Tag Archives: Lean UX

Sparcline for IPhone 6 and 6+ Available Now!


MySparcline  design is a  Responsive to work with IPhone 6, 6+, or virtually any smart phone or tablet, with or without a case.


Actually, I worked really hard to make these things Apple-screw proof.  i got burned once by incorporating a power cord in a previous design – Then they changed the connector!   These babies will work great on smart phones and tablets of virtually any size and brand.


– roger

Sculptechular Show in Frisco is a Hit! Wrapping up the large pieces this week


A great time at the show.   A new audience became acquainted with TechXpressionism and i was asked to be on the panel  of selected artist talking about their work.  Wonderful time sharing thoughts with these talented individuals.


My mention of our digital culture becoming sensory deprived in terms of physical interaction  seemed to strike chord with everyone.  We are all geeks these days.  It’s fun when those images come out from behind the glass and into our real space.


The show runs just a few more days.  See http://www.friscodiscoverycenter.com/index.php/events/sculptechular-2014/


One of my favorite pieces from the show.   i love the mix of tech and painterly textures.   And it is quite a clever use of a junction box.   I learned this was not actually in the show, but is part of the permanent exhibit at the Frisco Arts Center.

– roger

Fishbone-to-Wishbone: A Recipe for BrainstormChasers

BrainStorming or just Storming?

Somehow, brainstorming has gotten a bad rap. I was actively brainstorming at the white board with a product manager one day. As we were having excellent success at nailing the key elements of the design, he looked at me and said, “My business professor told me this wouldn’t work”.  Hmmm. I wasn’t sure what to say other than I’ve heard that theoretically, bumble bees cannot fly, yet somehow they do.

By the way, rigorous usability testing later on confirmed that the concepts we came up with in that brainstorming session were dead on target. So, I am still a little confused about who is saying brainstorming doesn’t work and why. Perhaps they’re just doing it wrong?? Or maybe I am just using the term too loosely to describe using your brain to analyze and solve problems. ??
Brainstorming  Recipes
As with all recipes, ingredients are important.  So first of all, before you begin, make sure to have an ample supply of good quality brains on hand.  This will make things go better as the process gets messy. Having these ingredients will enable you to improvise in case something doesn’t work as expected or you spot a new opportunity  that  was not anticipated.
Fishbone2Wishbone Recipe

Having been trained in Six Sigma, my tendency is to look for root causes of pain points following the five whys to begin forming hypotheses. Of course, Six Sigma was invented for manufacturing where a given product or process was already defined and typically the tools were used for trouble shooting to reduce defect rates, hence the name.  That has always made it a weird fit for design, where the purpose is the define the not yet defined product or process.

But wait.  Here’s the deal, Flipping this method on its head, one can use the same cause & effect logic to trace the root causes of a good effect, such as customer delight.  Brainstorming potential causes of customer delight based on things you know about the audience (personas), their tasks, the context, the business domain, etc. can produce some very good hypotheses for taking into design.  This can feed the lean methodology.  I have named this my “fish bone to wishbone” method. i.e., Fish bone (Ishikawa diagram) leading to an A B test (wishbone).  Get it?

Maybe my point here is to not simply open the table to ideas, but to have some cause  & effect rationale for forming hypotheses that can then be explored and tested.  Testing hypotheses need not always require a design exercise.  In fact whether you do proceed with a design to test or not, you should attempt to prove or disprove each hypothesis with existing available data.  Sometimes this along is enough. Or it may direct you to a more focused design exercise. 

Typically, there maybe multiple ideas swirling as to what is the way forward.  Simply gathering up everyone’s assumptions and ideas is constructive IF you restate all of them as testable hypotheses. This can be a great way to cut through folk lore, eliminate churn and move the team forward. Of course (here comes the disclaimer) group dynamics are still at work and your mileage may vary. Cheers.

– roger

or Fishbone2wishbone
copyright 2013 Roger Belveal  😉

Falling Flat

It is the natural progression of language that new ideas are communicated wrapped in metaphors of the familiar.  Once established, these become the new familiar.  Metaphorical images are typically simplified into iconic representations. Examples are not hard to find; Chinese characters, Byzantine religious icons, and of course, the icons on your IPhone.
Such simplification is useful as it enables more dense information in the same relative space or cognitive bandwidth.  Reduced overhead of information density can make interaction more efficient and feel simpler and easier.Flat design is such a progression. In fact, the radical flip flop from skew-morphism is such a vivid example of this as to be cartoonish. Cartoons, yes. The classic cartoon is itself a simplification of a complex idea into a simplified and notably flat rendition of an idea.
I wrote about this recently in my blogpost, “Where have all the affordances gone” http://belveal.net/?p=1777 Degraded usability is the primary concern in that post. But there are other downsides, maybe less impacting, but at least as annoying.  The trouble with flat design in practice is that graphic designers, robbed of the option for excessive skew-morphism, tend to crank up the noise on other superfluous elements such as color, scale, grids, and random white space that make for excitement, but muddle the user experience in new flat ways. Minimalism is good because it quiets the supporting players in the scene to allow for more new stars to be scene on stage.  But make no mistake. Metro isn’t minimalism.Like some others, I don’t actually see the flat trend and skew-morphism as polar opposites necessarily.  Both are eccentricities. Neither has communication as its primary objective. Swapping one stylish distortion for another is a sad trade-off.  Every new style or fashion is, to some degree, a rebellion against the last one.  What is truly new is that technology has become so mainstream that the whims of pop culture drive so much of its design.  Us old techies aren’t used to that.Prediction: Much of the flat trend will stick because it is the natural progression of language, it can add efficiency, and it just makes sense. However, pushed too far, it will incite a rebellion which may manifest itself in a nostalgic return to skew-morphism, though likely with a new twist. What that twist is remains to be seen.

Designers like flat because it is fresh.  Keep in mind that freshness only lasts a little while.  Skew-morphism was itself considered fresh as it departed from the overly widgety look of the 1990s GUI.  What expiration date is on the freshness of flat, like that on a milk carton, may be hard to read. But know that there is one.

What is flat and fresh today will eventually be just as exciting as flat beer.

Also, keep in mind that skew-morphism was over-emphasized in the past, because it was fun. Beyond communicating ideas in the metaphors of the familiar, it poked fun at the very technology it represented with the deliberate intent of deflating the beast of intimidating technology.  My metal artwork, in turn, poked fun at skew-morphism, rather overtly. ( See MyFavorite Machine ) Why?  Because it was fun, of course!  Now that Flat is all the rage, I feel obligated to poke fun at that in my art.  This poses an interesting challenge, but stay tuned. 🙂

– roger

related article

Lean UX & Chihuly’s Glass Team

Lately I have been pleased to have found Lean UX to be very successful, meaning an hour spent at the white board with some gifted programmers is worth a week wire framing and documenting. Instead of a clear handoff of a fully documented design, we are joined at the hip. I direct in real time while they code. Like artist Dale Chihuly does a quick sketch, then directs his glass craftsmen in the execution, we create UI in real time. We can’t work in this mode all the time, But when we do, it kicks ass

To see the Chihuly example, go to  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRJXZcSslao&feature=related. At 1:30 Chihuly explains how he conveys his designs and directs his team of glass blowers. See my photos of Chihuly’s art on my blog at http://belveal.net/?p=1496

The following photos show how he creates initial images in colorful sketches then directs the team in the execution.  This is the essence of Lean UX, the UX designer creates designs in a low fidelity media, such as hand drawings on paper or a white board, simple and very changeable to explore concepts quickly, then directs the programmers who are able to execute fluidly in html5 and CSS or othe similar code.  It works!