OptimalSort

(guest post by Michelle Kang and Rajeshwari Keluskar)

Card sorting is an effective, easy-to-use method for understanding how people think about content and the way it’s categorized—it helps you organize information that is easy to find and understand. As students in the Information Architecture class, we were generously offered a free trial of the Optimal Workshop’s card sorting product called OptimalSort. As a class of seven, we used this as a part of our assignment to learn about the labelling systems by each of us making an open card sort consisting of 30 cards based on different topics and acting as participants for each other’s.

While we were using the online OptimalSort, we noticed how it is more user-friendly and flexible than the method of using physical Post-its. Having the ability to put together questions to screen participants was something we found very convenient. Although we did not need to use this tool in our assignment, it is a tool that we feel which distinguishes OptimalSort from the traditional Post-it card sorting. Being an online platform, it allowed the participants to take part at a time most convenient for them while the sort was open and the “unique study link” can be shared via email and other platforms to recruit more participants. Users may also choose to use the integrated participant recruitment which holds a recruitment panel of 10 million participants all over the world with 70+ languages.

OptimalSort not only helps users during the card sorting but also presents them with an accurate analysis report of all the sorts that you conduct assists in gaining clarity and the confidence to make informed decisions. Being able to have a see in the analysis of each card sort by individual participants, cards, and categories through the features such as the similarity matrix, dendrograms and participant-centered analysis helped our class gain a grip on the ambiguity of language in labelling and categorization. The option to exclude the information of the participants who decided to abandon the sort before finishing prevented the possible problem of having inaccurate data in the overall overview summary and analysis.

On behalf of our DD37 class, we would like to thank Optimal Workshop for allowing us to experience these highly functional features that top notch companies such as NASA, Google, Netflix, Autodesk, BBC, NatGeo and thousands more, use to enhance their products on daily basis. Thank you!

Studio Tour: Axiom Zen

(guess post by Julian Liao, DD37)

The DD37 class recently had the chance to visit the Vancouver based venture studio, Axiom Zen. Having heard many great things from past DD students, we were all very excited to witness first-hand the kind of work that they did.

On the day of the tour, we eagerly made our way underground to Axiom Zen’s main lobby as we waited in anticipation for the studio tour to begin. It was surreal to watch the surrounding techies in their natural habitat. They sat with their backs harmoniously infused with the ergonomic contours of their Herman Miller office chairs, tapping away on their Apple keyboards, fully entranced in their work. Their eyes were carefully peeled before their screens, as they stared curiously, pondering what I could only imagine were highly evolved and interdisciplinary problems… or perhaps the age-old question of what was for lunch, a problem of proportional scale and importance that continues to plague all of humanity.

As the studio tour began, the class was greeted by Axiom’s UX/UI designers, Geordie and Mariana, who spoke to us at length about their workplace culture, and their roles as designers for the venture studio. The concept of the venture studio was very fascinating, as they are a self-described “startup for startups”. The organizational structure of Axiom remains relatively flat which helps to promote a highly collaborative and entrepreneurial environment. Everyone is free to take on projects as they see fit, and select work that suits or interests them.

As an incubator for startups and newly fledged digital products, Axiom Zen has accumulated quite a diverse array of brands under their portfolio. The office floor was separated into different pods for each product team. We had the opportunity to visit Toby, Routific, ZenHub, and Hammer & Tusk. In each case, we were able to learn about the histories of each project and how the teams were able to take these products from inception to their current stages of development. Toby, for instance, is a project that’s still very much in its nascent stage, and began simply as a passion project among some of Axiom’s developers who saw the need for a more powerful tool to help manage their browser tabs. It was inspiring to hear stories about entrepreneurs and creators who were empowered to create solutions for real-life problems that they experienced. Finally, we capped off our studio tour by testing out some cool VR gadgets with Hammer & Tusk. We got to learn about some of the challenges designers and technologists faced in creating impactful experiences for these new and emerging user platforms.

Our day at Axiom Zen was a unique opportunity for the class to learn about the structure of a tech-based studio. The most impressionable aspect of our visit was definitely the blend of entrepreneurial spirit and passion behind everyone who worked there. It truly felt like an environment where fresh ideas came to grow and thrive. It is with little doubt that many of these projects would one day go on to shape the next wave of successful digital products and services.

A big thank you to Axiom Zen for having us!

 

Vancouver User Experience Awards 2016

(guest post by Ziwei Wang)

The third annual event Vancouver UX Awards was hosted by Vancouver User Experience Group on Wednesday, Nov 16th at Imperial. Professionals in the industry and students joined together, excited to see what projects the talents would bring to the table this time.

After amazing food and drinks, the gala kicked off with a presentation from Kharis O’Connell, the Head of Product at ARCHIAT, UX for the Future. He talked about his experience in designing for mixed reality, and dived into the difference between prototyping for 3d space to the known approaches of designing for 2d interfaces. While there are pages of results when people google prototyping tools, there are not many answers for prototyping for Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality; how current designers tackle this problem is through theatre acting and paper prototyping. Successful UX designers will combine this emerging model with a new type of development mentality.

(photo credits: VanUE and photographer Jef Gibbons)

The awards highlight outstanding work across several categories: Enterprise, Marketing, Non-for-profit, Products, Students, Emerging Experiences, People’s Choice, and Best UX. All solutions were evaluated and scored by the judges on how they satisfied these five criteria: Joy, Elegance, Clarity, Innovation, and Impact. Throughout the night, the panel of judges shared their insights into great user experiences. User experience isn’t just about designing a great interface: It digs deeper into researching users’ needs and defining the right problems. Winners of this year emphasized the Vancouver lifestyle and demonstrated the ability to focus on user problems, from Burnkit’s interactive touch-screen solution that created an educational and fun experience for visitors at The Port of Vancouver Discovery Centre, to student online platform IKEA STAY that gives IKEA customers the chance to test products through an immersive Airbnb stay and web experience.

The event was excellent, well-organized, encouraged young talents to join the industry. It’s great to see the importance of UX has been fully embraced in Vancouver, I look forward to attend more events like this.

 

THE ROOKIES: WEB & MOBILE WINNER

Ainara_Rookies

We had a chance to speak to Ainara Sáinz Gutierrez about winning the Web & Mobile category of The Rookies, an international competition for young designers, creators, innovators, and artists.

Can you briefly summarize what your project is about?

FRAME is a space that showcases artisans in Vancouver, presents an intimate look into their creative process and strengthens the local art community. It keeps you updated about upcoming events, local businesses promotions, and encourages you to translate the digital experience into a tangible one by promoting art crawls around the city.

What was your 1st thought after finding out you won the Rookie of the Year in the Web & Mobile category?

I got super excited, and my first thought was that all the hard work paid off.

What do you think set your project apart from the rest of the nominees?

That’s a tough question… I want to believe that it was because the project was born from a real need inside a small community in Vancouver. Besides, I tried to stay focused on delivering a feasible solution that would really strengthen and spread the word about our local art scene.

What inspired you to create Frame?

FRAME is a project that was born from the difficulty of discovering Vancouver’s local art scene. I moved from Mexico, a country with strong folklore culture, and found that looking for artisans here wasn’t easy. After talking with them, I realized that they are more focused on creating their pieces than in advertising themselves and that opportunity is what made me create FRAME.

FRAME Case Study from Ainara on Vimeo.

What is your approach to solving a design problem?

I believe that it depends on the goals of every project but my general approach is to start with research, competitive analysis and interviews in order to understand the user needs. After that I will start exploring different solutions, I will test and refine until the design offers a clear solution.

How did you define success for the project and how did you measure it?

Success for me in this project meant to learn as much as I could while I was presenting high quality deliverables of every stage of the project. I went out and learned from my user research, implemented strategy and logical thinking in the user experience and had a lot of fun with the branding and the interface design.

Did you, at any point during the making of Frame, felt lost and unsure on how to proceed? If so, what helped you get back on track?

Yes, and it becomes very difficult to have an objective point of view about the project’s different stages when you’re working on it every day during 4 months. Every time I felt lost I tried to take a step back to ask for feedback, look for design inspiration and review the earlier stages on the project to understand how I needed to move forward.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative design process?


Everywhere. I’m an art addict so I constantly go to museums, art galleries, conferences and read a lot about artistic movements. I listen to design podcasts and get lost in Behance, Pinterest and Vimeo.

What are some of the tools you used? Are there any tools you would recommend?

I mainly used Adobe Creative Suite software: Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects. I highly recommend to use a prototype tool to test the project throughout the entire process such as Axure or Invision and, if I could go back, I would definitely use Sketch to create the entire interface design because of its precision and efficiency.

Looking back, what would be one part of your project you would have done differently?

I would have devoted more time interviewing potential users and testing low fidelity prototypes instead of adding precise and refined details on every wireframe I created.

Do you have any advice for current students when it comes to choosing a topic for their grad project?

Choose a project that comes out of a real need and that challenges you. A topic that you love and that reflects the passion that you have for what you do.

What is next for you?

Right now I’m working as an interactive designer at Unbounce and I love it! At the same time, I’m in search of joining a non-profit to help the community through my career. I would really like to stay in Vancouver for a couple of years and then move to another city to continue improving my professional skills.

Thanks, Ainara!

 

UPCOMING DD TALKS EVENT: The Design Sprint

Our next Digital Design Talks event will be held on Wednesday, November 9th at 4:30pm!

Ainara Sáinz Gutierrez and Alejandra Porta from Unbounce will be presenting on how research makes great design possible.

Ainara’s Bio:
Ainara is a Vancouver-based Interactive Designer with a background in Graphic Design, who currently works in the Marketing Team of Unbounce. For the last four years she’s been working in multidisciplinary teams to convey intuitive digital experiences and products across web, tablet and mobile devices. She’s an art addict and believes that by experimenting and playing with design you can improve people’s lives.

Alejandra’s Bio:
Alejandra Porta is an Interactive Designer at Unbounce. She loves branding, typography, illustration and user research to create better UI experiences. After working as a surface designer and a soft good product developer for a few years, she realized she wanted to improve her digital design skills and this led her to VFS. Vintage shopping, art, bikes and lattes bring her joy as well as meeting and connecting people. She values being a great team player and is known to have a big heart.