Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

19Jul0

Job Posting: UX Designer & Visual Designer

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I'd like to forward two job postings by Sooriaraj Jeyaraman who is trying to fill two positions for the design team of the new Location Analytics initiative.

Feel free to submit your resume directly to Sooriaraj Jeyaraman. Thanks!

User Experience Designer

Overview / Job Description

Esri, the leader in geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping technology, is looking for an exceptional user experience designer.

Join a dynamic and energetic team working to bring Esri mapping and location analytics to the world of Business Analytics. Working alongside a focused team of product managers, developers and other user experience designers you will be responsible for setting new standards for the way users visualize their data on a map and perform analytics with maps.

The ideal candidate will be a practical-minded perfectionist who has the creative skills to grasp & simplify complex business processes through the creation of extremely intuitive user interfaces. While these are business systems, the user experience must be as easy and intuitive as the best consumer experiences.

You must be a natural collaborator who is used to develop designs in a team environment with multiple stakeholders. A passion for elegant design and incorporating new and innovative technologies is a must. Exceptional attention to detail and a good eye for aesthetics are crucial.

Requirements / Skills:

  • Strong, demonstrated understanding of User-centered design methodology
  • Experience in utilizing user research to drive design decisions
  • Solid skills in interaction design, user research, conceptual development, prototyping and usability testing
  • Experience in creating process flows, wireframes and mockups to effectively conceptualize and present detailed interaction behaviors
  • Experience in creating detailed user interface specifications
  • A strong working knowledge and experience in using tools such as Balsamiq, Axure, OmniGraffle, Photoshop/Illustrator, PowerPoint, Flash Catalyst at various design stages
  • Worked and designed Desktop, Web and Mobile applications & solutions
  • Experience with usability assessment techniques including usability heuristics, contextual enquiry and conducting lab-based usability testing
  • Worked in a cross functional team environment in an agile development process
  • Handled multiple projects at the same time
  • Experience collaborating and working closely with the UX team members.
  • Experience communicating effectively to the stakeholders
  • Experience in creatively solving complex problems within aggressive deadlines
  • A portfolio demonstrating past work experience and relevant User-Centered Design solutions

Experience:

  • A Master’s degree in Human Factors, Human Computer Interaction, Usability Engineering, Cognitive Psychology or such related field
  • Minimum two years of work experience in user experience design

Visual Designer

Overview / Job Description

Esri, the leader in geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping technology, is looking for an exceptional visual designer.

Join a dynamic and energetic team working to bring Esri mapping and location analytics to the world of Business Analytics. Working alongside a focused team of product managers, developers and other user experience designers you will be responsible for setting new standards for the way users visualize their data on a map and perform analytics with maps.

The ideal candidate will be a practical-minded perfectionist who has the creative skills to grasp & simplify complex business processes through the creation of extremely intuitive user interfaces and engaging visual and motion designs. While these are business systems, the user experience must be as easy and intuitive as the best consumer experiences.

You must be a natural collaborator who is used to develop designs in a team environment with multiple stakeholders. A passion for elegant design and incorporating new and innovative technologies is a must. Exceptional attention to detail and a good eye for aesthetics are crucial.

Requirements / Skills:

  • Strong, demonstrated understanding of User-centered design methodology
  • Experience in utilizing user research to drive design decisions
  • Exceptional skills in Photoshop, Illustrator and other layout and design tools.
  • Knowledge and experience using animation software such as Flash and/or After Effects
  • Good general understanding of web and mobile platforms and experience producing designs and assets for them
  • Excellent understanding of general design principles and practices
  • Ability to create balanced, well formed layouts in print and interactive projects
  • Strong background in typography and color theory
  • Familiarity and facility with icon creation and icon systems
  • Top-notch communication skills
  • Efficient time management
  • Strong design portfolio that shows great potential

Experience:

  • Bachelor's degree in graphic design, web development or an equivalent combination of education and experience
  • 1-2 years experience in professional interactive design capacity
13Mar1

Proposing: Feature Spotlight

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Feature Spotlight

Feature Spotlight

Let's say you want to highlight a feature on the map, e.g. a user has searched for a landmark, typically one would place a marker on the map and zoom to that location. The downside is that the user still needs to 'search' for the visual clue (the marker) on the map.

I think the missing link here is to 'black out' the whole map and only highlighting the area surrounding the landmark. This provides a natural focus on the feature and is a really elegant alternative I believe.

Optionally one could use the modal area to add a description or even photos (get creative for yourself). And yes, leave the marker also for browsers that don't support CSS3.

The code is as simple as could be, here is the CSS class called 'spotlight':

    .spotlight {
        display: block;
        position: absolute;
        top: 0px;
        left: 0px;
        width: 100%;
        height: 100%;
	z-index: 100;
        border: 0;
        pointer-events: none;
        /* this is the sweet spot */
        background-image: -webkit-gradient(radial, 50% 50%, 0, 50% 50%, 100, from(rgba(0,0,0,0)), to (rgba(0,0,0,0.8)), color-stop(0.8, rgba(0,0,0,0)));
        background-image: -moz-radial-gradient(50% 50% 45deg,circle closest-side,transparent 0,transparent 100px,rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8) 120px);
    }

And here the HTML defining the spotlight container:

<span id="spot" class="spotlight"></span>

Implementation inspired by CSS3 Spotlight.

1Aug0

Highlights of Week 30/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

19Sep0

Highlights of Week 37/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg

30Sep0

Integrating Prototyping Into Your Projects

Posted by Michael Gaigg

This article was inspired by Integrating Prototyping Into Your Design Process - Using appropriate fidelity for the situation by Fred Beecher which I extend by the following:

Prototyping needs to be iterative throughout the project!

Goal of Prototyping

Prototyping is not only a design tool but a research and communication tool as well.

  • It should assist in optimizing the main task (top tasks) and validating its/their efficiency.
  • Furthermore this should not add cost to the project but reduce project expenses while increasing ROI.

So the goal is to use different levels of prototype fidelity to incrementally identify and enhance the user's task(s).

Ideally this happens linear (increase visual fidelity as you add functional fidelity) but typically it is bent to either side (see Figure 1) where more emphasize on

  • visual fidelity can be beneficial for marketing purposes or
  • functional fidelity can assist earlier user feedback trough user testing.
Prototyping in the context of your project

Figure 1: Prototyping in the context of your project.

Integration into your project

Regardless of the project approach you take it will boil down into the fundamental project management phases of Requirements, Design, Implementation (and possibly others). Prototyping should not be solely perceived as a method useful during Design, it is essential during all 3 (or more) phases starting as early as Requirements phase.

I suggest the following approach:

  1. Low-fidelity prototyping (paper / digital sketch)

    1. Create paper prototypes or digital sketches
    2. Design navigation architecture (workflow)
      1. Review with client
      2. User testing (optional)
      3. Iterate (until happy)
      4. Revise into 2
  2. Medium-fidelity prototyping (simple HTML)

    1. Simple HTML prototyping (maybe even black and white)
    2. Proof basic workflow and important interactions
      1. Review with client
      2. Iterate
      3. Revise into 3
  3. High-fidelity prototyping (Enhanced HTML)
    1. Enhance HTML prototype (links and basic functionality)
    2. Settle on design (including corporate design, basic artwork)
      1. Review with client
      2. Iterate
      3. Revise into 4
  4. Start 'real' implementation

Implementation Effort

Each prototype (digital sketch, simple HTML, advanced HTML based on simple) should not take more than 40 hours of pure development (not calculating initial meetings and communication and possible variations based on project size) plus 80 hours reviews and iterating with client. Sounds impossible? Think twice. It is so much easier to modify a sketch than programming HTML. The 'real' implementation will be built upon a solid code foundation with a grown-up design already - voila!

Can I skip a prototype?

Yes, obviously you can. But it comes with a cost later on because you miss crucial information from the earlier phase and it is more expensive to implement modifications.

Technical considerations

The argument I hear most often is that 'prototypes' are wasted time/money because they get trashed anyway. This is absolutely not true! Identifying problems early almost always saves money later on, you don't find anything out until you start showing it to people, enhancing the quality of the product will help money flow into your pocket once deployed and most important, prototypes don't necessarily need to and should not be trashed.

Low fidelity prototypes can be more than just ‘paper’, this could be digital wireframes that look like sketches, e.g. Microsoft offers software that tie sketches (SketchFlow) directly into UI design (Expression Blend) and subsequently into development (Visual Studio) - check out the WebsiteSpark Program for almost free licenses.

Don't bend too much!

Danger! Don't bend the curve from Figure 1 too much otherwise you end up with

  • a highly functional 'prototype' but without design, i.e. without visual clues whether your client/users will like it (buy it) and without validation that you got your information architecture right OR
  • a highly visual 'prototype' that looks sharp, sexy and slick but cannot be used and lack usability ("we just installed the app and now our users complain they [...]" - substitute the appropriate phrase for yourself 😉

Proof-of-concept

Creating medium- to high-fidelity prototypes can be considered proof-of-concept and can be beneficial to or sometimes even required by your project. Looking at Figure 1 that would mean to move their respective dots from Design/Implementation to an earlier phase.

What are your experiences?

Do you use / re-use multiple prototypes within your projects? Do your project structures support prototyping? To which extent?

7Oct0

What is Accessibility?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

The purpose of web pages is to interactively display information. The Hypertext Markup Language was designed to encode meaning rather than appearance. Therefore

Accessibility is the extent of access to information on a webpage through user agents (e.g. browsers, screen readers,…) which translate HTML into hypertext structures (links, headers, tables, forms,…) in order to give the users a surplus value.

“As long as a page is coded for meaning, it is possible for alternative browsers to present that meaning in ways that are optimized for the abilities of individual users and thus facilitate the use of the Web by disabled users. Those disabilities are:

  • Visual Disabilities
  • Auditory Disabilities
  • Motor Disabilities
  • Cognitive Disabilities” [NIELSEN96]

Since Web pages are highly visual and interactive the most affected groups as far as accessibility is concerned are the visual disabled, i.e. blind users or users with other visual disabilities like color blindness and users with motor disabilities using alternative input devices or sometimes even just the keyboard instead of the mouse.

Everybody benefits!

In the same way a sidewalk curb is necessary for wheelchair accessibility it also benefits parents with strollers, children with rollerblades and elderly persons trying to cross the street. The same is true for web pages. Designing for accessiblity will not only benefit users with disabilities but will also increase your:

  • Market Share Benefits
    • SEO (search engine optimization)
    • Repurpose
    • Literacy
    • Bandwidth
  • Technical Efficiency Benefits
    • Maintenance
    • Server Bandwidth