UI: The Ultimate Muscle

I haven’t checked today, but, are we still living in the era of Web 2.0 or have we moved on?  Has social networking been the paradigm shift we thought it was?  I say that because, far as I can tell, the stuff I’m seeing on the Internet – 90% of it – hasn’t changed much in the last eighteen years that we’ve been looking at it.  Of course that other 10% makes me drool, uncontrollably, especially when I see the kind of amazing work being done by folks like my old friend Brad Gerstein, designer extraordinaire.

Brad and his team (http://www.thought-matrix.com) are students of the electronic transaction.  They understand at the deepest levels that positive transactions occur electronically at all sorts of levels.  In order to understand the online audience and the challenges a web community builder must face, it is essential to recognize the levels at which an average member responds to your user interface.

Brad provides the best kernel of analysis on the state of things when he says:

“Too often businesses and the design agencies that support their digital efforts take a very linear approach to problem solving. There is too much emphasis on the waterfall process (discovery, design, develop, launch) that while easy to manage doesn’t allow for enough cross-discipline pollination of ideas, iteration of design and validation with end users.”

The Waterfall is the perfect metaphor to describe how the linear approach can miss the mark completely if you happen to get caught without the requisite testing procedures and planning to make sure you complete the cycle.  You can end up circling the eddies instead of standing out.

Linear thinking has served the software developer well but web design demands more today.  Here is a tip you really should consider on the approach the leading guys take:

“We follow the practices of agile development and lean start-up practices which demand a focus on the minimum viable product. We create rough prototypes from the very beginning that can be tested and built upon feature by feature so that by the time a feature has been designed it has also been coded and tested. We use small teams of internal and external resources for testing and handle those tests ourselves giving customers early access as an incentive to participate.”

Testing is for me a usual culprit of bad design.  Do you really think it’s smart to risk allowing your users to test every little detail?  So many times, folks become enamored with their work without putting it to the grill.   If you haven’t got strict protocols for testing and if you haven’t made sure to do a really solid analysis of your user satisfaction, you are just building for other developers and that is dangerous.  Web design should not be about egos but if you aren’t careful, you can easily miss the mark.

Regardless of what your budget is, or where you fit in the business cycle, there are lots of ways to follow this sort of thinking and again I defer to my sage friend and his team:

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Our goal here is open a dialog on design and hopefully help our audience realize some of the amazing resources that are out there.  Great web design will always depend on team work and intuitive reasoning.  The steps to take innovation and creativity to the next level will require solid processing and diligent testing and questioning.   Users will always be a moving target, always looking to compare you to the top dogs out there.  But the web is the great leveler of playing fields.  There will always be some new guy who comes along and demonstrates excellence in design and thinking.  If the Internet had to depend only on big budget enterprises to serve the global sphere, it would be a very lonely place.  Listening and discussing the issues you’re having with our resources we hope will help you get to the goals you want to reach.  Let us know what questions you have and how we can help you build more muscle and a leaner more agile way to approach your community building.

Here is link to the entire presentation:  http://www.slideshare.net/bradgerstein/whats-next-for-ux

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