nForm – IA/Interaction Designer

Full Time Permanent Position in Edmonton, AB

As an nForm consultant, your primary responsibility will be translating business and customer insight into concrete plans and prototypes, such as conceptual models, interaction flows, wireframes, and functional specs. You will work with clients, their users, and nForm colleagues to understand, define, and solve problems to create business and user value through designing fantastic user experiences.

Excellent interpersonal skills are required for client-facing engagements. We’re a small firm so you’ll be called on to serve in a variety of roles–flexibility and the ability to tackle new challenges are important.

Qualifications

Skill Set

  • Strong design portfolio including things like scenarios, interaction flows, sketches, sitemaps, wireframes, prototypes, and possibly great final interfaces
  • Fluent with Visio, Omingraffle or other diagramming tool
  • Ability to model interaction flow, navigation structure, and other structural components of system
  • Ability to show ideas visually
  • Ability to write clearly so that you can communicate your ideas
  • HTML and CSS (you won’t be coding, but your designs need to be feasible)
  • Web 2.0 awareness (from acronyms like RSS and RIA to your own thoughts on social software)

Mindset

  • Ability to listen and take direction
  • Ability to learn new skills, both with guidance and on your own
  • Ability to work independently
  • Keen interest in the craft of user experience. We’d like to know who your influences are, where you look in the community for guidance and inspiration, what books and blogs you read, and who you think is doing the coolest work online

History

  • 2 – 5 years of work experience doing interaction design or information architecture preferred. This experience may have been in a dedicated role, or as part of work doing innovative web design
  • Your portfolio, process, and mindset trump both formal education and previous jobs, though we appreciate good schools and good work

Compensation

  • Salary based on experience, plus benefits to start, review at 6 months, 1 year, and then annually
  • Signing bonus for the right employee
  • Relocation assistance for the right employee (if you are moving across the country, North America, or internationally)
  • Participation in employee bonus program
  • 3 weeks vacation to start
  • Participation in employee professional development program

Some compensation isn’t about money or benefits. We’re all here because we like working with an experienced, smart team that not only serves great clients, but also influences the practice of user experience across industry. In the last year and a half, nForm has spoken at the Chilean IA Retreat, the Government Marketing Workshop, DigitalNow 2007, UX Week, UPA 2007, the IA Summit 2007 & 2008, the German IA Conference, the Italian IA Summit, Northern Voice, with upcoming appearances at UPA 2008, and others. We host our own Canadian User Experience workshop, CanUX, every year in Banff.

It’s not just events. We regularly blog and write articles, we co-founded the IA Institute, and we’re thrilled to announce that company principal Gene Smith has recently published a book, titled Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web.

How to Apply

Email your resume (Word or PDF) and link to your online portfolio to Yvonne Shek, at careers@nform.ca. If we’re going to go ahead with an interview, we’ll let you know within a week. Unfortunately we can’t respond to everyone who applies, so if you haven’t heard from us in a week, we’re probably looking for a different skillset.

Johnny Bunko and comics

JohnnyBunko-DanPink

Dan Pink has released his latest career book, Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, it’s a manga book with all of that advice you wish someone had given you. Over a bourbon last night, Eli Singer and I were reflecting on manga, well Scott Pilgrim, and career paths. I was saying that I never imagined that I would be and “Evangelist”, this honestly wasn’t on my career career path at any point. It feels like a “career choice based on fundamental reasons”, something that I thought would be inherently valuable regardless of what it may lead to.

Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen provides a beautiful summary of Johnny Bunko. The slides have only text or photographs from istockphoto.com. It’s 6 simple lessons about building a successful career that all students should take the time to read.

Comics are a great medium for telling stories.They allow artists and authors to create compelling characters in rich, believable worlds using nothing more than pictures. Kevin Cheng has shown that comics are a great medium for convey concepts including unbuilt sofware. Scott McLeod has published a series of books on the art form of comics as a communication tool including:

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
by Scott Mccloud

Read more about this book…

Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form
by Scott Mccloud

Read more about this book…

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels
by Scott Mccloud

Read more about this book…

Dan Roam‘s new book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures has a great set of techniques and tools for those of you who can’t draw. The VizThink community is a group of visual thinks to share their philosophies, experiences and approaches for using visualization for learning and communication. (VizThink has hired Ryan Coleman as their Chief Community Evangelist. And we’re back to the career discussion, I wonder if Evangelist was on Ryan’s path). If “The MFA is the New MBA“, then the visualization and communication tools presented are the foundations for the next generation of leaders and CEOs. And your career path might not have included becoming a designer, but there is obviously some market exchanges that can happen when, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
by Dan Roam

Read more about this book…

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter)
by Garr Reynolds

Read more about this book…

Subject to Change

adaptivepath-subject-to-changeI picked up a copy of Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World by my Adaptive Path friends Peter Merholz, Todd Wilkens, Brandon Schauer, and David Verba. The book presents a toolset for a “flexible design process” to embrace user behaviours and motivations and an ever changing, unpredictable environment.

Instead of approaching new product development from the inside out, companies have to begin by looking at the process from the outside in, beginning with the customer experience. It’s a new way of thinking-and working-that can transform companies struggling to adapt to today’s environment into innovative, agile, and commercially successful organizations.

The process reminded me of the outstanding work on Charmr – A Design Concept for Diabetes Management Devices. Charmr is Adaptive Path’s response to an Open Letter to Steve Jobs from Amy Tenderich asking for some of that Jonathan Ive magic to redesign insulin pumps. The Charmr Project was a 9 week long project completed by an Adaptive Path team including: Dan Saffer, Rachel Hinman, Alexa Andrzejewski, Rae Brune, Sebastian Heyke and Jamin Hegemin.

The process and timeline:

The most interesting part is that before the concepting and design work, is the creation of the six primary design principles:

    1. Wear it during sex. Make the product elegant, discreet, and comfortable.
    2. Make better use of data. Have the product use the data that is generated (blood glucose levels, amount of insulin dosed, trends) in smarter ways.
    3. Easy to learn and teach/No numbers. A broad cross-section of diabetics will use this product, so it cannot be overly complicated, nor difficult to teach. And while numbers are important, we didn’t want to solely rely on those for indicating status and trending.
    4. Less stuff. Diabetics have to carry around a lot of stuff. We wanted to be sure that whatever we created wasn’t just one more thing to carry around.
    5. Keep diabetics in control. The people we spoke to weren’t interested in automatic pumps for the most part. They wanted to retain control of their insulin dosing.
    6. Keep diabetics motivated. Diabetes is a difficult disease to have. Diabetics, in the words of someone we talked to, “never get a day off,” so keeping motivated is a challenge. We wanted our product to help diabetics set goals and be so easy to use it helped keep them on track.

The principles themselves aren’t interesting beyond diabetics. But that they were derived from the observations and interviews with patients and experts. How often to we discount the basic user research and analysis?

nikeplus

In moving beyond the features and functionality, and looking at behaviour and experiences companies are able to build compelling solutions like Nike+. Amazing, runners listen to music when they are out pounding the pavement. Understanding the experience has let Nike partner with Apple to build a great experience.

Nike Plus “combines the physical world with the digital world. We put a sensor in the shoe that speaks to the iPod, and you can hear how far you went, how long you went and how many calories you’ve burned, pretty simple thoughts. And then, when you dock it, you have a world of information at your fingertips. You get to see all that you’ve done, all your runs stored in a very simple, intuitive web experience where you can set goals for yourself.  – Trevor Edwards, VP Global Brand & Category Management, Nike

Nike+ is also really interesting because it is software above the level of a single device. Using the iPod, Nike shoes, iTunes, and the web to create a community to share playlists, running trails, and maps, Nike has successfully created an enduring, engaging brand experience.

Both Charmr and Nike+ are great examples of building products based on understanding and analyzing behaviour. Check out Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World for a toolkit for using “customer experiences to inform and shape the product development process”.

Wild Apricot – Biz Analyst/Web Application UI Designer

Full time position in downtown Toronto (near Union)

Requirements

  • Analytical skills: Top-notch experience and skills in user-centered need analysis and design.
  • Usability skills: Hand-ons in-depth understanding of user experience and usability principles and heuristics.
  • Interface design/prototyping for web applications:
    • On paper and using software tools like MS Visio
    • Note: graphic design skills are not required/important
    • Good understanding of design constraints for web apps
    • Great communication skills.
  • Knowledge of Russian language would be an extra bonus – making it easier to communicate with our colleagues in Moscow office.

Responsibilities

Working with product manager, you will interact with marketing, support and development team to translate user feedback into detailed requirements – and then will be involved in actual implementation and quality assurance. More specifically, you will be:

  • Developing in-depth understanding of our market segments and users
  • Analyzing, structuring and prioritizing user needs/feedback. Documenting it from user’s point of view (what users want to do).
  • Coming up with proposed solution (new/changed product functionality) to meet users needs (how to do it).
  • Prototyping User Interface.
  • Coordinating and collaborating with representative clients and other team members (marketing, support, development, QA) to see designs implemented and rolled out.
  • Working on User Documentation, demos and tutorials. What’s in it for you:
  • Pride and excitement working on a world-class product used by hundreds of thousands
  • Fun and friendly environment, where your contributions are valued and respected
  • Quick growth environment to advance your career faster and learn a lot quickly
  • Competitive salary plus bonus linked to company results and meeting your professional goals
  • Full-time on-site job, minimal or no travel
  • Flex hours possible
  • Work from very nice downtown office (by Union station)
  • A cool title like “Interactive Apricot”

About us

  • Wild Apricot: young and quickly growing software company – see http://www.wildapricot.com. Our membership website platform is already used by thousands of associations, clubs, groups and communities, – and we are on our way to become a leader in this sector.
  • Ease of use/usability is key cornerstone of our product philosophy – it has to work out of the box for non-technical people.
  • We take results seriously – while making work fun and enjoyable.

Are you passionate about great user experience?

There is a lot of software out there. And most of it is very cumbersome and painful to use. For us, delivering exceptional user experience is our key marketing and business strategy. Furthermore, our agile software development means that we release updates every few weeks so that you can see your ideas taken from concept to implementation in a month instead of in a year. We already have thousands of users and only with truly great product we can meet our expansion goals and make Wild Apricot the world’s leading software for millions of groups, clubs, associations and non-profits.

Apply

Send your resume to jobs@wildapricot.com.

Nokia – Interactive Media Designer

Burnaby, BC, Canada

Position Description
Interested in joining a small team of highly motivated usability and user interface design professionals? Excited by the prospect of bringing best-in-class user experiences to Nokia’s next generation of devices?  If so, we are currently looking for an individual with talents in creating stunning interactive experiences to join our team.  You must be creative, passionate about what you do, and able to thrive in a highly collaborative team environment.

Your role and responsibilities will include:

  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams to brainstorm new design concepts for future music-centric software and services, translating them into mockups and simulations using best practices for visual and interaction design.   
  • Supporting usability and user research efforts by creating and iterating on simulations that may range from a single feature to an entire application.
  • Understanding and aptly applying Nseries and Ovi style and branding guidelines, working with other visual design teams to help evolve those guidelines.
  • Engaging in the user experience design process by producing quick concept designs & prototypes of candidate solutions, demonstrating a flexibility to iterate frequently.

Requirements

  • Minimum of 3 years of professional experience in a commercial product environment, ideally related to mobile and web applications
  • Expert in using Flash/Flex/ActionScript or similar tools to code robust and extensible applications
  • In-depth knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Strong visual design sense and graphical/illustration skills
  • Understanding of user experience fundamentals, including user-centered design process, information design, and industry UI standards
  • Must be a highly collaborative team player who will thrive in a fast-paced environment
  • Willingness to travel to collaborate with partners
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • BS degree or equivalent experience in human-computer interaction, interaction design, web design, graphic design or a related field
  • Must have excellent portfolio to demonstrate media design expertise

To apply, please visit the Canada/Vancouver section of our careers website at:

www.nokia.com/careers

We thank all applicants for their interest, however only those selected for interview will be contacted.

Successful applications require users

Baseline magazine has a great article reinforcing why we build applications, they are for people! The article is about Symantec’s Project Oasis, the code name for their massive ERP overhaul as part of the merger of Symantec and Veritas. The project reinforces that successful applications have users who not only are able to complete their tasks error free, but that emotional and personal impact of the software is incredibly important to it’s eventual success.

Technically, Project Oasis, an upgrade to Oracle 11d, was flawless. The code, interface and system—aside from some conflicting records that made accounting difficult to interpret—went exactly as Symantec had conceived when it launched the project in May 2005.

But users didn’t understand the system. The voluminous information it provided them and the myriad steps required to place orders created confusion and poor usability.

As individuals choosing applications we are free from the burden of corporate history and inertia, we are able to select the operating systems, applications and web services that best meet our needs. If you prefer running Mac OS X or Linux, just run it. If Microsoft Office doesn’t match your budget, try Google Docs or Apple iWork. Amazon SimpleDB not providing the indexing and performance tuning you need, maybe Microsoft SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) is more your cup of tea. As alpha geeks, we get to push the envelope of what is possible. We get to explore new frontiers. Often we get to do this with freedom of a revenue model, without deployed customers, without a legacy.

But what about those with paying customers, how do you push boundaries and define new models for them without negatively impacting your bottom line? How do you prepare customers to move forward?

“Despite its best efforts, the management team could not adequately prepare its more than 60,000 resellers, partners and distributors—and scores more customers—for the procedural changes required by the new system.”

Project Oasis was executed flawlessly. It was a technically flawless upgrade to Oracle 11d. But it wasn’t enough. Symantec’s CEO “blamed part of the company’s sluggish financial performance in the third quarter of fiscal year 2007 on the ERP plague”. It turns out that people determine the eventual success of a system. Understanding the user experience of an ERP solution, and the lack of alternatives for interacting with the system users have 2 choices:

  1. Learn the new system which may involve customer support, training, etc., or ;
  2. Find a new provider.

It’s even worse with internal facing applications, employees are forced to use poor applications for payroll, benefits, performance management and nearly every part of their interaction with a company’s systems. The idea that employees should understand the General Ledger codes for submitting expenses is absurd. It’s either the role of the financial department to correctly identify how expense should be entered or it’s their responsibility to ensure that the system and processes are easily learned and used by non-financial staff, probably sales people and assistants.

Symantec had realized that when leaving a financial system upgrade to only the financial and IT staffs you’ve created an unusable solution. A solution that only the people who built it wanted to use.

the system was performing as designed—to a fault. The problem was that Symantec had inadvertently created the perfect storm: It had failed to consider the user experience with the new system, it hadn’t correctly identified the true users of the system and it had layered other projects on top of the ERP implementation, thereby complicating the launch and generating more confusion.

Software like business is messy. We want to think that things are digital. Binary. Black and white. We want people to be efficient, error free, rational actors. They aren’t. Understanding people, their experiences and their desires is the cornerstone of building successful software applications.

Technology may be the engine that drives business, but business is still conducted by people. Understanding the needs, desires and experience of the customer—whether that person is an internal user, a reseller partner or a consumer—is critical to any company’s success and growth.

Successful software is used by people.

Learning how to build customer-centered systems is a mix of theory and practice. But primarily, it is about your organizational culture. Who holds the decision making power? Marketing? Development? IT? Who speaks for the users?

Resources

Finance Innovation Contest Winners

Paul Hounshell screenshot

Daniel Chait announced the winners to the Lab49 WPF in Finance Innovation Contest. All of the finalists applications are available on his SkyDrive account and can be installed on a Windows box (running .NET 3.0).   I’m impressed with the different designs and the implementations in WPF.

I didn’t see a submission among the finalists from Oculus. Which probably means they were busy working on other things, because their financial visualizations and WPF skills are among the best in the world. Mike Peters has agreed to present at a future DemoCamp and show some of the visualizations using both DirectX or WPF.

I’d really like to see a similar contest for building visualizations and experiences in Silverlight using Deep Zoom. (Lee says that you can do the same stuff in Flash, and Lee is a rockstar and there is no reason to disagree with his assessment). I love the the resurgence of visualization methods as RIAs and their development tools are maturing. Infosthetics and the Period Table of Visualization Methods are great starting points for visualization techniques.

Deep Zoom

There’s the really interesting to create a shared community around data sets and visualizations called Many Eyes. The goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis. The efforts to build a shared space and shared tools for building new visualizations. Along with the efforts from Digg Labs, Google, and Microsoft LiveLabs.

What are you’re favourite visualization?

Open-Source Icons

The great news is that the number of choices for open source icons has continued to grow. There are a variety of icons sets for designers and developers to incorporate into their projects and applications.


Steven Garrity has launched the Tango Project which is a set of icon style and naming guidelines for the Linux desktop. The project includes a great base set of icons licensed under the CC Share Alike

Brent Simmons post from May 2002 attrached a number of great comments for sources for open-source icons.

I’ve also posted about non-open-source but very inexpensive and professional icons.

Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Updated 2005-11-28: Seth Godin has a great summary of Really Bad PowerPoint and how to avoid it. And the PresentationZen folks have a great comparison of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs presentation styels.

Update: David Gray, CEO of XPlane, has a fantastic summary on how to present like Steve Jobs. It’s called Presentation Zen, having style, simplicity and a personal conversation with the audience. And my advice, practice!

PowerPoint presentations can be an effective tool in communicating information. However, PowerPoint presentations can make a meeting worse if done improperly because they a one-way communication, there is no way for the viewer to make them better. Fancy graphics, lots of colour and cool animations don’t ensure that the audience will get it.

The following tips should help you to avoid people walking away thinking you’ve wasted their time.

  1. Have a clear purpose.
    Presentations need structure. They also need a purpose. To improve the effectiveness of your PowerPoint slides make sure that the content in the slides supports your purpose for the meeting or presentation. You want the audience to come away with the feeling the information presented was inline with the original point of the presentation.
  2. Plan carefully.
    You need to understand who is the audience, where are you presenting, and how does the material being presented affect them.
  3. Don’t read off the screen.
    PowerPoint presentations are not cue cards, it is a supporting tool that should be used as prompts, outlines or conversation points.
  4. Be consistent.
    Use the Slide Master and Note Master pages for setting up formatting and colors and page layouts. This will help standardize the position of elements on your slides, the colors and styles.
  5. Use contrasting colors.
    Choose colors with a high contrast, e.g., black text on a white background, or white text on a black background. Not, blue on black or yellow on white!
  6. Design for readability.
    Font sizes should range from 18 – 48 points in the presentation. Fancy fonts can be hard to read, stick to the standards (Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Tahoma, Times New Roman). Words in all capital letters are hard to read.
  7. Avoid cryptic statements and long sentences.
    Keep the number of words to a minimum, no more than 7 words per line, and 6 lines per slide. One or two word prompts are not useful as a hand out tool. The amount of text on a slide is a compromise between understanding and information overload.
  8. Use simple backgrounds.
    Simple, light colored backgrounds with dark text work best. Avoid pictures in the background if possible.
  9. Don’t over use transitions.
    Don’t over use animations and transitions. People lose track of what is being said and focus on the effects. Only use special effects to emphasize a particular point.
  10. Graphics and Animations.
    Use pictures to simplify complex concepts. Make sure a graphic supports the message and is not just decoration. Use animations to demonstrate complex relationships.

As a final step for all PowerPoint presentations make sure that you check the spelling. This is easy to forget but it will help increase the professionalism of the presentation.