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Designing the User Experience at Autodesk

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Coffee and Documentation

I like the concept of not treating the readers of documentation like idiots. This little card gave me the information that I needed and couldn’t know ahead of time (how much water to use, the filter looks too big but is the right size, only push the button once) without wasting my time by giving me information that I either already knew or could easily guess (I can get water from the sink, I need to use a cup). Can we use this concept in software documentation? What parts can safely be left out so that we are only highlighting the pieces that are really needed?

Miller, Lynn. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing


The Consistency Conundrum

A common mandate at many software companies is “Make our products consistent!” I’ve heard this clarion call for consistency at every company I’ve worked for that has more than a single product or service. The rationale behind the consistency mandate is that it will reduce design and development costs, improve the overall quality of the software, strengthen the brand (“the products should all look like they come from the same company”), make learning easier for users, and reduce errors when multiple products are used together. These are all great goals, but there is a problem with the consistency mandate – consistency is complex, multi-dimensional, and sometimes at odds with other important goals like usability.

Wilson, Chauncey E. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Interface>Usability


Design Essentials for Non-Designers

This tutorial is intended for practitioners who have come to interaction design from a research, psychology, information architecture, or other non-design background. It focuses on what happens after the requirements are done and before you build your first prototype. Design fields such as graphic arts, architecture, and industrial design have long-standing practices for innovative design, and these apply well to interaction design.

Schrag, John and Ian Hooper. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Design>User Experience>Interaction Design


Design Partners: Passing on the Knowledge of UX

The two main drivers for a successful relationship were to respect each other’s opinion and to use active listening to understand what the other was saying.

Richkus, Rebecca. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Knowledge Management>User Experience>Collaboration


Design Values: Validated Data over Expert Opinion

A few years ago, some of my colleagues decided to run a first-experience study on one of our software packages. The purpose of such a study is to gain an understanding of what our users go through in their first hour of use. What do they experience? Where do they get stuck? How far can they get in the software? What are their learning strategies? As a side experiment, my colleagues asked several experts in the company for their expert opinion as to what problems users would run into, and compiled them into a list. (These experts included the software designers, domain experts, and the people who trained users on the software.) Then my colleagues ran their study, observing sixteen people using this software for the first time, and made a list of the problems that users actually ran into. The result? There was not one common item on the two lists.

Schrag, John. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Usability>Testing


Designing the User Experience at Autodesk: A Case Study in Large-Application Usability Benchmarking

As a user researcher with a primarily qualitative background, I have to confess that when I was asked to conduct a usability benchmark study on AutoCAD, I was not exactly jumping out of my chair. Frankly, I was wary of the quantitative emphasis of the method and the proposal to reduce the whole user experience down to a single number. I was also more than slightly nervous about designing a benchmark study for a product as complex as AutoCAD.

Dawe, Melissa. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Usability>Testing>Case Studies


The Foundation of a Great User Experience

I’m part of the AEC User Experience Team at Autodesk. Our goal is to design a great user experience for our customers, but just what does that mean? Our definition of user experience focuses on all the touchpoints that current or new users have with our product. For example, the downloading of software trials is often the beginning of one’s user experience with a product. If you have to fill out forms that ask for too much information, (should “cell phone number” be a required field on a trial download form?) or present you with too many obstacles, the likelihood of a positive user experience will be low. Your interactions with technical support, documentation, the product, and even other products that you use, are all aspects of the user experience.

Wilson, Chauncey E. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Experience>Usability>User Centered Design


Getting Started with Contextual Inquiries

The Process and Power team hadn’t conducted contextual inquires before. Since the group was originally launched as a start-up within a larger organization, the Product Design team often found itself in an ad-hoc rapid process with Software Development (SWD) – working frantically to develop the right amount of specificity to keep the SWD machine cranking and the goal of first release clearly in sights.

Sherman, Melissa. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Centered Design>Ethnographies>Contextual Inquiry


Going Viral

Our plan was to market Project Dragonfly virally. Going out now meant that we were a little early and many details were still on the to-do list. As a user centered design practitioner working with an Agile Development process, I was comfortable working in an iterative manner to engage users quickly so that we think through details and bring solutions forward. Yet something about this situation seemed different to me. We wanted the world to broadcast about the benefits of Project Dragonfly while our marketing efforts simply facilitated the conversation.

Arnold, Steve. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Centered Design>Project Management>Marketing


IxD and SMEs Working Together

An SME is someone who has been trained and has worked in the area that is being targeted for the new application. At Autodesk, we have found that pairing SMEs with Interaction Designers is the most efficient and successful way of meeting user centered design goals.

Hooper, Ian. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Interaction Design>SMEs


The Problem with Problems

User Experience and usability practitioners are on a continuous hunt for problems that plague our users. This seems straightforward – find problems from testing, user forums, observation, and other methods, prioritize the problems, and generate solutions that eliminate the complaint. However, some events that we call problems in one context may not be problems in another.

Wilson, Chauncey E. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Experience>Usability


The Road to XAML

XAML stands for eXtensible Application Markup Language and was created by Microsoft. It is currently the primary mechanism for declaratively creating the user interface in a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application. WPF is part of the .NET 3.0 framework. Why discuss these very technical things in a design blog post? The answer is simple: because XAML is designed for designers. It has other uses of course, but one of its main tenets is that XAML enables the separation of UI and logic (code). That is a very powerful concept! In this and future posts, I will explain how a few of us at Autodesk are using XAML in our design process as a way to enable design refinement during the Development phase.

Stein, Matt. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Interface>Programming>XML


Sketching Design

In his book, Sketching User Experience, Bill Buxton advocates for sketching as a technique and process that can put experience front and center in design. I am a big fan of sketching and use the techniques I first learned in architecture school for interaction design. In this post, I’m going to give you a quick peek at the types of sketches I typically create in my design process with the hope that it will inspire you to try sketching for you next project.

Schober, Yan. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Design>Graphic Design>Prototyping


Speed Racer: Collaborative Sketching Saves the Day

Give 3 designers 4 weeks to create multiple conceptual designs for 8 features and what do you get? If they are team of innovative designers you might get the designs and a new process. If they are a team of committed designers you might get the designs and an improved collaboration. We were lucky. We got all three.

Sherman, Melissa. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Graphic Design>Case Studies


Taking Aim: The Power of UX Goals

A user experience goal is a choice made by your product team about what kind of experience you want your users to have with your product or service. You use these choices to measure and direct the design of your product. Goals let us know when our tasks are complete, so that we can move on to something else. They stop us from obsessing over the wrong details and help us direct our energies to what is important. Goals tell us what to measure, and what can be ignored.

Schrag, John. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2008). Articles>User Experience


The Tangible View Cube

As interaction designers at Autodesk, we sometimes engage in design and thought investigations that are not directly related to the task at hand. These investigations are ways to frame problems by venturing into related design disciplines. For example, in order to understand what might be an appropriate transition when changing views in a 3d model, we try to understand how a video artist would create a transition between two scenes in a video. To understand how to improve the graphic quality of elements drawn in a building information model, we look at lots of pencil sketches drawn by architects. We think, what would happen if an on-screen element was made from physical material?

Nikolovska, Lira. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Experience>Graphic Design


Usability Over Time: Longitudinal Research Studies

User research focused on single experiences with a feature or workflow uncovers different problems and issues than longitudinal research.

Sy, Desirée. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Usability>Testing>Methods


Usability Testing with User Proxies: When is "Close" Close Enough?

How can we designers get valid feedback from more design iterations in less time? One bottleneck in the design flow is finding a steady stream of usability testers. Between the extremes of the perfect (an actual user, on site) and the unacceptable (the developer who's coding the feature), lies the grey zone of user proxies. Can you use internal employees with relevant domain knowledge to usability test your products, and still get valid data?

Sy, Desirée. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>Graphic Design>Usability>Testing


Values in Software Design Practice

Every user experience (UX) designer who practices in a corporate setting knows the breathless whirlwind that is modern business. We designers manage relationships with developers, business managers, and customers, and still have a full-time production role researching, designing and validating features and interactions. We rarely have enough time to do everything we should, and therefore have to carefully choose where to spend our time and resources.

Schrag, John. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk (2009). Articles>User Experience>Programming

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