Sketching User Experiences part I — notes

I recently reread part I of Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton for UX Book Club Zuid-Holland and made notes during the proces. ‘Sketching’ is one of my favorite UX  books and well worth a reread which I found reveals different layers and gets you to reflect differently with the experience you have accumulated since the last time I read it.

I thought it may be worthwhile to share those notes here, so here goes.

Coming change to more digital behaviour embedded in the fabric of everyday life is going to force us to focus on context.

How do you design for context?

Does Buxton deliver on the promise he makes at the start of the book? He tells a nice story but where’s the sketching for software?

He talks about designing agents systems and complex behaviours. Doesn’t emergence play a large part? Don’t we need foundational guidelines more than anything?

p. 13 This is a start. It is a rough sketch.

Many participants of the bookclub thought the book fell short and was overly meandering. No it is not a howto guide to designing user experiences.
By Buxton’s own admission it is a sketch an initial concept for how a book like this should look. But still I don’t know any other book which provides such a broad view on the field of UX and such an in depth treatment of one of its foundational processes (sketching).

Physical devices can recast a problem in a new light.

p. 37 We must make our best efforts to understand the larger social and physical context within which it is intended to function.

p. 37 We ideally need to be able to experience our designs in the wild during the early stages of the process.

p. 38 Without informed design, technology is more likely to be bad than good.

p. 47 Why shouldn’t executives want to have their company create breakthrough products that generate great returns?

Great realistic analysis of the Apple design process for executives. In that light the piece “You can’t innovate like Apple” is also worth a read.

p. 53 Everyone is essential but no person or group is sufficient on his or her own.

What’s the relevance of (software) product design with its version iterations to website projects which are unfortunately mostly one off?

p. 71 My underlying approach in what follows will be to put forward a holistic approach to experience-based design. Along the way, I will show how the weaknesses of software product development can be complemented by the strengths of traditional product design, and likewise, how the weaknesses of traditional product design can be complemented by the very real strengths of software developers. But my strongest argument is for the need for an explicit and distinct design process, integrated into the larger organization, supported by appropriate executive leadership.

p. 78 Get the right design. Get the design right.

p. 80 It takes very strong and brave management to admit that we don’t know what we are doing at the start, and therefore need to accomodate that in our process.

My addition: The act of sketching constrains your freedom. Every stroke you make in a sketch finalizes something. That is the whole point and that what makes the process converge. Then if the result doesn’t please you start anew with a blank sheet.

p. 105 [a sketch is] a graphic means of technical exploration

p. 111-2 Sketches are:

  • Quick
  • Timely
  • Inexpensive
  • Disposable
  • Plentiful
  • Clear vocabulary
  • Distinct gesture
  • Minimal detail
  • Appropriate degree of refinement
  • Suggest and explore rather than confirm
  • Ambiguity

p. 117 By examining the externalizations, designers can spot problems they may not have anticipated.

Ambiguity but also the resolution of complexity.

p. 135 “Sketching Interaction”

How do you sketch tone of voice? For instance by employing product personas that act out the interactions your product has with users.

How do you sketch look and feel? By creating broad mockups supported by mood boards?

p. 139 “Sketches are not prototypes”

Prototypes may be less disposable but they can also be very agile and reusable. But admittedly prototyping would take place post-sketching.

p. 143 Arguing for the need for user involvement in a modern book on product design is as pointless as a discussion about the need to know the rules of arithmetic in an advanced mathematics textbook.

p. 147 A healthy team is made up of people who have the attitude that it is better to learn something new than to be right.

p. 151 “You make that sound like a negative thing”

Design rationale and strong criticism are essential to move forward but hard to find.

p. 154 “If someone made a sketch in the forest and nobody saw it”

A communal corkboard provides:

  • Shared awareness
  • Baking in
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Juxtaposition
  • Critique

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