Kathy Sierra: A favorite blogger begins again

I just caught word that Kathy Sierra, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, has started blogging again after a 6 year hiatus.  The new blog is at http://seriouspony.com/blog. Kathy has a gift for conveying complex topics in a way that nearly anyone could understand.  I’ve seen coworkers give Head First Design Patterns to non-developer friends and have them actually get something out if it

Kathy’s previous blog “Creating Passionate Users” was great, and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more insightful, funny content in the future.  And plenty of references to horses as well 🙂  Welcome back, Kathy!

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FILive: Crafting Virtuoso UX Teams

Cameron Moll from Authentic Jobs presented on putting together an effective UX team.  He started out with a discussion on effective hiring, and then continued with effective team practices.

Book recommendation: Hire With Your Head by Lou Adler

A few hiring tips:

  1. Treat hiring like any other process your team has mastered
  2. Understand that accurate interviewing is fact finding
  3. Measure job competency, not interviewing aptitude
  4. Define the job to be done and ask the interviewee: “How has your background prepared you for this job?”
  5. Require justification for “no” votes from fellow interviewers

Culture and fit are VERY important.  You are who you hire.  Here’s the rub when working for a Fortune 50 company:  Uniformity and consistency compete with creating unique or special.  Consider the following quote: “Great teams do what works best for them, and selectively embrace new thinking.”  While that probably resonates with most people, it runs contrary to the consistency big corporations often strive for.

Next Cameron talked a bit about how an effective UX team acts.  He brought up the subject of using photoshop in the course of design vs. doing things directly in the browser.  After listening to a number of speakers, this seems to be a matter of personal preference.  Prototyping should happen early, frequently, and habitually.  He mentioned Styletil.es as an approach to showing customers potential options without investing too much up front.  In terms of products, he mentioned Protoshare, InVision.

There was a little discussion on hiring people who are immediately productive.  Maybe something for me to think about is how we bring a culture where we’re attracting the quality of people that could “ship” something the first day?

Finally, a few random thoughts:

  • Ouch. Cameron blames agile for poor quality.
  • Collaboration & Isolation are important to an effective team
  • Every six weeks, two hours should be spent watching users interact
  • I found it interesting he has a particular liking for the words persecute and tolerance.

All in all, a good session.

FILive: The Future of UX: Killing the Wireframe Machine

I’m still trying to catch up on my notes.  This session was presented by Lis Hubert, a UX consultant whose perspective I’ve appreciated over the years.  The subject of how to effectively weave UX into a project is very relevant to my current job, so I was keen to hear her perspective.  Realize this was a 55 minute session.

Lis HubertLis is a good speaker.  This was as polished as most keynotes.  It followed the whole tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, tell me what you told me model of presenting.

In Lis’s opinion, a UX person needs to know these:

  • User needs
  • Business needs
  • Technology abilities
  • Mix in a good portion of empathy

To me, that seems like a pretty tall order to find in one individual.  At least in my company…

Lis made the point that UX and User Interface isn’t the same thing.  The UI is definitely a piece, but not the whole.  See Erik Flowers’ article : UI is not UX for more insight on this.

We are in the “age of experience”. Jared M. Spool’s  Dawning of the Age of Experience on slideshare looks like a good resource.

Much of the premise of the talk revolved around the problems with doing UX in a closed system with no external inputs.  That seems like a no-brainer to me, but I gather this is a common practice.  So how do you fix this closed loop mentality?  Just include user studies? Usability? A/B testing?  I’d guess all would help.

As a final takeaway, I was left with a nagging question: What’s the diff between what she’s mentioning and a Business Analyst role?  Part of the reason for my question is that internally at my company we seem to use the two interchangeably except for the User Interface design portion, which is sometimes delegated to a UI developer if the UX/BA person doesn’t have that skill.  I’m still a little confused on this part.