Pixar Storytelling in a Box (cont)

Continuing on from my previous post about my experience with the Khan Academy course, Pixar in a Box: The Art of Storytelling, the next lessons are ‘What if?’ and ‘World and Character’.

Lesson 3: What If?

Video 3 and Activity 3 are all about What if? Coming up with a story scenario, by asking “What if?”, the Pixar story tellers do a great job of putting popular movies into What if statements. For instance, what if our toys were sentient and could come alive? This is Toy Story.

Part A. What would the What if statements be for my favorite films?

  • What if unicorns still existed and could only be seen by a few people?
  • What if a couple accidentally adopted a girl, instead of a boy?
  • What if the King of England lost his mind?
  • What if the new Emperor of China was just a little boy?

The exercise is a little hard with true stories, but I guess they still work.

Part B: Come up with 3-5 What if stories

I have to admit something embarrassing. I created a list of about 30 what ifs about a week before I wrote this – but somehow, I lost them all! So I had to come up with new ones. I needed some inspiration.

Inspiration: Sanjay’s Super Team

For inspiration, I watched a short video called “Sanjay’s Super Team”. One of the Pixar storytellers mentions the movie. “Sanjay’s Super Team’s” What if question is: What if an Indian father could show his son, who loves action figures, what he sees when he’s praying? It is a pretty impressive video and it’s only about 7 minutes long, so no excuses!

Update: Unfortunately, Sanjay’s Super Team is no longer available online. But, there is a “Making of…” video available to view.

My What ifs?

Sanjay’s Super Team did inspire me. I didn’t come up with as many ideas this time around, but here are a few:

  • What if my cats could be real people?
  • What if pets could give their owners advice about life?
  • What if there was a world where your imagination rule everything?
  • What if my lost What if stories came true?
  • What if there was a land of lost and found, where every lost item lived?
  • What if my search to find my lost stories took me on a quest to an imaginary land, where my cats came along as my companions but were turned into humans?

Turns out, I’ve got cats and lost stories on my mind!

Lesson 4: World and Character

Part A: Identify the main characters and worlds in your three movies.

The Last Unicorn

World: Medieval world of magic. Most action is on the road or the woods, and then in a castle.
Main Characters: Unicorn, Magician, Cook, Evil King
Connection: I definitely connected more with the unicorn, but sometimes with the magician.

Anne of Green Gables

World: Small yet idyllic town in the 1800s.
Main Characters: Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Gilbert, Donna
Connection: Definitely connected with Anne!

Madness of King George

World: England, English palaces, late 1700s.
Main Characters: King George, Dr Willis, Equerry
Secondary: Queen, Lady Pembroke, Prime Minister, Lord Chamberlain
Connection: I connected with the equerry, who’s just trying to do the right thing.

Part B: Mix characters and worlds from a different stories

Combining worlds and characters gives pretty interesting results. The first time I did this exercise, I used The Last Emperor instead of the Madness of King George. So I got Unicorn + Forbidden City combinations. The combinations that make the most sense would be Anne of Green Gables + The Last Unicorn. Helping a unicorn find other unicorns would be Anne Shirley’s life’s dream. I could also see the Evil King thriving in the Forbidden City, or the mad King George doing pretty well in the medieval world of magic.
[pic]

Part C: Pick your favorite What if statement. Imagine a possible world and character.

Going back to my favorite What if statement, I guess the last one is the most obvious. A main character would be someone socially anxious who spends a lot of time living in his head. My cats as people would be about 11 years old. One cat would be an energy-filled girl. Not that different from Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, or Pippi Longstocking. The other cat would be a girl that’s a little bit overweight. She would have a pleasant demeanor, but also be easily frightened. Both of them, would at times be absentminded and always ready to take naps. But they would be very loyal and supportive.

Final: Storytelling Advice

The final video in this lesson features Pixar storytellers giving advice to new storytellers. The thing that I connected with in this video, is that getting good takes practice. Even if you think you’re not getting better, what you will see over time is a stack of drawings and papers that show your progress. Sometimes what you think are mistakes are not mistakes. They are signs of the search for the right story.

It’s going to take some time for me to think about Part D of Activity 4: What would my world look like? Until then, I’m going to keep thinking about storytelling inspirations, and remember to keep chipping away at it.


I don’t know when the next section in the Khan Academy course will come out. But, in the meantime, I will post more articles about storytelling.

More artwork from Sanjay Patel, the creator of Sanjay’s Superteam, can be found at Ghee Happy. It’s just cool.

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.

UX Design Fundamentals, Part 1: Getting started

Getting started in UX: a comprehensive list of resources. Part of a 3-part series on resources about the fundamentals of UX.

While I haven’t exactly been a mentor before, I have helped people learn more about the field of User Experience. In a few recent jobs, I’ve had someone ask how they can learn more about UX.

I provided my own responses, but since then I’ve come across a few different examples of comprehensive UX introductions that have a lot of good information to offer. I thought reviewing each would make a good blog post. First, I’ll include my tips, then the static examples. Finally, I’ll review a few video courses in the next post.

Part 1: My List

As I mentioned above, I’ve had people ask me about how they can learn more about UX. The thing to keep in mind is that these are people who are totally new to UX – as opposed to people who work in software development, visual design, or some other related field. Or people who’ve gone through some classes and are looking for more information.

One person in particular asked me about more information and I provided a comprehensive list of UX resources. My main focus was to provide a starting place to learn more about the field of UX, and less so about the process of UX. I’ve found that process can change, slightly or drastically, depending on where you work. I did not provide any resources on Lynda, though they’ve updated their site since then, because the resources felt like a starting point for someone who’s already gotten started in UX.


Everything below this point was originally sent in an email, called Lots of UX, though not necessarily in this order.

Also note that my links to Amazon go to smile.amazon.com, in support of the ASPCA.

One quick note!

The one thing to know about UX (which is really human-computer interaction), is that the core of it is psychology – think of it as the application of cognitive psychology. So, it can be applied in many different contexts, not just on traditional websites.

Also, not everyone who works in UX is a designer; some people only do research.

Quick Start!

Some things to think about right now, as you go about your way in the world…

Books 

  • The Design of Everyday Things – this will change the way you view the world. About Book
  • The Inmates are Running the Asylum – this discusses the importance of designing for the actual users, not the stakeholders. Book
  • Don’t Make Me Think – simple primer on what usability is all about. Can read in a day. Book
  • Universal Principles of Design – think of these as though they are from a cognitive psychology perspective vs a design perspective. Book

There are many other handbooks about actually designing and testing, but these are good to first get yourself in the right frame of mind!

Sites/Newsletters

A Few People

  • Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini (I would look them up individually…)
  • Alan Cooper (designer) – …also look him up…
  • Alan Tufte – …and him, too.
  • Ben Schneiderman – see also his personal project with many names of other people you can learn about! (https://hcipioneers.wordpress.com/)

Accessibility
I don’t have a book, but you should also learn all you can about accessibility because it’s very important. It gets into the field of Ergonomics and Human Factors which is more about the design of chairs, handles, doorways, phones, etc.

http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility

Information-Seeking Behavior
OK, I’m sneaking this in… This is not likely in these books, because it’s a complicated, grad-level concept. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really able to find examples that are not long research papers.

Essentially, information-seeking behavior is the idea that all humans search for information in the same way that we evolved to search for food. We have a need, we act to satisfy that need, either actively or not. We do not always know for sure what we’re looking for, and so we satisfy our queries piece by piece, while all the time asking if this new information gets us closer to what we think we’re looking for or not. Like I said, it’s complicated so if this is still confusing, I can try to explain it to you in person!

 


Of course I then ended the email with a few nice words, but that’s my list!

The next post will be about a static site I found providing an intro to UX fundamentals, and other websites to add to this list.

Web design vs. Academia

Academia vs. Web design: The Journal on New Media and Society looks for papers on mobile communication and developing communities. Meanwhile, A List Apart posts an article on improving web design education.

For a Special Edition publication, the Journal on New Media and Society is looking for papers on Mobile Communication and the Developing World.

“We are seeking papers for a special edition of the journal New Media & Society focusing on mobile communication and media, and its impact on the developing world. We are interested in papers that empirically describe the use of mobile practices as well as the convergence of mobile and other platforms in the developing world (e.g. Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe or other locations in the “global south”). Successful papers will examine the integration and use of mobile communication technology and its implications (both positive and negative) in individuals’ lives. We are seeking papers that investigate the global as well as the local appropriations of mobile media use and its relationship to social change and/or development…”

Hrmm… Could this be yet another good reason why the myriad of professions in the “user experience design” field need more original research? Interestingly enough, while I pondered that thougth, I came across A List Apart’s post on elevating web design in academia. The article listed 3 tips for getting involved:

Here are three things you can do today to make a difference in web education:
• connect with a university,
• sponsor an educator, and
• volunteer your time.

I do like the idea of getting professionals more involved in education, but I feel that parts of the article are confusing the business model of web design companies with the academic model of universities. Companies are for-profit entities that ultimately need to make money. Universities are non-profit organizations that ultimately strive to advance knowledge. The two have motivations that can be, and apparently are for the web design industry, mutually exclusive. Their drivers are completely different and require different credentials to advance their needs. Business needs skill. Academia needs knowledge and degrees. It’s not so simple to simply ask universities to give up the need to hire people with graduate degrees. Universities are more established than web design, so why is it that universities are broken? Why not ask businesses to hire people who are “unqualified”, and then spend time training them to be productive in the context of their business? Why isn’t it that web design businesses should change, or at least change their expectations on who they should expect to hire?