Thinking Out of the Box

“Project Scoping” or how to start projects RIGHT

Tobias Gölzer

Project Scoping Workshop

Prolog

Scenario 1 – The Swiss Army Knife

Monday morning, 08:30, a meeting room somewhere on the third floor of an office complex. At the table: several developers, project managers, marketing representatives, and two UX specialists. Their budget for the next three months is secured. The goal of the workshop is to define the first work packages of a long-term plan to revise their entire software and make it more user-friendly. During the workshop, it turns out that there are four work packages in total, with each attending project manager assuming that his or her package has priority. The result is a long dispute which ends in the decision to tackle all packages simultaneously. After burning through the first budgets, the big disappointment sets in – nothing has been finished, no noticable progress compared to the status quo has been achieved. The project is therefore stopped and postponed to an uncertain date.

Scenario 2 – The Top Secret Project

Tuesday afternoon, 14:30, the CEO’s office. In addition to three close confidants of the management, the head of the development team and two representatives of an external UX agency are present. They are planning to develop a new software in the next two years. The project team is confident that the software will be a resounding success, which is why the budget for the entire development has already been assured. The software is developed in-house and after two years, a creatively sophisticated software that has been extensively tested and approved by internal staff is launched. The potential customers did not know about the new development so far, because the management did not want anybody to know something about the innovative product before release.

One year later: The software has been available for 12 months, but only sold once – to a subsidiary. Two years of development have been in vain. The UX agency gets removed from the project, as it has apparently not provided an exciting enough experience for potential users.

Projects like those two exaggerated scenarios are common. A motivated start, a great team – but a frustrating result nobody can figure out. But why is that? What can be done to avoid such situations of frustration and, above all, money sinks?

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UX & Game Thinking: Game Changer for the Car Industry?

Roman Rackwitz

Podcast "Der Flaneur Digital Business People" VisualOn December, 12th 2018, I listened to an interview with Dr. Carsten Breitfeld, a world-renowned expert in electric mobility, and the co-founder & CEO of the company BYTON which aims at turning the car into a next-generation smart device. He was a guest at the ‘Der Flaneur’ Podcast (German only), live from the Websummit conference 2018 in Lisbon.

Breitfeld spent the past 20 years at BMW, leading a range of key engineering divisions within chassis development, powertrain development and corporate strategy. Before joining BYTON, Dr. Carsten Breitfeld was Vice President and Head of Vehicle Program i8 of BMW Group.

Listening to the podcast (unfortunately available only in German) you can see his vision of cars becoming basically smart devices on wheels, platforms for services and more. Because as cars become more and more autonomous, people sitting inside of these cars want to be entertained and engaged. This is also where BYTON wants to earn its bigger share of revenue: with services instead of car sales.

Ex BMW Entwickler des Byton startup

Dr. Carsten Breitfeld

 

 

 

“As cars become smarter and autonomous we need a new kind of user experience. Because the question is what are people doing inside the car while they are commuting.”

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How to specify animations – Do’s and Dont’s

Marius Hubertus

Motion design, the animation of digital content, has become an essential part of our modern interaction with computers. Wherever you look in modern applications, text boxes fly around, elements pop up and menus shrink as you scroll. UX designers have long recognized animations as an essential building block to increase usability and delight the user.

As a visual designer, I have been exploring this topic for several years now. In my personal experience, the transfer from design to development has proven to be critical. As it turned out, it is not so easy to translate the abstract idea of a movement in a designer’s head into an actual application. The form of transfer and type of specification heavily influence efficiency of implementation. An inefficient translation can be frustrating for both the developers and designers involved. How can this be avoided?

Position transition during motion design of animations

 

Different designers work differently in integrating motion design into their work. Besides the variety of tools (e.g. After Effects, Protio.io, Kite Composer, Framer, Flinto, Principle), the output can vary from loose scribbles to storyboards to frame-accurate animatics. In order to facilitate the communication between development and design despite all the variables, I present some guidelines and basic considerations for the efficient specification of animations in the UX process.

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AR and Big Data supported capacity planning in HR: DeepTap

Thomas Schweiß

An example of capacity planning with the help of AR

The subject of capacity planning is often a challenging task in medium-sized or large companies. With a growing number of employees, it can become difficult at some point to distribute them effectively and above all efficiently to task areas or projects. For such a planning a lot of data is used (“Big Data”), which is often difficult to visualize and interpret.

We at Centigrade have been working with new technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and other forms of 3D visualization for quite some time. This opens up completely new fields of application. One of these new fields of application could be the personnel capacity planning with the support of Augmented Reality, or in a further expansion stage also the planning of machines and material. By extending the data visualization from a 2D representation to 3D projections in real space, completely new interaction and design concepts can be applied, allowing the user to explore the data in a natural way. This could not only be more enjoyable, but it would also make more efficient data analysis possible. It would be particularly exciting to also feed the usage data of such planning rounds into the Big Data pool and thus to arrive at predictive capacity planning over time with ever better suggestions. However, the use of the still quite new technology raises questions:

  • Can an AR application, unlike conventional desktop solutions, provide more effective capacity planning and efficiently support the HR department?
  • What is the added value in terms of usability and utility when using such an application?
  • How efficient is this in its handling?
  • How do users rate the user experience?

As part of my master thesis I developed a holographic application in the last half year to find answers to these questions – DeepTap. A project report.

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Save your project idea’s living space

Miriam Julius
Miriam Julius
October 2nd, 2018

What’s with all the hype around AirBnB? Booking.com makes it much more effortless to book your stay and if you are lucky, you can get some insane discounts.

Both apps, or the portals behind them, serve the same user need: „I would like to stay overnight at a foreign location“. However, both have a wildly different mission statement and completely different user interfaces. Resulting from that, they have defined their focus areas totally different. UX Designers who are working with Lean UX or the Centigrade-approach Continuous UX are consistently building their user experience concepts based on a suitable Persona. But if both apps are building on top of the same user need, how can they be so different from each other?

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What everyday life teaches us about UX or: how I learned to see the (digital) world with different eyes

Saskia Hehl
Saskia Hehl
August 30th, 2018

Do you remember the moment you first realized that there is something like user experience? Probably not. Only looking back I realized that I already suffered from bad product UX as a young kid. And I bet you did too. I remember big fights with my family members: before every household had an obligatory flat-rate, internet use had to be fought for way harder than today. As soon as I had landed ten minutes of precious surfing time, siblings shouted into the computer room that they had to make the most important phone call of their lives – now! Getting offline for a phone call – definitely very bad UX. I remember my deflation: how can be a cool new thing like the internet be so unfun at times?

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Is it enough to create a Design System?

Günter Pellner

This article won’t cover the basics of Design Systems like “What is a Design System?”, “How does it work?” or “Do I need it?” (to which the answer is “Yes”). It will also not cover tool specific topics (Carbon, KSS, Pattern Lab, Sketch, AdobeXD, Invision, UXPin… it is too much). It is a fairly broad overview of the challenges companies have to face, when they try to install a Design System for the very first time.

The main question we usually get from clients, regarding Design Systems, is something like: “How do we create a Design System?”. Or: “We want you to create a Design System for us”. But actually, what this means for us as a service provider is:

“Is creating a Design System enough?” The short answer is: No.

Congratulations, you don’t have to read any further. Now you can go outside and enjoy life. If you don’t like to be outside or if you want to dig deeper, here is the longer answer:

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Spoilt for choice – comparing four concept tools

Laura Festl

When a small concept turns into a hundred wireframes that quickly turn into a prototype, sometimes the question arises too late: Which tool would have been the right one? In our work at Centigrade, we often consider which tools we can best use to create concepts. As always, this depends on many factors and we decide on different criteria in every project. First, the context matters: Will the concept be directly implemented? Are specifications to be written? Do we do the visual design for the concept or do we hand it off directly to the customer? The decision could also hinge on whether a click prototype should be built, whether a usability test takes place or whether animated transitions between the individual wireframes/screens are prioritized for the project from the very beginning. Finally, customers also may have preferences for tools that they use themselves.

The bottom line is: there is no general recommendation for a particular tool. Still, I want to break down what advantages and disadvantages I see in some of the common tools to help other designers to decide.

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Conquering IoT with Lean UX – Part 2

Kai Deller
Kai Deller
March 29th, 2018

In the first part of this two part series my colleague Simon Kieke drew a bold conclusion regarding the importance of IoT for medium-sized enterprises. Instead of adapting an “all or nothing” mentality, he suggested to integrate small and user-centered digital services into already existing products. This way, IoT products are created with reduced risk and guaranteed benefit for the targeted user group.

This approach is based on the “Lean UX” framework and its core idea of working with Minimum Viable Products (MVP). But how do you define an MVP and how can other Lean Principles further reduce risk and complexity during the project?

In this second part I want to illustrate different Lean Principles with a project rooted in product design & development. The project team consisted of computer science students without design background who participated in my lecture “Designing the User Experience for Ubiquitous Computing Devices” at Saarland University.

The main stage of our story is a restaurant kitchen. This context was chosen freely by the students as part of their imaginary start up.

Context of our fictional start up (Source: https://pixabay.com/de/küche-arbeit-restaurant-kochen-731351/)

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Becoming the office hero – Gamified Task Management Systems

Anna Kizina

We are confronted with very different kinds of to-dos every day. It is only natural that some of those tasks are more fun than others. Especially less motivating tasks, for example housekeeping, are last on the list: cleaning the coffee machine, tidying up the refrigerator, sorting empty bottles. The preferences and aversions may be individually different but supposedly everyone knows special tasks that he or she does rather reluctantly. Also, in office routine, there are frequent tasks that come up extra to the actual working activities: cleaning up the meeting room, deposing waste batteries (only professionally of course!) or writing a blog article for the company website 😉

What can be done to make such to-dos – as well as the everyday (working) life – more engaging? In this article, I introduce not only known approaches, but also our “in-house” concept that was developed at the Centigrade branch of Mülheim Ruhr.

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Adobe XD – the perfect UX Workflow?

Roger Towae

In October 2017 Adobe released the first beta of XD, its “all-in-one UX/UI solution”. As a graphic designer, I’ve used Photoshop and Illustrator in my workflow for years and wonder how XD measures up as an UX tool so far.

Quick historical excursion about the possible impact of the new tool’s release: in print, Adobe has practically eliminated competition starting in the 2000s with InDesign 2.0, setting the standard with Photoshop and Illustrator integration and smooth output of print data.  This raises the question if XD can already cover the different processes in the UX cosmos and if it has the potential to push aside tools like Sketch as thoroughly as InDesign pushed aside QuarkXPress.

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Angular or React? – Embracing modern web technologies

David Würfel
David Würfel
January 4th, 2018

In addition to classical Desktop frontend technologies such as WinForms or WPF even large industrial companies can’t deny that there is an interesting movement towards web frontend technologies. As a UX company that also supports its clients in frontend engineering to a large extent, we are often asked whether web technologies fit their needs and if so which one to choose. Besides many relevant libraries and frameworks, the two predominant players are Angular* and React. The question which one to favor over the other is not a trivial one. It can only be answered through comparing up several criteria according to a set of defined developer requirements. In the following I will outline the answers we found at Centigrade, and that will be most helpful for our clients.

Why choose a web technology?

At first, we must answer, why it could be reasonable to use web technologies for frontend engineering at all. Deciding to do this because of famous buzz words or trends is not a good reason. However, this is often an initial motivation for this topic to arise. Web frontend technologies are a chance to develop systems that are truly cross-platform. This can refer not only to operating systems (like Windows or Unix) but also to mobile devices, and basically every system that runs a browser. Modern client-side web frameworks even go a step further by abstracting from the browser, which makes them able to target native desktop, mobile or even other systems. Focusing on the digital age and Industry 4.0, where several different devices are inter-connected, having this flexibility oftentimes is a strong requirement. Therefore, taking web frontend technologies into account is a valid choice. 

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