UX Week 2015

3 Things I Learned at UXWeek

by Kylie Tuosto

This year, my conference of choice was UX Week by Adaptive Path in San Francisco. Of all of the conferences I've been to so far, this one was definitely the best. Everything was well-designed, and the talks and workshops were great. After an eventful and exhausting few days, I went home with a few key takeaways. Here's what I learned:


In her talk, “Dynamic Emotion,” Erin Hoffman gave an overview of how game designers think about designing for emotion. She outlined Eckman's 7 Basic Emotions, discussed Ralph Koster's Theory of Fun, and demonstrated how storytelling can bring a user (in her case, a gamer) through an emotional journey. Erin's talk reminded me of something important: instead of trying to design for a specific moment in time, we should think about designing for emotion as a journey through time. To create an emotional connection with users, we can't rely on one screen with a pithy statement or cute cat photo. These elements may give our application personality, but they don’t create an enduring emotional connection. Erin gave an example when she defined fun. As she defines it, fun is turning fear into happiness through surprise, and it’s important to amplify the negative emotions (pain or risk) in order to help the user value the positive ones. She definitely inspired me to rethink some of my current work!


In his workshop, “From Insight to Interaction,” Giles Colborne gave an overview of the anatomy of a design opportunity and how to bring it to a measurable design outcome. Several of the activities were interesting, but one stood out for me. Giles walked us through Keystroke-Level Modeling, which helps you measure the real effort a user puts in to a specific interaction. His example: a type-ahead address field and zip code combo versus a series of dropdown menus. For each micro-interaction, we can measure the user's time spent mentally preparing (1.35 sec), keying (0.2 sec), homing (0.4 sec), pointing (1.1 sec), and waiting for a response (variable 0.1 sec – 10 sec). List each action, add the totals, and you’ve got a clear picture of the time it takes a user to accomplish a task with your interface. I've never evaluated a design this way, but I'll have this method in my back pocket the next time someone questions the efficiency of a certain UI element.


In her workshop, “The Power of Story,” Christina Wodtke explained the arc of a story and how to use storytelling as a tool of influence in our day-to-day work. From motivation to incident, crisis to climax, and falling action to denouement, Christina's story arc was a good reminder that there are many elements to a good story. Most important, at least for me, was a concept that she called “transportation.” It’s the storyteller’s ability to engage the listener with vivid details and description. Introducing a character with details like a limp and eye-patch, for instance, gives him a backstory but without a long drawn out explanation. As designers, it's our job to bring customer insights to our teams and influence our organization’s leaders to prioritize their biggest problems. But in preparing  our work for sharing, we often leave out the details that make our customers most human—the old PC surrounded by clutter in the kitchen, for instance, which reminds us that there’s no such thing as work-life balance for a small business owner. This workshop was a great reminder of how essential those details are when you want to make your audience feel the emotions you felt listening to the customer.

Throughout the talks and workshops, I noted some great reference material that I'd recommend checking out if you're curious.

UX Night

Unlocking Emotion

by Kylie Tuosto

In July, I gave a talk at UX Night, an event put on by Cascade SF and hosted by Intuit. UX designers and enthusiasts from the bay area came to the Intuit campus for coaching sessions and two UX talks. It was a great opportunity to network with and learn from other designers.

In my talk, Unlocking Emotion, I add to Aaron Walter's work on Designing for Emotion, by providing examples of how we've applied emotional design to our process at Intuit. Through three examples of design projects and experiments, I show how thinking about our relationship with customers in a more human way lead to measurable business outcomes. And ultimately, I distill our learnings down into four key takeaways for incorporating designing for emotion into your own design process.

1. Simple isn't always better.

The age-old UX rule of simple being better doesn't necessarily apply when you're trying to build a relationship with your user. In fact, it can often take more steps to tell a good story, build a relationship, or demonstrate your app's personality.

2. Constraints are your friend.

Designers typically relish the opportunity to design without constraints. But when designing to build an emotional connection, it's important to find a common experience that can bridge the gap between you and your user. Consider leveraging time of day, an upcoming holiday season, or another theme as a constraint for your next brainstorm to get the creative juices flowing.

3. Language is key.

Language is our primary means of communication and without it, it's impossible to build a relationship with our users. Content design can make the difference between boring copy and a meaningful connection with the user. So it's important to go the extra mile when it comes to design iterations for content.

4. Timing is critical.

Human's have the unique ability to take inputs like time, emotions, and context into consideration when reacting to realtime conversation. When it comes to a user interface, however, we have to work extra hard up front to make sure that our interface doesn't violate these rules of interaction. Keeping timing in mind can save your app from feeling robotic!

In Designing for Emotion, Aaron Walter helps teams and companies think about building their application's personality as a way of connecting with their users on an emotional level. But building a personality at a big company isn't always easy. Individual work teams should feel empowered to experiment with personality in small experiences, measure the results, and scale success across the organization.

Here are links to the resources that inspired this talk:

XCode Mobile Prototyping

XCode Mobile Prototyping

by Kylie Tuosto

In 2013, Apple introduced a new feature in Xcode called Storyboarding. At first, I had no idea what this meant or why it was even important, but my development team started getting their hands dirty right away. Being fairly new mobile design, I hadn't already established a prototyping tool of choice, so I wondered if working directly in Xcode for clickable prototypes would even be possible.

Once I got over the hump of downloading the tool and learning my way around the interface, I got comfortable enough to build a click-through or two and run them in the iPhone simulator. It was like magic! Seeing my prototypes come to life inside a realistic looking device was going to be huge for testing with remote participants.

But as I worked with the tool over time, I found hidden benefits around every corner: 

1. It gave my developers the opportunity to teach me what they work in every day.

2. I got to see where our code and assets were stored and how I could update them myself.

3. It changed the way I spec'd things like color values because I could see the input options that my dev team had to work with.

4. We were able to work closely to build hybrid (half-fake, half-real) prototypes to do proof of concept testing on important micro-interactions.

After using the tool myself and seeing how it brought our team closer together, I created this workshop to share what I learned across the company and to encourage other mobile designers to try out prototyping with Xcode.

Fireworks for Agile Teams

Fireworks for Agile Teams

by Kylie Tuosto

Now that interaction design is a widely recognized discipline, we have a plethora of tools and applications to choose from to manage our daily work. From Sketch, to Photoshop, to Fireworks, to Axure you can pretty much knock out a design in no time if you know what you're doing. At Intuit we need a system that not only works for interaction designers, but allows our fellow XD partners (like writers and researchers) and our product manager and developer partners to work as seamlessly as possible.

Since the interaction and visual design team uses Fireworks for all work-in-progress mocks and final assets, I crafted this workshop as a crash course for our cross-functional partners to learn how to use the tool. For writers, it eliminated the back-and-forth of storing final copy in text documents. For product managers, it eliminated unnecessary exports of assets/layers. For developers, it created instantaneous access to assets. And it empowered researchers to jump into the prototyping process and create click-throughs from existing mockups.

No matter what tools you use as a designer, it's important to bring your cross-functional teammates up to speed. They don't need to know how to do everything you do, but they do need a basic working knowledge of the tool so that they aren't alienated from the process or overly-reliant on you for things they could do themselves. Ultimately this workshop helped our entire team be more agile by blurring role boundaries and allowing everyone to get work done fast!