How I think
What does design mean to you?
Design is solving problems and creates additional value to a product. This can be a physical product or a digital one. As a designer I developed the talent to understand the problems of users.
Design is good, when users don’t even have to think about how it works. When it is intuitive, simple and appealing to a mass of users.
I have spent my whole life in different design environments. My natural talent for solving problems helped me to develop my skills for user-centered design and team collaboration approach.
How do you plan a project?
Every project follows more or less the same steps. First identifying the problem. I start with a co-creation team workshop where external and internal stakeholders are together and to understand their vision. Depending on the size of a project this can take hours or days. Each stakeholder will collect questions from the team and do their homework. For UX this would mean to learn more about the customer industry and competitors. What kind of questions does the customer and the user have? I do my research and highlight findings for the next workshop. This research can include user interviews, user surveys, user journeys now and should, user personas and a competitive analysis.
In a second round we define the product together. Each stakeholder will bring their expert knowledge about their field. I will present my findings and present the user paint points with the product.
After this review we can start to design several solutions. Each solution should focus on a different approach. I will design simple sketches and start iterations with the prototype and testing.
The team will come back together and I will present my findings from the testing. I prepare possible solutions and next steps and we will take the decision together for a next design step. All stakeholders should be involved to bring in their expert knowledge and that they can follow the development process and start to understand their users. This is also called Sprint or iteration process. Think, make, check.
At some point this process will narrow down to one prototype. This one will be translated into a more precise wireframe prototype with minimal text. Depending on the project I would adapt and develop the graphic design according to the company guidelines or I will involve a graphic designer to take care of the UI of the project.
The process of iterations and nailing down the product can take some time, but in the meanwhile the developers and marketing can already start with their products. When the design process is finished I will hand over the prototypes and follow the process with the product manager and developers to answer their questions.
It is very important that the main stakeholders are not involved in any other projects. It will slow down the process and it should not be underestimated how complex and time consuming it can be to build something simple from scratch.
Do you look up to anyone in UX and why?
Since I did my study in Industrial design I am a big fan of IDEO. They work with multidisciplinary teams and follow a playful, inspiring and design thinking approach. They have reached the position to teach their customers about the design thinking approach. That extensive research and user centered design are key elements to good products.
I also look up to UENO and Ginetta. I think both are agencies that are simplifying complexity of todays products.
My favorite quotes in design are:
"You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people."
"Good design is as little design as possible."
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on? What made it interesting?
The most interesting part in a project is the UX research and the usability testing for me. In my short career as a UX designer I haven’t made that many projects yet, but I strongly believe in deep research, usability testing and simplifying concepts for new products.
The most interesting project I've worked on was the creation of a large scale aviation concept at SR Technics, redefining the art of travel. My former boss believed in the idea of reducing the interior components and introducing repetitive furniture components. This is a similar approach to digital products. In the concept we challenged all the involved teams from mechanical engineering to production. The solution is a fresh approach for the non-innovative aviation world. The only thing which was missing in this project was the upfront research. Nobody ever asked VIP customers or conducted a deep research study on how they would like to fly in the future and what is the biggest pain paint buying, owning or renting an aircraft.
Link to project
What tools do you use?
Sketch for wireframes, prototyping and visual design
Sketch is my preferred tool to design digital products. It is extremely intuitive and very fast to build a prototype. I was introduced to it during my UX education and loved it from the first moment. I know that Adobe offers a similar tool, but I was persuaded immediately by Sketch. With all the plug in they offer I can build easily a click prototype.
I am also aware about Framer and Anima. Two plugins for Sketch to animate interactions without using code.
With Sketch I visual design guidelines and vector graphics for a team to work with.
Invision for prototyping and testing
I was also introduced to Invision at my education. I know there is Marvel out there and I follow their development, but I never really looked into it.
Sketch and Invision are best Buddys to work together. I can easily export my sketches, my wireframes or any other product into Invision and ask the team for feedback. The comment tool is very productive.
I also use it for click prototypes and tests. It is fast and readable and users can easily interact with it.
Invision also offers a tool with a sketching board. I use this boards very often to build a first information architecture or to sketch first ideas of the concept.
I use google docs to share information with the team. I build presentations to show user research, Google sheets for competitive analyses and evaluations and Google forms for user interviews and testings. I like the software because everybody can work remote and no information will be lost.
Depending on the customer it can be a problem to access Google docs, because of their company restrictions.
For a user testing I first prepare a research document in Google presentations. I want that everybody is aware, what we are testing and what is the goal of it. At the end I want to answer a question and come up with solutions.
I build a google form with warm up questions considering the product and industry, I introduce a scenario to the tester and I come up with 1-3 tasks for the user. After the test I will ask for their impressions.
The testers I find on testingtime.ch. It is a Swiss service for in-house or remote user testing. Very reliable. To record the sessions I usually use Skype and ask the user to share their desktop. Then I record everything with Quicktime. This process works for app testing and desktop testing. If I test an app, I can also use an app with the prototype and record the clicks in a quicktime movie.
I am still searching for the ultimate tool. What I miss is an all in one solution. Recording the user, recording the screen and showing where the user clicks.
What are some websites and apps whose design you love? Why do you like them?
Squarespace is a very good example of a user friendly CMS tool, also compared to Wordpress. Squarespace is easy to understand and offers and outstanding quality of design. You can not do everything with it, but you can do a lot in a stylish and fast way. You can set up a website in a few hours. I am also a big fan of their support. I am also always comparing to Wordpress. I never found a good support for Wordpress problems and I always had problems to select a template.
Squarespace offers all you need for a simple and user friendly website.
I work with Mac Computers since I am 14. In school, at work, in my studies. I never got tired of it. I experienced the difference between PC and Mac and I don’t understand the approach from Microsoft. How can you make a computer experience so painful?
Apple system software is beautiful and intuitive. Last year I installed at my mothers place a Mac mini and she is 72! She learned very fast and we don’t have to bother anymore about Virus software.
I am also a fan of iOS. Intuitive and simple. All I need for a software.
My personal principles
We are all the same. I don’t make a difference between a CEO and a cleaning lady, I treat every human being equal and respect my opposite, like I want to be respected.
UX is the psychology behind a product. UX Research is the base for outstanding products. If you understand the users problem you are able to create a product that sells.
Happy Users. To avoid unhappy users, it is mandatory to eliminate those problems in an early development process and to test new approaches constantly. This is a small part of a successful product.
Never stay in your box. Go out. Get feedback and embrace it. This makes a product better and a happy team and stakeholders.
The customer comes first. I want to offer my customer or users all possibilities and want to decide together which one would be the best solution in this moment, with possibilities for further product improvements.
How I think by Caroline, May 2018