UX Mindset

Lately, I have been trying to embrace a UX mindset.

I feel that the concept of User Experience is cutting edge for many and that a few organizations, though recognizing what it is, have yet to fully understand how to integrate it as part of their process.  In my team for instance, we don’t have an in house UX designer although we may be familiar of what UX is all about.  A lot of the things we do in-house are part and parcel of what a UX designer does, except, we don’t call it that. After all, it’s all about the outcome – whether it was good or bad user experience.

We use wireframes, do stand-up meetings to wrestle with design questions, review design comps and iterate the work which goes through A/B testing.  The product owner participates by receiving a piece of that iteration which is followed by their feedback.  The process is straightforward and releases are constant – as is in Agile processes.

Design however, takes careful planning, but a lot of organizations would much rather get past this as soon as possible.  In a UX mindset, design is just as important as the actual development.  It’s important for the entire organization to recognize the value of UX in each step.

Questions to ask before developing a mobile app

Startup culture is catching on back home in the Philippines.  At least this is what I picked up after a few conversations with friends.

Today, someone asked me about some ideas of what it would take to startup an app development business.  I haven’t given much thought to the business part (maybe, I will write about it later) but I do work for one and I put down some thoughts on what it even takes to create an app.

So below are some very basic questions to ask at its inception.

What is the app?

Needless to say, an idea of what you’re making is always a good place to start.  While you’re at it, identify what kind of app were you thinking of.  Is it a game?  A social media channel?  An app for a business? Apps may not inherently be useful  or “purpose-driven” but it doesn’t hurt to know how users are going to end up using it.

Who is the app for?

Also basic.  Now that you know what the app is all about, time to ask who it is for.  Is there one type of user or multiple ones?  A lot of apps are designed to have multiple types of users in mind, with different permissions and capabilities.  In UX design, I believe these are called user personas but we’ll talk about that later.

What goes on?

Now that you have defined what the app is and who it is for, you now have to start thinking of the type of functions that go into it and determine what drives these functions.  There are functions that are natively developed in the app but there are also those that may require third-party services.  The following are some examples I can think of:

The services you use like the one you use for login (if the app needs any).  Database storage is always a good question if you are dealing with logins because…where the heck do you store all of that user data? A client-side database, perhaps?  What if you want to introduce the ability to login with your social media profile?  That may require building in an API to make the third-party service communicate with your app.  Introducing ads to your app may also be developed both natively or through a third-party service.

Content management.  Is your content static or dynamic?  Will the app require internet connection to populate content or is it a pretty slideshow/info-sheet on your phone that you can show off without connectivity?  If you are developing for a business, who is going to manage the content?  If the business owner wants to be more hands-on with content, perhaps it is necessary to empower them with the system and tools for it.  Examples of content management systems include WordPress, Nuxeo, Salesforce, Contentful – to name a few.

Analytics.  This one is tricky because it will depend on the analytics tool that you plan on using for the app.  Most likely, the tools used to implement analytics on an app are NOT similar to the ones used on a website.  An app behaves differently from a website (unless that is the kind of app you are developing, which begs the question – is it worth it?).

Side-note: It may seem irresistible to some to create apps for the purpose of displaying the same website content.  How does that make people’s lives easier?  Why do you want to spend time and money creating an app that reiterates an existing website?  That’s what responsive designs are for.  Consider an app as an entirely separate entity.

What is it going to look like?

In other words, design.  Is there a brand you’re trying to build into the app?  Maybe there are assets that need to be incorporated to create consistency with that brand.  Of course, design also depends on your audience.  Is it a corporate audience or an artistic/indie crowd? We’re all about flat design nowadays.

The end.

Focusing with the end in mind might sound Machiavellian to you but it really is for the good of your development team to know the scope of work involved for the creation of the app.  There are various methodologies out there for the development process. In our office, we have adopted the Agile approach.  From the onset, break down the development to scalable tasks and know where it ends.  KNOW WHERE IT ENDS.  Or more importantly, define it.  The desire to introduce new functions in the process of development may seem irresistible at times but it is important to maintain a scope and defer these new awesome ideas to a later iteration of the app.  That is what updates are for.  For now, stick to the basics.

I could be more comprehensive but I’ll start writing my notes here for days to come.

Productivity tools

I wrote on my very first post that writing is a constant struggle for me.  Knowing sometimes that I am unproductive causes me a great deal of anxiety.  Here is a list of some of my staple productivity tools.

This post will be brief since I am writing this before bedtime.

Notes, notes, notes. My notes are so decentralized it is hard to tell which one is the “Mother ship”.  I think the closest thing I have to that is Evernote.  It used to be OneNote, but it is too entrenched in to my Windows OS that I find it too out of the way (fact: Yes, I am a PC user though I work with Macs on a daily basis).  I also like how my iphone is synchronized with the notes I have at work via icloud and this is a great way for me to write notes on the fly.  I also have countless notebooks, post its, index cards and receipts (the back re-purposed as a note space).  These help me make lists about my plans for the following day, things to buy, things to do and of course, ideas.

Sketchbook. I just like having one around as it gives me a great deal of comfort.  As a kid, I spent hours sketching away at the back of my mom’s office spreadsheets.  Sometimes I draw when inspiration strikes.  But I admit these days, I am more literary/auditory than I am visual.

Ipad. I fell in love with the ipad ever since the first one came out and have utilized this for some of my writing. In my line of work, I like to download new apps and study how they work and what the user experience is like.  An ipad is likewise handy for quick inquiries.  No need to load up my computer to look up something that’s bugging me.  It helps me work remote a lot. It’s a powerful tool.

Nothing is more awesome than sleepyti.me. This website is possibly the most useful of all.  This works based on the principle that the best time to wake up is between sleeping cycles.  Just put in a time you wish to wake up and this will tell you the optimal time to fall asleep.  I think of this as an important productivity tool as nothing beats a fresh mind from taking on the day.

Earphones – Like I said, I am think of myself more a literary/auditory kind of learner.  This is also the most optimal way for me to learn.  I take my earphones to go everywhere so I could simply plug it in to any device to listen to educational podcasts on the go.  I also use this to listen to brown noise when I need a buzz of concentration.  I use something really basic since I lose and break earphones a lot. The quality isn’t that bad and is very comfortable to wear. I think this is the one I have which I bought at Office Depot for $12.

Okay, that’s it for now.  Until next time.

A Weekend in Mexico

If life was just a weekend in Mexico.

It would consist of…a night of cheap booze, subculture sightings and drunk friends at downtown Tijuana.

A road trip down the peninsula heading to Ensanada, through its perilous roads but with unforgettable views of the Baja coast, inland valleys and Mexico’s well-kept secret – its wine trail.

The view from our inexpensive hotel room.

The best m@t#@!&ing fish tacos you’ll ever have is down the street tended by Grandmothers.  And of course…

SUSHI.

The blog revival dilemma

For those of us who fall behind updating their blog – this post is for you.

There are many reasons why this happens.  Life, as they say, catches up with you.  That goes for those of us who have made a distinction between life online and offline – it is hard enough to keep up with one and more so both.

But for some of us, we are simply bombarded by the internet.  In the United States, the moment you look up is the moment you pocket your phone.   If you’re not on your phone you are looking at a larger screen to transact your everyday business there.  The lack of online presence is hardly the reason why one’s frequency of writing has dwindled.  It may even have caused its deterrence.  No one can deny the convenience of transmitting our thoughts thru short form social media channels like an instagram photo, a tweet or a Facebook status.  The validation of our ideas and the interactions we get from it are now attainable with minimal effort.

It’s no easy feat to capture an audience with a blog posts more so keep them coming back.  Everyone is used to scrolling down a feed (our lack of control of its algorithm another contentious topic altogether) and a headline that explains the gist.  Who has time to read?

More importantly, who has time to write?

Maybe you ran out of things to talk about or have simply failed to catch that moment on text.  A struggle a writer faces every day is to write something worthy of being written for you and your chosen audience.

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Per my experience, it’s hard to get me to sit down to write at all even if I wanted to.  Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance which is an internal contradiction that causes a great deal of stress.  I want to revive my blog and yet…I have convinced myself not to care too.

When I do find myself writing, I struggle to even get it published.  I am my own worst critic.  Just take a look at the posts that I have started and have trouble finishing.

Forever pending

Forever pending

It is a long road ahead.  Watch this space for more posts.  When I get to twenty, I’ll let the rest of the world know about this blog.  That’s a promise.