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Design Jam London 1 – #djl1

30 Nov

Last Saturday, 20th Nov 2010, we attended the first DesignJam event in London. Design Jams are one or two day events that bring participants from a range of disciplines to solve a design or UX (user experience) problem.

Design Jam London 1 #djl1
Photo by Benjamim Ellis

DesignJam London #1 was a one day event. Fifty participants were split up into teams of five to solve the task. This same task was given to every group and was to be completed within 8 hours. See the day schedule.

The task: “What is the ideal interface to track & trace relevant online content, visited across multiple devices and locations? Lets explore how users can quickly and effectively access web content, that they have seen via multiple devices and locations…” (See full task details)

Our group: http://www.designjams.org/wiki/OPTIMATES

For more information about the DesignJam London 1 see the wiki which includes teams profiles and workings.

Our views on DesignJam London 1:

We attended this event because we wanted to know more about UX techniques. James wanted to understand the steps from ideation to wireframes that UX professionals would work through. Mariana was interested in working collaboratively with other designers and learn from UX professionals.

Brainstorming post-it notes on a white board
Brainstorming by our group (Optimates).


An insight to some of the things we learnt:

  • Using Personas: Most groups were using user stories or personas. This technique isn’t something new to us but it did remind us of how powerful this technique can be, at giving direction to the early phases of a project. Having said that, you shouldn’t solely rely on user personas, because they are fictional caricature of your users. One of the questions raised there was when should we use personas.
  • Research via Social Media: One of the groups used twitter to gather users input before they had even started brainstorming and researching, giving them direction and effectively increasing the amount of people collaborating.
  • Mental Note Cards: Another team used Stephen Anderson’s Mental notes cards, which aid the brainstorming process. The cards remind you of psychological pitfalls that can influence the direction of a project. This is something we would like to have known more about.
  • Time Management: After the first team brainstorming and research presentations, we felt our team took too long brainstorming. To avoid this, we should have created a schedule, setting times and SMART goals.
  • Explaining ideas effectively: Our team had some great creative ideas. Although we thought we had the same picture in our heads, when it came to producing individual wireframes we could see how different our understandings were.
  • Knowledge of functionality helps: Knowing how to build certain functionalities can help when we are discussing ideas because we can have a better view on what is possible. Plus, while designing wireframes we can add more explanatory details of how things will function. Both of this points allow you to produce better user experience and usability. This leads us to think that developers and designers should collaboratively work together on usability and user experience processes.

What we thought Design Jam could have done better…

  • Making the Teams: The way professionals were grouped could have been better. In our group, for example, we didn’t have any UX experts, which would have helped. Maybe suggesting groups before the event would have been better.
  • Mentors: The mentors chatting to the teams as the event went on was a good idea, however, our time with them was limited. We would have liked to have spent more time and learnt more from them. Maybe a 30min talk in the middle of the day about specific techniques that UX professionals use on a daily basis.

Let’s do a DesignJam Oxford and/or Bristol (UK)!

That Saturday was certainly inspiring. Even for us who had to wake up before 6am on a Saturday and arrive home at 3am, we would definitely do it again, and we will. We are trying to bring it to Oxford and/or Bristol in the next year. So, if you have interest in taking part or helping organising it in those areas please get in touch (twitter @desdevusability, message or email) and we’ll let you know when this event will happen.

Thank you to all suporters

By James and Mariana

Click here to read this post

16 Jul


This  post only to make a quick question:

Why people still think now a days that it is necessary to name links “click here”?

Shouldn’t the “click” be expressed graphically?

Buttons, underlining, colours, some effects… there are so many ways and conventions to show that a word, an image, a button is a link (it is clickable) that I wonder why would it be necessary to use the wording “click here”.

Very often the use of “click here” just increase the number of words without adding any meaning to the action of the link.

If you have, for example “click here to add a comment” the user will need to read the sentence, think and then click. While “add a comment” just needs the user to scan it and they will know what that link is about. It has been proved by research that users scan a page (they don’t read a page) and then stop only in places they are interested in (if you are reading this post, for example, you scanned the blog, scanned the title and went deeper into this post because it interested you).

All of this sound quite obvious, but I’ve had some discussions recently where people supported the argument for “click here” that really surprised me. For example saying “users won’t get it”. Won’t they?!

After reading the book “Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug (click here to see what book I am talking about) every time I’m designing a button or another kind of link, I remember the point about call to action. The call to action on a button should be on what the user will receive by clicking that link.

As also mentioned by Jacob Nielsen in 2005:

“Explain what users will find at the other end of the link (…) Don’t use “click here” or other non-descriptive link text.”

(Nielsen, J. on Ten Top Design mistakes, 2005)

One good example showed by Krug was this image below:

The window which has the buttons “Don’t save”, “cancel”, “save” require less thinking because they are self-explanatory. It is easier for the user to make a choice by just scanning that window. The other window requires the user to think.

Having said all that, I would like to hear from you:

Can you think about any situation where adding the wording “click here” is appropriate or necessary?

Hello World – A brief introduction

11 Jul

Hello there!

We are starting this blog to share with you our views on web design, usability and web development.

We are: James Morris, a web developer (BSc in Web Computing) and Mariana Mota, an interactive designer (MA in Interactive Media and BA in Graphic Design) who share the same interests.

On this blog we will talk about usability mainly, but will also cover issues on design and development. Our aim is to discuss, analyse and bring forward our thoughts and ideas on usability. Not only using our opinions but what we read, research and experience in everyday working life. We may also talk about what our professional peers, leaders on this topic and users are discussing.

We believe that these disciplines are complementary and can overlap. Usability is a prime example of this.

We hope you like this blog and we are looking forward to hearing your thoughts! 🙂

James Morris &
Mariana Mota