If you haven’t noticed, tiny homes have become really popular.
My theory is that the consumerist lifestyle advertised in capitalist societies have led to physical, psychological, and financial burdens, such as high-debt, overpacked garages, unaffordable McMansions. In addition, the financial crisis of 10 years ago and the resulting Great Recession left many people with a visceral fear of becoming burdened again. Given the dual rise in popularity of decluttering and minimalism — ex: Marie Kondo; “Goodbye, Things” — these events have clearly had an impact and many people are looking to avoid or escape this lifestyle. One outcome of this search for freedom is the rise of the tiny home movement.
One YouTube a series I’ve been watching features an extraordinarily good-natured New Zealand-based host, Bryce, and his talented videographer (girlfriend/partner who always remains offscreen). Together, they travel around the world to visit different individuals, couples, and families who are living in tiny homes. The pair don’t just visit people from New Zealand, although there are many people with tiny homes in New Zealand. The show also visits people from all over the world: Canada, Australia, Japan, the United States. It has some great theme music.
As a resident of NYC, I have been interested in small space living for a while. There are a lot of different tips and tricks for small space living:
For small space living, I found another YouTube series a few years ago. Here’s a video where the tenant transformed her very small studio into a little gem.
In this next one, the tenant (or owner) has used a center storage unit to create zones in his studio. It’s pretty clever.
[Note: I do not vouch for their website!]
There are a number of different styles of tiny homes. Watching the show as an apartment dweller, I have fantasized about living in one. Could it be so different? Fewer neighbors? A garden? What would my tiny home be like?
I decided to share features from some of my favorite homes to look for patterns that would make a tiny home more pleasurable to live in.
Having looked at the YouTube channel on my computer and not just on my Roku, I can see there are other videos that aren’t just home tours. There are a series of videos about building a tiny home and building a tent (like a yurt). To be honest, I haven’t looked at those. Maybe I will; maybe not.
In an upcoming post, I’ll go through some of my favorite Living Big in a Tiny House videos!
While reading a forum discussion on FreeCodeCamp, I came across a reference to George Pólya’s book, “How to Solve a Problem”. In this post, I review Pólya’s problem solving strategy.
In a recent FreeCodeCamp forum, someone asked a question about journaling:
Hi coders, While looking for the source for my project, I saw that some programmers or developers wrote a kind of diary to keep track of the code. I think it’s nice, but I was wondering exactly how you can structure a diary and if any of you use this to write code. Question here.
Good question. I’ve seen other people use diaries or online journals, or those things people use…writing logs or whatever. 🙂
George Pólya was a Hungarian-born mathematician who was known for his mathematics work, as well as his work in heuristics. Heuristics is “any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method”.
“Examples that employ heuristics include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, a guesstimate, profiling, or common sense.”
He wrote a book about solving problems using common sense principles.
The George Pólya Method of Solving Problems
The Wikipedia page shows that Pólya lays out some pretty good heuristics for solving problems. Although he intended for these strategies to be used for solving math problems, I think they could be used to provide a structured method for solving almost any difficult problem.
The Pólya problem solving method involves 4 principles:
First, you have to understand the problem.
After understanding, make a plan.
Carry out the plan.
Look back on your work.How could it be better?
So how does it work?
Principle 1: Understand the Problem
Pólya based the first principle, Understand the Problem, on the idea that math students struggled to solve problems due to a lack of understanding the problem in full or in part. His technique involved coaching teachers to prompt students with the following questions:
What are you asked to find or show?
Can you restate the problem in your own words?
Can you think of a picture or a diagram that might help you understand the problem?
Is there enough information to enable you to find a solution?
Do you understand all the words used in stating the problem?
Do you need to ask a question to get the answer?
Essentially one should not move past principle one until a constructive answer can be given. It’s not clear from the Wikipedia entry if a constructive answer is required for each question or the entire problem.
Principle 2: Make a Plan
Basically he felt that a person gets better at selecting a good plan/strategy the more times they solve problems. Here’s a big list of strategies:
Guess and check
Make an orderly list
Consider special cases
Use direct reasoning
Solve an equation
Look for a pattern
Draw a picture
Solve a simpler problem
Use a model
Use a formula
Be creative – (“[Have] patience to wait until the bright idea appears”)
Applying these rules to devise a plan takes your own skill and judgement – (“Always use your own brain first”)
Principle 3: Carry out the plan
Simple enough, but the main problem people have with this step is giving up too soon. For that, the Wikipedia entry says:
“In general, all you need is care and patience, given that you have the necessary skills. Persist with the plan that you have chosen. If it continues not to work, discard it and choose another.”
Principle 4: Review, Reflect and Extrapolate
Take a look at what you’ve done, and evaluate how well it worked (or didn’t), and see how you can use what you’ve discovered for future problems.
Finding the book:
If you want to find this book, I recommend trying your library. I found it by searching for "how to solve it book pdf" (Google suggested the "pdf") and I found a copy.
An earlier version of this post included an account of how I applied Polya’s technique to my portfolio changes. A follow-up post will focus on that account.
These are sites I’ve come across that may help someone building a portfolio. (Writing it also helps me remember!)
Yet another portfolio post!
Rather than go on about my own issues, I wanted to share a few resources. Before I begin, I’m going to make a little rant in case you’re feeling overwhelmed, like I am.
One of the sites emphasizes the importance the design a portfolio has on your job prospects. I feel this importance is overblown because the the design or tool seems to have such a big impact on how the portfolio is perceived. I can’t emphasize enough how many people use paid templates, plus the cost of a web domain. And I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me that choosing the wrong CMS template is the difference between gainful employment vs not.
The fact that the portfolio makes a difference at all seems like the difference between showing up in a limo, BMW, Toyota, or SmartCar. I guess it really is like dating, which I admittedly know absolutely nothing about.
At the start of this review, my feeling is that people just want to be entertained. My thoughts changed somewhat, which you can read at the end.
Ok, now that I’m off my soapbox, here is my list. It’s organized like this:
Sites – Guides, essays, and portfolio collections
Tools – What people use to create their portfolio
People – A small handful of portfolios
A collection of essays, slides, and guides.
Article page: The Case Study FactoryThe Case Study Factory is about how similar so many UX portfolios seemingly look alike. The authors write:
“How the formulaic approach to UX case studies is numbing our critical thinking as designers, and how to bring a unique point of view to our work.”
Provides some pretty good tips at the end, however I recommend you read the whole article for context. Also because it’s a good article.
This is a compilation of tips and tricks to improve a design portfolio. She states:
While each design discipline has slightly different project expectations (i.e. UX wants wireframes while Branding wants logo sketches), I’ve realized there is an overall universal set of tactics that, when applied, will automatically enhance and differentiate any design portfolio.
The Google slide deck is really big and there are videos, so keep that in mind. It loads a little slow.
nng.com’s recent article, “5 Steps to Creating a UX-Design Portfolio” is probably what kicked this whole thing off. Actually I talked about this in another post, so I won’t rehash. But I will point out that I’ve made a number of changes to my website and my portfolio at Cargo Collective, which at this moment is offline.
My Personal Bookmarks
I’ve had the following links bookmarked for a few years. These seem more geared to PDFs.
This book was put together for the purpose of facilitating higher-quality portfolios. It will not cover project processes, but will act as a guide to documenting a project well for your portfolio. We hope the book will ease some of the anxiety around creating your first portfolio and then later exist as a helpful reference book to check a newer portfolio concept against
We are fortunate enough to see some great portfolios, however there are still many UX practitioners who are selling themselves short. There are some absolutely brilliant and in-depth guides about UX portfolios out there. But our intention with this document is to provide a concise, visual hand book on what to include in your portfolio.
Your portfolio represents you. But you’re not always there to talk about your work. No one gets hired on their portfolio alone. The best outcome is a meeting. Tonight is about snap judgments.
What people use to create sites
From the list of 80 above, (plus a few others I found) I randomly clicked into about 3-4 portfolios per group and I took a look at the page source.
Many, many sites are built using Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, or some other type of CMS with either built-in or plugins for flashy animation, grids, and what-not.
WordPress and Adobe Portfolio
Semplice home pageFor WordPress, I came across a template called Semplice. It is advertised as a WordPress template for designers. The latest version is Semplice4. Price is $100. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people have upgraded to the Studio version for $140. Semplice does not seem to have options for blogging; I didn’t see it.
Another theme I came across is Salient, although the site I found it on had a “Under Construction” label. It’s $60 and available on ThemeForest. It has over 5,500 reviews, over 95,000 sales, and is currently rated as 5-star.
If you use Behance, you may be interested in Adobe Portfolio. It’s $9.99/month, paid annually (about $120). You get access to Adobe Portfolio, Photoshop, and Lightroom, as well as access to Adobe Fonts. You can get a free trial, but you need to upgrade to connect a domain/subdomain.
Free DIY Options
Startbootstrap.com offers free Bootstrap templates, themes, and snippets that you can download and customize. Basically everything is free, with the obvious exceptions that you cannot use Startbootstrap templates to create a competitive website serving free Bootstrap templates.
I have used Startbootstrap multiple times and I find them pretty easy to use and combine. Some have CSS or JS animations built in; mostly CSS.
It does require solid HTML and CSS knowledge.
Github Pages uses your own github respository to host a website. It’s 100% free. However, it will say username.github.io/yourproject. And your code will be online for all to see. I’m also not sure if you can use Google Analytics.
Again, this is for people who have experience developing websites.
Obviously, having a free site generator is great. If you want to have your own domain, you can get a personal email address, like email@example.com. And you can connect it to github. But all that is well beyond the scope of this post.
BlankSlate by TidyThemes allows you to completely customize a WordPress installation, by providing a theme with absolutely zero styling. Sometimes you use a nice theme, but end up undoing stuff you don’t really like. Needless to say, this theme is for people with a good amount of experience. I say no more.
If you code your own site, these were some of the libraries and plug-ins some people used. I thought tilt.js was pretty cool.
There are so many JS libraries, this list will keep getting updated.
You can download InDesign templates, at 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17. Good if you want to create a print portfolio, or if you want to redesign your resume.
A few portfolios in use
I randomly came across the following people, either in context of this post, or when reading an article, or serendipitously in some other way.
Caveat: In no way am I promoting any of the following people. I have never met them. I don’t know if they’re the kind of people who cut in line or litter. Maybe they don’t pick up after their dog….
The one thing that is true is that I took a look at their websites and I have an opinion. If you disagree, there’s a list of 80 portfolios above to check out.
Antonio Carusone, creator of Grid System. A very simple website. No images. He simply links to his other websites, most of them photography sites. The site is made with Cactus, which is another static-site generator not using Jekyll. (The last commit was 2 years ago, so it may not be maintained.)
I viewed a few other personal websites like this: simple, text-only, with no images. I think this is a good way to connect disparate interests. He seems to have a lot of experience, which is also good to know if you’re looking for ideas and you’re not early in your career.
Hiroaki Ito has this project on Behance. I’m including this person because I attended a virtual recruiter session with Google. The three recruiters reviewed two portfolios, and this project was one of them as an example from a visual designer. (The UX designer was Simon Pan, who uses WordPress. It appears to be his own theme although it could’ve started from BlankSlate.)
The project above is a combination of several very long images, stacked one on top of the other. This designer has a job at Google. He does not seem to have as much experience as the first guy.
Johna Paolino is someone I came across on Medium. She wrote an article on using CSS grid. Then I found her website, which is hosted on github. So that’s another – FREE – option. Looked like an interesting site and she seems to be employed at the NY Times.
That big font is BungeeShade.
Pendar Yousefi is the only person I came across in the list above that used Adobe Portfolio. It was pretty nice looking, so I’m including that here. He also appears to be employed at Google. He also seems to have many years of experience, which is another good data point.
To be clear, you cannot create an Adobe Portfolio account and link it to a personal domain without becoming paid subscriber. He does a good job of connecting his web properties. For him, he’s getting his money’s worth. But I just want to make sure it’s clear, according to the website, money appears to have been exchanged.
I came across Sharon Tsao‘s portfolio above, too. She does NOT appear to be employed. But I thought her simple site was an interesting example, and she seemed to explain her background particularly well.
She built this herself, or at least she did not use a template or CMS.
Thoughts & Reflections
I wrote this post over the course of 1-2 weeks. Right away, my initial thoughts for my own portfolio when the time of this post were to create a simple site that links out to other websites or to just expand my current WordPress installation (this blog). I also considered installing a separate WordPress instance altogether, which is still a strong possibility.
Despite my rant at the top of this post, I have started to change my opinion a little on the importance of portfolios. I think there is something to be said for trying to display your work in as good a light as possible.
I’m still collecting more data about these 80 portfolios, so there will be another post. And I’ve found more items to add to the Tools section (Webflow, anyone?), so I’ll probably continue making updates to this post in addition to simply posting again.
[Featured image credit: Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash]
At some point, I came up with the idea that reading 10 articles on one topic was a good idea. Well, I only made it to 7. But these 7 articles, on LESS and 404 pages, were very helpful for me so I’m still glad I read them.
The Beyond User Research presentation, from World Information Architecture Day, got me thinking about a related article called The UX Audit: A Beginner’s Guide, from Usability Geek. My other blog post about World IA Day was long enough, so I didn’t mention it then. But, the similarities in the article and the presentation were close and I wanted to mention it.
Alternative Methods for User Research
Unlike the article, the Beyond User Research presentation isn’t a strict guideline. It doesn’t mention any particular research methods to follow. It shows that a UX team can schedule different research methods within a UX research plan. The presentation mentions at least two types of data sources: web metrics and user research.
Web metrics examples included: search query data, logs from a call center, data from analytics reports, voice of the customer reports, CRM applications, and so on. A web analyst might try to reduce the volume of calls to call centers. A user researcher might want to know what most people are calling about. Rather than use this information as a web analyst would, a UX team can use this data as UX research.
UX Audit Methodology
The UX Audit article, being a guide, does mention several methods, including:
Review of business and user objectives
Customer care data
Compliance with UX standards
It suggests using, for example, conversion metrics this way:
Conversion rates or sales figures: If the premise of your site or app is eCommerce, sales or download figures can be useful to a UX audit. For example, here at Justinmind, we measure how many blog readers download our prototyping tool and from which particular posts…
It breaks down an audit into individual steps and mentions 3 goals that should be clarified before getting started: audit goals, time limit, and resources.
There are a lot of resources in this article, including links to Usability.gov, and even a sample UX audit report. There’s definitely a cross-over between these two information sources.
The article warns that a UX audit can be time-consuming and expensive. For an external team, which they recommend, it states that a UX audit can cost “upwards of $1000 for a couple of days with a one-person team; the full monty of a UX team coming in for four weeks and providing in-depth, goal-orientated insights could cost up to $10,000”. It presents a UX audit as an official stage of a design cycle, and should be completed early on.
The presentation, meanwhile, makes the case that teams can incorporate a variety of user research methods as an ongoing part of their UX activities. Rather than conduct a full-fledged UX audit, for instance, a UX team could schedule one of these methods periodically. The research cost, in time, money and resources, depends on the method and the goals.
Quoting a high price tag for a usability study could be a limitation for teams eager to get started on conducing user research. The article mentions that a UX audit is most beneficial at the beginning of a project. Even with everyone knowing that, the high costs might dissuade a team from getting behind the research. What sounds like a boring activity might push them to just start designing.
And it’s a rare opportunity to have the time and resources to publish an official report, like this. There’s a lot of other work to do.
Instead of treating UX audits as a costly, one-time activities, why not use UX audit methods throughout the year?
These two information sources can work together as complements. The article is very informative with specific guidelines. But the presentation shows how to ‘break the rules’ a little, by conducting research on a regular schedule. This allows a team to keep up with their product throughout the year. A custom approach, such as doing repetitive quick hits seems like the best option.
In any case, I recommend taking a look at the UX audit article. It links to many useful usability resources and websites providing analytics data.
In a previous post, I mentioned attending World Information Architecture Day 2017, in New York City, and how I connected with a few of the presentations. I also mentioned a decision to put together a post collecting videos and links from other cities.
Since I only speak English, I’ll only include the videos and presentations that are in English. But, presentations took place all over the world and there are presentations in other languages, so do your own search if you are looking for more presentations.
It was a little difficult to find presentations, but I found some from 5 cities. I’ll post more if I find them.
I like this insight: “When we look at our products in North America, trust is generated by institutional cues, like how well a company did the past year, how many awards a product has won, etc. But in others cultures, people’s trust in a system is highly dependant[sic] on already uses it.”