Yesterday I came across an article on Twitter by Patrick Neeman @usabilitycounts the post was Four Ways to Increase Your Influence (And How Much You Earn) as an User Experience Designer and there was a lot in the post that resonated with me. So much so that I thought I would write my own blog post on what I got out of the article. It was actually the last point he makes, What have you done for your career lately? and just above that he is talking about developing an app. He wanted to get experience with mobile, so he came up with an idea and built an app. Brilliant.
Often I get asked the questions, how did you get into web development, how do you get experience in usability, how did you get experience with Sharepoint? what training have you done? I want to get into mobile how do I get the experience?
The answer to most of the questions is, I have simply followed a natural progression in my career. I started in front end web development, to team lead positions developing accessible websites, which was then a natural fit over to the world of project management, usability analysis and experience architecture.
Sharepoint experience however, I did kind of deliberately fall into this. I was on a consulting assignment to lead a UX team to develop the application for a grants management tool. The Department had rolled out Sharepoint for its intranet, and our team had a localised team site for collaboration. It was made clear pretty quickly that we could use the Sharepoint site a lot better and I made it my mission to get involved in the design and configuration of the lists, views and collaboration features. This I did outside of my engagement as a value add to the client, I got the experience with Sharepoint that I needed and they got a more customised solution to suit going forward. It was a win/win situation. So to people that ask me, how do I get involved in Sharepoint the first thing I ask is what do you want to do? Because its a big beast, you can make a career out of being a farm admin, designer, developer or simply a content creator. I wanted the designer experience and I went after that. I was lucky that I had an opportunity, though if you don’t have the opportunity in your work. Look at doing courses, if you are proficient with set up of web applications and servers then maybe try and install a local copy and try out the features. I have the email hosting for 101 Web Technology hosted through Rackspace and with that I get a Sharepoint install to use. That could be an option for you, basically what Im saying is there are ways to get the experience and either apply it at your current job or take it with you to your next. Sometimes you need to look for opportunities and make the experience yourself. Which brings me to my mobile experience.
I wanted mobile experience. I wanted to develop an app and be able to design/develop applications for clients. So I set about designing an app for myself. The hardest thing for me was the idea, what would be something that was new enough to get into the App Store and have enough features that I could build on and get an understanding of how the iOS environment ticks. I think I nailed it, wasn’t easy though the app is now being submitted to the Apple App Store and waiting approval for the second time, we got knocked back first time due to some bugs when running on the iPad. I didn’t test iPad because the app was quite intentionally an iPhone app, rookie mistake. Though this is a learning experience, and now I can say I have experience with mobile. I have an app in the Apple App Store.
Experience gained from this process:
- Finding a developer you trust can be hard. If you are going in fresh with mobile dev exp, then trust is a big thing. Do your research and question anything you think doesn’t sound right. You can usually tell if people are taking you for a ride.
- When designing constantly reference the interaction guides for the targeted platform. Mine was iOS and their guidelines are pretty robust, thanks Apple.
- Prototype your design. I started with Omni Graffle and quickly moved to Axure. (more on that in a later post)
- Test the prototype. Critical, get hands on and run it on the device.
- Test like a machine, test in the simulators to start with and then move on to the device and test again.
- Set up a test matrix. Have set scripts you run to test all the functionality and give pass/fail success criteria for each build.
- User test. Pass it on to some people and let them loose. Gather feedback.
- Its not something that is going to be knocked up in a week. There will be delays, even just getting the app submitted to the app store will have up to 10day review period.
All the above processes were not entirely new to me, I have designed applications for the desktop. I have prototyped websites, I have applied user centered design methodology to my projects, though what was new was the specific differences for iOS application development. It is the context and the specific experience that future tender panels are going to ask me to respond to. Now I can respond with confidence, I have experience with mobile application development from requirements gathering, design and development through to deployment to the app store. I can also speak to how I applied user centered design methodology to the project to deliver a usable product. I have made my own experience.
So what do you want to get experience in? How can you make that experience happen for yourself?