The Disciplines of User Experience Design

The deeper I go into user experience design, the more I realize how broad the topic is, and also how difficult it can be to explain to someone for whom the idea or term is new. I appreciate Thomas Gläser‘s Venn diagram of the discipline and how it relates to many other disciplines. On various sites where the diagram has been posted commenters are quick to point out what’s missing, e.g. why doesn’t sound design overlap with interaction design?  But, as Mark Wilson points out on,

…to critique a piece like this is to ungratefully overlook its utility: Don’t see this as the only road map for the entire UX design industry, but a postulation as to why it’s so darned complicated to nail good UX. To think anyone could be an expert in each of these circles is sheer absurdity. Scratch that: To think any designer could be an expert in each of these circles is sheer absurdity, but to recognize that every end user is an expert in each of these circles is highly important. As humans and end users, we might not know what makes an experience right, but we certainly know when it’s wrong.


Big changes, and life goes on

Shelise Gieseke and Fara Heath

Shelise and Fara, with Blue the Blue Mouse Monkey

We’re sad to see her go, but happy about the reason: Blue Mouse Monkey’s studio manager Shelise Gieseke has left to have her baby! Shelise has been with Blue Mouse Monkey for almost three years, and we could not have done it without her. THANK YOU, SHELISE!

We’re thrilled to welcome Fara Heath as the new studio manager. With her background in entrepreneurship, communications, and the performing arts she’s going to be a great addition to the team. WELCOME, FARA!

Friday at the Ford Open House

So glad Blue Mouse Monkey got a beautiful space in the Ford building 4 1/2 years ago. Since then the neighborhood has come alive, along with the now-full building, and we get to participate in the regular open house events. The June 1 open house was building-wide, all four floors, and it was hopping!

(The downside of the neighborhood coming alive is parking has gone from great to atrocious. Not that I drive all that often – I mostly ride my bike. But some days ya gotta have a motor and a roof to get to client meetings in the rain. And each time I park it’s a little further from the building than the time before. And the clients who drive to Blue Mouse Monkey are starting to complain, too.)

New Blue Mouse Monkey website – woohoo!

blue_mouse_monkey_home_pageIt’s up and walking around: the new Blue Mouse Monkey website. All done up extra-nice in HTML5 and all that good stuff. It’s a bit dodgy on IE 6 and other hold-outs, but really, I cannot keep caring about obsolete browsers.

Bye-bye to the old Flash site, which was beautiful, but invisible to iPods and iPads, difficult for search engines, and a total pain to keep updated. However, it’s too lovely to banish completely, and can still be accessed via a link at the bottom of the new home page.

I was able to tweak and re-use a couple of the animations from the old site, on the contact page and the ‘404 page not found‘ page. I do love Flash. It was fun to use, great to make entire sites from if you were aiming for something artistic and didn’t care about SEO. I hate to see it get downgraded like it has been, but one must move with the times. And move we have. Thanks to Jimmy Thomas for doing the fabulous CSS build.

Time flies…

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

…when you’re busy, then you go on vacation. We were in Hawaii and New Zealand for a couple of weeks, visiting relatives. It was lovely. We really should get back there more often. What was also lovely was that Blue Moue Monkey carried on in my absence. Now that we have a project manager (John Redder) and a studio manager (Sheliese Gieseke), stuff gets done even when I’m not there! I am so thrilled to have them both on board. And of course Jimmy Thomas, who strictly speaking isn’t part of Blue Mouse Monkey, but he does so much work for us he may as well be. Jimmy built the new Blue Mouse Monkey website while I was away. We’re putting the finishing touches on it and hope to launch it this week!

Summer of surprises

Lots of machines that go beep

Lots of machines that go beep

The Blue Mouse Monkey blog has been quiet of late, due to two things. 1. We’ve been busy wrapping up several projects back-to back, and 2. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July. Luckily it was caught at stage 1, and there’s a very high chance of long-term survival. I had surgery (lumpectomy and sentinal node biopsy) in August, and will start radiation this month.

Dealing with breast cancer has been hard, of course. Lots of medical appointments accompanied by a steep learning curve of information acquisition, and getting acquainted with the machines that go beep, roar, and squeeze. And until the post-operative pathology report came back we didn’t know whether the cancer had metastasized, so we lived with that fear for several weeks. But the hardest thing has been figuring out how to fit being a “patient” into my creative-small-business-owner life. There are no paid vacation days or sick days for the small business owner. Time off means time not working on client projects or building my business or expanding my knowledge and skills. And while Jimmy and Shelise did a great job of carrying the load the week I was off for surgery, any more time than that would not have been good for Blue Mouse Monkey (or probably for them).

It’s given me a push towards something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and that’s hire an experienced website/interactive project manager. Someone who can keep all the balls in the air while I’m away. And now that big projects are wrapping up, it’s the perfect time to stary looking.

I’m proud to say that despite the upheaval, we’re still popping out all of this current batch of websites on time. The next few posts will showcase our recent work.

Summer of Work

Why the 2 months of silence? Blue Mouse Monkey has been very busy with several new projects, and we are thrilled to be working with a collection of clients in the world of funders and non-profits.

nsfI’ve also been invited by the National Science Foundation to be participate in a panel to choose the winning proposal for a major online resource in Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. It’s an honor to be invited, and it’s fascinating to read these proposals for such a ambitious and worthy project. However, the proposals are long, dense, and detailed, and reading them with the closeness required to make an informed comparison is time-consuming . . . but more about that later. For this post I wanted to write about our current website projects:

otrec_logo_webOTREC, the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, is one of the national UTCs (I didn’t know what that meant before this either). As such they disburse federal dollars to research projects in transportation at four Oregon Universities. OTREC’s themes (each UTC is different) are 1. Innovations in Sustainable Transportation through Advanced Technology, 2. Integration of Land Use and Transportation, and 3. Healthy Communities. What’s not to love?

The new Blue Mouse Monkey OTREC website will be launched in early September.

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spiritmountain1The Spirit Mountain Community Fund is the philanthropic arm of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. The fund gives millions from the Tribe’s casino to Oregon non-profits. They also operate a fellowship program to send Native American youth to serve with Congressional Offices in Washington, D.C., and a tribal grant program to benefit development projects in other Oregon tribes.

Here’s something I didn’t know till I met the good folks at SMCF: “The Tribe” as it’s known is made up of the descendants of the many Oregon tribes that lived in the Willamette Valley and the Columbia Gorge until they were evicted by the US government in the winter of 1857. They were forcibly marched to a reservation in a move dubbed Oregon’s Trail of Tears. Adding insult to injury, the tribe lost its Federal recognition in 1954 and the reservation was reduced to 7½ acres. The tribe’s status was restored in 1983. Since then the Tribe has gotten back on its feet through an ambitious economic development program to achieve self-sufficiency.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde through the Spirit Mountain Community Fund fulfills their Native tradition of potlatch, a ceremony at which good fortune is distributed. The Spirit Mountain Community Fund’s focus is to improve the quality of life in Northwest Oregon through community investments that provide lasting benefits consistent with the Tribe’s culture and values.”

Coming from New Zealand where post-colonial issues are more top-of-mind with the general population than here, it’s been really interesting for me to meet folks from the Tribe and come to understand something about the journey they have taken as a people and a culture in order to adapt to circumstances that were forced upon them.

The new Blue Mouse Monkey Spirit Mountain Community Fund website will be launched in late September.

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playwrite_logo_largePlayWrite, Inc, is a Portland organization that uses “the power of performance in art to transform the lives of youth at the edge” They go into schools, particularly under-served schools, and do a two-week residency that brings young people together with coaches from the Portland performing arts community. Students work one-on-one with coaches, learning and honing the tools for creating a play.

“Each play in its entirety springs solely from the mind, feelings and heart of the young writer. At the end of the workshop, professional actors perform a staged reading of the plays before a live audience. This performance – the culmination of three weeks’ work – is a collaborative event involving author, actors and audience. The young writers glow with well-deserved pride as they witness their work being brought to life.”

The new Blue Mouse Monkey PlayWrite website, in all it’s dramatic, swirling, plum-colored glory, will roll out in late August.

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tofcoTOFCO is the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon, a not for profit organization that includes a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals who advocate for programs and policies to decrease the toll of tobacco-use in Oregon. The new Blue Mouse Monkey version of their website, launching in October, will be a one-stop shop for anyone looking for information about tobacco use in Oregon, including science, policy, and community information, as well as an examination of the ironies inherent in linking tobacco use with being cool.

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We’re excited to be working with these diverse organizations to help them frame their issues, disseminate their value, and strengthen their voice in the community!


branding_irons-dutch_k_c_and_kFor a long time I avoided mentioning “branding” to my clients. The word is so easily misunderstood, particularly among my target audiences of creative professionals and those in making-the-world-a-better-place fields. And who can blame them? The word conjures up the ephemeral fictions designed by mega-corporations to fuel desire for lifestyles that are destructive to the planet.

But I had to face facts: when I work with a client, I create or refine their brand. Whether they’re organizations, artists, or businesses, my clients don’t just get a website. They get a coherent, unified web presence that aligns with their core values and goals, and articulates these values and goals to their target audiences.

So it’s time to come clean: Blue Mouse Monkey creates brands and websites for changemakers and cultural innovators.

After all, our clients are extraordinary. They do important work. It’s the best job in the world helping them succeed.

So lift yer shirt and don’t flinch.