Aug 09 2019
Aug 09

At Promet Source, conversations with clients and among co-workers tend to revolve around various aspects of compliance, user experience, site navigation, and design clarity. We need a common nomenclature for referring to interface elements, but that leads to the question of who makes this stuff up and what makes these terms stick?
 
I asked that recently, during an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. In separate contexts, “cookies,” “breadcrumbs,” and “hamburgers” were all mentioned as they pertain to the sites we are building for clients. But I got to wondering: what is it about the evolving Web lexicon that seems inordinately slanted towards tasty snacks?
 

One Theory

As we all know, devs and designers work very hard, with incredible focus for long hours at a stretch. Are we trying to inject some fun language that evokes touch, taste, and smell to a web that can feel rather flat sometimes when we are in the trenches?


I couldn’t help but wonder about a potentially unifying theme to cookies, breadcrumbs and the buns that provide the top and bottom horizontal lines of the increasingly ubiquitous hamburger icon. That sparked my curiosity and a bit of research.

Data/Cookie Jar

Let’s start with cookies -- a term that refers to the extraction and storage of user data such as logins, previous searches, activity on a site, and items in a shopping cart.  Almost all Websites use and store cookies on Web browsers.

a stack of chocolate chip cookies

Generally speaking, cookies are designed to inform better and more personalized Web experiences, but they do, of course, give rise to all sorts of privacy and security concerns. 
 
Potential cookie constraints for Websites developed in the United States for a U.S. audience are moving in an uncertain direction. Up to this point, it’s essentially been the Wild West, with few restrictions governing their usage. 
 
In the European Union, it’s a different story. Assorted rules and regulations, collectively known as the “Cookie Law,” have been in place for nearly a decade -- forbidding the tracking of users’ Web activity without their consent. 
 
As is the case with U.S.-based Websites that need to ensure accessibility, compliance with the Cookie Law can be complicated -- requiring rewriting and reconfiguration of code, followed by careful testing to ensure that the site’s code, server and the user’s browser are aligned to prevent cookies from tracking user behavior and collecting information. And another issue that accessibility and cookies have in common: there’s more at stake than compliance. To an increasing degree, users avoid engaging with Websites when they believe that their activity is being tracked by the use of cookies and there’s no question that overall levels of trust appear to be on the decline as privacy concerns increase. This is among the reasons why many websites are starting to give users the option of just saying no to cookies and still allowing them access to the site.

Connecting the Crumbs

Considerably newer to the Web lexicon than cookies, a breadcrumb or breadcrumb trail is a navigational aid in user interfaces designed to help users track their own activity within programs or websites, providing them with a sense of place within the bigger picture of the site. 
 
Breadcrumbs can take different forms. Generally speaking, a breadcrumb trail tracks the order of each page viewed, as a horizontal list below the top headers. This provides a guide for the user to navigate back to any point where they’ve previously been on the site. Think about Grimms’ story of Hansel and Gretel.
 
Breadcrumbs can be very helpful on complex, content-heavy sites. Who among us hasn’t found themselves frustrated in an attempt to navigate back to a page that seems to have temporarily disappeared?

On the Table

Unlike cookies, which for better or for worse, are stored behind the scenes and consumed in a manner that’s usually not known to the user, a breadcrumb trail is out in the open -- right upfront for the user to see and follow. Breadcrumbs are designed solely to enhance the user experience, functioning as a reverse GPS on complex Websites.  
 
As more and more users come to count on breadcrumbs as a navigational aid, we can expect that the demand for them will increase. At the same time, we can expect that usage of cookies will come under increased scrutiny along with a trend toward escalation of privacy concerns and a growing skittishness about how personal information is being shared. At Promet, we consider cookies to be a must-have on any site.

Time for Some Protein

As for the third item in our list of tasty Web terms, the hamburger is essentially all good. This three-line icon that’s started to appear at the top of screens serves as a mini-portal to additional options or pages.

Actual hamburger on the left. A web hamburger icon on the right.

What’s not to love about this feature that takes up so little space on the screen, but opens the door to a trove additional navigation or features for apps and Websites? Fact is, UX/UI trends are constantly evolving, and users vary widely in the pace in which they pick up what’s new and next. The hamburger icon has a lot going for it and it’s not going away.

 

Meet the Search Sandwich

There’s a item on the table and we were just introduced to it by one of our UX savvy clients. As far as I know, it doesn’t have an official name yet, so we affectionately refer to it as the “search sandwich.” It’s an evolved hamburger combined with a search icon to indicate to users that both the navigation menu and the search bar can be accessed from this icon. It looks a bit like a ham sandwich with an olive on top and might make an appearance on a website soon. Stay tuned.
 
So there you have it. Key factors in our Web design world. -- possibly a reflection of a desire to take our high-tech conversations down a notch, with these playful metaphors for elements that we must all learn to identify with whether a designer, developer, or just a web user. They remind us that the Web is a rapidly evolving environment of UI/UX trends -- created and consumed by humans. 
 
Interested in serving up a tasty web experience? Contact us today

Aug 09 2019
Aug 09

At Promet Source, conversations with clients and among co-workers tend to revolve around various aspects of compliance, user experience, site navigation, and design clarity. We need a common nomenclature for referring to interface elements, but that leads to the question of who makes this stuff up and what makes these terms stick?
 
I asked that recently, during an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. In separate contexts, “cookies,” “breadcrumbs,” and “hamburgers” were all mentioned as they pertain to the sites we are building for clients, and I got to wondering: what is it about the evolving Web lexicon that seems inordinately slanted towards tasty snacks?
 

One Theory

As we all know, devs and designers work very hard, with incredible focus for long hours at a stretch. Are we trying to inject some fun language that evokes touch, taste, and smell to a web that can feel rather flat sometimes when we are in the trenches?

And then, I couldn’t help but wonder about a potentially unifying theme to cookies, breadcrumbs and the buns that provide the top and bottom horizontal lines of the increasingly ubiquitous hamburger icon. That sparked my curiosity and a bit of research.

Data/Cookie Jar

Let’s start with cookies -- a term that refers to the extraction and storage of user data such as logins, previous searches, activity on a site, and items in a shopping cart.  Almost all Websites use and store cookies on Web browsers.

a stack of chocolate chip cookies

Generally speaking, cookies are designed to inform better and more personalized Web experiences, but they do, of course, give rise to all sorts of privacy and security concerns. 
 
Potential cookie constraints for Websites developed in the United States for a U.S. audience are moving in an uncertain direction. Up to this point, it’s essentially been the Wild West, with few restrictions governing their usage. 
 
In the European Union, it’s a different story. Assorted rules and regulations, collectively known as the “Cookie Law,” have been in place for nearly a decade -- forbidding the tracking of users’ Web activity without their consent. 
 
As is the case with U.S.-based Websites that need to ensure accessibility, compliance with the Cookie Law can be complicated -- requiring rewriting and reconfiguration of code, followed by careful testing to ensure that the site’s code, server and the user’s browser are aligned to prevent cookies from tracking user behavior and collecting information. And another issue that accessibility and cookies have in common: there’s more at stake than compliance. To an increasing degree, users avoid engaging with Websites when they believe that their activity is being tracked by the use of cookies and there’s no question that overall levels of trust appear to be on the decline as privacy concerns increase. This is among the reasons why many websites are starting to give users the option of just saying no to cookies and still allowing them access to the site.

Connecting the Crumbs

Considerably newer to the Web lexicon than cookies, a breadcrumb or breadcrumb trail is a navigational aid in user interfaces designed to help users track their own activity within programs or websites, providing them with a sense of place within the bigger picture of the site. 
 
Breadcrumbs can take different forms. Generally speaking, a breadcrumb trail tracks the order of each page viewed, as a horizontal list below the top headers. This provides a guide for the user to navigate back to any point where they’ve previously been on the site. Think about Grimms’ story of Hansel and Gretel.
 
Breadcrumbs can be very helpful on complex, content-heavy sites. Who among us hasn’t found themselves frustrated in an attempt to navigate back to a page that seems to have temporarily disappeared?

On the Table

Unlike cookies, which for better or for worse, are stored behind the scenes and consumed in a manner that’s usually not known to the user, a breadcrumb trail is out in the open -- right upfront for the user to see and follow. Breadcrumbs are designed solely to enhance the user experience, functioning as a reverse GPS on complex Websites.  
 
As more and more users come to count on breadcrumbs as a navigational aid, we can expect that the demand for them will increase. At the same time, we can expect that usage of cookies will come under increased scrutiny along with a trend toward escalation of privacy concerns and a growing skittishness about how personal information is being shared. At Promet, we consider cookies to be a must-have on any site.

Time for Some Protein

As for the third item in our list of tasty Web terms, the hamburger is essentially all good. This three-line icon that’s started to appear at the top of screens serves as a mini-portal to additional options or pages.

Actual hamburger on the left. A web hamburger icon on the right.

What’s not to love about this feature that takes up so little space on the screen, but opens the door to a trove additional navigation or features for apps and Websites? Fact is, UX/UI trends are constantly evolving, and users vary widely in the pace in which they pick up what’s new and next. The hamburger icon has a lot going for it and it’s not going away.

 

Meet the Search Sandwich

There’s a item on the table and we were just introduced to it by one of our UX savvy clients. As far as I know, it doesn’t have an official name yet, so we affectionately refer to it as the “search sandwich.” It’s an evolved hamburger combined with a search icon to indicate to users that both the navigation menu and the search bar can be accessed from this icon. It looks a bit like a ham sandwich with an olive on top and might make an appearance on a website soon. Stay tuned.
 
So there you have it. Key factors in our Web design world. -- possibly a reflection of a desire to take our high-tech conversations down a notch, with these playful metaphors for elements that we must all learn to identify with whether a designer, developer, or just a web user. They remind us that the Web is a rapidly evolving environment of UI/UX trends -- created and consumed by humans. 
 
Interested in serving up a tasty web experience? Contact us today

May 21 2019
May 21

When you’re surrounded by a team of awesome developers, you might think that a statement such as, “Great Websites are Created before the First Line of Code is Written,” isn’t going to be met with a lot of enthusiasm.

As it turns out, our developers tend to be among the greatest supporters of the kind of Human-Centered Design engagements that get all stakeholders on the same page and create a roadmap for transformative possibilities. 

The point of the above statement, which is also the title of a presentation that Promet’s Chris O’Donnell has been delivering at DrupalCamp events all over the country, is not to downplay the importance of the impeccable coding that makes great websites work. No one doubts that. Our point is that when web development is fueled from a foundation of: 

  • collaborative problem solving, 
  • elimination of  assumptions,
  • deeper knowledge transfer, 
  • empathy for users, 
  • early stakeholder alignment, and 
  • excitement about what’s possible,

everyone benefits and work is a lot more fun.

Getting it right at the start makes sense for a lot of reasons. Teams are happier and work proceeds with a higher degree of efficiency. At the same time, the impact on cost is a factor that is seldom acknowledged to the degree that it needs to be. Consider the following observation from noted software engineer Tom Gilb:

“Once a system is in development, correcting a problem costs 10 times as much as fixing the same problem in design (concept). If the system has been released, it costs 100 times as much…”

The Luma Institute graphic below powerfully illustrates the difference in the relative cost of getting it right in the concept phase, vs. fixing during the build phase, vs. fixing after release.

Pyramid that depicts the cost difference between getting software right during the concept phase vs. making a change during development vs. making a change once it has hit the market

Human Centered Design vs. Agile Development

Questions concerning “agility” frequently emerge in our conversations with clients, and offer an excellent opportunity to clarify some important issues. Human-Centered Design initiatives focused on getting it right, right from the start, are in no way at odds with the idea of agile development. 

The clear vision and collaborative energy that emerges from Human-Centered Design activities often helps to inform and enhance agile development. 

An all-to-common misunderstanding about agile development is that it’s about avoiding the discipline of an actual plan. Not true. Agile development is a real-world development methodology that does not close off the possibility for mid-course refinement. An agile plan plays out within a series of sprints. Each sprint is reviewed before moving on to the next one. If the review reveals an oversight or issue, it can be quickly addressed. 

Prioritization is key with Agile for sprint planning, and Human-Centered Design helps gain consensus on what is important.

The world’s most agile process, however, is up against an uphill battle in trying to reset the course of a project that was based on inadequate or faulty information from the start. Ensuring that projects get off to an excellent start is at the core of what Human-Centered Design is all about.

Going Wider, Digging Deeper 

The activities within a Human-Centered Design workshop continuously build upon knowledge collected and insights gained for purposes of:

  • Identifying stakeholders
  • Prioritizing stakeholders
  • Identifying strengths, problems, and opportunities in current system
  • Grouping strengths, problems and solutions within agreed-upon categories 
  • Identifying solutions 
  • Prioritizing solutions

Let’s take a look at a few components  of a Human Centered Design workshop.

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder mapping results in what is essentially a network diagram of people involved with or impacted by the website. Typically, there are a lot more stakeholders than the obvious end users and stakeholder mapping evaluates all the possible users of a system to then identify the key target audiences and prioritize their needs and expectations. 
 
Stakeholder mapping is an excellent activity for:

  • Establishing consensus about the stakeholders,
  • Guiding plans for user research, and
  • Establishing an empathetic focus on people vs. technology.
An illustrated example of stakeholder mapping for a Drupal siteAn example of a stakeholder mapping exercise for Promet's upcoming web redesign illustrating people with an interest in the project.

Persona Development

The next step following stakeholder mapping is the creation of persona information in order to understand the range of differing needs from the site for purposes of tailoring solutions accordingly. 
 
Defining the distinct personas for whom the website is being designed serves to clarify the mindset, needs and goals of the key stakeholders. Giving each persona group a name provides a quick reference of key stakeholders and serves as a constant anchor for conversations moving forward.

Drupal-Specific Rose-Thorn-Bud

Adopted from a Luma Institute collection of exercises, the goal of Rose-Thorn-Bud is to quickly gather a significant amount of data in response to a specific question or the current system in general. During a Rose-Thorn-Bud activity every individual’s opinion ranks equally as responses are gathered on colored Post-it Notes for labeling attributes as positive (rose), potential (bud), or problems (thorns).

The Post-it Notes are gathered and grouped on a white board according to identified categories. The collection and organization of large amounts of data in this manner serves to highlight prevalent themes and emergent issues, while facilitating discussion. 

During Chris O’Donnell’s “Great Websites are Created before the First Line of Code is Written” presentation at Drupaldelphia, attendees were invited to respond to the following problem statement: 

Drupal 8 as a viable CMS for small business / small organization needs.

Each participant was encouraged to contribute ideas to 10 Post-its -- within any of the three color categories. All of the contributions were then  “voted up” in order to poll attendees and achieve a level of consensus among the group. Results of that exercise can be found here

Drupal-Focused Statement Starter

Statement Starters are evocative phrases to ignite problem solving within teams and challenge teams to restate the problem from differing perspectives within a framework of “We could …” and “We will …” 
 
The way a statement starter is worded is important. It needs to be an open-ended question that requires more than a yes or no answer. Effective statement starters such as, “How might we…”, “In what ways might…”, “How to…”, and “What might be all the …” help to encourage the generation of explicit problem statements.
 
Conversely, closed-ended statement starters such as: “Should we…” and “Wouldn’t it be great if… tend to yield a yes or no answer” or less specific responses.

The statement starter presented to attendees at the Promet-led Drupaldelphia event, was:

How can we increase Drupal 8 adoption outside of the “enterprise” space?

Their responses are recorded here.

Importance / Difficulty Matrix

Inevitably, some of the ideas that emerge will spark excitement for the strategic leap forward that they could represent. The required time and resources to move forward with them, however, might exceed current capabilities. Other ideas might fall into the category of Low Hanging Fruit -- initiatives that can be achieved quickly and easily.

Plotting every idea on an Importance / Difficulty Matrix is an essential group activity that sparks conversation and accountability concerning Who, How, and When -- transforming good ideas into action items.

Illustration of an Importance/Difficulty Matrix


Why Human-Centered Design?

In the current environment, organizations tend to be defined by their digital presence. The stakes for getting it right are high and the margin for error is low. Optimizing ideas and perspectives at the outset, and continuing to iterate with feedback creates a strong starting point that serves as a superior foundation for web solutions that are capable of heavy lifting over the long haul. 

Interested in learning more about the possibilities for a Human-Centered Design workshop in your organization? Contact us today.

Apr 26 2019
Apr 26

At DrupalCon2019 earlier this month, Promet Source tapped the collective brainpower of attendees with a Human-Centered Design activity that asked this question:

“What are the key advantages, the main challenges, and the emerging opportunities of Drupal as an Information delivery platform?”

Within the context of a Human-Centered Design workshop, big questions such as this one are positioned within a “Rose-Thorn-Bud” framework. Participants are given brightly colored Post-It notes and asked to write everything that they view as an advantage or a plus on a pink (Rose) Post-It. Challenges or downsides are to be written on a blue Post-It (Thorn). Green Post-Its are for collecting input on potential or emerging for opportunities (Bud). 

15 Minutes of Focus

A setting such as DrupalCon, in which participants are needing to constantly shift their attention as they take in tons of information from all sides, is vastly different from a Human-Centered Design Workshop, in which the attention of all participants is laser-focused on a series of activities that build upon the insight and information gathered. DrupalCon, however, represented such a high degree of energy and enthusiasm, that we were able to count on considerable contributions throughout the event. 

The first phase of the Rose-Thorn-Bud activity is simply collecting input. The next phase, called “Affinity Clustering,” is for purposes of reordering and analyzing the input according to agreed-upon groupings. The use of different colored Post-Its is particularly useful in revealing that within a particular category there might be a mix of Roses, Thorns, and Buds, or primarily one or the other, or in some cases, participants may differ as to whether the same issue constitutes a Rose, a Thorn, or a Bud. 

This is an excellent exercise for revealing patterns, surfacing priorities, bringing order to disparate complexity, and sparking productive conversation.

DrupalCon Participants Rank Drupal

Let’s look at the input gathered during the first phase of this activity where we collected responses to the question concerning of key advantages (Rose), main challenges (Thorn), and emerging opportunities (Bud) of Drupal as an information delivery platform.

Rose Thorn Bud Ease of development Documentation (2 Post-Its) Templates for quickly building mini-sites Ease of extension (modules for everything) Too many options Migration to D8 Cutting edge Security is really hard for small projects Decoupled architecture opportunities Connecting and referencing data and content with Taxonomy Admin UI is not intuitive to content editors Accessibility! Adoption of Symphony Admin UI Improving documentation Lots of interchangeable pieces/modules Composer vs. Tar install; mismatched workflow Media integration Flexibility (3 Post-Its) Scattershot dev -- unified direction GraphQL in Core Accessibility out of the box Address low-hanging fruit (media integration) Menu System APIs Content modeling Media integration JSON API with Content Moderation Trusted information can be pushed out programmatically and systematically Content Editor Experience Layout Manager Simple to use Layout tough to perfect   Drupal makes information pretty Flexibility   Allows for all sorts of content types High Learning Curve                (3 Posts-Its)   Quick publication of new information Drupal requires a lot of back-end work to make performance better. It’s heavy and slow.  

 

Next Step: Affinity Clustering

Without context and categorization, excellent input tends to never make it beyond words on a page -- or Post-Its. That’s what Affinity Clustering moves us toward. This is a visually graphic exercise that allows for the assimilation of large amounts of information.

Affinity Clustering is a collaborative activity, that occurs within a facilitated Human-Centered Design Workshop, with all participants contributing their thoughts on how and where to categorize the Rose-Thorn-Bud input. Since it was not feasible to move to this phase from the confines of the Promet Source booth at DrupalCon, we sought the expertise of our in-house Drupal experts and came up with the following categories

Back End Front-End Design Content Ease of development - Rose Accessibility out of the box - Rose Connecting and referencing data and content with Taxonomy - Rose Ease of extension (modules for everything) - Rose Lots of interchangeable pieces/modules - Rose Content modeling - Rose Adoption of Symfony - Rose Flexibility (2 Post-Its) Rose Quick publication of new information - Rose Simple to use - Rose Drupal makes information pretty - Rose Content Editor Experience - Thorn Trusted information can be pushed out programmatically and systematically - Rose Allows for all sorts of content types - Rose Flexibility - Thorn Documentation - Thorn (2 Post-Its) Layout tough to perfect - Thorn High Learning Curve - Thorn Too many options - Thorn High Learning Curve - Thorn Admin UI is not intuitive to content editors - Thorn Security is really hard for small projects - Thorn Templates for quickly building mini-sites - Bud Admin UI - Thorn Composer vs. Tar install; mismatched workflow - Thorn Layout Manager - Bud JSON API with Content Moderation - Bud Scattershot dev -- unified direction - Thorn Accessibility! - Bud   Address low-hanging fruit (media integration) - Thorn Menu System APIs - Bud   Media integration - Thorn     Improving documentation - Bud     Migration to D8 - Bud     High Learning Curve - Thorn     Cutting edge - Rose     Drupal requires a lot of back-end work to make performance better. It’s heavy and slow. - Thorn     Decoupled architecture opportunities - Bud     Media integration - Bud     GraphQL in Core - Bud    
Three groups of pink, blue and green post-its to illustrate affinity clustering


 

To summarize, the front-end category had a lot of roses indicating that the overall sentiment is positive, despite a few challenges. This is the kind of revelation that would be readily apparent to participants in a Human-Centered Design workshop -- simply due to a preponderance of pink Post-Its. The content category, on the other hand, was dominated by thorns. In a workshop, the majority of blue Post-Its would quickly clarify the relative dissatisfaction concerning content. The back-end category resulted in a true mix of Roses, Thorns, and Buds, a fact that would certainly spark continued conversation among participants.
 

This is just a start! 

For those of you who were not able to attend DrupalCon 2019, or who did not make it over to the Promet Source booth or who have had new thoughts subsequent to your participation:

  • What would you add to the above Rose-Thorn-Bud list? 
  • Are there categories that you would like to add to the Affinity Clusters? 
  • How does the above align or not align with your experience?

Indicate your comments below or contact us today for a conversation about leveraging Human-Centered Design techniques to Ignite Digital Possibilities within your organization. 

Apr 25 2019
Apr 25

At DrupalCon2019 earlier this month, Promet Source tapped the collective brainpower of attendees with a Human-Centered Design activity that asked this question:

“What are the key advantages, the main challenges, and the emerging opportunities of Drupal as an Information delivery platform?”

Within the context of a Human-Centered Design workshop, big questions such as this one are positioned within a “Rose-Thorn-Bud” framework. Participants are given brightly colored Post-It notes and asked to write everything that they view as an advantage or a plus on a pink (Rose) Post-It. Challenges or downsides are to be written on a blue Post-It (Thorn). Green Post-Its are for collecting input on potential or emerging for opportunities (Bud). 

15 Minutes of Focus

A setting such as DrupalCon, in which participants are needing to constantly shift their attention as they take in tons of information from all sides, is vastly different from a Human-Centered Design Workshop, in which the attention of all participants is laser-focused on a series of activities that build upon the insight and information gathered. DrupalCon, however, represented such a high degree of energy and enthusiasm, that we were able to count on considerable contributions throughout the event. 

The first phase of the Rose-Thorn-Bud activity is simply collecting input. The next phase, called “Affinity Clustering,” is for purposes of reordering and analyzing the input according to agreed-upon groupings. The use of different colored Post-Its is particularly useful in revealing that within a particular category there might be a mix of Roses, Thorns, and Buds, or primarily one or the other, or in some cases, participants may differ as to whether the same issue constitutes a Rose, a Thorn, or a Bud. 

This is an excellent exercise for revealing patterns, surfacing priorities, bringing order to disparate complexity, and sparking productive conversation.

DrupalCon Participants Rank Drupal

Let’s look at the input gathered during the first phase of this activity where we collected responses to the question concerning of key advantages (Rose), main challenges (Thorn), and emerging opportunities (Bud) of Drupal as an information delivery platform.

Rose Thorn Bud Ease of development Documentation (2 Post-Its) Templates for quickly building mini-sites Ease of extension (modules for everything) Too many options Migration to D8 Cutting edge Security is really hard for small projects Decoupled architecture opportunities Connecting and referencing data and content with Taxonomy Admin UI is not intuitive to content editors Accessibility! Adoption of Symphony Admin UI Improving documentation Lots of interchangeable pieces/modules Composer vs. Tar install; mismatched workflow Media integration Flexibility (3 Post-Its) Scattershot dev -- unified direction GraphQL in Core Accessibility out of the box Address low-hanging fruit (media integration) Menu System APIs Content modeling Media integration JSON API with Content Moderation Trusted information can be pushed out programmatically and systematically Content Editor Experience Layout Manager Simple to use Layout tough to perfect   Drupal makes information pretty Flexibility   Allows for all sorts of content types High Learning Curve                (3 Posts-Its)   Quick publication of new information Drupal requires a lot of back-end work to make performance better. It’s heavy and slow.  

 

Next Step: Affinity Clustering

Without context and categorization, excellent input tends to never make it beyond words on a page -- or Post-Its. That’s what Affinity Clustering moves us toward. This is a visually graphic exercise that allows for the assimilation of large amounts of information.

Affinity Clustering is a collaborative activity, that occurs within a facilitated Human-Centered Design Workshop, with all participants contributing their thoughts on how and where to categorize the Rose-Thorn-Bud input. Since it was not feasible to move to this phase from the confines of the Promet Source booth at DrupalCon, we sought the expertise of our in-house Drupal experts and came up with the following categories

Back End Front-End Design Content Ease of development - Rose Accessibility out of the box - Rose Connecting and referencing data and content with Taxonomy - Rose Ease of extension (modules for everything) - Rose Lots of interchangeable pieces/modules - Rose Content modeling - Rose Adoption of Symfony - Rose Flexibility (2 Post-Its) Rose Quick publication of new information - Rose Simple to use - Rose Drupal makes information pretty - Rose Content Editor Experience - Thorn Trusted information can be pushed out programmatically and systematically - Rose Allows for all sorts of content types - Rose Flexibility - Thorn Documentation - Thorn (2 Post-Its) Layout tough to perfect - Thorn High Learning Curve - Thorn Too many options - Thorn High Learning Curve - Thorn Admin UI is not intuitive to content editors - Thorn Security is really hard for small projects - Thorn Templates for quickly building mini-sites - Bud Admin UI - Thorn Composer vs. Tar install; mismatched workflow - Thorn Layout Manager - Bud JSON API with Content Moderation - Bud Scattershot dev -- unified direction - Thorn Accessibility! - Bud   Address low-hanging fruit (media integration) - Thorn Menu System APIs - Bud   Media integration - Thorn     Improving documentation - Bud     Migration to D8 - Bud     High Learning Curve - Thorn     Cutting edge - Rose     Drupal requires a lot of back-end work to make performance better. It’s heavy and slow. - Thorn     Decoupled architecture opportunities - Bud     Media integration - Bud     GraphQL in Core - Bud    
Three groups of pink, blue and green post-its to illustrate affinity clustering


 

To summarize, the front-end category had a lot of roses indicating that the overall sentiment is positive, despite a few challenges. This is the kind of revelation that would be readily apparent to participants in a Human-Centered Design workshop -- simply due to a preponderance of pink Post-Its. The content category, on the other hand, was dominated by thorns. In a workshop, the majority of blue Post-Its would quickly clarify the relative dissatisfaction concerning content. The back-end category resulted in a true mix of Roses, Thorns, and Buds, a fact that would certainly spark continued conversation among participants.
 

This is just a start! 

For those of you who were not able to attend DrupalCon 2019, or who did not make it over to the Promet Source booth or who have had new thoughts subsequent to your participation:

  • What would you add to the above Rose-Thorn-Bud list? 
  • Are there categories that you would like to add to the Affinity Clusters? 
  • How does the above align or not align with your experience?

Indicate your comments below or contact us today for a conversation about leveraging Human-Centered Design techniques to Ignite Digital Possibilities within your organization. 

Apr 06 2019
Apr 06

Having engaged in Human-Centered Design Workshops for web development with amazing clients from every sector, our overarching discovery is this: great websites are made before a line of code is ever written.
 
Human-Centered Design work lays the groundwork for a vast expansion of transformative possibilities.

In its simplest terms, Human-Centered Design is a discipline directed toward solving problems for the people who actually use the site. The focus on the end user is a critical distinction that calls for everyone on the project to let go of their own preferences and empathetically focus on optimizing the experience for the user. 
 
When we engage in Human-Centered Design activities with clients, it becomes very clear very early into the process that getting rid of assumptions and continuous questioning about users and their needs, eliminates blind spots and opens doors with new insights about the concerns, goals, and relevant behaviors of the people for whom we are developing sites. 

And while Human-Centered Design is generally viewed as a discipline for solving problems, we find it to be much more of a roadmap for creating opportunities.
 
Here’s our 7-step Human-Centered Design process for creating optimal web experiences.

1.    Build empathy with user personas

The first and most essential question: For whom are we building or redesigning this site? We work with clients to identify their most important personas. Each persona gets a name and that’s helpful in keeping us constantly focused on the fact that real people will be interacting with the site in many different ways. 

Following the identification of the key persona groups, we proceed to dig deep, asking “why” and “how” concerning every aspect of their motivations and expectations.

2.    Assess what user personas need from your site

Understanding of and empathy for user personas dovetails into an analysis of how they currently use the site, how that experience can be improved, and how enhancing their experience with the site can drive a deeper relationship. 

We continue to refine and build upon these personas during every phase of the development process, asking questions that reflect back on them by name as we gain an increasing level of empathy. As a result, our shared understanding of the needs and concerns of our persona groups helps to direct development and design with questions such as:

  • “Will this page navigation be clear enough for Clarence?”
  •  “How else can we drive home the point for Catherine that we are an efficient, one-stop-shop for the full spectrum of her financial needs? 

This level of inquiry at the front end might feel excessive or out of sync with what many are accustomed to. Invariably, however, establishing a shared language streamlines development moving forward, while laying the groundwork for solutions that meet the needs of users. 


As Tom Gilb, noted in Principles of Software Engineering Management, getting it right at the beginning pays off. According to Tom, fixing a problem discovered during development costs 10 times as much as addressing a problem in the design phase. If the problem is not discovered until the system is released, it costs 100 times as much to fix. 

3.    Map their journey through the site to key conversions

Just as your user groups do not all fit the same mold, what they are looking for from your site will vary, depending on what phase they are in relative to their relationship with your organization – what we refer to as the user journey. 

Too often, website design focuses on one aspect of the user journey. It needs to be viewed holistically.

For example, if the purchase process is complicated and cumbersome, efforts to successfully provide users with the right information delivered in the right format at the start of their journey runs the risk of unraveling. 
 

4.    Identify obstacles in their path

Next step: identify challenges. We map user journeys through every phase, aiming for seamless transitions from one phase to the next.

This step calls for continuous inquiry along with a commitment to not defend or hold on to assumptions or previous solutions that may not be optimal.

  • What have we heard from clients? 
  • Where have breakdowns occurred in conversions and in relationships?
  • How can we fix it with the messaging, design, or the functionality of the website?  

 

5. Brainstorm solutions

Participants are primed at this point for an explosion of ideas. Mindsets are in an empathetic mode and insights have been collected from multiple angles. 

Now is the time to tap into this energy.

We Invite all participants to contribute ideas, setting the basic ground rules for brainstorming. 

Good ideas spark more good ideas and spark excitement about new possibilities.

6. Prioritize Solutions 

No bad ideas in brainstorming, but in the real world of budgets and time, questions such as “how,” “what’s the cost,” “where to begin,” and “what will have the best impact,” need to be considered. 

As ideas are synthesized, these answers will begin to take shape.  

Real world prioritization happens as we clarify whether a client’s objectives will be best met with the development of a new site or revisions to an existing site. Do we want to move forward with “Blue Sky” development that is not grounded in any specific constraints, or a “Greenfield” project that it not required to integrate with current systems?

What does the playing field look like?


7. Create a Roadmap for Development

Too often, web design and development begins at this step. 

With Human-Centered Design many hours, if not days, of research, persona development, empathetic insights, journey mapping, solution gathering, collaborative energy, and excitement about what’s to come have already been invested when we get to this point. 

As a result, clients have the advantage of moving forward with a high degree of alignment among stakeholders, along with a conviction of ownership in an outcome that will be new, and enhance both the experiences and relationships with the humans who rely on the site. 

Want to ensure that humans are at the center of your next design or development project? That’s what we do (among other things). Contact us today

Better yet! If you are at DrupalCon this week, come over to booth 308. We'll be engaging in a human-centered design activity and you'll have the chance to witness human-centered design in action. I look forward to meeting you!


 

Mar 05 2019
Mar 05

Promet's acquisition of a team focused on user experience and strategy, has sparked a new spectrum of conversations that we are now having with clients. 

The former DAHU Agency’s Human-Centered Design expertise has given rise to many questions and within a relatively short span of time, has driven the delivery of expectation-exceeding results for clients from a range of sectors. 

As the name suggests, Human-Centered Design occurs within a framework for creating solutions that incorporate the perspectives, desires, context, and behaviors for the audiences that our clients want to reach. It factors into every aspect of development, messaging and delivery, and calls for:

  1. A deep and continuous questioning of all assumptions,
  2. A willingness to look beyond the “best practices” that others have established,
  3. An eagerness to find inspiration from anywhere and everywhere,
  4. The involvement and ideas of multiple stakeholders, from different disciplines, along with a process for ongoing testing, iterating and integration of feedback, and
  5. Constant emphasis on the concerns, goals and relevant behaviors of targeted cohort groups.


Within less than a year, this specialized approach has become fundamentally integrated into the ways that Promet thinks, works and engages with clients. We intentionally practice design techniques that combine inputs from our UXperts, the client, and the end user--bringing empathy and human experience to the forefront of our process.

How Does this Approach Differ?

In contrast to traditional product-centered design, where the appeal, color, size, weight, features and functionality of the product itself serves as the primary focus, Human-Centered Design creates solutions that understand audiences from a deeper perspective.  We try to meet more than the basic needs of a captivating design. To do this, we must fulfill greater and more engaging purpose and meaning expressed within the designs we create.


Among the approaches that we’ve found particularly useful is that of Abstraction Laddering, in which we guide interdisciplinary teams through the process of stating a challenge or a goal in many different ways, continuing to answer “how” and “why” for purposes of advancing toward greater clarity and specificity. 


Human-Centered Design fuels simplicity, collaborative energies, and a far greater likelihood that launched products will be adopted and embraced. When practiced in its entirety it helps to ensure success. As such, it benefits everyone and is perfectly aligned with Promet's User Experience (UX) Design practice.

Design that Delivers

As we engage with clients in the process of deepening our understanding of their customers, we draw upon the expertise of our highly skilled and creative team members, and leverage expertise at the leading edge of the digital landscape.


The addition of this new Human-Centered Design team to the Promet Source core of web developers has helped us to proactively approach new websites with a holistic mindset combining our technology expertise with great design and function, along with an essential empathy of how humans interact with technology.  

Contact us today to schedule a workshop or to start a conversation concerning Human-Centered Design as a strategy to accelerate your business goals. 

Mar 05 2019
Mar 05

Promet's acquisition last year of a team focused on user experience and strategy, has opened an exciting new sphere for the types of conversations that we are having with clients. 

The former DAHU Agency’s Human-Centered Design expertise has sparked a many questions and within a relatively short span of time, has driven the delivery of expectation-exceeding results for clients from a range of sectors. 

As the name suggests, Human-Centered Design occurs within a framework for creating solutions that incorporate the perspectives, desires, context, and behaviors for the people whom our clients want to reach. It factors into every aspect of development, messaging and delivery, and calls for:

  1. A deep and continuous questioning of all assumptions,
  2. A willingness to look beyond the “best practices” that others have established,
  3. An eagerness to find inspiration from anywhere and everywhere,
  4. The involvement and ideas of multiple stakeholders, from different disciplines, along with a process for ongoing testing, iterating and integration of feedback, and
  5. Constant emphasis on the concerns, goals and relevant behaviors of targeted cohort groups.


Within less than a year, this specialized approach has become fundamentally integrated into the ways that Promet thinks, works and engages with clients. We intentionally practice design techniques that combine inputs from our UXperts, the client, and the end user--bring empathy and human experience to the forefront of our process.

How Does this Approach Differ?

In contrast to traditional product-centered design, where the appeal, color, size, weight, features and functionality of the product itself serves as the primary focus, Human-Centered Design creates solutions that understand audiences from a deeper perspective.  We try to meet more than the basic needs of a captivating design. To do this, we must fulfill greater and more engaging purpose and meaning expressed within the designs we create.


Among the approaches that we’ve found particularly useful is that of Abstraction Laddering, in which we guide interdisciplinary teams through the process of stating a challenge or a goal in many different ways, and continuing to answer “how” and “why” for purposes of advancing toward greater clarity and specificity. 


Human-Centered Design fuels simplicity, collaborative energies, and a far greater likelihood that launched products will be adopted and embraced. When practiced in its entirety it helps to ensure success. As such, it benefits everyone and is perfectly aligned with Promet's User Experience (UX) Design practice.

Design that Delivers

As we engage with clients in the process of deepening our understanding of their customers, we draw upon the expertise of our highly skilled and creative team members, and leverage expertise at the leading edge of the digital landscape.


The addition of this new Human-Centered Design team to the Promet Source core of web developers has helped us to proactively approach new websites with a holistic mindset combining our technology expertise with great design and function, along with an essential empathy of how humans interact with technology.  

Contact us today to schedule a workshop or to start a conversation concerning Human-Centered Design as a strategy to accelerate your business goals. 

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web