Duncan Hopkins

UX and Design Leadership.

March 19, 2015
by Duncan Hopkins

The UX of being a cover band

Planet Texas Band

The Planet Texas Band Plays for a happy audience.

I play bass in a blues rock cover band for fun, and was thinking about the user experience that we have with our audience. So I made a list of basic gig guidelines and actually it’s quite similar to any business customer experience:

  1. You are not your target audience, what might be your favorite song is not what your audience wants to hear.
  2. You are there to entertain them, not yourself. You are being paid by the venue – their customer is the focus.
  3. You are a team, when everyone plays their parts right – magic happens.
  4. Know your audience. Their favorite song might be one you never thought about.
  5. Play a well rounded song list based on a core set or theme that the audience will be familiar with.
  6. Deliver more than expected. on time. on key, and on tempo.
  7. Practice makes perfect, no one enjoys a sloppy sounding performance.
  8. Talk to the audience. Get them to interact. Dancing is always encouraged.
  9. Keep it fresh. Update your repertoire often, replace songs that don’t work well with the audience.
  10. Make it your own. you don’t have to play the song note for note like the original.

… and most important of all, don’t forget to tip your bartenders and wait staff. :)


March 1, 2015
by Duncan Hopkins

How much UX is just enough?

How much UX is just enough?

How do you know what amount of UX to include in a project? Some companies don’t even consider user experience in the initial project scope — sometimes because of time and budget constraints or they just never think about it. On the other hand, some can overthink the UX, get hung up on research, and don’t react fast enough to get the product into the hands of users to test in a real-life environment. You can’t afford not to have some level of UX in your process. Here are some basic guidelines on how to make it work for you.
The ideal situation is to get a minimal amount of testing of the interface and experience in the hands of users early. Use wireframes or rough comps to get feedback that you can use immediately. Just as important is to iterate as you are building the products and features. This way you can adapt and adjust as needed. You then keep UX as an integral part of the product lifecycle – beginning, middle and end. You can’t do it upfront and leave it, and you can’t do it last and then expect it to work as it goes out the door.
User experience doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t have to be expensive but it does need to be an integral part of the entire process. Having the right balance is vital to getting good results. When estimating a project always include UX and user testing within the scope and timeframe and allow time for results and iteration. Include UX as part of your roadmap for future features and always come back and revisit what is working and what is not, and if that feature should still be part of your business strategy. On the other side of the coin, don’t get bogged down with trying to make it right the first time. You will never get it right, and it will never get finished.
Don’t test it on yourself. You are not the customer and will not get a realistic evaluation of how the product works. Include real end users who are not biased, part of your company or family. You would be surprised how well just going out and showing someone a few screens and asking the right questions works. You can get useful feedback just showing someone quick wireframe comps on the phone instead of creating high resolution interfaces where people inevitably get distracted by the details rather than focus on the functionality. There are many decent online tools and services out there for simple user testing. Choose the ones that work best for your app in the right situation. If you are relying on someone else to qualify the testers, always make sure the candidate is the correct persona.
Strategic business questions you should always ask yourself:
  • Why would customers use this app?
  • What would make them immediately download or signup for an account?
  • Why would they continue to use it?
  • How can you make it simpler for the user? Can you remove what they don’t need?
  • Does each feature truly reflect your business strategy and objectives?
  • Who are you competing against?
  • What makes you better or different than your competition?
  • What’s the most important goal you want to achieve? Sign up more users, promote social interaction, subscriptions?
User experience is not new, but it is now getting the recognition it deserves as an vital part of the success of your company and your products. I have enjoyed creating user interfaces and refining user experience for over 20 years. Let me know how I can help you make your business and product a success.
Please contact me via LinkedIn


February 17, 2015
by Duncan Hopkins

Usability Maxims

Arnold Lund asked colleagues working in the human-computer interface (HCI) design field for the rules of thumb they found particularly useful during the design process. He then created this list of 34 maxims (given below in order of priority).

  1. Know thy user, and YOU are not thy user.
  2. Things that look the same should act the same.
  3. Everyone makes mistakes, so every mistake should be fixable.
  4. The information for the decision needs to be there when the decision is needed.
  5. Error messages should actually mean something to the user, and tell the user how to fix the problem.
  6. Every action should have a reaction.
  7. Don’t overload the user’s buffers.
  8. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
  9. Minimize the need for a mighty memory.
  10. Keep it simple.
  11. The more you do something, the easier it should be to do.
  12. The user should always know what is happening.
  13. The user should control the system. The system shouldn’t control the user.
    The user is the boss, and the system should show it.
  14. The idea is to empower the user, not speed up the system.
  15. Eliminate unnecessary decisions, and illuminate the rest.
  16. If I made an error, let me know about it before I get into REAL trouble.
  17. The best journey is the one with the fewest steps. Shorten the distance between the user and their goal.
  18. The user should be able to do what the user wants to do.
  19. Things that look different should act different.
  20. You should always know how to find out what to do next.
  21. Don’t let people accidentally shoot themselves.
  22. Even experts are novices at some point. Provide help.
  23. Design for regular people and the real world.
  24. Keep it neat. Keep it organized.
  25. Provide a way to bail out and start over.
  26. The fault is not in thyself, but in thy system.
  27. If it is not needed, it’s not needed.
  28. Colour is information.
  29. Everything in its place, and a place for everything.
  30. The user should be in a good mood when done.
  31. If I made an error, at least let me finish my thought before I have to fix it.
  32. Cute is not a good adjective for systems.
  33. Let people shape the system to themselves, and paint it with their own personality.
  34. To know the system is to love it.

Reference: Lund, A M (1997) “Expert Ratings of Usability Maxims.” Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications, Volume 5, Number 3 (July) pp. 15-20.