Happy Halloween, guys and ghouls!
- From the EchoUser family (a.k.a. The lucha libre, the unicorn?, EchoUser robot, Scooby-Doo, the fox, the banana, the fairy, zee German girl, the Ewok, Mama Bear, Sriracha Sauce, and the ASTROBEER (bear + deer)).
P.S. For more of our pictures, check out our Facebook page!
People often ask artists and designers where they get their ideas. The honest ones admit that they just pay attention to the world around them and rebuild it in interesting ways. Even on a morning walk to work you can catch any number of interesting inspirations for pieces of work, in this case really cool geometric patterns on grates and manhole covers. In these I see potential for logos and data visualizations, but others might see something entirely different, or nothing at all.
I need to confess something… I am obsessed with socks! I have more socks than any other clothing item, and I keep adding more to my collection every day. I’ve tried — I swear — to keep them nice and tidy in ‘my half’ of the first drawer, but they’ve inevitably colonized the ‘other half,’ where my boyfriend keeps his medley of black and gray socks. Lately, not content with adding color splashes to the other side of the drawer, I’m maintaining a complex network of tote bags in my closet to hold the first drawer’s overflow. So yes, I’ll be the first one to admit it… I (may) have a problem. I like socks because their contribution to fashion is often under-rated. I’m looking at you Anna Wintour: when will Vogue’s cover do justice to these humble servants? Hey, Tim & Heidi, when will we have a Project Runway socks challenge!?
The irony of all of this is that, living in San Francisco weather, I rarely get to wear shorts at all, so only close observers notice my passion for socks. I put a lot of effort and thought into what socks to wear, even though they are the least visible part of my outfit (other than underwear, of course, but that’s a different story). Some coworkers here at EchoUser have suggested we start a Tumblr feed with my daily socks, but I like that all that effort remains understated. Occasionally, someone will notice my socks and say something. That’s my audience. They notice a ‘hidden’ feature of my attire, and their appreciation makes paying close attention to my socks every morning worth it.
Other than being a sock-loving human, I’m also an experience researcher here at EchoUser. My job is to be the ‘voice of the user’ by assessing users’ experience and then reporting my findings as faithfully as possible to our clients. Research participants are the backbone of our industry — and, although we do compensate them for their time, it’s not (just) about the money. Participants who give great feedback are usually very passionate about the products we are testing and have a genuine interest in helping us improve them. Whenever someone agrees to invest an hour or two of their time to participate in one of our studies, it’s my duty to make sure that as much of their feedback as possible makes it back to the people in charge of designing, developing, and maintaining a product.
Every so often during a study, a small percentage of participants will notice tiny details that negatively affect their experience, and it’s hard to make sure that feedback reaches its intended audience. The challenge lies in convincing clients who might otherwise discount this feedback as statistically insignificant that it’s worth their time and attention. Unfortunately, some people tend to care only about trends and numbers, about those big — and sometimes obvious — issues that most users notice. It’s hard to get them to pay attention to the little things that might have ruined the experience for just a handful of participants. Those eagle-eyed users are the ones that are closely scrutinizing the product we are asking them to test; they are not only looking at the outfit, they are also checking out the socks!
So here’s my appeal to anyone involved in product design and development, start think about your product: What edge cases did you overlook? What opportunities to differentiate or delight have you not invested in? Know that someone somewhere will eventually notice them. Is your product prepared? Is it wearing the right socks?