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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2014 is ending, and the term IoT (Internet of Things) is entering the public awareness of the German-speaking regions for the first time. The concept is promising: individuals can rely on a connected intelligent environment to solve everyday problems. Businesses can develop previously inconceivable products and services, and sell them at scale. McKinsey is predicting a potential economic effect of $2,7 trillion to $6,2 trillion and businesses like Intel are painting a colorful and profitable picture of the IoT world. Of course, product managers and top-level managers in companies across the developed world are ordered to get on the IoT bandwagon.
Three years later, at the end of 2017, the hype has sobered. A few large companies like Alphabet or Amazon can bring IoT products to market with varying degrees of success, but especially medium-sized companies find it hard to convert the new opportunities into hit IoT products. What is the problem? Can remarkable results also be achieved with low risk and unusual methods like Lean UX?
“Lean principles help to gain a foothold in the large field ‘Internet of Things’ by making human needs the starting point of each project. The complexity of IoT becomes manageable through sharply focused projects and continuous learning. This focus allows to gain groundbreaking insights early through methods like Rapid Prototyping. Early feedback is especially important for haptic products.”
Once upon a time there was a city by the sea that was famous far beyond its frontiers because it had the most beautiful houses that would ever be found. Not only did they offer protection against wind and weather but also the highest convenience for the people. Therefore, the city attracted numerous visitors from near and far which filled the citizen`s hearts with pride.
They were proud because it was them who had conquered the art of architecture throughout the years and became known as experts in this field. But of course they were able to realize their ideas only when they trusted in the abilities of other experts: for example carpenters for building the doors correctly and road planners offering lovely winding paths between the houses. Therefore, the citizens were able to convince the city council to bring specialists into the city from whos skills they could benefit.
When I first heard of Centigrade in 2015, I was looking for a design company where I could complete my internship for school. The internship was successful and since then I have been working at Centigrade as an Assistant User Interface Designer. Besides working in many visual and conceptual design projects, I could gather first experiences for Centigrade in the field of 3D printing.
My task was to design a handle for the Novint Falcon Controller, a device which translates our hand movements into inputs, e.g. within a VR simulation. This allows us to create a very authentic experience in VR games.
Visual design has a long and storied tradition. Still it is a lively and dynamic topic and constantly exposed to current influences and trends. With the emerging technologies of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) designers have to learn how to create impressive and positive experiences for users of these media.
There are hundreds of tutorials on developing 3D applications, but one part routinely left out in these tutorials is the style definition for the visualization. There is a wide range of visual options that carry distinct advantages and disadvantages.
This article is a quick summary of possible styles, each illustrated with examples from video games.
Photorealism is characterized by being as lifelike as possible – from detailed textures to high-polygon models to real-world lighting.
Hannover Messe 2017 – Enterprises present their new technological miracles: robots that can play the drums, robots that play table tennis, robots that move like animals, 3D printers, VR worlds and AR glasses that combine the digital and physical world. Let us be honest, as visitors of the exhibition, we are, of course, entertained but some might have asked themselves what kind of substantial benefit one or the other exhibit might bring to the daily production routine.
„Our Chancellor always calls on us to be cautious not only doing nice things but rather things that are profitable and productive and this is what we tried to do here.“
– Udo Aull (Managing Director Sale and Marketing at SEW-EURODRIVE)
As User Experience providers, we are always happy to see when companies are more deliberate: our customer SEW Eurodrive portrayed a complete production process at its exhibition booth. From the moment of ordering to the finished product, the visitors could experience what it means when robots are used efficiently and the human machine interaction goes hand in hand.
What seemed to work smoothly and natural at the exhibition booth, took a lot of effort in the setup. The smarter and the more autonomous the robots and computers interact with each other, the more important it is for the human user to maintain an overview of single steps in the production process. In the following, we want to explain how visitors of Hannover Messe were enabled to monitor and operate the production process at the SEW exhibition booth through playful, intuitive and accessible 3D user interfaces.