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!

 

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!

 

Social, the next big thing after Google & sliced bread?

Although we pride ourselves in working at the forefront of User Experience in the South African digital context, at Origin we are also serious about exploring how the ever-changing technological landscape is affecting our habits, behaviour and lived experiences, and what role UX design may play in positively influencing these changes. As such, we will be addressing these concerns in what we hope proves to be a series of engaging and provoking posts. To get us started we have a guest-post by Tshepo Lehutjo. Tshepo, a former intern at Origin, is currently doing his MA Digital Arts in Interactive Media at the University of Witwatersrand, focusing his studies on the usability of Twitter apps on smartphones.

Just a few months ago, I ran into an academic article that was themed towards a study of identity and self-gratification, the link to which I have unsuccessfully tried to find (apologies – however, a search on social networks and narcissism brings up issues and conversations we should rather not get into). Without adding any of the sterile theory behind the article, the findings from this study were very surprising or rather appalling depending on your point of view.

A number of participants were equally divided into two groups, one group looked into the mirror for a given time while the other group browsed their Facebook social network. The results showed how the Facebook folk showed more self-satisfaction than those who looked at their reflection in the mirror.

Sure, man is a social animal, but really!? It seems social validation may be more important than we actually give credit for; who even cares what they think of themselves anymore? Does Lady Gaga care what she thinks of herself anymore? Do you?

If this were an Oprah-type show it would be a perfect moment for one of those clichéd sayings that go “what is the world coming to?” But no one is to blame, nor should we become anti-technology- this is the natural order of things, we humans have come from travelling seven days to get a message between two cities, to instant mobile messaging that takes less time than you can say “What are the names of the other Facebook founders anyway?” This is how we grow and perhaps why we are still on the planet.

Sure, we have seen the countless studies done on social, I’m quite likely speaking for myself here, but start up your favourite search engine, type in a few search terms on social network studies and voila! Back to the point, we have seen how the rise of smartphones and iPods has turned our public spaces into private spaces. You see, the jig is that when you are on social, the world is a village- but for those few that don’t participate- they have come to learn that maintaining someone’s attention without having them drift away on their small screen can be difficult.

Yes, that’s right, social technology has created a widely super-connected world that is quite adept at maintaining friendships and bonds online, but – and this is hard to argue with – it has simultaneously created a world that cares more about what to tweet about the current moment than it cares about the moment itself.

Again, this is no reason to become anti-tech, lest I loose my source of well-being- but I am not too worried about that happening, the boys at Googleplex and the Apple-kids in Sillicon Valley would definitely stop the world from rotating if that were to happen.

On the other hand, one should note that not all things that are good are entirely good, nor are things that are bad all bad – I think the remedy is that we should try to become more aware of ourselves and our technology (and yes, there actually is a lot of harm in neglecting the friend beside you to check who commented on your status update – your “friends” most likely!)

In all earnestness, do not suppress the instinct to be social – it’s a basic human need. But don’t miss the moment to be social in the “real world” either.

Tshepo Lehutjo

Future usability analyst x interaction designer

What is User Experience and User Experience Design?

experience design is about making emotional connections with people

In today’s information society, we’re spoilt for choice and bombarded with information. There is nothing we can’t find, buy or diagnose online. The world is literally at our fingertips.

Websites, applications and other interactive digital mediums have become progressively complex as our industry’s technologies and methodologies advance. What used to be a one-way static medium has evolved quite rapidly into a very rich and interactive digital experience.

Although production and development methods continue to advance, the success of a solution still hinges on a few emotionally driven triggers; How is it perceived, Is it easy to use, Does it meet needs and expectations and Is it an enjoyable experience. Subconsciously users will base their evaluation on these factors and decide whether to become regular users or not.

User Experience (abbreviated as 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. Whether this impression is emotional, like loving a brand and consequently loving everything it does, or one of approval when something works the way it should, it’s all about how it meets users’ needs.

So what makes people wait inline for 25 minutes for that cup of coffee? Sure, the coffee is probably good, but no cup of coffee is that good…

User experience embodies not only the product itself, but also the user and the context in which the product is used. And as User Experience is a subjective feeling, it cannot actually be ‘designed’. Instead, we design for the experience a user has, reinforcing and enabling a positive brand experience.

User Experience Design (abbreviated as UXD or UXDesign) can be explained as affecting all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product: how it is perceived, learned, and used. User Experience Design is how the elusive and invisible concept of User Experience is made tangible.

User Experience Design is a broad discipline, starting at inception and affecting the whole lifecycle of a project or a business. It is not just a step in the process, but is intrinsic and parallel to every other process and underpins all aspects of the project delivery.

User Experience Design promotes outstanding experiences, rather than simply preventing usability problems. We, the shareholders in our own everyday experiences, want User Experience to contribute to a higher quality of life by designing for pleasure rather than the absence of pain.

It’s about understanding your users, solving their problems and crafting amazing digital experiences. Done well, it’s the difference between good digital solutions and great ones .

So how do companies differentiate themselves in the competitive arena they operate in when everyone is promising the same thing? How do you keep your customers from dumping you for the next thing?

The answers is simple; User Experience Design.
Good User Experience Design = Happy Users

Happy users become your brand advocates and are more likely to recommend your services. They’ll be less likely to desert you when things occasionally go wrong. And if you really do a good job, they’ll even dedicate time to help you grow and improve your services by contributing ideas and valuable feedback.

In summary, happy users generate return on investment. Unquestionably, spending the time and effort crafting an amazing User Experience is definitely worth it.