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A survival guide for UX in complex environments


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As a UX practitioner working in complex environments you have to be flexible, since commonly used user-centred design techniques may not work. In this session, we provide insights into how you can approach UX problems in complex fields with confidence.

With concrete examples from our experience of designing services for life scientists, we describe approaches you can use to characterise specialist users, and translate their requirements into successful designs. In the hands-on activity, you will experiment with our unique (and recently published) ‘canvas sort’ technique, for prioritising large numbers of data items and modelling their interactions.

So if you work in UX in a complex environment - such as in scientific research, pharmaceuticals, engineering, technology, finance, or others - join us to learn how to survive when things get complicated!

Published in: Design, Technology, Travel
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A survival guide for UX in complex environments

  1. 1. Flickr: N A I T Paula de Matos & Jenny Cham A Survival Guide for UX in Complex Environments
  2. 2. My name is Paula de Matos I live in Cambridge I am an Independent UX Analyst I tweet @Paula_deMatos I am South African & Portuguese I am an agile evangelist
  3. 3. What is bioinformatics?
  4. 4. Our recent papers: UX and Bioinformatics (open access)
  5. 5. Characteristics of a complex environment… Flickr: Gigi C
  6. 6. Complex environments have data that is/ may be…
  7. 7. People in complex environments Sweet spot? Jakob Nielsen, Usability Engineering 1993
  8. 8. Intangible value of UX in complex environments Flickr: Kristian Niemi
  9. 9. Finding the people can be difficult
  10. 10. Maps and networks Multi-screen terminals for stock brokers Flickr: Travel Aficionado Examples
  11. 11. • 10 minutes • Identify a facilitator • Chat in your team • Are there other characteristics of a complex environment we missed? • Facilitator present back summary Are you working in a complex environment? What are the issues you face?
  12. 12. Our survival guide…
  13. 13. Flickr: atkinson000 Survival tip #1: Understand the data and “big picture” • Get interested • Learn the basics yourself • Make a new friend/s
  14. 14. Survival tip #2: Love thy stakeholders • Understand • UCD stakeholder champions • UX buy-in strategy • Incentives?
  15. 15. Survival tip #3: teach your development team the basics
  16. 16. ≠ Folks at UX London 2011 Survival tip #4: mitigate ‘self-as-user’ outlook Debra the in vivo pharma R&D scientist Fact: we are not the users
  17. 17. • Ask your buddy • Research the interviewee so you can get the conversation flowing • Ask when they don’t make any sense • Record the interview Survival tip #5: interview experts (e.g. in their own lab)
  18. 18. Gray et al. (2010) Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers Survival tip #6: Try gamestorming with geeks (aka experts)
  19. 19. Example: empathy mapping
  20. 20. Example: speedboat game
  21. 21. Survival tip #7: Establish your Information Architecture
  22. 22. What happens if you ask... What is important to you? What do you want?
  23. 23. Engaging IA ‘head scratcher’ for target users (experts)
  24. 24. Stimulates discussion esp. dot vote to get consensus
  25. 25. Scenario • You have been offered a great job (at an agency) in Cape Town, South Africa • You are not sure whether to accept the position User Task Tutorial: learn how to canvas sort Flickr: Xevi V
  26. 26. You arrive at an information portal for Cape Town, what is the first thing you need to see to determine whether Cape Town is suitable for you/your family, so you can decide whether to accept the job offer. Timings: • 20 minutes team work • 2 minutes for each team to report back Scenario
  27. 27. 1. In your groups, familiarise yourself with all the data cards. 2. Choose ALL the cards that YOU think are important and place them on the canvas. 3. As a team you need to whittle them down to 6 cards. Use dot voting to select the most important cards. Step by step process outline Dot voting: each individual gets six coloured stickers to vote for their favourite cards. The cards with the most stickers get to stay on the canvas.
  28. 28. 4. Now that you have your six cards NAME your canvas. 5. Use post-it notes to describe what actions/interactions you would like to perform on your data cards and place them the right side of the canvas. 6. Describe how you got to the canvas where you came from using post-it notes (bottom left). 7. Describe where you would like to go to next using post-it notes (bottom right). Step by step process outline
  29. 29. Synthesis and consolidation of artefacts
  30. 30. Canvas Sort Result #1: Relative priorities of data items and actions
  31. 31. Result #2: Model of the information architecture for the portal
  32. 32. Result #3: Ideas to take into sketching
  33. 33. Survival tip #8: quick & easy prototyping keeps ideas flowing & dev costs low
  34. 34. Our UX tips for surviving in complex environments Survival tip #1: Understand the data and “big picture” Survival tip #2: Love thy stakeholders Survival tip #3: Teach your development (or agile) team the basics Survival tip #4: Mitigate ‘self-as-user’ outlook (use refs) Survival tip #5: Interview experts (pref. in their own lab) Survival tip #6: Try gamestorming with geeks (aka experts) Survival tip #7: Establish your Information Architecture Survival tip #8: Quick prototyping keeps ideas flowing & dev costs low
  35. 35. Mapping survival tips to our case study Knife image from #1-3 #4 #5 #6-7 #8
  36. 36. Useful references Complex UX • Chilana, P.K. et al (2010) Understanding usability practices in complex domains. CHI 2010 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2337-2346 Personae • Baron-Cohen, S. et al (2003) The systemizing quotient: an investigation of adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism, and normal sex differences. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 358: 361-74 • William Hudson (2009) Reduced Empathizing Skills Increase Challenges for User-Centered Design CHI 2009 April 3–9, Boston, MA, USA Gamestorming • Gray D, Brown S, Macanufo J (2010) Game storming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers. California: O’Reilly Media.
  37. 37. Questions?