Here are some videos of a couple of Introduction to UX talks I gave in December 2011.

The first video talks about Design Context and the importance of defining Usability and UX Goals when designing a digital product. It also describes what User Experience Design is, why it is important, and talks about the UX process – Establishing Requirements, Design, Prototyping and Evaluation.

The second video talks about Mental Models, Cognitive Processes, Design Principles and quickly touches on Web Form Design and Visual Design before summarising Good and Bad UX.

Last week I went along to UX Sketch Club here in London, hosted by Eva-Lotta Lamm, and we learned to make sketchnotes – a visual note taking technique. Some excellent examples of sketchnotes are those on the RSA website, including this one.

And you can see loads more examples here on flickr.

The next time you’re studying for an exam, you could try making some sketchnotes from your existing, conventional, written notes to help consolidate what you’ve learnt. Having said that, during the class we practised making sketchnotes in real-time while listening to a speaker, which is a little more difficult.

It’s hard trying to sketch fast enough to be able to keep up with what is being said, and either you end up missing chunks of the talk or you end up with scribbles. We all discovered that when you only have a few seconds to draw something, any natural drawing talent disappears out of the window and it’s a level playing field.

The talk we listened to in Sketch Club was this talk, though we only listened to the first 5 or so minutes of it. It’s called “When Ideas have Sex”…

Erm… Eva, you sure you want us to sketch the stuff we used to sketch into the back pages of our books in high school?

Luckily we were all true professionals… to an extent. And the talk is mostly about how evolution and mixing of genes has led to us becoming increasingly smart and creative in what we do.

I present some sketches for your amusement. If you watch some of the TED talk, maybe you can work out what the hell I’ve drawn here. Bear in mind each sketch took about 20 seconds. :-)

Things didn’t turn out as bad as we were expecting after all.
Nothing happens when I try clicking my rock.
I don’t think this needs a caption.
And candles are so big…

Last week was quite a big week for User Experience Design in London, as designers flew in from all over the world to attend the three-day UX London event which featured a devastatingly good list of speakers.

Although I didn’t make it to UX London itself, I managed to get a spot for UX Bookclub London, which in April doesn’t usually involve reading a book much, it’s more an excuse to get together with some of the speakers from UX London to discuss all things UX.

I was lucky enough to meet the authors of many books that are lying on my shelf here, and shook hands with some of the pioneers of user centred design. It was a chance to pick their brains on a range of topics from the future of UX and our interaction with technology down to the small things that bug me at work each and every day. Like bugs.

There are a lot of messy desks in the world. But I’d guess that desks are becoming less messy these days, especially compared to the days when computers didn’t exist, paper was plentiful, and smoking at your office desk was the norm.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Desks are nice and big though compared to the average computer screen, and it’s easy to push stuff out of the way for later and make space for what’s important now. Or if I want, I can lay stuff out easily if I need to look at lots of things at once.

Although computer screens are getting bigger, and we’re not too far away from having giant monitors that cover our desks, most of us still use screens that are only big enough to display one or two applications at a time.

But screen sizes aren’t just getting bigger. A lot of screens now fit in our pockets.

Tiny little Sheilas everywhere. In fact, mobile is so pervasive that even Google are advocating creating web applications for mobile first.

So how do we cater for such a wide range of screen sizes, from mobiles to tablets, laptops, desktops and even 50-inch HD TVs being used as monitors? Developing the same application multiple times, potentially in multiple programming languages is annoying and expensive.

Well a new CSS web page layout technique using media queries seems quite promising in making things easier. It allows developers to create pages that respond to changes in the width of the browser window, and is being termed responsive web design.

A good example of a site that uses media queries to full effect is http://css-tricks.com/. Try opening it and dragging to increase or decrease the width of the window. Notice how stuff appears and disappears based on the width.

If it’s not working for you and you’re using Internet Explorer then please don’t.

We, the people of Earth, at some point in the past thought it a good idea to adopt standardised paper sizes and it makes a lot of sense to have a range of standard screen sizes too. Measured in displacement units (in Europe, we’re keen on the metric system) rather than pixels, which vary in size from display to display.

But just because we happen to run an application on a screen of given size, it doesn’t mean that the application should assume it needs to use all of the space available to it. The reason I think a lot of people find mobile apps great is because of how simple and usable they are. With limited screen estate on mobile apps, and it being hard to type and fill forms in, functionality is stripped down until only the important and frequently used actions are available.

Why should mobile apps only run on mobiles? Applications should be designed to fit the available window space rather than the available screen space. I can think of many times while sat at my laptop when displaying 5-6 small windows all running mobile apps would have been less hassle than having a single maximised browser open with six tabs.

As screen sizes increase, applications simply won’t need to take up the full screen, and being able to resize and lay windows out will become very important.

And let’s face it, there’s a lot of room for improvement in this area.

Why, for example, would I opt for opening six tabs so that only one tab  is visible at a time and then proceed to  flick repeatedly between the tabs like some sort of madman?

Because we’re still using computers where users are forced to drag a window from its title bar to position it, and then move to the bottom right of the window to resize it. Oh and then move back up to the title bar to nudge it a bit more. And so on. Six times.

Praise the Lord that in Windows 7 it’s possible to resize windows from any corner. Not that I realised until I started writing this post.

And Windows 7 also has some neat features for resizing and positioning windows automatically e.g. fill half the screen or the entire screen by dragging to the side or top of the desktop. A very powerful feature and a real novelty. I’m a PC by trade, not a Mac, but I hear Apple have had similar functionality for years. Maybe Microsoft Googled for it.

Even then, these improvements are just the tip of the iceberg. Simple actions to move, resize and switch between applications should place minimum cognitive load on users and shouldn’t distract from completing the task at hand. You could say it should feel as easy as moving around paper on a desk…