Tag Archives: Digital Products

An interview with Gene Moy

Gene Moy, Principal User Experience Designer
Gene Moy, Principal User Experience Designer

With over 15 years of experience designing products as diverse as military, medical, and consumer-facing systems, Gene is a Principal User Experience Designer. He transforms insights derived from observations of human behavior into strategies that inform critical user experiences with remarkable value.

Having earned an MA in American Studies and a BA in Rhetoric, Gene has worked with many high profile clients including Hallmark, Sears, Borders, Wilton, and Sallie Mae.

Gene uses his cross-disciplinary knowledge, to best find solutions that achieve a balance between stakeholder and user needs. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Gene a few questions and gather an insight into his work and life:

 

 

How did you first get involved/interested in UX?

GM: In brief, many of my generation fell into this work accidentally, and we were helped by good timing. I was no different. In the early ’90s, an opportunity created by technology to do something called “interactive multimedia” emerged. At UCLA, where I was a graduate student in Asian American Studies, history professor Jan Reiff was teaching a course in history and multimedia. Somehow I got a hold of some graphics software, and armed with a copy of David Siegel’s Creating Killer Web Sites, I started making graphics and writing HTML. In those days, there was no name for what we did back then, no schools, no gurus — all of it fell under the rubric “webmaster” or “webmistress”. As the web became more capable beyond mere brochureware, it was shown that efficacy, usefulness, and utility had effects on success metrics. Showing and selling things online progressively became less interesting to me than helping people accomplish tasks, goals, and minimizing their pain points. And that’s how I got into this work.

...each new group we work with, opens new opportunities to learn something about how people work, perceive, describe, and shape the world.
…each new group we work with, opens new opportunities to learn something about how people work, perceive, describe, and shape the world.

What aspect of UX do you enjoy the most and why?

GM: I’m fortunate enough to be able to participate at every part of the lifecycle. At Honeywell User Experience, our design thinking cycle looks like this: Understand, where we interview and observe users, analyze their utterances for insights, then synthesize them to produce solutions; Design, where we try to give form to those solutions and map them back to user jobs, goals, and pain points; and then Evaluate, where we see how well our design assumptions, now given form, have met those user needs. This isn’t very different from anyone else’s cycle, say, ISO 13407 or 9241. So each phase, and each new group we work with, opens new opportunities to learn something about how people work, perceive, describe, and shape the world. This is my life work now. I never tire of it.

In the past, you have worked with many high profile clients including Hallmark, Sears, Borders, and Wilton, to name a few. What projects did you most enjoy working on? Can you tell us about your favorite project and what was so unique or enjoyable about it?

GM: When I think back, common to all great consulting gigs were nice people in creative and sharing environments, with professional respect and behavior, in great places to work that weren’t oppressive. The work is always the same work, it doesn’t change, so it’s important that everything else in context goes well. Yet I feel the most important work we did was at Siemens and User Centric (now GfK UX), where people’s lives were involved, and now here at Honeywell, where we’re building a user experience practice.

...attention and memory are finite resources, so proper design should take care to conserve and extend them, but not to the point where you've created cognitively frictionless experiences...
…attention and memory are finite resources, so proper design should take care to conserve and extend them, but not to the point where you’ve created cognitively frictionless experiences…

We see from your previous work that you also have substantial experience in designing both military and medical products. Tell us, what are some of the major challenges working in these areas and how much do they differ from one and other? 

GM: The stakes are much higher. In e-commerce, generally, a catastrophic user experience doesn’t result in injury or death to the user or the lives that the user has in their care. And generally in these other domains operators are trying to do many things all at once — true of medical, transportation, finance, and military applications — a lot of integrative thinking going on, what Hutchins termed distributed cognition — so their resources are taxed fairly heavily, even with training. Thanks to Kahneman, Tversky, among others, we now know attention and memory are finite resources, so proper design should take care to conserve and extend them, but not to the point where you’ve created cognitively frictionless experiences, which has also led people into trouble.

Why do you think UX is so important for organizations to get right?

GM: Perhaps it is naive of me, but I believe at a certain level people consume products and services to become more of who they are or who they want to be. They are entering into a kind of relationship with your organization. When those products and services don’t help people accomplish those things, the entire reason why people have come to you, it damages that relationship. We’re surrounded by things and services that don’t work for people, that don’t help them achieve their goals, that create pain points for them. And broken promises over time will damage trust, authority, and ultimately the brand story that a company is aspiring to, or trying to tell about itself. User Experience may only be one part of that story but it’s an important part of how the story gets communicated.

A widely debated topic in UX is that all ‘good’ UX professionals should possess the ability to write and understand code. What are your thoughts on this topic?

GM: It’s alleged that when Gandhi was asked what he thought about western civilization, he is said to have answered, I think it would be a good idea. The code question sort of reminds me of that. Isn’t it interesting that people don’t say we should possess the ability to evaluate our models with users instead? Never mind that they focus only on software. This tells you that people in our industry still aren’t focused on users and their needs, only on software production. But our discipline is called user experience and not software engineering for a reason.

...people in our industry still aren't focused on users and their needs, only on software production.
…people in our industry still aren’t focused on users and their needs, only on software production.

Now that our discipline is mature, as a basic skill, like a prerequisite for any generalist, some fundamental production ability is necessary, just as much as evaluation. If you look at the origins of interaction design, what is common to all the pioneers is that they weren’t afraid to make things or get their hands dirty, and then as they evaluated their work with more people, they became more interested in things like user behavior. A good background in production taught me the importance of knowing what are the basic capabilities and properties of the material you’re going to be working with, whether its software, hardware, services, or support. Specialists will continue make things professionally, but as a competent professional you should be able to make a basic model by yourself to assist in evaluation whether it’s physical or digital or a service. But I think it is more important to understand the users’ intent and how well your model achieves that, and not per se in punching code.

What are your predictions about the future of UX, say 20 years from now?

GM: There will be more CUXOs, chief user experience officers, responsible for the UX strategy of the organization, under which all experience efforts of the organization will align. Outside of consumer retail, the buyers may not the ones who install, maintain, troubleshoot your products and services: those are users of your system as well, and their needs must be accounted for in the complete design of any value offering. So there has to be an expansion of user experience efforts beyond individual touchpoints to understand the whole end-to-end journey. And of course it’s my hope that as we do so people will think of UX no longer as bound exclusively to websites or apps, but products and services of all kinds, such as we’ve been directed to do at Honeywell User Experience, and eventually even government policies.

You were a contributor to the book, ‘Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture from Astro Boy to Zen Buddhism’. Tell us, what was your inspiration and thoughts behind publishing this book?

GM: Eastern Standard Time was a project launched by the staff of the now defunct A. Magazine, one of the foremost voices during the golden age of Asian American magazine publishing in the 90s. I only contributed, working under a fantastic editor, Terry Hong. I graduated from Illinois with a focus on nonfiction writing, and as a budding Asian Americanist, I was interested in locating how we were historically seen, heard, portrayed, and thought of in North American pop culture. The accessibility of the project really appealed to me. Perhaps that was the start of my career in user-centered design, in a sense.  

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

An insight into Wholegrain Digital

Part 1 of the Hub interview series

We’ve just joined the thriving Westminster Hub community and we’re excited to be exploring the space and slowly getting to meet our neighbours. The Hub’s primary aim is to support organisations with positive social and environmental impact at the heart of their culture. As a result, we are doing a series of short interviews with people working in design and development.

We recently met with Tom Greenwood (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomgreenwood) who is the Managing Director of Wholegrain Digital (http://www.wholegraindigital.com), a WordPress web design agency. Tom co-founded Wholegrain with his partner Vineeta Greenwood back in 2007, with the aim of “helping good people benefit from good design.” A fan of open source and WordPress, it is Tom’s job to set the vision for the company and ensure that everyone is healthy and happy.

 

11049400_1554654268140004_1852516348_n
Tom Greenwood: “I always wanted to be involved in design in some way”
  1. Did you always want to be involved in this industry?

No, I always wanted to be involved in design in some way. But not specifically website design… but as time has gone on, it’s very clear that digital is the way forward. This is what I have been working on for 10 years. I actually studied Product Design at Aston University.

 

  1. How did you get involved in developing and designing through WordPress?

So originally we set up a branding agency. I am very interested in sustainability and from what I had done in Product Design it was always to do with sustainability and energy efficiency. When it came to setting up a company, I twigged that most products you design are going to end up in a landfill in one way or another. There is some good stuff out there but it’s very hard to go about designing really good stuff. Whereas if you go down the digital route you can do things that can impact people’s lives in a positive way but it doesn’t physically exist. And that really interested me.

We originally wanted to set up a branding agency with the objective to help small businesses that were doing good things to present themselves well. About 8 years ago there were lots of green and eco businesses cropping up and a lot of them didn’t really have any branding experience so that was our focus. We gradually morphed into a WordPress agency because it’s clear that everyone wants a great website. WordPress is fantastic, it’s open source and we do so much with it. We really loved it and our clients really loved it so we gradually dropped everything else.

 

  1. What are you currently working on?
11386543_1462043100754851_602991426_n
The Wholegrain Digital team

We’re currently working on lots of things! We have just recently done a site for Collectively.org, which is an online sustainability magazine which was set up by multinational corporations basically who wanted to do something good. There’s about 30 big companies such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, all invested into it, companies who you wouldn’t always associate with doing things like this. Collectively is a really great magazine, really interesting, really engaging and they tackle difficult issues.

So due to the Paris climate summit this week we made a mini site for them, campaigning for young people to lobby universities and big companies to get them to convert into using 100% renewable energy.

 

 

 

  1. What do you hope for the future?

In the future, we definitely want to move towards more wholesome clients. We have quite a mix of clients. It’s kind of the nature of the business.  Although we are lucky and get a lot of enquiries, we can’t always be picky who we work with. You have to do enough work to keep yourself going. We do have a lot of really wholesome clients like Collectively and Ecover / Method who produce eco-friendly dishwashing products, which are used here at the Hub kitchen!  And we’re also working with UNICEF. So we have some really good clients. We have an ethical policy where we don’t work with certain industries, which has been great in steering us in the right direction. But next year or the year after we plan on having a larger proportion of our clients in the category of companies who are positive instead of neutral, so actively green and trying to make a difference.

We also plan on doing more in the way of developing things ourselves that we can give back to the WordPress community and wider community, which we have done in the past but not as much as we would like to. It’s interesting with software that you can build things and give them away so that other people can benefit from them.

 

  1. What was the project with UNICEF?11385522_1448453818790210_2120520035_n

So actually, we have been helping them on their blog. UNICEF UK has two websites. They have the core website that tells you about UNICEF, containing the donations forms and then they have the blog. Most of their traffic goes to the blog where they publish articles with their news, the celebrity ambassadors they work with and it links in with their social media. We are working on their maintenance with WordPress but also the user experience side and how we can make the blog more engaging. Also, working on how we can increase conversion rate from the blog to the main site to make donation pages. That’s something we have only just started working on so you can’t see it yet but we are really excited about it.

 

  1. When you’re not at the Hub working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like running, I do a lot of barefoot running. Everyone always asks if it’s painful but I live in the new forest so it’s really good, it’s quite sandy.

I also run a film club with some friends called The Ethical Film Club (www.ethicalfilmclub.com), where we screen documentaries about different issues in 4 main categories: animal rights, environment, community and human rights. We try to do eight screenings a year. We do this in the New Forest where it’s not like London, where there is lots to see and do all the time. It’s a beautiful place to live but there is not a lot of this sort of activity going on but it’s going really well. We have a good community of people and about 50-100 people come to each screening.

10899002_808559169191389_1481712226_n
Wholegrain Digital enjoying their time at the Hub

This weekend was our 7th screening and we showed The Future of Energy, which ties in quite nicely with the Paris climate summit going on. We had a scientist from Imperial College called Keith Barnham who came down and gave a talk afterwards. He is one of the top scientists in the country on solar energy and wrote a book called The Burning Answer so that was really cool.

We have also just been given a grant by the BFI. We have really basic projection equipment but no one has ever complained, everyone seems really happy with it! It’s just a cheap PowerPoint projector but it’s all you need! The BFI have a fund for community cinemas, which we applied for and got about £4000 worth of HD projection equipment. So next year we will hopefully show people better films!

 

 

 

We would like to thank Tom for letting us hijack his day for this interview! We loved learning about the origins of Wholegrain Digital, but I’m not sure we will be going barefoot running anytime soon!

We are looking forward to getting to know more of our colleagues at the Hub.

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

Product Design to UX

Physical products and UX at first seem worlds apart, so how could a tangible object have similarities with an online product? It seems ridiculous that these fields should have anything in common. However, the design process from start to finish in fact follows a very similar path. From experiencing both fields it is evident that all products must go through a long, complicated process to achieve the end result, whether that be a UX friendly display or tangible product.

product-design-ux-3
Product Design framework applied to UX Design

Product Designers are problem solvers; there are very few successful products that do not solve a problem the public face. The phrase: “Even if there is a gap in the market, it doesn’t mean there is a market in the gap” is constantly used by my lecturers as a reminder, you may have an innovative new idea but it does not mean that people will buy it or like it. My degree of Product Design with Professional Experience emphasises physical products and the different stages of launching a product onto market.

product-design-ux1
Similar Paths: UX and Product Design

We spend the year in 4 quarters:

· Research

· Ideation

· Development

· Launch

Put simply,

· We research the target market
· We come up with a range of ideas for the target market
· We then take forward one idea to develop
· Finally we launch this product onto the market

This framework however can absolutely be applied to UX design. The research phase is in fact very similar. Tailored research is vital in both; it must be bespoke for the target audience or intended user. This is perhaps the most important phase for UX, gathering user needs is essential to how something is developed. During my degree the research phase for product design included interviews and surveys displayed in a detailed report including personas, literature reviews and stats. Breaking down the problems people face everyday and whether there is a gap in the market for a product to aid the problem.

product-design-ux2
Some phases  that Product Design and UX Design follow are similar

In UX you must find out what is instinctual to the users, it is incredibly important to understand the user more than anything else. A researcher will do this by very similar methods of collecting quantitative and qualitative data. For both fields this is a vital stage, if overlooked you will miss what the public want or need therefore making the end products useless.

The Ideation and development phase are more specifically defined. This is where in Product Design we will sketch and model solutions selecting the most effective way the user reaches their goal; this phase is called Ideation. Being as creative as possible we invent new ideas and then begin a selection process. We then take the best idea to the Development phase and this is where the technical, science based side comes in using CAD technologically moving our product forward. Using manufacturing information, prototypes, reverse engineering and technical drawing to work out the details involved with product design. The ideation and development phases in UX although different would still follow a similar criteria, using idea generation, prototyping, testing and then ultimately product development.

Finally the Launch phase allows us to brand our product, learning about the legalities involved with this. A UX designer would go through an equivalent processes to ensure the the product is thoroughly tested and completely ready for launch.

These 4 phases can cover all steps involved in launching any kind of product, however these phases do not have to divide into separate deadlines as they would on a degree course. I believe it is important to have them intertwined and constantly active within the process. As UX has taught me; research should be constant, testing completed work and helping it progress further. If small problems are ignored early on they will progress into much larger problems later down the road. I aspire to learn more about UX in the months to come and to gain a larger range of skills involved with UX research and design.

 

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

UX and Due Diligence

UX is the key to a congested tech landscape.

Day to day living has changed dramatically due to the ability to connect via a diverse range of devices. Society has entered a hyper-connected movement that allows social, educational, and business spheres to be separated. The power of software and wired devices encourages users to savour the privacy,  anonymity, invisibility and convenience of the Internet as a platform.

Users quickly become dependent on being connected online and are swift to evaluate how efficiently and effectively a product meets these needs.

Understanding how and why people accept or reject a product is the framework for improving product user experience, and consequently product success in an ever-crowding marketplace.

As investors assess opportunities within the congested “tech” landscape, it becomes crucial to include a consideration of the product’s user experience as the unique differentiator. Likewise, as companies examine digital media products for acquisition or partnership, it is absolutely paramount that a user-centred evaluation of the product’s potential and features is outlined in the forward-looking growth strategy.

Leaders ought to consider the following two issues when evaluating a product’s potential:

1) The product’s ability to evolve and adapt to user needs

While product evolution and adaptation may be assumed elements of success, the ability to change quickly to respond to market needs should not be taken for granted. Costly, early builds inevitably become legacy products in the rapidly changing digital media environment. Furthermore, if any element of a service relies on such a legacy system, then the service cannot be so concisely defined and tied to that system that service itself cannot evolve. It is nearly impossible for software and system developers to anticipate all user needs and context of use scenarios. The very genius of an initial product concept should not be its own demise. A product or concept must have an inherent adaptability and this adaptability relies on a user-centred positioning. Where the concept and usage states fully tested with potential target audiences? How was user research and feedback incorporated into the development process? And, finally, is there a development framework that allows user feedback to fuel future innovation?
2) The development team’s approach to incorporating user requirements

Brilliant minds are frequently forthright when it comes to clarity of strategy, but is there too much pride if never considering a fall? There are times when leaders, product teams, designers and engineers are so thoroughly embedded within their own product experience that they are unable to strategically execute on user experience and customer insight. A simple resolution for any such reluctance and resistance is to ensure that customer insight and UX are the driving values of the product development cycle. Quite simply, in order to embrace the technology, a user must be able to use the technology, and much more so, achieve mastery of the product for any sense of self-efficacy. When a team recognises that product adoption is a core aspect of innovation, then a user centred philosophy is the natural approach.  “But customers don’t know what they want!” The second point is not to suggest that development teams should be led solely by user requirements. However, leadership teams must be amenable to input from users and implement structured changes based on feedback by finding the innovation on the solution that leads to rich, product differentiation.

User experience analysis provides an accurate valuation of digital media products in the marketplace by providing quantifiable and impartial insights. The UX field has expanded to include research, design, development, and project management. Many agencies and companies have adopted a user-centred development process as a key competitive edge. While challenges remain as to how UX insight successfully merges with business strategy, one adage remains clear: the customer may not know what they want, but the customer is always right.

 

Andrea M Lewis

Andrea Lewis is a psychologist and Managing Director of Ad Hoc Global Ltd. With a foundation in equity research, she has been leading product development in technology and digital media for over 12 years and leads UX due diligence assessments, research, and strategy.