Posted in Design principles, Personal journey

Why Design?

I get this question a lot, mostly from myself.  Why does design – user experience design, visual design, product design, industrial design – mean so much to me?  Why do I continue to pursue it, even though I didn’t go to school for it and it’s not my day-job?  What does design mean to me?

Design excites and fascinates me because I am infinitely curious about everything and I can turn that curiosity into making the world a better place.  I love discovering and exploring opportunities to make improvements.  I love thinking and asking questions from different angles.  I love working with others to come up with a crazy amount of ideas and then trying things out to see what works or see what other questions we need to ask.  I love observing the world and helping others make ourselves, our tools, our interactions, our experiences and our world better.

Posted in Design Thinking, Personal Development, Personal Finance Design Challenge, UX Practice

Personal Design Challenge & A Side Project

I’m self-learning experience design, so I’m always on the look-out for how to practice design thinking / human-centered design.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have chosen a personal design challenge that would have immediate benefits for my family and my marriage: how might my husband and I improve how we handle the family’s finances?

Besides that, I have also thrown in with a small group of self-learning UX students such as myself that I stumbled upon through the Junior UX Community slack channel.  We are informal and don’t really have a name or anything.  But we are learning so much more than just reading articles or taking classes alone.  We are learning through doing, which is a vital mindset in human-centered design.  But more on this in later blogs.

I wanted to work on the personal design challenge to improve my family’s finances with my husband since we both need to be involved with any changes that this challenge brings.  He’s not as into it as I am, but he’s playing along.  😉

Dealing with our finances has been a high-priority pain point in our lives that we haven’t been addressing.  We take drastic action, like taking out a consolidation loan, and then in a year or so, we find ourselves in the same point that necessitated the loan.  Something needs to change if we’re going to be financially stable.  And being financially unstable is an amazing strain on a marriage.  We need to make this change to improve our lives, reduce stress, help our family be financially stable for the future, and help keep our relationship strong.

Finance_StakeholdersFirst thing I did was come up with stakeholders involved.  It’s not just my husband and myself.  We may be in charge of our family’s money, but others are affected by how we chose to manage that money.

Then I started some preliminary research; i.e. did an internet search.  I have a cognitive bias – I felt like I knew all the information I was reading already, but I was missing the piece on how to apply it.  I put the internet search aside and took another approach.

So I thought a good next step was to ask the people involved questions about their situation.  Problem with doing a personal design challenge, the whole thing is soaked in personal bias, so it can’t be avoided, but it can be called out whenever I notice it.  I tried to think up questions as if I was going to be interviewing complete strangers to help them out.  This was hard to step out of my own situation to be objective and not take questions in a certain direction using my own knowledge and bias.

I came up with interview questions.  What do I need to know?  (e.g., What is the family currently doing to track finances?  What works?  What doesn’t work?  Why does it work or doesn’t work?)  What do I already know about the situation?  (e.g., Need a budget, need to spend less than you bring in, etc.).  How can I reframe these questions?  Looking back at the questions, I think I could have done better, but that’s how we learn.  What I do remember from the various classes and articles I’ve read, I don’t want to ask leading questions.  I don’t want to ask questions in such a way as to influence the interviewee.

I brushed up on how to interview. I tried to use the interviewing skills laid out in the +Acumen / course I took this last summer which called for a neutral perspective and an empathy-inducing curiosity.  I don’t want to give positive or negative feedback on the answers (e.g., “Oh, wow!  That’s exactly what I wanted to hear!”), other than thanking them for being honest and taking the time to answer your questions (e.g., “Thank you for answering that honestly.”)  And I do want to keep asking why to get to the heart of their motives (e.g., “Yes, I see what you mean.  Why did you do it that way?” or “What was going through your head when you made that decision?”).  I’ve still got a lot to learn about interviewing skills.

Then I interviewed my husband.

THIS. WAS. LIFE. CHANGING.  Or rather, perception-changing.

I interviewed my husband and just listened.  I didn’t respond.  I didn’t try to argue or persuade him.  I just asked questions and listened to the answers.  And I asked why.  This technique may have saved my marriage (j/k – but it certainly enhanced it!).  And I learned that when I talk to my husband, I’m really not listening as much as I thought.

I would recommend that technique, especially if you feel stuck with your significant other.  Interview them.  Ask questions. Listen.  Observe.  Don’t respond to their answers.  Don’t argue or persuade.  Just listen.  It may not be comfortable, but that usually means we’re learning something.

We’re still in the middle of this personal design challenge.  I’ll keep you all updated as we move along!

What are you doing to practice human-centered design?  Have you considered a personal design challenge?  What would you want to change in your life?  What could use a tweak?

Posted in Design Thinking, Personal Development

I <3 Design Thinking

I ❤ Design Thinking.  It’s a problem-solving technique you can apply to almost any problem, and it’s especially handy for ambiguous, intangible problems – also known as Wicked Problems.

Design Thinking aligns with how my brain works.  I finished a project-based Design Thinking course through +Acumen and back in July.  And just a few weeks ago, I finished a study-based DT course through Interaction Design Foundation.  I want to continue practicing DT.  So how do I go about doing that?

At work, I try to think of small ways to incorporate Design Thinking.  When we run into an issue, I start thinking about the users and the questions I’d want to ask them.  Then I’d think about who are all the stakeholders involved?  Who would be the person to observe or start asking these questions to?  What do we know and what don’t we know about this issue?  What do we want to find out?

I’m always bringing up to my team that we need to find out what the users think about this or that.  We should test this screen out with our users now, before it’s too late and we have a lot of rework.

Or if I’m working on a problem or coming across a colleague’s attitude, I think, what does this look like from the other person’s perspective?

Design thinking – also referred to as Human-Centered Design – puts the needs of the humans involved front and center.  It’s also a messy process.  It starts out a bit ambiguous because the problems themselves are ambiguous.  You could up with a general idea of the problem – what some would call the ‘scope’ – and the first step is to think about all the humans involved in various ways, and what questions you would ask them.  And then you just start digging to get your data – their ambitions, dreams, hopes, frustrations, processes, and work-arounds.  And the more digging you do, the more the real problem starts taking shape.

How you go from asking questions, gathering data into finding those insights and developing problem statements is fascinating.  That’s the real challenge.  If you aren’t on the right track, you will take the project in the wrong direction, and then you’ll need to course correct – but that’s OK!  Like I said before, this process is messy.  They’ll be many course corrections.  And we need to embrace that ambiguity to successfully follow-through on a good, human-centered design.

Ambiguity is part of being human.

So back to my original question about how I can go about practicing Design Thinking.

Here are a few ideas:

  • You may have heard of the ‘Design Your Life’ classes at Stanford (aka, which lessons are now captured in the book of the same name.
  • I’ve seen it suggested in several different places to use the Design Thinking process on a personal issue.
  • Redesigning an app that could be done better.

This essentially gets down to the concept of ‘problem spotting’, a concept which UX instructor and entrepreneur, Sarah Doody, speaks to often.  Keep an eye out and keep a list of aspects of life that could be done better, more efficiently, or more aligned to people’s needs.  I keep a Google Doc for Problem Spotting, and update it every time I Spot something new.  Going back to it regularly gives me inspiration, and it’s a list of projects I could take on in the future.

For now, I’ve focused on something my family could immediately benefit from: a personal issue with personal finances.  Believe me, there is plenty of room for improvement there.

So I’ve already started, and I’ll continue on to provide updates here on my blog!

Are you familiar with Design Thinking?  If not, check out’s Design Kit and their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.

Can you think of a personal issue you’d like to improve on?  Or design your life or career?


Thanks for taking the time to visit and share!  I’d love to hear from you!





Posted in Design Thinking, Personal Development, Personal journey, Personal Values

New Direction

When my daughter was born, my world-view shifted so magnificently, I would say I became a different person.  A similar shift happened to me when my mother left this world this past April.

My mom playing.


I stepped away from my normal life for a time.  I went back to California briefly to be with my family.  I slowly eased back into life.  Nothing I experienced was left untouched from my new perspective on the world.  I am a different person trying to figure out how I fit.

Instead of working on projects on my own and learning from practical experience, I decided to be more passive and take in information through classes.  It was the best fit for me at the time.

I started a Design Thinking course on Interactive Design Foundation.  Then a week in, a colleague told me about a free, online, project-based Design Thinking course through +Acumen &  My accountability partner, Maria, and I signed up as a team.  It was exactly the experience I needed.

Maria and I had the design challenge “How might we encourage young people to become social entrepreneurs?”  Through the Design Thinking process, we came up with the idea of Netflix and Change, a data-analyzing app that would look at a person’s Netflix data to match them up with social movements that would mean the most to them and then show them actions they could take to support organizations local them.  I intend to do a full case study on this app and my experience with design thinking.  Maybe we’ll even pick it up again, one day.

Taking this project-based course on Design Thinking was exactly what I needed.  I understand the “UX Process” I keep reading about and why it’s always different.  It’s because everyone’s creative process is different and the process that works best for each project is going to be slightly different.  I feel understanding Design Thinking helped me to understand fundamentals of design that I was lacking before.  I feel like I’ve leveled up my understanding of design, and when I go back and read through books and articles I’ve read previously, I get it a little bit more than I did before.

To someone who is trying to learn design on their own, without going to school, this is confirmation that I needed.

I’ve also found a new job.  I am now with a smaller company than I was with before, and I am on a team that is product-focused.  While I still wear the mantle of Business Analyst, this position affords me more opportunities to stretch my skills into the design arena.  I am ever grateful, and it is taking up a lot of time and mental energy at the moment.  So I will not be as active on this blog as I’d like.  When I am not focusing on my family, I’ll be splitting my mental energy between this new job and developing as a designer.

Because one thing my mom taught me and I understand on a whole new level: family comes first above all else.

Posted in Design principles, UX Examples

Bad UX – Google’s Inbox for Gmail

This week I signed up with the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), and started my first lesson, Gestalt Psychology and Web Design.  For our introductory posts in this course, we were tasked with giving an example of bad UX.  So this was my example:

My bad UX experience is in my email app, Inbox for Gmail.

I have come to use and rely on the “Snooze” function (clock icon in the green circle). Snooze hides the email until the time you specify (similar to when you hit snooze on an alarm). I typically snooze emails until the weekend at 5am, my own time to do whatever I want before the rest of the family gets up.


So hitting Snooze brings up a window with standard options (red box), and if you want to choose your own time you have to click the option to pick your own date and time (blue box). I always click the blue box, and then have to go through the same 6 – 7 clicks to get the email to snooze for 5am the next Saturday.

Bottomline: I never want the standard options, and there is no way to customize those standard options.

Looking at the NNG heuristics, this would be a violation of User Control and Freedom. Leads to user frustration and eventually pushes the user to find something better. If I could find something better, I would drop this app in a moment.

Do you have examples of Bad UX?  Or know of a good alternative email app that I can switch to?  I’d love to hear your comments!

Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Current State Analysis – Part 1- ISS Detector


First thing, I wanted to pull together information on the ISS Detector’s features and screenshots, similar to what I did for the competitive analysis. Seeing the app again after looking over all the competitive apps was quite different. I was seeing the UI in a different perspective, after I’ve already determined what I liked most and least from the other ISS tracking apps. The closer I get to this app and redesign project, the less objective I’m getting already. I absolutely see why I need user research and testing to get objective, unbiased opinion.

ISS Detector Satellite Tracker

  • Price: Free; $1.99 for upgrades
  • Android only


  • Notifications can be turned on or off
  • List of upcoming overhead passes include weather conditions – and a color indication of whether there will be ideal viewing conditions
  • Automatically detects location and timezone
  • Nightmode (red on black UI)
  • Data is compiled from multiple sources: NASA,,, and

Observations on map interfaces:

  • Multiple map interfaces
  • Sky map is 2D, looks like a radar screen with a compass
  • The sky map is defined by lines encompassed by a circle, rather than realistic photographs in the field of vision format
  • The sky map has capability to switch between a circle with constellations, to being integrated with a compass – whichever version of the sky map would make more sense to the user.
  • Map can also be a 2D, high-level world map


  • 4.6 stars – 75k reviews
  • Downloads are reported to be between 1m – 5m


  • The amount of reviews and downloads is astronomical, compared to the apps I was looking at in my competitive analysis. I wonder if I should have done this current state analysis first, so I could have been more subjective with the competitive ISS Tracker apps I picked out.  Source for app data:
  • BIAS ALERT: I saw the usability in having a field of vision format sky map, like Stellarium or the other sky watching applications. The user could more easily use a sky map that resembled the environment right in front of them. Though, the downside to that format is that is may not be as accurate as a line-based radar sky map.
  • While I can find public data on the ratings and reviews – which I am completely impressed with – I wish I could see data around how many of those reviewers actually purchased the add-on filters. That will probably be a survey / interview question in user research.

Next step is to do a usability evaluation / heuristic review on the ISS Detector app.  I’d even like to ask other usability experts / designers if they would like to take a crack at it, so I can compile and compare results.

I’d love to hear comments if there is any feedback you could provide!  Thanks again for reading!



Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Evolving the Roadmap – ISS Detector

A colleague invited me to listen in on an informal class he was giving around what he studied for a UX certification. While listening in, I was inspired to adjust my process for this ISS Detector redesign I am doing as a personal project.

I’ve segmented each into how many parts, or blog posts, I think it will take me to cover each exercise properly.  Because of my full-time jobs as a mum and BA, I’ve estimated about 2 weeks per part.


What has been done so far:

Company Analysis

  • The goal of the redesign was identified.

Competitive Analysis

  • Got a firm understanding of what features are included in competitive or alternative apps in the market.

What needs to be done:

Current State Analysis – 3 parts

  • Features
  • Same information gathered as was gathered for the competitive analysis
  • Usability Review / Heuristic Expert Review
    • See if multiple UXDs would want to take a crack at it. Integrate everyone’s input.
  • UI flow diagram
  • Information architecture / site map

User Research – 5-8 parts

  • Determine Strategy first – This will determine exactly what techniques I use.
    • What do I want to know?
    • What would be the best way to do this within my constraints?
  • Indirect techniques
    • Look over reviews online
      • Blogs
      • Reddit
      • App store reviews
    • Surveys
      • Brainstorm questions
      • Create the survey
      • Test it out – does it make sense?
      • Where can I find the participants?
      • Send out – elicit feedback
      • Compile results
  • Direct techniques
    • Interviews / Task observations
    • Pick from participants of surveys
    • Ask friends who are users

User Testing – 1 – 2 parts

  • Using remote user testing sites
  • See what issues users have
  • Compile Data from research
  • What insights are gathered?

Deliverables – 1-3 parts

  • User journey
  • Personas
  • Task analysis
  • Scenarios
  • Primary nouns
  • Gap analysis – user expectations vs current state

Information Architecture – 1 – 2 parts

  • Card sorting tests – reach out to survey participants
  • Gap analysis
  • Card sorting results vs current state IA
  • Insights?

Lessons learned so far – 1 part

  • Retrospective!
    • What worked / what didn’t work
    • What to change
    • What to keep doing
  • I should do this earlier in the process as well.

Design – 4 – 6 parts

  • Strategy from insights
    • What needs to be worked on?
    • Improve conversion?
    • Delight users?
  • Ideate – concept sketches
  • Rate for feasibility
  • Compile redesign alternatives to determine best option

Prototypes / mock-ups – 1 – 3 parts

  • User testing on prototypes

Refine / Iterations – 2 – 4 parts

Compile Case Study – Final Step

  • Using Oz Chen’s portfolio case study instructions
  • Write it out first, then insert graphics / assets afterward
Added new boards to the project’s Milonote page

So this was what I came up with after I was inspired. Looking back, it seems a very task-heavy process. I may be adding tasks that are unnecessary, but perhaps I am unaware because of my inexperience. Or I am enthusiastic to try out different things, and this is a good opportunity to try everything out, even if it’s not necessary for the specific redesign goal of converting users of ISS Detector (free version) to purchase the add-ons.

I’d love to hear your feedback below!