What a Difference a Lab Day Makes

Four years ago CauseLabs started setting aside one day every two months for our team to build projects of their own choosing. Little did we know the impact these lab days would have on our company’s internal motivation, our employees’ skillsets, and our ability to work collaboratively in innovative ways. Now, four years in, we’ve broken down our insights into best practices for other companies to follow, to help them achieve similar success. Innovation days go by many names, but the key elements are consistent: Bring together a few people, set up a basic process, and tackle acute problems. At its core, a “lab day” is any amount of time devoted to team collaboration on an agreed upon problem or project. Companies from Google to small start ups are finding that committing to lab days can make an immense impact on productivity and engagement in every other area of their business. Lab days engage our imaginations, address our restlessness, and allow us to tinker. During a lab day the blinders are on to other projects, email, and all other distractions. Teams of one to three people build for a set amount of time, then join with other teams at the end of the day to demo and get rapid feedback for next steps. Any organization with design thinkers and makers can use time like this to solve problems. Our path to lab days At CauseLabs, a software strategy firm, we began lab days a few years ago after one of our staff members came back from a conference with the idea of doing an internal day of innovation. Nonprofits...

Websockets and Why Designers Should Learn To Code

HTML5 has an awesome feature that’s now gaining attention from designers: Websockets. It’s a way to create a persistent communication channel between the client and a server, without using page refreshes or the asynchronous mechanics behind AJAX. Think much faster communications, because it’s not establishing a new connection for each round trip. Look at this cool Racer demo from Google, showing race cars racing across multiple devices, with no noticeable lag when the cars jump from one device to the next. Imagine moving messaging, data, or anything else at that speed. Real time updated stock prices, auction bids, or other fast-changing data. The limit is your imagination. Here’s the deal though: because it’s new, each browser implementation is somewhat idiosyncratic. The Racer demo works in Chrome, but may not work elsewhere. Making websockets work can be finicky. It won’t always be that way — the browsers will eventually fall into line. But for now, it’s a difficult thing to get it all to work. Here we are with a great, powerful tool. If we want to take advantage of it, we need to dive in and start playing. We need to see what it can do and what it can’t. We need to learn it like an artist learns their paintbrush, paint, and canvas. Websockets are just one reason why smart designers are taking the plunge and learning to code. With some simple coding skills, these designers can start playing with websockets and see what they are all about. They can work up simple demos and prototypes to test out ideas. They can get their coworkers excited about exploring...

UIEtips: Announcing our Favorite Articles of 2013

Over the past year we published more than 35 articles. Here are 6 of our favorites in no particular order: What Makes an Experience Seem Innovative? There are so many better things we could be doing with our time than standing in line. But if we step out of the line, we lose our opportunity to get the service we want. Who would’ve thought you could innovate around something as simple as waiting in line? Here’s an excerpt from the article: Since customers think standing and waiting is a necessary evil without alternatives, they may not complain about it. Organizations that focus on the specific activities to resolve their perceived customer objective, may overlook the deep frustration from tool time that’s happening in the gaps between those activities. Teams that study the entire experience look into those gaps to see from where the deep frustration emerges. Addressing that frustration, when no other product or service has done so, will look innovative to the customer. Read the article What Makes an Experience Seem Innovative   Feedback Illuminates the Rules In this article, Dan Saffer discusses how a good microinteraction immediately shares a result with a user. It lets them know the next steps to take or if they’re going in the right direction. Here’s an excerpt from the article: Let’s take a microinteraction appliance like a dishwasher as an example. The dishwasher process goes something like this: a user selects a setting, turns the dishwasher on, the dishwasher washes the dishes and stops. If someone opens the dishwasher midprocess, it complains. Now, if the dishwasher has a screen, each of...

Dispelling the Myths About Innovation

Scott Berkun knows that exceptional designers aren’t just creative thinkers; they also work to understand the business and people around them. They are able to do this because they know how to invent ideas, develop them, and then persuade others to get on board. Scott works hard at dispelling the myths about innovation and showing how to avoid common mistakes people make when doing creative work. If you want to be better at innovation and avoiding common mistakes read on. In the below post, we’ve listed out some great free articles and podcasts on this topic. But you can really dive in deep at this year’s User Interface 18 Conference in Boston, October 21-23, 2013. In Scott Berkun’s workshop Innovating on a Deadline, you’ll learn how to ask for what your team needs in order to do innovative work. You will also be shown how to develop a toolkit for both design work and creative work. On top of that you will be exposed to ideas about how to Invent ideas and develop them, overcome change resistance, and get comfortable making business and engineering decisions. Here’s some reading about innovation How to Innovate Right Now – Scott Berkun Scott Berkun discusses how anyone can innovate. Debunking the Myths of Innovation: An Interview with Scott Berkun - Christine Perfetti Christine interviews Scott Berkun about the myths that can stifle the process of innovating Innovation is the New Black – Jared M. Spool Jared discusses how innovation is now the new black, experience design is the fabric of new insight, and the work designers do is now the hot spot to...

UIETips: Feedback Illuminates the Rules

Feedback is an integral part of microinteractions. A good microinteraction immediately shares a result with a user. It lets them know the next steps to take or if they’re going in the right direction. Microinteractions aren’t something that easily or randomly occur. Dan Saffer has spent so much time thinking about it that he wrote a whole book on them. In today’s tips, we feature an excerpt from this book. Dan’s in-depth knowledge on microinteractions is why we asked him to give a full-day workshop at the UI18 conference in Boston, October 21-23. At his workshop, Designing Microinteractions you’ll learn to design often-overlooked UX elements – microcopy, form controls, and system defaults to increase overall user engagement. Here’s an excerpt from the article: Unlike slot machines, which are designed to deliberately obscure the rules, with microinteractions the true purpose of feedback is to help users understand how the rules of the microinteraction work. If a user pushes a button, something should happen that indicates two things: that the button has been pushed, and what has happened as a result of that button being pushed. Slot machines will certainly tell you the first half (that the lever was pulled), just not the second half (what is happening behind the scenes) because if they did, people probably wouldn’t play–or at least not as much. Read the article: Feedback Illuminates the...