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February 27 2014

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August 22 2013

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August 20 2013

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August 08 2013

13:30

Where UX Comes From

Earlier this week, we interviewed Leah Buley, author of the new book UX Team of One. Leah talked about her own experiences as a UX team of one, and how her approach has changed over time. Now we are very excited to present an excerpt from the book itself.

As a team of one, knowing the history of user experience helps you reassure people that it’s not just something that you dreamed up in your cubicle. If I were to sum up the history of UX in a few short sentences, it might go something like this: villains of industry seek to deprive us of our humanity. Scientists, scholars, and designers prevail, and a new profession flourishes, turning man’s submission to technology into technology’s submission to man. Pretty exciting stuff.

UX has a long and storied history that intersects with other business, design, and technology developments that your colleagues may be familiar with.

Now here’s the longer version. User experience is a modern field, but it’s been in the making for about a century. To see its beginnings, you can look all the way back to the machine age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, corporations were growing, skilled labor was declining, and advances in machine technology were inspiring industry to push the boundaries of what human labor could make possible.

The machine age philosophy was best exemplified by people like Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford, who both pioneered ways to make human labor more efficient, productive, and routinized. But they were criticized for dehumanizing workers in the process and treating people like cogs in a machine. Still Taylor’s research into the efficiency of interactions between workers and their tools was an early precursor to much of what UX professionals think about today.

Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, pejoratively known as Taylorism.

The first half of the 20th century also saw an emerging body of research into what later became the fields of human factors and ergonomics. Motivated by research into aeromedics in World War I and World War II, human factors focused on the design of equipment and devices to best align with human capabilities.

By the mid 20th century, industrial efficiency and human ingenuity were striking a more harmonious relationship at places like Toyota, where the Toyota Production System continued to value efficiency, but treated workers as key contributors to a continually improving process. One of the core tenets of the Toyota philosophy was “respect for people,” and it resulted in involving workers in troubleshooting and optimizing the processes that they were a part of. As one example, workers at Toyota factories could pull a rope called the Andon Cord to stop the assembly line and give feedback if they saw a defect or a way to improve the process.

Around the same time, industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People, a classic design text that, like the Toyota system, put people first. In it, Dreyfuss described many of the methods that UX designers employ today to understand and design for user needs, as shown below. In Designing for People, Henry Dreyfuss writes “when the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the [designer] has failed. On the other hand, if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient—or just plain happier—by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.”

At the same time, some interesting parallel movements were taking shape. A small handful of academics were doing research into what we now describe as cognitive science. As a discipline, cognitive science combined an interest in human cognition (especially human capacity for short-term memory) with concepts such as artificial and machine intelligence. These cognitive scientists were interested in the potential of computers to serve as a tool to augment human mental capacities.

Dreyfuss created Joe (and a companion diagram, Josephine) to remind us that everything we design is for people.

Many early wins in the design of computers for human use came from PARC, a Xerox research center founded in the early 1970s to explore innovations in workplace technology. PARC’s work in the mid-70s produced many user interface conventions that are still used today—the graphical user interface, the mouse, and computer-generated bitmap graphics. For example, PARC’s work greatly influenced the first commercially available graphical user interface: the Apple Macintosh. The term user experience probably originated in the early 1990s at Apple when cognitive psychologist Donald Norman joined the staff. Various accounts from people who were there at the time say that Norman introduced user experience to encompass what had theretofore been described as human interface research. He held the title User Experience Architect, possibly the first person to ever have UX on his business card. Norman actually started out in cognitive psychology, but his writing on the cognitive experience of products, including technological products, made him a strong voice to lead and inspire a growing field. According to Don Norman, “I invented the term because I thought Human Interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things is a popular text that deconstructs many of the elements that contribute to a positive or negative user experience. It’s still pretty much required reading for anyone who is interested in UX.

With the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and then the Web in the 1990s, many of these trends converged on each other. Graphical user interfaces, cognitive science, and designing for and with people became the foundation for the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Suddenly, more people had access to computers and, along with it, a greater need to understand and optimize their use of them. HCI popularized concepts like usability and interaction design, both of which are important forebears to user experience. In the Internet bubble of the mid and late-1990s, new jobs with titles like “Web designer,” “interaction designer,” and “information architect” began cropping up. As people became more experienced in these roles, a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the field of user experience began to develop. Today, user experience is a rapidly growing field, with undergraduate and graduate level programs being developed to train future generations of professionals to design products for the people who use them.


Enjoy this? Get the full book at Rosenfeld Media and use code UXBOOTH for 20% off!


The post Where UX Comes From appeared first on UX Booth.

August 06 2013

13:30

One to Many: An Interview with Leah Buley

Everyone’s been there: “going it alone.” Learning, prodding, and making sense of a problem – all in complete isolation. Sometimes the hardest thing in that situation is knowing that, regardless of whether or not we succeed or fail, we’ll have no one to share that outcome with. And that’s exactly what makes Leah Buley’s story so compelling. In her latest book, UX Team of One, Leah explains how we can beat the odds and feel that sense of camaraderie even when we’re the only person ensuring that our organization practices design in a user-centered way.

I first heard of Leah Buley from her presentation at UX Week 2008 titled, not surprisingly, UX Team of One. And at that time I could certainly empathize: I worked as the sole – and therefore “lead” – interaction designer at an agile development consultancy. By the end of the presentation I couldn’t help but share it with my colleagues and friends.

You likely saw something about it on UX Booth’s Twitter feed. Shortly thereafter, Leah received a book deal with Rosenfeld Media, giving her a platform to bring her message to the masses (well, the print-based masses).

Recently published by the gang over at Rosenfeld (PS: use code UXBOOTH if you decide to purchase a copy), I didn’t hesitate to reach out and ask Leah what I felt to be pertinent questions. Namely, it’s been four years since her presentation. That’s quite a while in terms of our industry. And not only that, but Leah’s made quite a transition herself in that time – from being a team of one to being an in-house designer at Intuit. Read on to hear Leah’s thoughts on her transition as well as a chance to win a copy of your own!

Congratulations on the book, Leah! To even begin to codify user experience design is an incredible feat. Now that you’re done, will you ever look at our craft the same way?

Thanks so much, Andrew! It’s pretty thrilling to have a book out and alive in the world. Truthfully, it took me so long to write it that I was secretly worried that its time might have passed. But the feedback has been really heartwarming, and it would seem that there are still lots of “UX teams of one’ in the world. So, phew! Thank heavens for that.

As for our craft, I don’t know. I feel like the more I learn, the less I know. When I look at the book, I realize how much is not included in it: responsive design, service design, lean UX, augmented reality, big data, flat design, the internet of things, retrofuturism, flying cars (well, self-driving, at least). There are so many new approaches and methods and possibilities emerging all the time. (Thankfully! That’s what keeps it interesting.) that I wince a little when I think about everything that’s not included. But it’s ok. When that happens, I take a deep breath and pour myself a glass of wine and reassure myself that my goal wasn’t to be comprehensive but rather to capture a mindset that can help user experience professionals win support and influence better work. I hope I’ve accomplished that.

You’ve made quite the transition since your initial presentation, switching companies as well as roles. How has your approach changed over the years?

When I started doing UX work I was full of misdirected bravado. I had this idea that UX designers should be able to fight for what’s right for users. I believed my job was to come in with guns blazing and challenge teams to reinvent their products.

I think the biggest change to my approach is now I focus less on the fight and more on the process. Consequently, I have less bravado and more innate confidence. I’ve become more confident because I’ve been through the research and design process repeatedly enough to know that it works. I have trust in the process. There seems to be a moment on every project where I feel like the solution is hard and unknowable, and I can’t possibly imagine how we’re going to figure out what to do. But I just let myself keep marching forward.

It sounds weird but I liken this to walking off a cliff. I walk off a cliff – into the abyss of the problem – and trust that insights gleaned from observing real people will point the way. And somehow they always do. I used to be afraid to let my colleagues know that I was in the abyss. Now, I try to be transparent about it; I try to help other people get comfortable with being in the abyss, too.

I’m actually leading a really complicated design project right now. The goal is to bring consistency to a user experience that connects a bunch of disconnected products while also bridging brand and product strategy and UX. It’s got, like, four dozen stakeholders. It’s a beast. Some days are really hard. Those are definitely falling-off-the-cliff days. But even on the hard days, I can remind myself that 1) I know how this process works and I just need to keep moving ahead, and 2) in the end we’ll have something markedly better than where we started. And I know this is true because I’ve been through enough messy UX projects to know that the user-centered design process will get me there.

You’re presently a design strategist at Intuit – a company who, I imagine, employs quite a few UX designers! In other words, you’re hardly a team of one anymore. What philosophies and practices mentioned in your book apply “UX teams of many” and what new techniques/practices have you learned?

I have a great job. I get to work on ambiguous design problems that cut horizontally across a large organization with a lot of vertical structures. Sometimes I focus on product-oriented, customer-facing design problems—things that affect our products – and sometimes I focus on process-oriented, internal-facing design problems – things that affect how we work. In both instances, the key to success is (and always will be) people. My job is to find ways to bring everyone along for the ride. In that way, actually, all the philosophies and practices from the book still apply. Intuit has an extremely large user experience community, and yet I still feel like a UX team of one. And that’s not because I’m unsupported, it’s just the nature of working with a cross-disciplinary team, which just about every UX professional does.

I’ve also add a lot of new techniques to my toolkit that I picked up at Intuit. Intuit has this really phenomenal program called the Innovation Catalyst. (Not invented by me, alas. Here, I’m just an eager student.) Basically, they train hundreds of people throughout the company in design thinking skills, and then send those people back into every branch of the organization to act as facilitators and coaches for design. The Innovation Catalyst program teaches loads of methods that run the gamut from customer research to generative design to rapid prototyping and experiments. One of my current favorite methods is this poster-sized canvas called the NEXT tool. Using the NEXT tool, teams answer some really interesting questions about their product vision, their “leap of faith” assumptions, and various hypotheses that they ultimately need to test with users. The NEXT tool is really complementary to the Lean Startup approach.

Another, simpler tool that I learned at Intuit that I really love is called a brainstorm box. If you’re doing a team brainstorm on product ideas, just put a box in the middle of the table with thought starters written out on sticky notes. If you get stalled, pull out a sticky from the box and, voila, brainstorm re-ignited. Some example thought starters: “What if it had to be purely mobile?” “What would be the opposite of our last idea?” “What would get us fired?”

Many people who find themselves as the sole UX professional in a company struggle with how much they need to “teach” the rest of their team. What are the essential principles a UXer should teach his or her team in order to be successful?

First and only principle: go watch some users. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it a principle. Call it a suggestion. “Hey, let’s go watch some users.” All knowledge derives from that. The ability to envision the product from a user’s point of view is like a muscle that can be strengthened. And like a muscle, it responds well to repetition. Jared Spool has written about user exposure hours and the high correlation between the number of hours a team spends watching users and the overall quality of their product. If you can get your team to take the time to actually watch real people in action (whether it be a usability test, exploratory research, or even lean-style rapid experiments) they will be strengthening that muscle. This makes the whole team better informed about user needs. But just as importantly, it will make them more curious and empathetic about users in general, which is how a fan of UX is born.

The second half of the book is comprised entirely of user-centered design activities and methods and serves as a wonderful resource for anyone working in UX. What gave you the idea to structure your book this way?
The structure of The User Experience Team of One was inspired primarily by my deep love for reference books. I covet and collect reference books of all kinds—cook books, dictionaries, craft and activity books. In my first job out of school, when I was still muddling my way through HTML and CSS, a co-worker gave me a copy of O’Reilly’s Javascript: The Definitive Guide. It was like my bible, the first reference book for my professional career. I loved its structure—this highly glanceable, easy-to-peruse manual for making interesting things. Ever since then, I’ve loved and looked for books that have clear, reassuringly repeatable structures. Surprisingly few UX books have that ’cook book’ quality. Two books that do this well are Universal Principles of Design and Universal Methods of Design, both of which contain one utterly complete, bite-sized thought per page.


That’s a wrap, guys! Thanks, again, Leah, for taking the time to share your thoughts with readers.

As for the giveaway, here’s how that works: just follow @uxbooth on twitter and leave a comment on this post answering the question: “What user-centered design technique do you rely on most frequently and why?” Be sure to include your twitter handle in your comment and to leave it before this Thursday at midnight PST. We’ll contact three lucky winners over Twitter. Good luck!


The post One to Many: An Interview with Leah Buley appeared first on UX Booth.

June 11 2013

13:30

A User Experience Business of One

My initial foray into UX frustrated me. Although my job title suggested that I made products easier for end-users, I actually spent a lot of time selling user experience to clients, stakeholders, and colleagues. I knew I needed to broaden my focus, but I didn’t know where to start. And that’s when I discovered The Business Model Canvas.

The story behind what we today know as the Business Model Canvas is an interesting one. Originally created as a conceptual framework for Alexander Osterwalder’s PhD project, it later became the subject of an entire book called Business Model Generation, co-authored with Yves Pigneur. Today, both the book and the canvas allow those of us without business training (including yours truly) to better understand sustainable business practices.

My application of the Business Model Canvas is likely atypical, though. Instead of using the canvas to aid clients, I wondered: what if I looked at my role as a business itself? After all, I need resources to operate (a budget, my supervisors’ time, my colleagues’ expertise); I have customers (people to whom I provide value); I have costs (my time, materials, stress). Could understanding all these things help me design more efficiently?

Introspection

To follow my logic, it’s useful to first understand how the business model canvas is laid out.

Personal Business Model Canvas Worksheet. Source: http://www.businessmodelyou.com

Divided into nine parts, it includes:

  • Key partners – Who supports you?
  • Key activities – What do you do to create value?
  • Key resources – What do you require?
  • Customers – For whom do you create value?
  • Value – What problems do you solve? What needs do you address?
  • Channels – How do you communicate your value?
  • Customer relationships – How you interact with customers?
  • Revenue – What do you get?
  • Costs – What do you give?

Using the original book’s sequel (Business Model You) as a guide, I thought critically about my role within my organization. Rather than rigorously weigh all nine considerations here, though – something for which the book is much better suited – let’s look at three in particular: customers, value provided, and key channels.

Customers: not just the end-user

While it’s relatively easy to assume that our customers are the same as the customers of the company for which we work, this isn’t strictly the case. As the book defines them, customers are anyone for whom we’re creating value, including:

  • Clients and stakeholders, who rely on us for our expertise;
  • End-users, who rely on us to represent their needs;
  • Software developers, who rely on us to clarify interactions and interfaces;
  • Other members of the design team, who rely on us for user research; and, finally,
  • Colleagues in quality assurance, who rely on us for specifications and clarifications.

Notice that end-users are only one item on the list. Notice, also, that colleagues are customers too. Couple this with the fact that we practice user-centered design and it becomes increasingly obvious why it’s part of our job to consider our team and their benefit.

User experience design isn’t limited to human-computer interaction; it includes human-human interaction as well. Before filling out the canvas, I instinctively knew this – that my responsibility did not end with “end users” – however, I didn’t know what I could do to serve them more effectively. That’s when I considered value propositions.

Value: not just deliverables

Just as clients tend to think of our work as deliverables, designers often think of our work as different activities: holding workshops, conducting interviews, writing scenarios, making wireframes. Yet one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume that the activities we conduct are the same thing as the value we provide.

When I sat down to determine the value I provided, I was stumped. I could only think of – dare I say it – clichés. Yeesh. “Making things easy to use,” “generating empathy,” etc. I needed to break it down.

My actual first draft of value provided – this describes what value my role provides, irrespective of activities.

To determine the value I provided to others, I started with a list of what I was currently doing at work: conducting user interviews, diagramming mental models, building low-fidelity prototypes, tracing mind maps, putting together personas. Next, I considered my reasoning for each activity. Why did I interview project stakeholders?, for example. Then I asked myself: So what?

Repeatedly. Until I hit something.

This resulted in the following table:

Activity I do this to… So that… User interviews Build empathy for customers We avoid building a product “for everyone” Mental Model Diagram Determine our feature fit Stakeholders can see gaps Low-fidelity prototype Share the vision Everyone can agree to the product direction, sooner

Does interviewing customers before designing reduce the risk of product-market mismatch? Does one particular kind of prototype make it easier to adapt the design vision? You don’t know until you think it through.

Next, I considered the value provided by each of these activities for my customers:

Activity Value to client Value to developers Value to designers Mental Model Diagram Risk reduction. This helps clients see gaps in their offering (where they might lose competitive edge or profit) Convenience. This allows developers to more easily write user stories by providing user motivations. Cost reduction. This provides designers with context so they can more quickly make design decisions.

Notice how the value differs depending upon the customer. Finding the right way to phrase the value we provide for a given audience is, simply put, a user-centered way of thinking. It requires asking the right questions and actually listening to the answers. In this case, we just have to add business constraints, and organizational fit to our list of topics to listen out for.

Communicating this way signals that we have a wide skillset. When I sit down at a meeting, I sometimes sense that a new client considers the role of designer to be analogous to that of an aesthetician: the person responsible for adding “color” to an interface. Communicating my role in terms of value signals that I think broadly. It raises expectations.

Key channels: stop waiting for recognition

The third realization I had when filling out the canvas was that I was often waiting for people to become curious about what I did instead of communicating my own value. Channels are the methods we use to communicate to customers. They afford three things:

  • Awareness of the value we provide. They allow us to spread the word about what we can offer (and listen to others to see where its needed most).
  • The value itself. Channels allow us to deliver the value we promise.
  • Customer support after we’ve delivered our value.

Most importantly, this exercise helped me realize that I needed to start doing things resonated most with each of my customers. To that end, I might:

  • Demo something I did in the company demo meeting and talk about the value to developers
  • Share a usability test recording
  • Make a cheat-sheet of my activities’ benefits for the sales team, or
  • Write articles about our process for the company website so clients could learn more about what UX means for business

Making the sale

To there you have it: the business model of a UX Team of One. Selling UX – especially within an organisation – is a complex topic. Whole books have been written on the subject. The three insights above resulted from reconsidering my value and what I could improve on.

I eventually came to realize I needed a plan for communicating value to different groups of people I work with, and that I had to stop waiting and start doing. I also came to accept that there were areas in which I needed help – such as translating my reasoning for UX activities into business terms. I’m currently working on writing out all these benefits, with the help of an experienced consultant.

The business model canvas hasn’t made my job any easier to do, but it has helped me prioritize. Communicating value is a journey. I recommend filling out the canvas for yourself and seeing which boxes are most difficult to fill (yours might differ from my 3 key learnings) or with which you could use some help. I have no doubt you’ll find the result rewarding.

Related resources

On UX within organizations
On UX benefits
On the Business Model Canvas

The post A User Experience Business of One appeared first on UX Booth.

May 30 2013

13:00

May 16 2013

13:00

September 04 2012

18:00

August 24 2012

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August 22 2012

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August 09 2012

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August 08 2012

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July 26 2012

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July 21 2012

13:00

How to Get the Most out of Your Design Degree

Studying design might not be the hardest thing a person can do on Earth. Studying design is actually quite easy – it’s very practice-oriented, every piece of theory is applied and there is no wrong answer. If you have good reasons for everything you do, there is no way somebody will be able to tell you that you are wrong. Hey, it might actually be one of the funniest degrees possible.

However, getting the most out of your education is something not many are good at, and especially in our business where everybody thinks they know something, finishing high and then getting a good job is something only a handful of people from each class manage to do throughout their life. So you might ask yourself how do others manage to get that dream job of theirs when they have the same education as you – the same degree that hasn’t landed you anything more than poorly paid jobs and difficult clients to handle.

Like any other business, you only hear about the successful ones, but the majority of people in the web industry are the ones who don’t really make it anywhere. Focusing on education is the only way to avoid being one of them and to have a successful design career.

There are two kinds of education in the industry: a traditional one and a practice-oriented one.

Traditional Design Education

This is the kind of education that was really popular in the industry ten years ago. Since now we have the opportunity to get a hands-on experience right in school, it is not as popular anymore and many people prefer to go the route of a practice oriented education. The degree might not even be too helpful.

This kind of education is not similar to the real world environment. It is based on lectures and grades which are most of the time subjective. This kind of education is usually good for programmers, as it will offer them a rigid, serious education which will prepare them for the real world. But this won’t teach you how to deal with clients and it won’t tell you anything about running your own freelance business and other day-to-day aspects of a web design job.

Image by Abacus

This kind of education might make you a good designer with a very good eye for coding, but this is not your goal. A web designer needs much more than just knowing how to properly code. If coding is all you think about, you should go for a career in web development. Although many don’t think about this, web design and web development are two different careers. You’re not in for the geeky stuff.

Moreover, a university teacher might not even know much about the field. I bet there are hundreds of freelancers out there (without a degree) who know more than the tutors do. The things they teach are day-to-day routine for freelancers all over the world. The curriculum is usually updated once per year in the design field, but this is not enough. Everything moves and changes so fast that what you teach today might not be relevant at all to students next semester.

Having such an education is not a guarantee that you will get a job. In the end, people with the best portfolio get hired first. A very technical and book-based education might not give you enough free time to work on different projects. By taking this education you might be technically bright, but you are still at a clear disadvantage.

Practice-oriented Education

This is very popular today. It is what I did and what many other freelancers out there decided to do as well. The main difference between these two educations is that the books and theories are not as important here. Sure, marketing and communication theories have to be learned and Gestalt and design laws have to be considered all the time, but the education is more similar to art than to math. In the end, design is art.

This type of education allows your creativity to flow. It allows you to collaborate with different clients (on school projects) and it also gives you enough time after school to do some freelancing and build up an impressive portfolio.

When collaborating with clients from here, you have a huge advantage over the real world. You are allowed to make mistakes – this is unheard of out there in the real world. No mistakes are allowed when money is involved. When you are still in school you are allowed to make them – and the good thing is that you can learn a lot by looking back at all the mistakes you made.

Image by CELALTEBER.

This type of education can only be describes as Learning By Doing. However, this kind of degree has a disadvantage as well. Being generally more free than the other type, it also requires a lot of effort from the student. If the student lacks motivation, he will not achieve much. This kind of education usually gives you the basics and sends you out there to learn more on your own. This type of education is solely dependent on what the student puts into it. If you’re lazy and don’t work on many projects, you won’t have as good a skill set as someone from the same class who takes on a variety of projects and treats them like paying clients.

How to learn?

One of the main abilities you will need if you want to go through a design degree is the ability to learn. You need to be able to find yourself the best way to get work done and to soak up new information. Pushing yourself is a skill not many are able to learn – but if you do it, then design will not be a challenge for you. In this industry the only way to survive is to continuously improve and learn. Three years ago HTML5 was not even released. Now, together with CSS3, it is slowly replacing Flash. That’s how fast things change.

As mentioned earlier, in a practice-oriented education the school will only give you guidelines. It will offer you some structure to – but it is up to you if you will actually make your time there worth it.

Is the degree necessary?

Definitely yes. You don’t need school in order to perform freelance design gigs. You might even find work in a small advertising agency without a degree, but you’ll need an impressive portfolio. However, even with the most impressive portfolio out there, the education might be the one which will in the end make the difference between two outstanding candidates. Having the degree offers you some clear advantages. It will not replace the portfolio – these two need to work in collaboration.

In order to get an interview at many companies you need a degree. The portfolio usually never gets noticed before the “education” field. Your CV might end up tossed in a shredder because you don’t meet the minimum requirements, even if you have an outstanding portfolio.

Image by University of Denver

An education offers something else as well. It teaches you how to build a network and gives you the basics of design laws and theories. It allows you to fail without serious consequences, like losing a job. It gives you invaluable feedback through your tutors. It might not seem like it, but working in a school environment is more or less the same as working out there in the real world. So you will get that from school too.

Which is your career path?

Many people go to study something just because they are passionate about it – but do not really consider what exactly they want to become. This happens even more often in the design industry, where the limit between graphic designer and web designer is almost invisible. Moving from web to graphic is very common nowadays, so you could even say there really is no limit.

But starting a design education with a goal in mind will ensure that throughout the years you will stay focused. Spending years to take a design degree only to realize afterwards that you like graphic more than web is a shame. Instead of focusing on both, you could have used all the available opportunities to focus on graphic and become better at what you actually like.

Image by Jim in Times Square

Now don’t get me wrong. Switching careers or departments isn’t always bad. But knowing from the beginning what you really want to become might give better results in the end.

Sure, it is hard to pick a career when you are 18 and ready to go to study. But today we have a world of information only a click away. Doing a bit of research will usually lead you to the necessary conclusions.

Knowing that you want to be a motion designer for example will help you right from the start. You can make a list with all the things that are required for such a job and, during school, focus mostly on them. You don’t want to get out as a Jack of all trades and Master of none.

Prices

In some countries, especially Europe, this is not a concern for students. Education is free for everybody in countries like Denmark and free for the ones with good high school grades in other top European societies. But in the US you need to think of how much money you can afford to spend on education. A design degree can be pretty expensive, especially with the necessity for sudden changes in curriculums.

Student loans are something many people make use of in the US, but you need to seriously consider if you are ready to go into debt for a design career. In case this is not something you are 100% sure of, don’t spend too much money on it. Start with learning a bit from the internet and doing some freelancing for a period and if it is what you believed it would be, then go to school. Otherwise, try to find another career that suits you better.

Now I don’t know much about US schools, colleges and universities, but I am quite sure that there are junior colleges, state schools and probably more expensive private schools a student can attend. Do your research and make sure you pick the right one for your situation.

When thinking of finances, considering the software and hardware a designer needs to buy is something important too. If you are a freelancer, you will have to buy every piece of software yourself – on top of that expensive computer that can render a video or a 3D scene fast enough. If you are a student you can usually get huge discounts, but it is still a lot of money to be spent by somebody who doesn’t really make much.

As said earlier, the internet is the cheapest school you can attend. There is so much information out there that you don’t even need school to have a successful career – from a technical point of view. You can learn every programming language; every design law; Photoshop and Premiere Pro; literally everything. Many online courses do offer discounts for young people and are usually reasonably priced. This is the place to start from and get the basics if you can’t afford to pay for a degree.

Continue learning

I’ve mentioned earlier that the only way to have a long-time successful career in the design industry is to learn all the time. New technologies appear every year and the more you know, the better you will be rated by your employers. Thinking that once you got that so-much-wanted design degree you are done with learning is the biggest mistake you can make. The hard work only begins after you get out there on your own.

The degree is basically just a piece of paper, so normally you could do a lot without necessarily having it. But in my opinion, as stated earlier, a degree is required if you want to have a successful career in the design industry, especially in a company. The advantage over other educations is that the grades do not really matter. What matters is that you have a good portfolio. An employer will overlook your grades if you have delivered quality projects on the side.

Networking

Networking is also something very useful in the industry. If you work as a freelancer, many of the jobs you will get will be through recommendations. And I highly recommend you build a strong network. It will help you throughout your career.

Image by svilen001

Bottom line

Having a solid design degree is definitely an advantage, but it doesn’t mean everything for an individual working in the industry. At the same time you need a very good portfolio in order to impress the potential employers and prospects. If you are not sure about how much money you want to spend on a solid education, then the internet is the right place to start.

What do you think about this topic? Are you one of the ones with a successful career even if you have no degree? If yes, how did you manage and what tips do you have for the ones who wish to do the same?

May 09 2012

18:00

January 26 2012

22:30

15 Best Magento Themes For eCommerce Websites

Magento is the best platform for any e-commerce store or website because it comes with large numbers of terrific features that make it the preferred choice of many e-commerce website owners. On the other hand, finding out elegant or helpful Magento resources is rather difficult. Nearly all Magento extension and themes are so pricey if you compare them with other Content Management Systems (CMS).

Therefore today we have gathered some free but tremendous as well as high quality Magento themes for you. Scroll through our amazing collection and be inspired to create your own artworks, as well. Have fun!!

Grayscale Free Magento Template

( Demo | Download )

Em Computer Store

( Demo | Download )

Magento Classic Theme

( Demo | Download )

mEbay – Free Magento theme

( Demo | Download )

Hardwood Magento Theme

( Demo | Download )

Magento Absolute Theme

( Demo | Download )

Telescope Magento Theme

( Demo | Download )

JM Mesolite

( Demo | Download )

mHitech

( Demo | Download )

mApple

( Demo | Download )

Electronics Store 3

( Demo | Download )

Fitness Theme

( Demo | Download )

POLO

( Demo | Download )

Soccer Sports

( Demo | Download )

Inspire blue

( Demo | Download )

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December 26 2011

16:35

Best Of 2011: Best Useful jQuery Plugins And Tutorials

jQuery is one of the most accepted JavaScript library that possesses an enormous collection of plugins which makes it even more powerful. On the other hand, there is a good deal of additional codes or modules, from simple alert functions to multifaceted galleries or form validation methods, that are hard-coded inside websites & not convinced to plugins.

Of course, not each code must become a plugin that would be worthless. However converting the ones to be re-utilized will save loads of improvement time & if shared with the community, will make the code itself better.

In this post, you will unearth some of the most excellent, interesting fresh and useful jQuery plugins and tutorials that were created in 2011.

File Uploads with jQuery

( Demo | Download )
This plugin will allow people to upload photos from their computers by dragging and dropping them onto the browser window, possible with the new HTML5 APIs exposed by modern browsers.

ComboGrid

( Demo | Download )
Combogrid, like autocomplete, when added to an input field, enables users to quickly find and select from a pre-populated list of values as they type, but in a tabular and paginated manner. Combogrid provides keyboard navigation support for selecting an item.

MotionCAPTCHA

( Demo | Download )
MotionCAPTCHA is a jQuery CAPTCHA plugin, based on the HTML5 Canvas Harmony procedural drawing tool by Mr Doob and the Unistroke Gesture Regonizer algorithm (and the more recent Protractor algorithm improvement), requiring users to sketch the shape they see in the canvas in order to submit a form.

Elastislide

( Demo | Download )
With the responsive awakening in web design it becomes important to not only take care of the visual part of a website but also of the functionality. Elastislide is a responsive jQuery carousel that will adapt its size and its behavior in order to work on any screen size. Inserting the carousel’s structure into a container with a fluid width will also make the carousel fluid.

Spin.js

( Demo | Download )
The spin method creates the necessary HTML elements and starts the animation. If a target element is passed as argument, the spinner is added as first child and horizontally and vertically centered.

Craftyslide

( Demo | Download )
Craftyslide is a tiny (just 2kb) slideshow built on jQuery. Craftyslide aims to be different, by providing a simple, no-frills method of displaying images; packaged into a small, clean and efficient plugin.

Arbor.js

( Demo | Download )
Arbor is a graph visualization library built with web workers and jQuery. Rather than trying to be an all-encompassing framework, arbor provides an efficient, force-directed layout algorithm plus abstractions for graph organization and screen refresh handling.

Recurly.js

( Demo | Download )
Recurly.js allows you to easily embed a PCI compliant order form within your website. Recurly.js is a Javascript library designed to be easily embedded and customized to match your website.

Ideal Forms

( Demo | Download )
Ideal Forms is a small framework to build powerful and beautiful online forms.

How to Block Adblock

( Demo | Download )
With this friendly jQuery plugin you can easily blog Block Adblock.

Power PWChecker

( Demo | Download )
Power PWChecker jQueryPlugin observes passwords as users type and provide instant password strength check (Weak, Medium, or Strong). This encourages users to review their password selection and ensure that the password is strong and secure. Power PWChecker also allows you to enforce password length policy by specifying minimum and maximum password length. It also matches password entries and provides visual alert in case of inconsistent passwords.

Sisyphus

( Demo | Download )
Imagine you’re filling a complex form on site, or typing effervescent and extensive comment. And when you’re almost done with that browser is crashed, or you closed tab mistakenly, or electricity is turned off, or something else break your efforts. Disgusting, huh? With Sisyphus on site you just reopen page in your modern (with HTML5 support) browser and see all your changes at that forms. It’s lightweight (3.5 KB) jQuery plugin uses Local Storage to prevent your work being lost.

Response Javascript

( Demo | Download )
Response JS is a lightweight jQuery plugin that gives web designers tools for building performance-optimized, mobile-first responsive websites. It provides semantic ways to dynamically swap code blocks based on breakpoints and serve media progressively via HTML5 data attributes. Its object methods give developers hooks for triggering responsive actions and booleans for testing responsive properties.

Responsly.js

( Demo | Download )
Responsive designs are cool! Not only do they allow you to reach mobile and tablet users with minimal effort, they also make your context scale up for desktop users with larger screens.

Fitvids.js

( Demo | Download )
A lightweight, easy-to-use jQuery plugin for fluid width video embeds.

Isotope

( Demo | Download )
Isotope: An exquisite jQuery plugin for magical layouts

Slidorion

( Demo | Download )
Slidorion is a combination of an image slider and an accordion; displaying beautiful content through various effects.

Diapo

( Demo | Download )
With Diapo plugin you can creat a beautiufl slideshow.

Minimit

( Demo | Download )
Minimit Gallery is a highly customizable Jquery plugin that does galleries, slideshows, carousels, slides… pratically everything that has multiple states.

Circular Content Carousel

( Demo | Download )
The idea is to have some content boxes that we can slide infinitely (circular). When clicking on the “more” link, the respective item moves to the left and a content area will slide out. Now we can navigate through the carousel where each step will reveal the next or previous content box with its expanded content. Clicking on the closing cross will slide the expanded content area back in and animate the item to its original position.

HTML5 Music Player

( Demo | Download )
With this plugin you can create HTML5 Music Player.

jQuery Mobile

( Demo | Download )
A unified, HTML5-based user interface system for all popular mobile device platforms, built on the rock-solid jQuery and jQuery UI foundation. Its lightweight code is built with progressive enhancement, and has a flexible, easily themeable design.

Lettering.js

( Demo | Download )
A jQuery plugin for radical web typography.

Multi Node Range Data Slider jQ Slider

( Demo | Download )
JQ Slider is a multi-node range and data slider that allows to provide easy-to-use user data selection and filter tool. It can be used in many ways.

Xml Driven Vertical News Scroller Script Using jQuery vScroller

( Demo | Download )
Adding scrolling content to your website or blog makes much sense – it allows you display latest news, promotions, product updates, announcements, upcoming events, calendar items and much more in a limited space. It also allows you to add dynamic content to otherwise static web pages.

jQuery Sliding Content Bar Plugin

( Demo | Download )
It is a smart and quick content bar that you can integrate easily in any website or web application. It is integrated seamlessly in your website and can be popped up whenever required. PushUp Content Bar is easy to customize and strong enough to rely upon. You can add your contact details, location map via Google Maps, and a simple contact form that visitors can use to make contact with you.

Gmap3

( Demo | Download )
gmap3 is a jquery plugin which allows many manipulation of the google map API version 3.

Skitter

( Demo | Download )
With this plugin you can generate outstanding slideshows for your website.

jFontSize

( Demo | Download )
The jFontSize plugin was developed to facilitate the process of creating the famous buttons A+ and A-, which alter the font size on sites with very large texts, such as blogs, journals, tutorials, etc. This tool is also used to increase the accessibility of sites, helping people who have visual problems to see better content

Wave Display Effect with jQuery

( Demo | Download )
How cool is it to sometimes just display content a little bit differently? This plugin let’s you show images and content in a unique form – a wave. The idea is to initially have some smaller thumbnails rotated and placed in the shape of a sine curve. When clicking on a thumbnail, we’ll “zoom” in to see a medium sized version. Clicking again will make the large content area appear; here we will show some more content.

Simple jQuery Fluid Thumbnail menu Bar

( Demo | Download )
The idea of a fluid thumbnail bar is simple: Create a list of thumbnails within a space where the overflow can be flipped through page by page.

Useful image hover slide effect with jQuery

( Demo | Download )

jQuery plugin: Easy Image Zoom

( Demo | Download )
This is a simple technique to animate an image when hovering using jQuery’s animate() effect. We will use this effect to manipulate our CSS, creating a seamless transition between two areas of an image.

ImageLens

( Demo | Download )
Use this jQuery plug-in to add lens style zooming effect to an image

Slides

( Demo | Download )
Slides is a slideshow plugin for jQuery that is built with simplicity in mind. Packed with a useful set of features to help novice and advanced developers alike create elegant and user-friendly slideshows.

jShowOff

( Demo | Download )
Slides is a slideshow plugin for jQuery that is built with simplicity in mind. Packed with a useful set of features to help novice and advanced developers alike create elegant and user-friendly slideshows.

Easy Paginate

( Demo | Download )
This plugin allows you to browse easily through the list of items with pagination controls. It is very easy to implement and very lightweight so it might come in handy to use in your own projects. It’s main purpose is to view certain number of list items at once, but it can also be set up to view one item by one.

Responsive Image Gallery with Thumbnail Carousel

( Demo | Download )
Today we want to show you how to create a responsive image gallery with a thumbnail carousel using Elastislide. Inspired by Twitter’s “user gallery” and upon a request to show an integration of Elastislide, we want to implement a responsive gallery that adapts to the view-port width. The gallery will have a view switch that allows to view it with the thumbnail carousel or without. We’ll also add the possibility to navigate with the keyboard.

PhotoSwipe

( Demo | Download )
Today we want to show you how to create a responsive image gallery with a thumbnail carousel using Elastislide. Inspired by Twitter’s “user gallery” and upon a request to show an integration of Elastislide, we want to implement a responsive gallery that adapts to the view-port width. The gallery will have a view switch that allows to view it with the thumbnail carousel or without. We’ll also add the possibility to navigate with the keyboard.

Elycharts

( Demo | Download )
Elycharts is a pure javascript charting library, easy to use and completely customizable.

Blueberry

( Demo | Download )
Blueberry is an experimental opensource jQuery image slider plugin which has been written specifically to work with fluid/responsive web layouts.

GALLERIA

( Demo | Download )
Galleria is a JavaScript image gallery framework built on top of the jQuery library. The aim is to simplify the process of creating professional image galleries for the web and mobile devices.

jQuery Image Gallery

( Demo | Download )
With this plugin you can create a beautiful jQuery Image Gallery.

Shuffle Letters Effect

( Demo | Download )
This jQuery plugin that will shuffle the text content of any DOM element – an interesting effect that can be used in headings, logos and slideshows.

SmartGallery

( Demo | Download )
SmartGallery is an interactive image gallery that is specifically designed to support huge data. It is lightweight, lightening fast and fully customizable. Powered by jQuery, SmartGallery comes with twelve transition effects including some unique transition effect and thumbnail navigation.

BxSlider

( Demo | Download )
BxSlider will allow you to create a beautiful Content Slider for your website.

FitText

( Demo | Download )
FitText makes font-sizes flexible. Use this plugin on your fluid or responsive layout to achieve scalable headlines that fill the width of a parent element.

jQuery Pagination revised

( Demo | Download )
The pagination plugin combines a varity of features. It can be used to divide long lists or areas of content into multiple seperate pages, load paged content with pre-calculated database offset-parameters via Ajax and anything with full control to adapt the style properly to your site-layout. Of course, creating simple links with no event triggering is possible as well. The plugin also offers the facility to “overlap” pages, which means you can show elements of previous pages on the subsequent sites in order to allow a straightforward flow of reading.

E24TabMenu

( Demo | Download )
e24TabMenu is a plugin written for scriptaculous. It is a tab menu that expands collapse smoothly.

Snippet

( Demo | Download )
Snippet provides a quick and easy way of highlighting source code passages in HTML documents.

AJAX PAYPAL CART

( Demo | Download )
AJAX PayPal Cart is a easy to use JQuery plugin for web developer to add a full function shopping cart in their website. The AJAX cart can included a cart widget which allow display of cart information easily. Support PayPal Website Payment Standard.

jQuery is one of the most accepted JavaScript library that possesses an enormous collection of plugins which makes it even more powerful. On the other hand, there is a good deal of additional codes or modules, from simple alert functions to multifaceted galleries or form validation methods, that are hard-coded inside websites & not convinced to plugins.

Of course, not each code must become a plugin that would be worthless. However converting the ones to be re-utilized will save loads of improvement time & if shared with the community, will make the code itself better.

Brought To You By

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December 01 2011

12:00

November 18 2011

14:26
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