SA Women’s Day 2013 – What is the biggest hurdle for a modern woman?

women_empowered

Here at Origin Interactive we believe in getting all the answers before making an informed decision. In light of Women’s Day, we conducted a little “user research” to find out what the members of our team feel the biggest hurdle for the modern women is. Since we are a team, we wanted to understand men’s views as well; do they relate to or understand our battles everyday as women? Do they notice beyond our appearances as a gender, the way we think, the subconscious things that influence our decisions daily, at work or otherwise?
Here are some of the answers we got: 

 

Jacques:
Development as an industry has traditionally been male dominated. There are amazing female developers working in this industry and although they are generally accepted by their male counterparts as equals, there remains a small percentage of men who either artificially value these womens’ contributions because of physical attraction, or simply dismiss their contributions because they are female.

I think the greatest challenge for women is to accept that, sadly, some men will never change their idiotic views, and not to marginalise themselves due to this. Things will only get better in this regard, but a woman has to see herself as an equal and not allow the small percentage of sexist views to get in their way of achieving great things.

Tshepo:
Nothing different from the things that stop men.
PS: Most feminist arguments I’ve heard all come from a victimised state of mind, you hear things like “it’s his fault, it’s their doing”. Because of this urge to pit the two sexes at odds; whether they are male or female- feminists have failed to make feminism an attractive movement for many.

Mike:
Balancing maternal, marital, social & highly demanding career commitments – and doing a good job of it.

Michael:
I would say the most challenging thing for women still today would be the transitions between being a housewife/family woman and being an independent woman. Now women are working in the high positions doctors, CEOs, Directors Women now dominate the work space and some women still have responsibilities especially if they have children. like my mother is a doctor, she is sometimes on call for 48 hours non stop and she still comes home and makes food for us before she goes to sleep. So that for me is the most Challenging thing, for women who already have children that take multi-tasking to the next level.

Zwai:
I believe women are most of the times their own worst critiques/enemies. Apart form the fact that they can multitask and still look after their families, whilst maintaining a full time job. There seems to be a lack of “sisterhood” amongst them and this in my opinion contributes a great deal to their hurdle.

Catherine:
I think there are two main obstacles, listed below in my order of “seriousness”:
1. Balancing your career, life, and (one day, for me) children. It’s the age-old one, yet it is still with us.
2. I still get people asking me “you work in digital?”, “you play games?”, “I didn’t know women could do that.” Getting the respect we deserve for the work, art, industry-specific innovations we do, and the hobbies we keep.

Candice:
Trying to have a family while working. The hormonal, emotional and physical turmoil of pregnancy is ravaging and yet you’re expected to perform even better than usual so that nobody thinks any less of you just because you’re pregnant.
Also, it is not South African law that companies have to pay their female staff maternity leave, in any capacity. So if a company chooses not to pay you maternity leave, too bad, you’re screwed. Sort of gives the impression that companies don’t really want you, as a woman, once they’ve hired you to have more children.

NQ:
Of course there are the balancing issues with work , being a mother and taking care of home etc. I think women still have to work twice as hard to prove themselves in the work place. Sometimes the balance is also lost with trying to be the boss and they over do it because they feel they need to prove a point. However women have come a long way and not all, but some hurdles have been knocked off . Its great being a woman all the  strength we need to survive in embedded in our  DNA !

Neety:
– Balancing the thin line she is trying to differentiate between objectification and independence. (I’m dressing up smart/powerful to feel smart, not to impress men, or to give them a platform to tease and pass judgement)
– The non prevalence of sisterhood. (There is really a lack of understanding among women. Ever heard of the ‘Bro code’ type stuff? Where’s the Sis code??)
– And propagation of this idea of the ‘standards’ one has to reach to be looked at as beautiful or passable. (Widely prevalent due to media nowadays – not being comfortable in your own body, constant comparing yourself to others, wear your heels even if your feet give up, trying to fit into a set image of  ‘Perfect’ , is very very self defeating, to all womankind).
Women need to work together and understand each other, and themselves.

In the spirit of conducting an open discussion and in light of the above answers, what do YOU think the biggest hurdle for the modern woman is in today’s society? We’d love to hear what you think!

What can UI designers learn from a baby’s face?

In the presence of a cute baby, you would be hard-pressed not to smile even on your worst day. Have you ever wondered what it is about them that melts your heart; ever thought about possibly capturing this cute-factor in your user interfaces?

Cute baby

Spare a moment to really look at the picture of the baby above and then look at this guy:

Patrick Wilson

By now you must have felt the different ways your body responded to the two pictures, even though the two people may be total strangers to you.

So, what is it about the faces of babies that makes us smile, or gives us the yearning to interact with them? Ted White, my lecturer at the time who later became my mentor taught me a valuable lesson in one of his lectures when he said, “you can’t create a user experience, but you can create the situations that can enable the user experience you desire”.

Being a budding user experience designer, that statement shook my world- I had to learn more, I had to know how he came to that idea. Where that journey took me is an article for another day.

Today, Ted’s statement makes a lot of sense and I will share the few characteristics I presume prime total strangers to smile at the sight of babies they don’t know.

# Innocence is captivating

We find new people a little harder to trust, we remain cautious until we have ascertained that they will not hurt us. This kind of feeling is absent with children because we know they won’t hurt us.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Interfaces should take the blame for things going wrong and assure the user that it is safe to engage with them.

–       User interfaces should never seek more effort/information then what is reasonably comfortable for the user. Ever heard somebody say: “what do you want from me?” You’ll rarely hear that said in a pleasant tone.

# Small is cute

Being less harmful, babies are also small and thus appear more vulnerable and therefore people are somewhat drawn to protecting them. This draws you closer.

Applying this to the interface:

–       As little, yet as much as necessary. This is the mantra of minimalist designers. Minimalism can be understood as a design philosophy where the simplest and fewest elements and content are used to create the maximum desired effect. And so were babies created; as such our interfaces should have no obstacles between the user and the experience we are laying the foundations for.

# Babies’ guards are low

Babies are forever handing out olive branches; as long as you don’t present a threat to them- a baby will accept you and acknowledge you in kind.

Olive Branch

 

Applying this to the interface:

–       There is a never-ending debate in the usability circles/forums regarding “intuitive” interfaces, one side arguing that nothing is intuitive and the other camp surprisingly arguing that a nipple is the only intuitive interface and that everything else is learned thereafter. Being aware of this debate (regardless of your camp) is important because UI designers need to be aware of the learned things that users already know so that we could make use of interface metaphors to reduce the learning curve of the user interface, in effect lowering our guard.

# Strong emotions are contagious

Babies cry and yell in joy at the top of their lungs, they share all their emotions indiscriminately.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Be passionate about your message and remember that a great interface is selfless, does not draw attention to itself and is devoted to serving a specific purpose for the person using it.

–       Find the right tone of voice for your interface and stick with it. Among other contributing factors to choosing your tone, the most notable is determined by how you want to be remembered. It is about crafting the personality to go with the look.

What other things have you found in your world that light up your soul? Share them with me on Twitter @uxtshepo and we can draw more parallel UX discussions.

Make love, art and live free

Tshepo Lehutjo

 

What are you doing on Mandela Day?

“Following the success of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in June 2008, it was decided that there could be nothing more fitting than to celebrate Mr Mandela’s birthday each year with a day dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organisations, and to ensure his legacy continues forever.

The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: Mr Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.

Mandela Day is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere – to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did.”

Source: http://www.mandeladay.com

Following the iconic leader’s admission to hospital and the conflicting reports that have followed regarding Madiba’s health, we’d like to take this opportunity to focus on what Mandela Day is all about; celebrating life, and using your life to improve someone else’s. There is no better gift than giving. Whether it is your time, your knowledge or even just a couple coins you have stashed in your car’s ashtray to the beggar at the stoplight. The act of giving, and seeing how you have positively impacted someone’s life, even if the contribution feels small to you, is even more rewarding when it is done with the right motivation. And not just on a personal level.

On that note, let’s give some attention to ‘Social Responsibility’ in Corporates. Most big corporates have a social responsibility obligation. To keep the Karmic scales in balance (and to keep government happy), they give back to specific charities or non-profit organisations they have identified that align with their core business objectives. According to the CSI Handbook, South African companies spent R6.9billion on corporate social investment (CSI) in 2011/2012.?

 While it is perfectly acceptable for a company’s business objectives and CSI strategies to align, the corporate investment agenda musn’t be too narrow. If there is a lack of balance between business objectives and community needs, the value and meaning of CSI is minimised. It is always best to invest in a long-term program that provides sustainability, rather than a numbers-based initiative. A little bit of integrity can go a long way. Especially in today’s world where, thanks to the power instilled by social media networks, the customer really is king.

Consumers can become much more aware of companies’ activities and more vocal on social media platforms. They associate strongly with companies’ brands and values, and are more outraged when they feel they have been let down or misrepresented. The best way for a company to launch a social initiative that is perceived as genuine is by using their talents to give back, or focusing on skills development within their specific industry. 

Even though there is a need to understand and appreciate the business return on development programs, the key to doing it right is to find the balance between the two, where you are actively and authentically contributing to your community with business benefits as a bonus, you are more likely to see a meaningful, memorable and long-term impact.

 So what are you and / or your company doing this Mandela Day? Have you successfully identified your community’s specific needs and giving back in a way that will actually make a difference? Or will you just be dropping extra silver coins into the SPCA’s collection tins at your local supermarket till? 

Permission to fail- an open letter

“Whatever you are, be a good one”, so said Abe Lincoln. People say that’s easier said… and it’s true because getting good takes a lot of trying things out by yourself, a lot of learning, and a lot of risk in taking failure.

Around this time of year in South Africa is when all sorts of youth talk come around. And the old folks calling us lost and trying to nudge us into the boxes that they think we should fit.

But we are young, the envy of gods, and we are rebels of our own cause – a far cry from the collective-cause of the 70s youth. What this means for a society that is becoming more and more individualistic is that we own our successes as much as we own our failures.

Although it is more accustomed of us to to show rather than tell: I’m keen to share with you a rather personal story, I’m still somewhat underwhelmed with my accomplishments so far regarding the goals I have set for the day I turn 25, but in my experiences I’ve come to realize that naivety is one of youth’s finest qualities. It enables us to disregard the odds and carries us forward when common sense would not. It sets apart wise men from the fools that changed the world, for good or worse.

My brethren, I have been long at this keyboard and wish to close off this letter with our beloved mantra: make love, art, and live free.

May you spirits stay forever young.

UX lessons learnt from the film Spirited Away

The 2001 Japanese animation “Spirited Away”, has been one of my favourite films for quite some time.  The brainchild of the amazing  Hayao Miyazaki , from studio Ghibli, it is not only beautifully crafted animation, but the plot contains a lot of valuable life lessons. To summarize the storyline: 10-year old Chihiro becomes trapped in a forbidden world of gods and magic when her parents take her to investigate the other side of then tunnel. In order to survive, Chihiro must work and make herself useful, and find within herself the courage and resolve she needs to save her parents and escape from a world where humans are despised.

 Let’s start with the similarities between Chihiro as a character and my experiences as UX designer:

 

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown - Spirited Away

Chihiro doesn’t want to move to a new town. She doesn’t want to explore the other side of the tunnel. She is a scared, weak child, clinging to her mother. Unbeknownst to Chihiro, she has inherent maturity and wisdom, which she only discovers once she is pulled out of her comfort zone and has to deal with the spirits as Sen.

Working in the digital realm, you find yourself constantly scared of what you are undertaking. Most projects involve new technology. How do you estimate? How can you know what problems may surface? Can’t you just do a similar project to the last one, where everything is predictable and you know what to expect?  Do you have to work with different devs, product owners, etc? The answer is, in short, yes. Origin Interactive has not done the same work twice. It’s what we pride ourselves on. It’s not nearly as scary as a spirit bath-house might be to a 10 year old girl. But in the end, you fall back on the wisdom and maturity you’ve had all along, and the product turns out great.

 

Optimism, trust and empathy

Trust and empathy - Spirited Away

Throughout the tale of Spirited Away, it is Chihiro’s sense of trust and her optimism that helps her conquer. Even in the face of evil, she strives to understand WHY the other characters act the way they do. As with the spirit No-Face, she has empathy for his loneliness and allows him to follow her despite the fact that he ate half the bathhouse.

When you are part of a great and talented team, optimism and trust comes easily. But we all have had the “unreasonable” clients, or incapable development, etc. I have found that if you try and understand the WHY for people’s behaviours, it is much easier to find a solution or reach launch point. Empathy is a core value in UX, in my opinion. Understanding what users want and why, understanding the business goals,  understanding the pressures your client is under… empathy gets you invested in the end-goal and in most cases produce amazing results.

 

Never forget your true name

Never forget your name - Spirited Away

The witch Yubaba takes a part of Chihiro’s name, turning her to Sen. This is how Yubaba controls people. By signing the contract to work for Yubaba, Chihiro gives away her identity and becomes someone else.  Throughout the course of the tale, Chihiro manages to remember her real name, which in the end frees her.

We all take on various roles on the job. User Experience has been coined a Jack-of-All-Trades profession quite a few times over the last few years. Though some would believe it is at the detriment of the trade, I believe it is a necessary characteristic to any good UX. To know as much as possible, and to deal with as many people as possible, ensures a good solution. This means a UX has to be a dev, or a product manager, or a project manager, or a user, or a CEO.  Be who you have to be to ensure everything is covered, but at all times, know that you stay a UX at heart.

 

The power of the bla-bla          

Bla Bla - Spirited Away

Chihiro’s saving grace in the first part of the film, is her ability to choose her words carefully and say only what is important. Other characters like Yubaba and Kamaji try and distract her from her true purpose with random questions and comments. But their trickery fall on deaf ears. Chihiro wants a job, and keeps asking for it.

It’s easy, especially in the first phases of a project, to get caught up in the bla-bla. We have all gotten pulled in by the temptation of a revolutionary, all encompassing amazing product that will rule the world. Or the opposite happens. Instead of over-delivering in promises for the solution, you find your ideas being shot down, restricted. Developers kick back on every bit of functionality you want to add, clients are upset by the budget. In the end, it’s all bla-bla. You know, as a UX, what to do to make a solution that fits all requirements and more.  Just do your job, and keep asking for what you need.

 

Stick to the rules, be respectful

Stick to the rules - Spirited Away

Early in the film it is clear that Chihiro’s manners and sense of right and wrong is her saving grace. Despite the fact that her parent’s gorged themselves on food they did not pay for, she refuses, saying it is stealing. This saves her from being turned into a pig. Later on, it is her respect for the hierarchy within the bathhouse that leads to great reward.

Rules are made to be broken, and in our industry it is very easy to confuse “revolutionary” with “let’s disregard everything and make something unusable”. We have all seen the end-results when usability and standard practice takes a back-seat to conceptuality. Again, it is about striking a balance. If you are respectful of the end goal and the users’ needs, and push within those limits, the results can be great.

 

Hard work pays off

Hard work pays off - Spirited Away

In the end of the film, Chihiro’s hard work, values and dedication to her cause ensures her parents’ freedom. She returns to the real world more prepared for the adventures ahead, and more aware of what she is capable of.

The reward of sticking to your guns, and bearing through the tough bits is something we are all familiar with as digital professionals. Every project is in itself an adventure, where you meet new characters, protect the ones you know, and have a goal you aspire to. Of course we all have our own work-flows and methodologies. And nothing is ever set in stone. The appeal of user experience, and the reason why I love it so much, is that it is a practice that can be applied to anything and everything. Don’t be scared, empathise and trust, understand, know yourself and the team’s capabilities, avoid the bla-bla, and push the limits within the boundaries of usability. A fool-proof recipe for any UX-adventure!

 

 

 

 

Let’s build a UXNation this Freedom Day!

 

This Freedom Day, 27th of April 2013, we celebrate 19 years of freedom. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the User Experience (UX)  industry in South Africa, and the impact it has made in the short time that it has been around.

Freedom Day 27 April

South Africa celebrates 19 years of Freedom this week.

If anything, there are opportunities when it comes to User Experience which have never been explored before, because it is relatively new and people have not fully grasped the concept of User Experience, and do not understand what it actually means. With the internet providing so many definitions  it does not  help the User Experience “struggle” but instead further confuses the everyday South African. We have an opportunity here to get people to understand it.

User Experience (UX) can be explained as the feeling or impression created when interacting with a company, its brand or service and how this is communicated and perceived by users within the digital realm. 

It might seem strange that I’m writing about Freedom Day and linking it to User Experience. You are probably wondering what one has to do with the other? Well believe it or not, I think there is an indirect link between the two, and I will do my best to demonstrate that, and hopefully by the time you’re done reading  you will understand my point of view.

Freedom Day: Commemorates when South Africa became independent from the oppressive powers that be and a better life for all was promised to the people.

This meant that South Africans were given freedom of expression and people could study what they wanted and where they chose to. User Experience could now be given a platform to spread all across South Africa. How has Freedom Day and what it stands for influenced the digital industry? South Africa is a young democracy, and we are still being introduced to the vastness of the digital realm. We are playing “catch-up” to the rest of the world in terms of technology and methodologies, User Experience being one of them.

South Africa’s User Experience history is younger than our independence.

Interaction design

We love UX.

UX is still being slowly introduced to the South African market, with a few exceptions of people and companies that are already, or have been, practising User Experience. What this means is that Companies  can target potential users that they have never had the opportunity to reach before. By providing products and services to users who need them, brands are able to make people’s lives easier and better.

Which is what we at Origin Interactive strive to do: make a difference in people’s lives with User Experience, to educate people about User Experience and to get the public to appeciate what User Expierence does and can do for them.

With all that said, we here at Origin Interactive can appreciate what Freedom Day has meant for our industry. We strive to expand digital knowledge through User Experience. We are lucky enough to teach previously disadvantaged South Africans at a young age about the benefits of User Experience in the digital world, providing them  with a platform to create a UXNation! In the words of our fearless leader Mike Lewis, who always challenges us to do great things,  “Always think of ways User Experience can make everyday South African’s lives easier, and make shit hot stuff”.

Freedom in South Africa has given us the platform to plant and spread the User Experience seeds. Let’s help them grow. Viva UXNation!

Nelson Mandela

Viva UX-Nation!