Cambridge University Design / UX group

Review: A Project Guide to UX Design

Published in March this year, Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler’s book, “A Project Guide to UX Desgin”, and less than £14 on Amazon, is well worth a look.

A Project Guide to UX Design (book cover)

A Project Guide to UX Design (book cover)

The back cover synopsis reads as follows:

User experience design is the discipline of creating a useful and usable Web site or application—one that’s easily navigated and meets the needs of both the site owner and its users. But there’s a lot more to successful UX design than knowing the latest Web technologies or design trends: It takes diplomacy, project management skills, and business savvy. That’s where this book comes in. Authors Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler show you how to integrate UX principles into your project from start to finish.

It is modern, well laid-out, and fresh. I have only begun reading it, really, and scanned through the rest, but it is great so far. I have skipped ahead to the authors’ thoughts on integrating user-centred design principles with existing project practices, and there are similarly good sections on how to place yourself as a designer within a project.

The chapters on gathering requirements and user research also look especially good. At first glance, the authors arent simply propounding yet another way of tackling issues; they are considering the best practices that exist, and building on them, which looks good to me.

Check it out.

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Design with agility

I have been thinking recently about the approach that I take to running a project. Not necessarily project management as such, but the sort of processes or methodology that I apply to going from initial scoping to the end product. It is something worth considering, particularly if you are going to be working as part of a team, where a specific development process is already well-established.

Now, this isn’t the place to discuss all those different models for development processes, so if you want to know the difference between “pigs” and “chickens”, you can read all about it on Wikipedia!

Anyway, if you have any familiarity with this stuff already, you will know that the Agile model is a popular one amongst development teams. I spotted a couple of good presentations that cover the realities of Agile processes, the pros and cons, and how to fit and design and UX work in with an Agile process.

Here goes with two embedded presentations…

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Usability testing

On Wednesday, I went to a good TechLink talk on the University’s Streaming Media Service (SMS). Julian King explained how he and his team manage this service, and what we can expect from it.
If you want to know more about the SMS, Julian’s presentation is available online [PDF].

Something that got me really interested, though, is that staff who want to make their own video or audio recordings can unofficially borrow recording kit from UCS as part of a pilot scheme. The thing is that the kit looked perfect for carrying out some simple usability testing…

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Running Firefox 2 and 3 simultaneously

If we are developing websites and applications, we test them in different browsers, and on different platforms, right? So you might have a couple of machines in another room where you work, and you’ve agreed with your IT guys that you want to leave Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 1.5 or 2 running on them, so that you can test your creations.

Just for example.

But then, someone helpful upgrades to the latest versions, and your ad hoc testing envrionment is no more. Yes, there are better ways to set things up  –  I could run Parallels on my Mac, install Windows, and then have whatever dodgy old web browsers I want on there. But for various reasons, I don’t.

Anyway, it came to pass that I wanted to run Firefox 2 and 3 simultaneously on my Mac. I was already running  Firefox 3, and I knew that if I simply downloaded the installer for v.2, I would overwrite what is there already. Hmmm. So now what?

Answer 1: create a new Firefox profile, install both versions of Firefox, and use the command line (from Terminal [Mac] or Run… [Windows]) to control which version of Firefox you open

Answer 2: create a new Profile, and install the MultiFirefox app [Mac OS X only] to control it all.

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First meeting write-up

Meeting: 14h30, March 19, 2009
Location: Dept of Earth Sciences

Thanks to everyone who came along. We had 10 attendees, from across the University, and with a wide range of experience and expertise amongst them.

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