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Episode #85 UI14 Session Sampler: Leah Buley’s A UX Team of One.

November 11, 2009  ·  15 minutes

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An audio selection from Leah Buley's A UX Team of One.

Show Notes

If you didn't attend the User Interface Conference this year, you may have missed the buzz over Leah Buley's session entitled "How to be a User Experience Team of One". Attendees loved it. Leah gave them tips and techniques used by top user experience teams that any UXer can use in a small team or an unsupportive environment.

Below are some notes I took during Leah's session and slides from this portion of the talk. The slides here are shrunk to fit our blog, but the materials on the disc are full-sized PDFs suitable for printing.

Leah began with telling the story of her transition to a new job at Adaptive Path. Up until then, she had been a UX team of one at a financial firm. Her time was mostly spent walled up in a cubicle, headphones on, sketching and otherwise prepping wireframes on the computer, based on up-front meetings determining business requirements. After a few weeks she would emerge from her design cocoon with designs ready to be shown in a dog-and-pony show-style.

Her first day at Adaptive Path was radically different. She was handed paper and a Sharpie and, along with a couple of other designers, was asked to tackle a problem by generating several solutions, collaboratively, on the spot. She was initially flush with panic. They didn't teach this at library school!

After a short while she warmed up to the process. To get to the quality ideas, you first must generate a lot of ideas, and be OK with many of them being subpar and others simply being tossed aside.

Now instead of jumping to the finish, as she had at her previous job, she was exploring more ideas more efficiently with techniques you can use with or without collaborating designers.

Leah used the idea of redesigning the digital invitation and RSVP service to demonstrate some of the techniques she learned after joining Adaptive Path. (For the purposes of this blog post, we'll be covering just the first part of the brainstorming process)

She avoided the computer. Computers can lock you into only one idea and you often get sucked down by minutia you shouldn't be addressing at this stage.

She started with a "6-up" - a single sheet of paper with six, smallish, blank browser viewports and a pen. This allowed for 6 different ideas of how to solve one problem, say the eVite landing page. One or two ideas came easily. How do you push through to the next ideas?

[Download a PDF file of Leah's 6-up template] Leah uses a couple of so-called "lightweight conceptual frameworks" to help push more ideas out of her head. A "Spectrum" is one such framework. A spectrum is a range from two opposing points. For example, what would the landing page at look like if it was intended solely for a first-timer? What would it look like if it was solely for a long-time user of the service? What would pages on the spectrum in between those to points look like? What characteristic would they exhibit?

None of the sketches you make on the spectrum may be the right solution. But that's OK, because we're not drawing solutions. We're drawing ideas. This framework gets you to try ideas you might have avoided before. Now you have a pile of ideas to pick from. Perhaps the best design features aspects from several of these thumbnail sketches.

You can hear the rest of Leah's talk plus the other seven speakers and Jared Spool's keynote presentation on the UI14 proceedings disc. The disc is loaded with over 12 hours of audio recordings, all the handouts from the Featured Talks and the presentation slides from the 8 full-day workshops. Order the proceedings disc by November 20, 2009 to guarantee your set and get the lowest price.