Thursday, December 12, 2019

Flight of the Conchords, User Research Notes & Tech Worlds

Weekly Update 2019-50: Legendary New Zealand novelty band Flight of the Conchords, a new way to record user research notes and reliving the tech worlds we grew up in through interactive data visualizations.

Bret and Jemaine are still at it, 20 years later.

Music: Flight of the Conchords
This one is admittedly late to the party, though since this 2000s New Zealand band is touring again in 2019 I suppose it's relevant to talk about them. And so I shall. Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are two goofy, awkward and extremely talented multi-instrumental musicians, hailing as "the almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand". With hits like "I Told You I Was Freaky" "Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros" and "Prince of Parties", they manage to make a catchy song out of any genre you throw at them. Big props to their too-soon cancelled HBO show of the same name as well.

I can't believe the International Day of People With Disabilities has come and gone. What an insane amount of planning has gone into this event by so many people at work, and I can't believe what a huge success it was. Our morning accessibility panel was emotional and personal, setting the tone for the day as something to be celebrated and empathized with, the keynote with Jason Mitschele was inspiration and a delightful treat, and our client case study focused on what Venanites have done in conjunction with the American Foundation for the Blind. But most importantly, our new Vena Accessibility Team #va11y is on its way to becoming an official employee resource group. I am so proud of how far we've come, and so excited to bring more accessibility topics to the forefront of Vena's 2020 year.

I designed our new #va11y stickers as well :)

This was also the last class of my fourth semester at BrainStation. This was such a fun class to spend my Thursday nights with, not to mention one of my star pupils Tanya taking the class and editing the slides during her dayjob working at BrainStation. She is a powerhouse!

YAS class!

I've also managed to get through almost all the marking in only four days (my record) so I'm sure I'll finish it all within the week. 

If that wasn't enough, this Sunday was my university friends' Secret Santa. I can finally reveal that Erika was my giftee, and is now the new owner of her very own pair of fish flops (as she requested).

...among other, less fish-related items.

Vena's holiday party is this Friday, potentially my final reason to get dressed up fancy for the season. I'm bringing Matt along in the hopes that he can brush shoulders with some of our finance department and maybe even get a job with me, which would be super cool.

Beyond that, my family is running our last estate sale of the year up in North Toronto. I have taken a preliminary look around the house and noticed that both the previous occupants liked to work with their hands. A plethora of tools and woodworking equipment are accompanied with painting and stained glass craft supplies, so they seem like they were cool people. And now the crafts can be passed onto someone new!

Saturday night Larissa is having a bowling night for her birthday, so I hope the rest of her present arrives on time.

Random Thought: User Research Notes
My co-designer at work has been out sick (so sad) which means I've been filling in for her by facilitating user testing sessions with a product she designed. This has been a huge learning experience for several reasons, spanning throughout her work in the project. I realized pretty soon into the testing that I didn't have a ton of insight into the work she'd been doing, so there were definitely things that were new to me. These came out of the results of the testing, so it'll make for an interesting discussion when she's back in the office.

Additionally, the sessions were booked with two interviewees at a time, which I've never done before. Usually you only want one interviewee at a time to decrease chance of group bias and for the facilitator(s) to focus on one user at a time, but time is tight on this project. While a bit unorthodox, it's been interesting to see how the pairs influence each other in good ways, like helping each other to explain their issues or delights about the test.

I also got to see a new method for collecting results, courtesy of our design manager Sam.

An alternative to the classic rainbow spreadsheet method.

I also have none of the bias associated with testing something that one has put creative energy into. I have no problem "killing the darlings" so to speak, which makes me a more partial interviewer. This has made me wonder if we should bake testing by non-creators into our future processes. It adds an interesting flavour to the test.

Inspiration: Tech Worlds
In 2017, The Washington Post published a really cool article on their website about what "tech worlds" we grew up in. It's interesting to take a look back at how much technology has changed (especially over the last 15-20 years) with these interactive data visualizations.

The really special element is in the dropdown to select your birth year at the top of the article, which then adjusts the content and data to be relative to your age and birthday. This makes all the information feel more personal and relatable to the reader's life, which is a really cool way to personalize the experience.

Plus, it's fun to look back and feel nostalgic about my first "dumb" phone or when my dad first got a computer for the household and started using eBay. I've always appreciated that he was quick to jump on the home computer/internet train, it absolutely shaped my life and put me on the path to the career and passions I've chosen. 

Check out the article for yourself and relive your past tech fancies.

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