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!

 

TechEd Africa 2013

South Africa’s premier technology event for IT Professionals and Developers, TechEd Africa, was held from 16-19 April 2013 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.  Offering the most comprehensive education across Microsoft’s current and soon-to-be-released suite of products, solutions, tools, and services; the four days were jam packed with more than 1 000 learning opportunities and hands-on training, 500 unique breakout sessions with Microsoft speakers and industry experts, and more than 200 self-paced labs created by product experts.

TechEd2013 Windows 8 Application

Translating the application from the Windows 8 desktop and tablet devices to Windows 8 phone was a new challenge we embraced with fervor

Due to Origin Interactive’s close relationship with Microsoft SA, we were asked to do the User Experience and Visual Design of the Windows 8 application for TechEd Africa 2013. Using the framework provided on www.tech-ed.co.za, we set out to create an application that would aid delegates not only before the event, but during as well. Pre-event users had the option to check all sessions, speakers, and schedules, and book their days accordingly to ensure that they got the most out of the experience. During the event the apps came to life with Twitter feeds, live alerts, as well as the ability to comment and review sessions you had just attended. Translating the application from the Windows 8 desktop and tablet devices to Windows 8 phone was a new challenge we embraced with fervor . Using the Metro principles and style guidelines, the solution was slick, yet playful, with a modern African feel.

TechEd2013 Application Agenda Page

Pre-event users had the option to check all sessions, speakers, and schedules, and book their days accordingly to ensure that they got the most out of the experience

If you attended the conference this year and made use of the app, we would love to hear your thoughts on it. Fire away in the comments below!

Improving people’s lives

“It is more blessed to give than to receive”

I recently decided that instead of spending money at a bar celebrating another year of me getting older and fatter, that I would do something different for my birthday. After some research, I came across this website:

http://www.givengain.com

According to their site, they are known for two things:

  • Helping “Individuals do extraordinary things to raise money for their favourite causes”, and
  • Helping “Charities and Non-profits build strong and sustainable funding models”.

In the case of an individual, like myself, wanting to raise funds for a charity/cause, all you have to do is register as an “Activist”. You create an online profile, with a pic and a short bio, select the cause you want to support and set a monetary target. You’re then given a link to your profile and off you go. You’re free to nag people over FB, Twitter and via email to donate to your cause. You can pull in images from Flickr or attach YouTube videos. You can even comment on other Activists/Causes pages. Once donors click on your link they’re taken to your “Activist Page” where they can view your progress and information.

GivenGain Activist Profile Pic

Apart from the dorky image, the Activist Profile Page is super user friendly

Donations through the site are quick and easy, and as an activist you are notified every time a donation is made. Donors can choose to remain anonymous or put their name as well as a personal message next to their donation. All in all, it is a very user-friendly system to use as an Activist as well as a Donor. Well from my donors’ experiences and mine anyway.

Joining is free and takes less than two minutes. As an activist you can also increase your influence. Your ability to make things happen is measured by what they call their IPV (Influence Point Value). You are awarded points for reaching your target, adding your Twitter feed or connecting through Facebook. You’re awarded badges if you’ve got a certain amount of followers or more, if you’ve supported at least five causes or even one cause.

GivenGain enables non-profit professionals to build powerful online fundraising communities at a fraction of the traditional time and cost. By combining online donations, content management, email and mobile communication and donor CRM in one, integrated package, they’re replacing 5+ tools with one easy to use system to run their organisation.

As a company looking to implement a Corporate Social Investment strategy GivenGain has developed a “Community Investor Toolkit” to “provide velocity to social and/or environmental investment activities.

Door of Hope

We believe in improving people’s lives

I know that often we want to do something to give back to our communities, but it is so overwhelming and we are often scared off because the task seems insurmountable. GivenGain has truly given each individual and company the tools to contribute to society by making it as easy and exciting as possible. I was worried that I would register and look like a fool with my fifty rand donation, but I managed to meet and exceed my target of R5000 for my charity of choice – www.doorofhope.co.za – and every time I received a notification that a donation was made I felt like I had won the lottery! Currently there are 3,955 Activist projects and 867 Causes registered.

It is so refreshing, and relieving, that in today’s world where the internet is full of so many obscene, useless and terrifying things to know that there are still inspiring organisations out there who aren’t just in it for the profit or fame. To be sure, I did a search for Kardashians on the network and was thrilled to find that none were registered. So if you’re looking for a charity to support, or want to invest in a corporate social investment strategy for your business, I definitely recommend GivenGain. To infinity and beyond!

Once upon a time…

“Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form” – Nancy Duarte

When people ask me what I do I say “Oh, I manage stuff in the studio. I write a couple of headlines now and then.  Edit web copy. You know, that kind of thing”.  But to be honest, I write stories.

When I’m managing resource distribution throughout a project, I’m writing that project’s story. How and when it started, and why it ended the way it did. When I’m checking wireframes for consistency, I’m helping our User Experience Consultants and Information Architects ensure that the flow of the story they are writing for the User makes sense. What may seem like small, silly things to check  like button labels on a website or mobile application, they are all part of the bigger story called User Experience Design.

When starting a project, we look at it from the User’s perspective. We start with the basic questions:

User Journeys

“Right, I’m here now. What are you going to do?”

  • “How?”
  • “Where?”
  • “Why?”
  • “What?”
  • “When?”

From that we develop our “characters” or as we like to call them in UX: personas. We then create journeys for our personas. Which are like storylines or plots. When the plot thickens, the user’s journey develops more steps. If they take the left fork in the road as opposed to the right fork, what happens then?User Experience Consultants have to consider all the variables that make up the end user’s experience of your product. In order to do this, we make use of Storyboards.

Storyboards are a great way to collect your thoughts. To visually represent what you are thinking, to other team members and clients. It is a low-risk, very important step in the UX design process that helps make sense of our thoughts. We all remember fairy tales, movie plots and songs. Why? Because they tell a story. We are hardwired to remember them. Being human with a sense of curiosity helps us to relate to these stories. We all want to know what happens to our heroes and heroines.

Storyboarding Sketch

There’s nothing like a good old fashioned whiteboard, coloured markers and post-its when creating a storyboard

So the next time someone asks me what I do, I am going to say, “I write epic novels. I write about you, me and that guy over there. How we are all related. The common thread that binds us together. The shared goal that drives us. And how we are going to get there.”

Discover + Define = Great Web Copy

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads” – Dr. Seuss

Many people think that writing is a natural talent; it’s god (whichever yours is) given and that you either CAN or you CANNOT write. Granted, some people are just naturally better at it than others, they have an inherent knack for it, but without the right process, thinking pattern and getting it wrong a couple times, no amount of knack is going to do you any good!

Writing great web copy

The key to writing focused, result driven content for a website is the method behind it. Much like the UCD (User Centred Design) process, it is user focused and even shares similar steps.

The first step is research. Get to know the user, the product and the competition as if you were writing content for your own company website. As in the Discover stage during the UCD process, this can be the most intensive and time consuming, but is the most valuable. Interview users; ask them WHY they use your client’s product/service? What made them choose your client over others in the industry? How would they describe the service / product to others?  How does it make their lives easier? This information will help you define the tone and language to use for the copy, ensuring you are speaking directly to the user.

Interview your client; interview their staff, ask them about their processes, projects they were most proud of, company culture. There is no one person whose opinion is more important than anybody else’s. By sourcing content directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, you are doubling your chances of effectively capturing your intended audience.

Secondly, write a brief outline of the information that is going to be on each page. Help to define the content strategy by working with the Information Architect, UX Designer and Development team. Collaboration with these resources is vital in ensuring you contribute towards an engaging and effective website. Similar to wireframes generated during the Define stage of User Centred Design, this outline will help you complete the work faster and ensure that you stick to the flow.

Writing copy for the Web

The pen is mightier than the sword, but I prefer my laptop!

When you start writing and filling in the blanks of your outline, remember to base your tone and language on your users. Don’t be overly technical, scientific or vague. Be direct, specific and concise. The point of website copy is to get potential customers to do / purchase something, become a member etc. Users who are looking for a specific service / product on the Internet are already interested, so there’s no need to blast them with unnecessary jargon. They are already halfway there; all you have to do is close the deal. Give the right information, the benefits and why it is better than the competition. Make sure the information is relevant, interesting and unique.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" Leonardo Da Vinci

Wise words from my man Leonardo Da Vinci

One of the main things you should avoid doing when writing website copy is base it solely around the company. No user wants to know how many cute bunnies you’ve saved; they want to know what you can save for THEM. Also, stay away from listing product features. Instead, talk about WHY the product features would best suit your audience’s needs, for instance why a mini van is more suitable for a soccer mom than for a young, male college student. Obviously, if you are writing copy for a charity that is trying to raise money to help them save the bunnies, or an e-commerce site that is selling various washing machine brands, the above “rules” are malleable. Basically, employ a little bit of logic when necessary, but please, PLEASE do not bore your audience with too much information that is useless to them.

Finally, no first draft is ever perfect. Anyone who tells you any different is lying! Read a lot, write more and never stop asking questions.

User Experience – In my own words

“User Experience cannot be described, it is perceived while you are in it. Only after it is over can you comprehend and review with the benefit of understanding the situation”.

www.capgemini.com

I thought I would start with this quote to open up the topic, since for me it best describes my understanding of what User Experience is. Having come from a traditional agency background where there is little or no user experience present, the term was relatively new to me and from what I understand, one can never entirely grasp what User Experience is / entails.

User Experience has opened my eyes to a whole new world of the digital realm and all the teachings it has to offer. One of the major lessons for me to come from User Experience is that one must put user needs first, its not about making the design and / or application look pretty its about  “does it work for the user?” ,which brings me to my next point, user testing. Which is a major part of user experience, if not the most important, because that will determine how you create the experience for the user.

ux-roi-user-experience-return-on-investment

One can also say that the words – User Experience – are self explanotary but it goes much deeper than just the explanation, there is a methodology involved that one has to follow. User Experience affects all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product: how it is perceived, learned, and used. It’s about understanding your users, meeting their needs and crafting amazing digital experiences.

What I have learnt in the space of a year is pretty amazing, the most remarkable thing being that the learning never stops and that I’m hungry for more knowledge.

I don’t think I could ever go back to thinking any other way but the UX way.

Origin Interactive Office

Our diligent worker bees

In the everyday life things that we do, there is a whole lot of UX involved even if you don’t notice / realise that that’s what it is. From simple things such as sitting on a chair, which was designed with the user in mind and their comfort while they sit, the toothbrush also designed with the user in mind, how you hold it so you can get the maximum experience when brushing your teeth.

Bad UX is when, not all designs and / or products meet their users needs, which is why we see designs fail or products that don’t sell and have to be sent back and re-evaluated, tested and then put back in the market. All this could be avoided if the user is taken into account during the initial design phase.

Users are very simple; they want something to fit into their daily life routine. They don’t have time to learn how a new design or product works, they would rather move on to the next best thing. Which is why it is vital that User Experience be done the right way to get maximum results for the user.

Nqobile Tshabala our Studio Manager

The lovely NQ

 

 

Written by our very own Nqobile Tshabala, Studio Manager Extroadinair

Introducing our newest “Originals”!

Here at Origin Interactive we celebrate our diversity and unique skill sets. We love meeting and joining forces with passionate individuals who share our vision of improving people’s lives. We are proud to announce the addition of these two awesome guys to our team.

Tshepo Lehutjo

Junior UX Consultant

Tshepo - Our new UX Consultant

The little engine who could!

We’re all about collaboration, education and information. We were thrilled to welcome Tshepo to our team as an intern in 2012 while he was completing his MA: Digital Arts – Interactive Media at the University of Wits. Tshepo was studying the Usability of Twitter applications on Smartphones. It didn’t take us long to realise that we had discovered an amazing expert-in-the-making from which we could learn a thing or two, while at the same time, expose him to the enticing world of User Experience.

We kept our eye on this talented young man and as soon as we heard he was available for hiring, we scooped him up before anyone else could. Tshepo has proven that when he’s thrown in the deep end, not only does he swim; he dives in headfirst and tackles sharks with his bare hands. Seeing as his favourite saying is “Challenge accepted!” we’re not surprised that he confronts problems head on, with a passion to solve them logically and meticulously.

Michael Chihaka

Junior UX Visual Designer

Michael - Our new UX Designer

Hot design(er)

Michael is our Junior UX Visual Designer with a great deal of experience working in various design programs.

Junior, as the other staff has affectionately nicknamed him, is incredibly passionate about strong conceptual design and feels that “without design thinking, there’s no route to innovative and alternative human-centred solutions”. His philosophy is to practice design thinking, from inspiration to implementation.

After completing his Honours in BA: Information Design at the University of Pretoria, his professional experience includes working on various exciting projects for clients like SAB Kickstart and Castle Milk Stout, SA Design Hub, Sabat, VO5 & Transitions to name a few.

Junior is truly a triple threat as he is also an aspiring DJ and has completed some of his motion projects to the sounds of his own music. With a passion to learn and grow, and a desire to always push the boundaries of digital design, he is definitely a shooting star in our galaxy to keep your eye on. Michael’s down to earth attitude and ability to laugh at himself have kept him grounded and focused on one thing: expanding his and others’ worlds through significant digital engagements.

Our two new team members at daily stand-up

More staff = more birthdays = more cake! YAY

 

Welcome aboard guys, we’re super stoked to have you!