Skillshare Course in iOS Design: User Experience

Introduction

In my last post, I discussed a project I had been completing as part of a Skillshare class. This is the second post in that series.

Sketches

As I left off in my last post, I skipped over the persona portion of the course. I did return, in part, to personas but not until the visual design.

I ended up doing about 3 pages of sketches. My documentation shows how I worked out smaller interaction elements, like navigation elements.

 


This is the part of the workflow is where the interaction design and user experience start to come together. The instructor chose to update the Southwest app. The visual design looked great and I liked her workflow overall. But there was a piece of this workflow that was missing – and that was competitive research. There was little in the way of looking at related apps to get an idea of what people might experience from something similar.

It’s easier to become efficient with a new interface if it contains familiar elements. This is one reason why I research competitors. I’ve also found that using real life examples helps convince others on the team that the product is actually feasible and can implemented as designed.

I did some looking around on my own, finding screenshots from different library websites. The Audible, the Apple Music and Podcast apps, and SoundCloud were helpful. It may be confirmation bias, but this competitive research was far more useful than the personas I didn’t create.

Wireframes

The difference in the wireframes for this project, and projects I’ve done at work, is how she used a vertical layout to present her work. I thought that was pretty smart. And, though it wasn’t specified in the course, I included annotations because I wanted to include ambiguity. (Normally I’d include more.)

For the actual wireframes, I created 2 layouts. I noticed when reviewing the other apps that there’s often a large image in the center of the screen. I felt that this was unnecessary, especially on the playback screen. My solution was to reduce it and focus on the controls.


Next Post…

The next and final post in this series will be about the visual design work I did for this project.

Skillshare Course in iOS Design: Planning

Introduction

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently completed a Skillshare class on iOS design. The focus of the course is to take an existing app and update it. Part 1 of the 3-part course is all about UX design. The instructor takes students through planning, personas, user journeys, and wireframes. Here is the work I did for Part 1.

Planning

The app I selected was Axis 360. This is an app that allows people to checkout audiobooks and e-books using their library card. It’s an app that I’ve been using quite a bit and I wanted to focus on improving it if possible.

The first thing I did was take screenshots of the existing app.

 

The course then begins by creating a high level list of activities someone can complete on the app. I focused on listening to an audiobook. The instructor used sticky notes, so I did too.

Scenarios
Scenarios. (You can see sketches on the reverse page.)

 

User Journey

From there, I created a high-level user journey. This includes a screen with a list of checked out books, a book detail screen, and a playback screen.

User Journey
User Journey, for Axis 360

 

Personas

At this point in the course, the instructor introduced personas. In this case, these were proto-personas. I admit that I did not complete this part of the 3-part course.

My philosophy is that personas are only useful if they can be validated by objective data. This includes providing completed personas to a client, or by interviewing potential users. In my case, I had neither a client nor potential users. Unvalidated user needs, demographic data (age, marriage status, gender), and interests (stock-car racing) would be a work of fiction and thus useless in directing the experience. So, I skipped this step, although I came back to it during the visual design phase.

 


Next up…

In the next post, I’ll talk about sketches and wireframes.

Fundamentals of UX: Video Courses from Lynda and Skillshare

Following up my earlier posts about online resources that teach the fundamentals of UX, here is a review of a few video courses. There are a lot of good websites and “schools” that specialize in video-based learning. The courses I’m reviewing today are from Lynda and Skillshare.

Overview

Lynda offers classes on many creative topics. Topics include web design, graphic design, programming, music composition, and more. It’s a great site to use to get structured overview of a topic. For instance, if you want to learn the basics of After Effects, Lynda would be a good source. It’s been around for a while, but somehow many of their courses still seem relevant. Lynda offers a consistent site experience with high production quality. Sometimes it can seem like their courses are out of date.

Skillshare also offers classes on creative topics. I haven’t checked, but they seem to have a few more lettering courses. The service is new and they don’t have as much content as Lynda. Skillshare emphasizes the teachers over the subjects. Teachers sign up to teach classes; they do their own recording and supply site the content. The result is that the site experience is inconsistent. Some classes are good, but have low production quality. But since it seems like a startup, the content feels more “fresh”.

Membership

Lynda is by paid membership only, although you can get a free trial for 10 days. They have paid plans for individual members and organizations, that start at around $25/month. But, many public libraries will let their patrons sign up for free Lynda memberships. Check with your local library to see if they offer this, and if they do you’re all set. If not, you can still sign up with Lynda by getting a library card with another city. Although the rules for out-of-town library cards depends on each library.

Skillshare requires site registration, but it has both free and paid accounts. The paid accounts are “premium” accounts which opens up “premium” classes. I was able to find a 3-month coupon for Skillshare which allowed me to take a few premium classes. I am not confident in recommending a premium account, though. I am not convinced premium classes are “better” than non-premium. Unfortunately, Skillshare is still too inconsistent for me to recommend a premium account.

Teaching style

If it hasn’t become obvious yet, I am a Lynda. I prefer the Lynda teaching style, for a few reasons. One reason is that each instructor is very rehearsed before they record their lesson. The result is a smooth lesson with instructors that speak with clarity about their topic. Lessons are well-organized and logical, with the course description listing class topics.

Some Skillshare instructors are well-rehearsed but many others are not. Even having an organized instructor doesn’t always result in a good class. One pet peeve of mine is the poor audio quality for most Skillshare lessons. Lynda classes sound high-end. I suspect they are either recorded in a sound studio or with a good microphone on a set. In comparison, Skillshare instructors sound amateur, recorded at home or with inferior microphones. You may find yourself adjusting the sound level between lessons. The course descriptions are pretty good, but they could be better with a list of the class topics.

Relevant classes

Finally, the relevant classes! Remember, the classes I am reviewing fit the pattern of being either a what is UX class or a how to UX class. That’s what I’ll go through next with Lynda and Skillshare.

Lynda

What is UX

Interaction Design Fundamentals with David Hogue provides an overview of interaction design. What I liked about this class was that it described theory and application. For instance, there was a lesson on tools, and then another lesson on UX principles. Course topics included cognition, neural models, and vision. They even mentioned cognitive load! I definitely recommend this 3-hour class.

Cover slide for Interaction Design Fundamentals
Interaction Design Fundamentals with David Hogue (Lynda)
How to UX

UX Design Techniques, from instructor Chris Nodder, is all about how to do UX. This is actually a set of 7 videos, that go from user analysis to implementation. Topics include observation and experience mapping. Techniques include as personas, scenarios, storyboards, and paper prototyping. Each lesson builds on the previous one. There’s a UX playlist that only includes 6 courses, so make sure to include this one if you decide to take this course, too.

UX Design Techniques: analyzing user data
Analyzing User Data with Chris Nodder (Lynda)

I enjoyed this class a lot. I became a fan of the method he describes. It seems fun to create paper prototypes. My only hesitation with this method is that it might be difficult for teams of one. It also focused on building a new product. I find that I get involved in many redesigns of existing products.

Skillshare

On Skillshare, there are again two sets classes I want to mention focused on what is UX and how to UX.

What is UX

The What is UX class is UX Design Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know (and More) by Joe Natoli. The description for this premium class states that it is a comprehensive overview on UX. This is a 12-hour, 8 chapter course. Each video is between 8-15 minutes long.

I’m not against long classes, and 12 hours sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth. Yet…I couldn’t finish the course. Despite this instructor being well-organized, he has a speaking style that is too hard to follow. His style is too loose and casual. He has a tendency to interject rhetorical jokes and questions. And he makes statements that only serve to confirm his own points, such as below:

Paths on the other hand are what users leave to enter and leave. (pause) Ok? Pretty straightforward.

“Ok? Pretty straightforward” may not sound like much. But, it’s pretty noticeable when happens in every other sentence.

I also noticed that the slides don’t always match the voiceover. I felt that I was constantly fighting a cognitive disconnect between what I was seeing and what I was hearing.

To summarize, I do not recommend this class. It’s far too long and his speaking style will drive you nuts. In lieu of a screenshot from the course, I will include this Placekitten.

Placekitten
Placekitten
How to UX

iOS Design by Kara Hoedecker is a good hands-on course in UX design. This is a three-part course on redesigning a mobile app.
She takes the class from planning stages and sketching, through wireframes and visual design. She ends with prototyping and testing. Her class wasn’t perfect: she had some technical issues with her class. For instance, her cat walking into the room where she was recording was pretty cute. Her longest class is almost 2 hours; the shortest is a little over 30 min.

Intro to UX
iOS Design I: Getting Started with UX (Skillshare)

What I liked about this class was how she went through the class. First she presented the idea and what the final outcome should be. Then she went through the exercise herself, showing how she did the work. This was important for me, because when I watched her going over her work, I felt very confident that I could do the work, too. I was so confident, I ended up doing my own project. (I’ll post my work in a separate post since this one has become so long.) She also emphasized sketching a bit more so than I’ve done in the past. Her course includes visual design, so it expands the definition of UX to a wider range of skills than is typically associated with UX.

Conclusion

If you like video-based learning, Lynda and Skillshare both offer courses on UX theory and techniques. My conclusion is that Lynda is more consistent over all. Skillshare has some good resources, but it’s a little hit or miss without a premium account. As for what I learned, I liked the sense of accomplishment I had completing the Skillshare course. There were a few techniques from each course that I look forward to using soon, such as the sticky-note experience mapping or group ideation sessions from the Lynda course. I also hope to use sketching more than usual; and I will start taking on UI design tasks.A combination the techniques used in each class would be beneficial in any UX practice.

I look forward to posting my work from the Skillshare class, in an upcoming post. In the meantime, here’s a bonus video about Building and Maintaining Your UX Design Portfolio, from Lynda.