 2016  •  By Jeff Muller  •  UX, UX Design
Phrases like make it pop, wow factor, have fun with it, and jazz it up sound like nails on a chalkboard to a designer. They are meaningless buzzwords, no different than “synergy,” “diversify” or “innovation” — words that get thrown around so often in business. “Designers are missionaries for art within the world of business.” — anonymous While it’s on designers to learn the language of business in order to explain design decisions, giving them more usable feedback will improve communication and result in better refinement. Embracing design as a core competency means non-designer...
October 4, 2016  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, Interactive Kiosk
Most of our everyday experiences with touchscreen technology are interactions with small screens, such as phones and tablets, where screen space is at a premium. At the opposite end of the spectrum are large touchscreens, which offer User Experience (UX) designers plenty of real estate to work with. To utilize that space, you can enlarge the content or display more content on the screen at once. That’s nice, but it’s just scratching the surface of what a UX designer might do to make use of this valuable affordance. Lessons From Desktop UX In what other ways can a designer utilize a...
September 21, 2016  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX
Creating touchscreen user experiences (UX) that feel natural is an obsession here at ICS. When I say “natural” I’m referring to a comfortable and effortless touch and/or speech interaction experience. This is the definition of a Natural User Interface (NUI) —  and creating this type of experience should be the goal of any touch-interface designer. But, achieving natural-feeling interactions is a significant challenge. Natural. Comfortable. Effortless. The concept of natural-feeling interactions is probably one of the most confounding in contemporary UX design. Designers are apt...
September 6, 2016  •  By Giuliana Leone  •  UX
There are nearly 3.5 billion internet users today. And what are a large proportion of them doing with their time online? Using social media. Often. According to Informate Mobile Intelligence, most people check their social media pages 40 times a day! For user experience (UX) designers, the popularity of social media brings new challenges and responsibilities. Designers can’t ignore the fact that social media is a significant part of users’ web browsing experience. In order to deliver ever-more engaging designs -- meaning giving users access to the information they want in a way that makes...
August 23, 2016  •  By Ricky Casdorph  •  UX, touchscreen, animations, kiosk
Building a brand and sharing digital content in a way that resonates can be a challenge. As a user experience (UX) designer, how do you capture and retain the attention of busy audiences in public, private or corporate environments? And how do you meet their expectations for ever more interesting, informative and memorable experiences? The solution: well-designed user interface (UI) animations tailored to your company’s (or client’s) brand. When delivered on touchscreen-powered kiosks, these powerful animations effectively engage increasingly demanding audiences. Meeting...
August 10, 2016  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, UX Design, Touch Gesture, touchscreen
I’ve observed that people using large touchscreens experience varying degrees of fatigue and discomfort from the physical effort of swiping, tapping and zooming. The placement of the interface elements is one contributor to the discomfort. Repeatedly executing a gesture that is at odds with the body’s natural movement patterns is fatiguing. Hands and arms naturally move in curves and arcs yet screen layouts are predominantly rectangular and right-angled. Why do designers create visual layouts that are less than comfortable for users? The answer: it’s what they know. For more than four...
July 18, 2016  •  By Dorothy Shamonsky  •  UX, Virtual Tactile-ness, haptic
When you walk on a beach, you may be tempted to reach down and pick up a smooth stone or a shiny shell, turn it around in your fingers feeling its weight and texture. If a friendly cat or dog walks close by, you may be tempted to reach out and stroke its fur. When humans are attracted to an object because of its color, shape, surface or texture – because of its visceral appeal – they are often compelled to reach out and touch it. Can the same attraction happen in a virtual realm, in a user experience? Visceral reactions are emotions that come from the gut. They are shortcuts in...
Tap is the safest touch gesture. Everyone understands that tap equals click. On a touchscreen, you tap where you would have pointed and clicked on a mouse-enabled display. Tap is a simple, deliberate gesture. The presence of a button-like element is indication enough that it can be tapped, and will likely mean yes or no, save or cancel, choose this thing or navigate to this new place. Swipe, drag and pinch, on the other hand, have less clarity. How does the user even know when they can swipe, drag or pinch? Does swiping mean navigating or removing? Does drag mean see more or refresh? Are...
June 15, 2016  •  By Jeff LeBlanc  •  UX, Interface Design, Iron Man
When I was an engineering student at WPI, one of the non-technical classes I took required us to read Mary Shelley’s classic book Frankenstein.  As a young geek, I had already read it, but not with the intent of analyzing the very important theme running through it that all technologists should consider: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. Victor Frankenstein was so obsessed with conquering death that he didn’t stop to think through the repercussions, and the results…. Well, if you don’t know, read the book. There are many stories that follow a...
May 31, 2016  •  By Brandy Reed  •  UX, Mobile
As time goes on, and mobile becomes more popular, we are seeing global growth in its use. Everywhere you look, likely you will see a mobile device in just about any setting. With the increase in mobile device popularity, comes higher expectations.  Users have grown to expect websites to be tailored to their needs. If a user is unable to access a website in this multi-faceted world of technology they will simply click away and find one that is more flexible to their needs. In the United States and more developed countries, when one is designing for the User Experience (UX) on any website...
One of the perks of being a technology company, is we get lots of fun toys around the office. For example, we’ve had a few Keurig coffee machines in our office kitchen for several years now.  They are quick, simple to use and produce adequate caffeinated beverages to feed our morning addictions. So when I heard that ICS had acquired a Keurig®-KOLD™ machine, I immediately headed for the kitchen to see how it compared to its warm-blooded sibling. (Note:  We’re based in Boston; we have ‘soda’, not ‘pop’.  Just go with it.) Sadly, I was not impressed. Having used the other...