4 Tips From Don Norman's Design Presentation

Posted 4/15/2014 6:59 PM by Jeff Julian

Don Norman's UXPA KC Presentation 

I didn’t know what to expect when attending the UXPA KC April event at the Cerner Innovation Campus.  This was my first UXPA event and I have never attended a “User Group” where the presenter was brought in via Skype.  However with a presenter like Don Norman, these are challenges I am willing to overlook.  To be able to sit at the feet and listen to someone who has been instrumental to the design field in the past four decades was a great honor.

First Impressions

Cerner has an amazing campus!  They have put a lot into the design of their products over the past decade and they definitely have what it takes to innovate in the healthcare software industry.  We are proud to have them in the Kansas City area.

The UXPA group is awesome!  The energy of the diverse audience is something I have dreamed of in the .NET/development community for years.  The audience was very quick to interact with the Wizard of Design (whose head was being broadcasted to the group via Skype with a green hue) and Don had quick and well thought out responses.

I will definitely continue to attend these events and can’t wait to try this model with some other groups we are a part of.

Tip #1 – Work on Stuff People Will Use, Not the “Doors That Cannot be Opened”

Once the meeting got started, Don gave us some insight into his initial ventures into the design world.  Coming from a psychology background, Don wanted to study the behaviors caused by bad design of everyday items.  Don said, “The real world is a lot more interesting than the academic.”  Instead of picking the path of solving the single problems people dedicate their entire lives to, or “the doors that cannot be opened”, Don turned his attention to the way people used products.  I completely agree with Don on this point, the more you can help with people who have specific solvable problems that make them happy, the more you will enjoy your work.   

Tip #2 – It is not good to have too many creative people in one company

Too many good ideas can be unhealthy for an organization.  If everyone is constantly coming up with ideas, we lose the momentum needed to execute on the first idea.  We need a balance of creative people and people who execute on creative ideas.  The people who can execute on others ideas are the ones who make your products more robust and can help you get to market faster without sacrificing quality.  

Tip #3 – Use Signifiers with Mobile Applications so Your Users Don’t Have To Guess On The Correct Gestures

As we start to work with more mobile devices and less common gestures due to vendor preference (think using a Windows Phone versus an iOS device) and start to design interfaces for our applications that stand out, giving hints through the designs to users for the correct action we want them to take will help adoption.  Don gave the example of Windows Phone showing the peak of the next screen on the right side.  By seeing there is something else, you are drawn to swipe from right to left to expose the next screen.  Otherwise, it will take a lot more trial and error or yet-another-overlay-education-screen that will go away after the first use.

Tip #4 – The Best Skill for the Next Generation of Designers is Empathy

You must have empathy for the customer AND the business.  Dictionary.com (wow, that is weird to not say, “Webster’s Dictionary”) defines empathy as the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.  The keywords in that definition is “intellectual”, “experiencing”, and “feelings”.  We have to be willing to experience interactions through the customers experience in the way the application makes them feel and at the same time the thoughts of the individuals within the business during the decision making process.  It is very easy to lean towards the customers experience over the need for the business to make profit or the focus on profit over the need for happy customers.  Finding balance takes time and analysis on each side.

Final Thoughts

  1. Don Norman is amazing, follow him on twitter!
  2. UXPA KC has a great thing going, attend the next meeting
  3. Cerner UX is doing some amazing thinks with their UX lab


-Jeff Julian, Managing Partner