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Lorem Ipsum, UX Portfolios, Thought Leaders and Designing for a Customer Niche

I answer questions about UX, Information Architecture and other topics on Quora. A selection of these answers will be reposted on Medium with occasional, minor editing for clarity. Following are selected questions I answered in August.

In a UX Portfolio, can I use lorem ipsum or do I have to use the real text from a website?

Answered August 5, 2017

Lorem ipsum will likely be read by reviewers as a stage in an unfinished site. That’s fine. Your UX Portfolio should include artifacts showing the process you went through to solve a design problem. If you only show screen shots of completed sites, it is difficult for a reviewer to understand exactly what part of the design solution you worked on.

Notice I am using words like “problem,” “artifacts,” “process” and “solution.” These are terms that direct the reviewer to consider your role in the completed work. What problem did you solve? What design artifacts (like screenshots, wireframes, journey maps) did you create? What other team roles did you work with? What processes did you use as a team or individually? How did you negotiate and advocate for your work with the team or the client? Your portfolio should be more than the pretty results of your work, but give a description of the messy problems and creative solutions you brought to the table.

Another thing that I wonder when you mention Lorem ipsum is whether you are using it because you have an NDA. This can be tricky. Read the agreement thoroughly and have a lawyer explain anything that doesn’t make sense. Simply obscuring text may not be enough if there are branding elements that are recognizable in the completed design. Often wireframes make sense, since they are very lo-fi and don’t need to show branding elements. That said, some NDAs will prevent you from sharing any artifacts at all, especially if the intellectual property is particularly sensitive, so a general description of your role and processes may be all you can put into a portfolio.

Hope that helps.

What is the best way to do customer research to decide what product I should build in a specific niche?

Answered August 5, 2017

If you have already decided what that niche is, you can start to think about the activities that group is involved in and the types of problems they are trying to solve. Meet with them and observe how they are currently performing these activities or solving these problems. How do they perform the activity? Is their solution or task analog or digital? What are their pain points? What do they struggle with? What do they wish was different? Have them speak to you aloud about the steps of their task: what are they doing, feeling at each point in the process? Are there solutions or tools they have tried and abandoned? What made them abandon something that was not satisfactory? What made them keep using something that is perhaps subpar? Are there solutions they have heard or read about that they would like to try? What are they and what might be keeping them from trying?

All of this will give you insight to an underlying problem that could use a designed solution. More questions to ask during the ideation stage: Can their tasks be supported by a digital solution? What are the external roadblocks? Is there a cognitive or behavioral issue that may be involved? Is there a bias? (I remember when wheely bags were derided as something only for the weak or the female. Now most urban mail carriers use them and most other people couldn’t imagine getting to their gate on time without one).

Is cost an issue? Regulation? What external factors might be affecting the market for your solution?

Map out some ideas, prototype your solution (paper mockups or quick digital prototypes are OK) and go back to your users to see how they use it. Does the solution address their problem? Does it make sense? What would they add? What would they remove? Would they suggest it to a friend or colleague?

Then back again. Keep iterating and testing. Read about the problem space in the media. What other companies are working on products like yours? What are investors buying into? What larger groups, associations, affinity markets are interested in solutions like yours? Meet them for coffee or go to Meetups and conferences on topics related to your niche group. Meetups are good places to find your user test participants as well as to learn generally how the industry or affinity group understands the problem space and what other solutions are out there.

Be sure when you start to approach designers, developers and partners that they really get your niche and the problems they are dealing with. Decision Fish has been very lucky to find people who understand and are excited enough about our product that they want it for themselves. When your team really gets it and they are excited about coming up with a solution, investors and customers can feel it and will be more likely to want to help you to succeed.

Hope that helps.

Who Are the Thought Leaders of UX Writers?

Answered August 5, 2017

Most of the authors at Rosenfeld Media and the speakers at UIE conferences can be considered thought leaders in their area of UX. Writers I follow in particular include Peter Morville for IA, Kristina Halvorson for Content Management, Donna Lichaw for UX Storytelling, Steve Krug and Don Norman for Usability, Dana Chisnell for Government/Participatory Design, Steve Portigal for UX Research (I’m currently reading Doorbells, Danger and Dead Batteries), Thomas Wendt for service design (I’m also reading Design for Dasein, which is highly philosophical/academic, but fascinating if you are up on your Heidegger and terms like phenomenology and hermeneutics). Peter Merholz has done writing on service design that is a bit more accessible. Jonathan Kolko and Nathan Shedroff have written on Design for “wicked problems” and sustainability, respectively. Nathan also has a fun one at Rosenfeld Media, called Make It So, on what designers can learn from sci fi.