Thinking Like a User

Pitfalls of self-referential design

Building software that’s easy to use and intuitive is a tough task to say the least. As developers and designers, when we set out to create software that humans will love using, we need to take our individual opinions out the equation as much as possible. This task, however, is easier said than done; thinking like a user is a skill that needs constant practice and consideration.

Self-referential design is one of the greatest risks to a successful software project. The professionals developing and designing the solution and the companies we are building for, each have their specific point-of-view and personal preferences. Although these individual biases are based on extensive professional experience, they often yield software designed for the creators themselves rather than the end-users.

At DevFacto, we are constantly looking for new and effective ways to design user-centric software. One of the guiding schools of thought in this area started at Cooper in the early 1990s, when design methodologies were for the first time applied in the world of software development. Amongst the best-known ideas introduced by Cooper is Design Thinking – a human-centered design process for creative problem solving, now widely used by tech giants such as Google and Apple. So, when our UX team got the opportunity to attend Cooper’s Immersive Design Thinking workshop we were beyond thrilled!

Design thinking concept in user-centric software design

User journey doesn’t always end in success. Design Thinking helps us build software humans love to use.

Approaching user-centric software development

This past summer, a group of four DevFactonians consisting of Business Analysts and UX Designers, were lucky enough to take part in a three-day long Cooper training course in San Francisco, a city brimming with unique architecture and distinctive people. If there’s a center for creative thinking in the world, that could very well be it, making the location a perfect setting for a Design Thinking workshop.

From day one, we dove head first into the program exploring the latest techniques and best practices in human-centered design. Through creative exploration, we learned powerful ways to identify and solve almost any design challenge. One of my key takeaways was a realization that identifying the real problems can be very enlightening, especially when faced with how our presumptions change as we learn new information. By following the Design Thinking process, we shine a light on the various points-of-view of the different users, which affords us a chance to build empathy and plot a course that respects their goals and pains.

Over the three days of training, we ran various exercises to help understand and clearly define the problem we were tasked to solve. Starting with planning and conducting research interviews, through generating insights from user research, to using exploration and storytelling in creating concepts that address the goals of both businesses and consumers, each of these exercises built on the previous and helped us remove assumptions by focusing on finding new and interesting things to consider. Once we uncovered the real problems, we learned how to work on effective solutions through modeling, ideation, and prototyping.

During the training we were tasked with conceptualizing a new photography product or service. The solutions we and others there came up with surprised and delighted us in their creativity and uniqueness. Many of us had ideas that changed significantly through the process as we learned new information. Overall, we discovered the importance and power of careful research and thoughtful planning.

Benefits of the Design Thinking Immersive training

Traveling to take the Design Thinking Immersive course was in many ways an enriching experience. In addition to our new understanding and skills, the four of us grew closer as a UX team by working together to solve challenges creatively. Since returning from San Francisco, we have all been able to incorporate the new knowledge into our work, making a positive impact on our respective projects. Most importantly, by applying the principles we’ve learned about through Cooper, we have not only grown as designers, but we have also elevated he experiences of the users who interact daily with the software we build.

Quick Setup: VSCode and TypeScript

TypeScript can hardly be called a new kid on the block anymore but plenty of people still haven’t knocked it off their “languages to check out” list. So, here’s a quick and dirty guide to setting up VSCode for some TypeScript experiments to get you going. Read more

Quality Conf 16.2 Recap: Introduction to React

On December 16, 2016, DevFacto hosted Quality Conf 16.2 – a full-day internal conference dedicated to learning and team building.  A number of sessions were presented by our team members which focused on everything from personal to technical growth.  In this post, we recap “Introduction to React” which was originally presented by DevFacto consultant Chris Nissen. Read more

How Workshops Work For Us

When starting a project there’s a million things to do but little time. Productive meetings are tough at this stage. At a previous client site, a colleague and I went from zero knowledge to having a comprehensive set of features for a mobile app in a single day. Over the course of that day, our group of ten people discussed perhaps hundreds of small features, came to consensus and decided on the relative importance of each idea. After the workshop, participants were enthusiastic and energetic. Someone even said that the day flew by. Here’s how we did it: Read more

Bug or Opportunity?

So you’ve built something neat and it’s heading to production soon.

You’ve got pretty good test coverage and your tests are meaningful. You tried to break it as much as you could and couldn’t find any show stopping bugs. You’re proud of your work.

The customer should be grateful to have someone so thoughtful and… uh oh, the customer just sent you an email titled “NOTHING WORKS IN PROD! PLEASE FIX”. All caps can’t be good. Read more

Industry Trends: 2015 Summary

As consultants, we get opportunities to work with a variety of clients in different industries. We’re often advising and helping with new ideas and technology and it’s critical that we are up to date and aware of industry trends. Read more

Thinking in the New World of Technology

Technology is constantly changing not just the way we do business, but also the way we think about doing business. It is no longer enough to simply “keep up” with technology or maintain the status quo. What worked in the past, what works now, may not be what sets you apart from competition in the future. Read more

QualityConf 2015

I had an amazing time at QUALITYCONF. I will jump at any chance to sketchnote some great topics from engaging speakers, and QUALITYCONF did not disappoint. This DevFacto event happened from March 27 to 29 at Stone Ridge Mountain Resort in Canmore Alberta. Read more

Software is Meant to Evolve

Software is meant to evolve. As a consultant, I see many organizations that don’t fully consider this when planning and building systems. This has a negative effect on the quality of a solution and can even hold us back, leaving process stagnant and the business vulnerable for competition to disrupt. Read more

Think Like Google X, Test Like Netflix

Do you test anything in your daily work? I do. I test prototypes with end users to ensure the developed ideas actually work for those using them. There are strong indicators lately that I need to take testing more seriously, especially when another piece of encouragement bubbled to the surface recently. Read more