At tonight’s Refresh Detroit meeting, we had an excellent time talking about and sharing our favorite tools and applications. While we didn’t have big attendance at the meeting, our discussion lasted almost two hours.
We took time to demo several applications and shared our experiences on how the applications improved our workflow. I know I have a few more tools to add to my work toolbox.
Here’s a list of some of the applications we discussed:
- Evernote: free note taking application that seamlessly synchronizes your notes on the web, desktop, and mobile. It’s easy to take notes, scan images, capture screenshots with the browser Web Clipper, and share notes with others (premium version only). Not sure what to do with all those business cards you collect at events and conferences? Scan them with your phone, add to Evernote with a note. Evernote uses OCR (optical character recognition) to scan the text in the business card so you can easily search at a later time.
- Acrobat Sign (formerly Echo Sign): online electronic signature application built into the free Adobe Reader application. If you’ve ever had to send hard copy contracts back and forth via post, or scan PDF signature pages, this application is for you. Sign your contracts and other documents in minutes with EchoSign. The Federal E-SIGN Act makes online electronic signatures equivalent to a written signature
- Trello: online project management application that organizes your work into boards. The interface is all visual, updates in real time, and you can easily drag and drop tasks, lists and archive weekly work.
- Cleo: Cleo (Compact Library Extension Organizer) is a Firefox add-on that allows you to combine themes and extensions into one package. You can easily share your favorite extensions by creating a package. Or install the package in a new Firefox profile.
- Axure: Desktop application used to create wireframes, mockups and interactive prototypes. Though the cost might be beyond the freelancer, Axure is the tool of choice for many large organizations and corporations.
- Balsamiq and Mockingbird: Online wireframe and mockup applications. Many web developers and user experience professionals have moved from traditional desktop applications to online applications for ease of use and cost.
Thanks to Washtenaw Community College for hosting our meeting.
After reading Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, I found it a great reference for solving design problems. Susan breaks the book out into 10 self-contained sections that discuss the psychology of how people see, read, remember, think, and feel.
Susan does a great job of keeping each topic very digestible, with simple language, while still going deeper with a more scientific approach to things.
This book promises to answer questions every designer has had over the course of his or her career. I know I’ve asked a few of these questions myself:
- What line length for text is the best?
- Are some fonts better than others?
- How can you predict the types of errors people will make?
- What grabs and holds attention on a page or screen?
Each section is packed full of valuable information about how and why we humans think the way we do. One of my favorite sections was about how people see. A lot of the things in this section were basic reminders, like how red and blue colors are hard on the eyes when used together. Others were more in depth, like the various meanings of colors throughout different cultures, and how people see cues that tell them what to do with objects. The latter is especially important in user interface design, because if you want your user to click a button, it should look like a tactile button.
For web and user interface designers, I would recommend the sections about how people see, read, focus their attention, and decide. The takeaways from these sections were especially helpful in designing interfaces.
Overall I found this book a staple during my work day, I often refer to it when trying to solve an issue when I have to ask “what would the user do?” I would recommend this book to all of my fellow designer friends or to friends who are just interested in learning about how people interact with things in general.
You can purchase Susan’s book online at Peachpit in paperback and ebook format. Use our Peachpit User Group coupon code (UE-23AA-PEUF) to get 35% off your purchase.
Join us for our next meeting where Mark Thompson-Kolar will discuss “Putting the user first, remotely” at Cengage Learning … and your company.
In today’s era of agile methods — when software is developed quickly in sprints and ease of use often is crucial for success in a fierce marketplace — companies of all sizes benefit from hearing users’ input early and often. Smaller-scale, remote user testing can give firms of any size the ability to efficiently and effectively gather vital user-experience information without spending a lot of money or time. Continue reading “September 22, 2009: Putting the User First, Remotely” →