From ACP: Designing user experience (part 2)

Design research for user experience
Wesley Lindamood, senior interaction designer on the NPR Visuals team

During what has been an, um, interesting debate cycle for this, um, interesting presidential campaign, separating fact from fiction has been more complicated than ever. National Public Radio sought to make sense of the noise coming from either direction with its innovative, live debate fact check. Here, about 20 reporters live-annotated the debate, correcting and adding context to candidate statements. Lindamood shared how his team planned, executed, and adapted their idea. Here are his tips for designing a strong user experience for any reader (print or online):

Watch out for topics pretending to be stories.

  • Reporting needs to be done, need to have a focus.
  • You’re not thinking about how to display until you have the reporting.
  • Tight concepts affect user experience. You need tight concepts to come up with better design ideas that support the story’s goals.

Share your assumptions.

  • Address implied assumptions about how a story should be displayed.
  • The closer you are to a story, the more opinions you have about how it should be shown. That doesn’t make your opinions right.
  • Expose your (and the story’s) blind spots.
  • At a minimum, you know where everyone stands. But someone will be the leader, and once a decision is made, you stop pushing your agenda.
  • Work with team to find out:
    • What do our (users) already know about (the story)?
    • What do (users) need to learn from (the story) to make them care?
    • What can we build to support the telling of (the story)?
  • Select a neutral space for brainstorming that doesn’t challenge anyone’s authority. Everyone will feel challenged. Fill your dry erase board with ideas. The ideas will conflict. That’s a good thing. But here is where you get it all out.

Prioritize ruthlessly

  • The lead editor will decide what the priorities are. Design is not by democracy. Decide early: When there is conflict on design, who is making the call? (An example would be that Joyce makes the call each week on design, as design editor, with only Anna as the final say on major design changes.)
  • Sketch together.

Prototype on paper

  • Sketching several ideas on paper is best — you should feel good throwing away bad ideas and keeping good ones.
  • Hold sketching sessions with the team: Get a few scenarios going. Again, your ideas can and should conflict. Conflicting ideas grow the project.

Recommended reading:

The Elements of User Experience
Lean UX



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