My design prototypes from brochure design for AID India:

A few months back I posted a list of what constitutes a good user experience. That list is quite useful, but it is not something that is catchy. So today I came up with my own new vocabulary to talk about design and user experience.

For now, my new vocab is limited to one word. And that one word is made of 4 letters…..No no, the word is not love :P

My 4 magical words are ……….DEAD

D = Desirable

E = Enjoyable

A = Amazing

D = Delightful.

In the past, I have often used these 4 words when talking about design and user experiences. However I did not realize till today that together they make a great group as well as a catchy word…

So, the next time you hear me saying, “Man, that design is DEAD……” Dont take my words literally. The fun lies in the irony of the usage of the word.

This is my attempt to bring some definition to the word ‘User eXperience Design’.  This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have tried to define the terms quite broadly. The What and How of a ‘Good User eXperience’…..

UXD

What constitutes a good user experience………….

  1. useful
  2. functional
  3. intuitive
  4. reliable
  5. efficient
  6. effective
  7. usable
  8. innovative
  9. aesthetically pleasing, beautiful
  10. delightful, ‘aha’ moment, wow-factor

How to design for a good user experience………….

  1. by understanding people needs, wants,behavior,constraints
  2. based in social & cultural context
  3. exploring opportunities
  4. based on people’s past experiences
  5. power to evoke emotions
  6. forgiving to errors
  7. simplicity
  8. optimized for most frequent tasks
  9. informative & timely feedback
  10. story-telling
  11. human touch
  12. multiple iterations
  13. prototyping

I undertook a project to design a photograph incorporating old memories for one of my friends. I started out by having a sort of image of the design in my head. This time I did not start by creating pencil sketches, but instead started out directly creating the design on Photoshop. I started materializing the fussy image I had in my head. And then I kept playing around for with the design for quite a long time (redesign) – analyzing it and incorporating inspirations from other artifacts. Once I was pretty satisfied with the design, I created an image file. However, once I viewed that image file out of the context of Photoshop window- by itself and complete, I did not like the design as much as I liked it a few moments ago. So, another idea struck my mind and I went back into Photoshop and made those changes. The learning of my day being – context of the software used to design also impacts the design. We do need to see how the design actually looks out of the context of the design software.

Here is what my final design looked like:

hhg

I created a few low-fidelity layout mockups for a website carousel in Photoshop. Just sharing them here with eveyone -

In the past few days,  I saw two really well made documentaries – an episode of PBS NOW about “Child Brides: Stolen Lives” on DVD and “Smile Pinki” which won an Oscar this year.

For this PBS episode on child Brides, the correspondent Maria Hinojosa traveled around the three continents – Asia (India ), Africa (Niger) and America (Guatemala) to know more about child marriages in these regions and the efforts that are being put to solve this problem. The video showed children in India getting married at the age of 5 years hidden in the darkness of night, as it is illegal. Marring off girls at such a young age leads to a very high rate of child birth complication as their bodies are not fully developed. Moreover, statistics reveal that two-thirds of child marriages lead to domestic violence. Equally important is the fact that since these girls get married off so early in life, they are uneducated, unaware of their rights and are totally dependent on their in-laws and husband. They do not have any individual identity. Child marriages also lead to each women having more number of kids, thus contributing to the problem of over-population.

One of the interviewees mentioned that Dowry is one of the root causes of this problem. If the family finds someone who is willing to marry their daughter for a smaller amount of dowry, they immediately marry off their child so as not to loose that guy. I believe that besides this, another root cause is ignorance about the importance of education in our society especially among the poor and more so for the girl child. The parents think – “kya karegi hamari ladki padhke, shaadi karke sasuraal hi to jaana hai, vahan ghar bhaar chalayegi and bachche paalegi” (There is no use of educating our girl child. She eventually has to just get married off, go off to the in-laws, and take care of the family and children). Majority of these parents still think of their girl child as a burden on themselves due to the demands of dowry from the groom’s side.

Child education can help in eradicating this problem of child education. It is very important to send the girls and boys too to school at their young age. Keeping them in school, seeing them learn and progress ahead can act as a deterrent to the parents to not give their children to early marriage. Also, the children start developing their own personality and identity, get a different perspective in life, and see the vast opportunities available for them in life – who or what they want to become in life.

It is necessary to awaken and inform the people and masses about this pressing issue and the leaders and other influential people of the society can form a very effective medium in spreading the message (the documentary shared an exemplar of this in Niger).

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The ‘Smile Pinki’ documentary highlights the problem of children with cleft lip.  The documentary is well made. It took me on an emotional journey and I felt my eyes get wet at times, and my lips smiling at some other moments. It really touched my heart. This documentary served as a reminder to me that, there are people out there who want to spread love and happiness in the society, people who are thinking not just about themselves. Such people should be an inspiration for all of us.

Its strange how things sometimes come back a full circle.  Coming from an engineering background and possessing a very rational thinking, I always thought that good content is all that is required. Having the right content is synonymous to an individual’s inner good values and beliefs.  I always struggled with understanding why emphasis is given to something that is well presented, even though it might not be as solid from inside. For instance, I could not see the reason behind attraction of some of my undergraduate professors towards computer programs of colleagues that had a better UI and some graphics components even though the program code was not that solid or efficient and more error prone, as opposed to what I did in my computer programs. My programs were more efficient, handled variety of errors and tried to solve the problem effectively. I never understood why I should spend my time instead on making a better UI. Most of my programs had a very basic and standard user interface designed.

Up until I entered into this world of Interaction and User Experience Design about two years ago, I believed that content is everything.

During my first year here, I came across this line by Mc Carthy & Wright that really struck a cord with me. “The Mac must work and the software must function properly. The point is that the analysis should not stop there.” My past two years made me realize that having good content is very necessary, but it not the only thing that is important. The way that content is presented makes a huge difference. Presentation is just as important as content. In the world today, when we are overloaded with information due to the advent in computers and globalization and when everything around us is fighting to grab our attention, the importance on the presentation of content is inevitable. I might have developed the most efficient computer software, but if users cant make sense out of it or don’t know how to work around it (lack of usability), if they do not enjoy using it or is not aesthetically pleasing or fails to evoke the right emotions (lack of good user experience), if it does not add value to their life, nobody would ever want to use it. And vice-versa too. If the presentation is really good but the content is substandard, it wont work.

Well, both the content and presentation go hand in hand. Both of them are equally important. They are like two pillars of a building. The building will collapse with either one of them missing.

Just to provide an exemplar for this. I was sent an email a few days in which I happened to notice the email signature that the company uses. This is what it looked like:

CONTA GROUP

BRUSHES & BRUSHES
CONTINENTAL AGENCIES
CONTINENTAL HYGIENE CONCEPTS

We believe in

Quality
Service
Competitiveness

It had all the important content but the presentation seemed unimpressive to me. With limited knowledge about the brand image of the company and in my efforts to keep it as simple as possible for implementation in technical terms, I proactively took the initiative to redesign the email signature. I just spent a quick 15 minutes on looking a few other exemplars, and improving the presentation and content. Then I sent it over back to the company. Take a look here, how changing the presentation primarily impacted it:

Regards,
Conta Group

Brushes & Brushes | Continental Agencies | Continental Hygiene Concepts
One-stop-solution for all your Hygiene needs
We believe in Quality | Service | Competitiveness
Tel: +91-011-47000000 | Mobile: +91-9811000000
www.contagroup.com

I soon got a reply from the company saying that they really liked it and had changed their email signature the next day itself.

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