Friday, May 30, 2008

Explaining UX to 3rd graders

Here's my presentation. It turned out that the biggest challenge was forcing myself to leave out all the things that someone needs to know to REALLY understand user experience and only leave in the few things that a 3rd grader would be interested in... and can understand in 20 minutes.

I'm not sure the prez will make complete sense without my talking points, but I think the flow is fairly self-explanatory.

I gave the presentation this morning and it went really well. Not surprisingly, the idea of designing video games was a big hit with the kids.

BTW, "Tyler" is my son, "Ms. Stephenson" is his teacher, and "Easley" is the name of his elementary school.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Abject terror!

I'm still not sure how it happened, but somehow I found myself volunteering to go and tell my son's 3rd grade class about what I do for a living. Why did I inflict this on myself? How do you explain user experience to a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds? I can't explain it to adults. My mother still doesn't know what I do for a living. Heck, at this point in my career I'm not sure that "user experience" is a big part of what I do... I'm more of an "Opportunistic Firefighter". There's a bunch of fires raging all over the place... far more than once person can tackle... so I look for ones where we have the best chance to put the fire out, then I wade in with my firehouse and see what we can do. Yes, I concentrate on "user experience" related fires, but as I've mentioned before, if you squint enough, everything is user experience-related.

But I don't think I'm going to explain to them what I really do for a living... that would be far too boring and I wouldn't want to embarrass my son that badly. Instead I think I'll explain something about what a software designer does. These kids are computer savvy, so I think they'll understand the concept that a human being somewhere has to create the websites they visit and games they play. And I think they'll like the part about talking to the human beings that will use the software before it's actually done - game testing is something they "get".

But it's going to be a real challenge to keep the conversation at the right level while still doing a reasonably good job of explaining what design is all about. I think I need some good analogies (like building a house). And I need to avoid completely geeking out (which is an obvious challenge for me) and using professional jargon that they won't understand. It's easy to forget how useful jargon is... but try living without it for an hour.

If I come up with a presentation that isn't awful, maybe I'll post it here via Slideshare so people can make fun of it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Minimal personas

I wonder if there is some minimum set of information needed before you can really call something a "persona".

Do you need a "person name"? Do you need a photo? Do you need any non-domain personal information?

Obviously one of the challenges with personas is that they can be rejected by uber-geek developers on the grounds that they are egregiously cheesy. One way to avoid that is to remove the cheese. Replace the person name with a job title. Don't mention anything about how many cats they have. Include personal information that is directly related to the design of the product, like, "So-and-so clocks out at 5:00 sharp and whatever he's working on gets forwarded to the next shift," because obviously that might impact how easy it is to forward work.

But one of the goals of personas is to ease communication and make them more memorable by talking about a "real" person. Without the cheese, can this be done? Is it still a persona?