UX Now: Balance, Intimacy and Speed

Posted by Kate Jurras on Thu, Mar 1, 2012

This is the first post in our UX and design blog series. Throughout the month of March we'll be featuring posts from some of Boston's most expert thought leaders, answering these questions: "How do you see the field of UX/design changing in the new technology landscape? What’s most important to know now?"

keith resized 600This post is by Keith LaFerriere, SVP, Director of User Experience at Arnold. He works across all accounts and is responsible for establishing the customer experience across disciplines including information architecture, discovery, usability and business requirements.



We have an ever-changing technology environment, yet many people seem to approach the different disciplines of user experience (UX) in an archaic method. Powerpoint, Illustrator and other basic tools are appropriate enemies of the state when it comes to wireframing, just as TAP, Axure and HTML5 are the sometimes misused, shiny objects of the new UX world.

A little balance would be nice.

describe the imageBut, to be quite frank, it’s understandably challenging if you’re stuck in the middle between boss and client, or agency and experience, or inexperience and confusion. As the world continues to understand what UX is, changes are coming from all sides. Creatives who understand and embrace deeper, more emotional connections to their designs are communicating directly with developers (who, in some cases, are themselves, which makes for great psych class fodder), and bosses are tossing around terms to employees as if they’ve invented the methods.

A little intimacy wouldn’t suck, either.

Intimate team structures that are a balanced mixture of skills will enhance the ideation and produce better results. Solo ideation is what you bring TO the team, not hide from it. Therefore, the many disciplines of UX are incorporated at each stage of a project to assist in the ideation, visualization and the execution of great ideas.  But the challenges associated with this include limited budgets and, more often, an unwillingness to change.

For the record, I embrace change and I’m a tool freak. Like many people who are in this profession, I love knowing the tools and products that help execute the ideas. However, it’s the ideation in an intimate team setting that gives us the real power, not the software.

And, of course, once your team has an idea, it’s paramount to capitalize on the momentum and get the idea into a “tangible” framework that’s both digestible and useful. Putting all your energy into countless iterations before you actually launch something is wasted time. Getting something out there. Creating something as soon as you have the idea figured out is the most critical thing you can do.

In other words, a little speed helps.

Rapid prototyping is one of the most essential sets of skills for any progressive UX operation. The ability to partner (again, in an intimate team setting) with designers and developers to quickly produce test scenarios and clickable/tapable prototypes will set apart the old versus the new.

Prototyping comes in many forms. Omnigraffle, Axure, and even Adobe Acrobat Pro can produce clickable prototypes without knowing any code. The needs should dictate the execution. If you’re trying to sell a mobile idea, it’s probably best to design a prototype using something that feels native on the device. This can be as high or low fidelity as you need it to be. One thing we use at Arnold Worldwide, and is incredibly useful for quick high-fidelity is the Touch Application Prototype for Fireworks. TAP is an extremely simple way to create basic tap and go responses for clients to get a sense of experiences as they occur on a mobile device without having to code or use a proxy to display a compiled app.

If you’re looking for a little more weight to your prototype that shows more native functionality, you can use a framework such as Sensa Touch in combination with PhoneGap which currently supports multiple platforms.

The new UX is about balance, intimacy and speed, and it’s only going to get faster and better from here. Hang on and enjoy the ride.