10 Things I learnt, Solving 10 UX Problems in 10 Evenings

I set myself the challenge to try solve 10 problems in 10 evenings after my day job. I did this to help me improve my prototyping skills, improve my problem solving, speed of execution and get more confident at sharing my work online!

What I did

To begin with I asked people what annoyed them about any apps, websites or services. From the problems raised, I picked my 10 favourite. I then created an idea for each in the form of a prototype using Sketch and Principle. Each evening I posted a gif of my prototype on Dribbble. The challenge taught me a lot! I have summarised my learnings into 10 points.

1 — Great conversation starter

This challenge was a great way to talk to new people, both whilst collecting the problems and then getting feedback afterwards.

At the start I would ask all sorts of random people “ Do you face any problems with apps, websites or services”. I approached people at work, in coffee shops, in bars etc etc. Not everyone offered problems but there were those that stopped and thought “Umm there is this one problem…” It was difficult to collect problems but I did get a good selection after speaking to a lot of people.

After the 10 evenings when the 10 prototypes had been created. I showed people my ideas saying “Hey what do you think to this idea…”. This sparked more interest than the initial problem collecting. Instead of having to think too hard about a problem people had something in front of them which they could interact with. I received some interesting comments, “Have you thought about X?”, “ You haven’t considered Y”etc. The feedback is great for when I revisit my prototypes!

2 — Make sure you do your research

Research is a must. check out current trends and see what exists to avoid duplicating ideas. Unfortunately I didn’t do a very good job of this on evening 4. The problem was the difficulty it takes to select a video from the many on Ted Talks. My idea was a choice maker which choses a video for you based on a few questions.

I thought I had a great idea and turned to show it to a friend. Her response was “Oh that’s like the ‘Surprise Me’ feature on the Ted Talks app”. My heart sunk, she preceded to show me the feature and I realised my idea was pretty much like for like! lesson learnt make sure you do your research! If only I had mocked it up for Netflix I may have gotten away with it! 🙈

My Idea vs what already exists!

3 — Think and work fast!

I learnt it’s ok to make mistakes nothing will be perfect first time. I also learnt if I don’t get my prototype done in good time, I will only get a few hours kip that night. I forced myself to think fast!

I frustrated myself at times as I spent time trying to pick a nice colour palette or find that perfect typeface. Just get on with it! I had to keep reminding myself I am not shipping a product I am just communicating an idea. The longer I spent on the details meant the less time I had nailing the core idea and consequently less sleep!

4— Idea comes first, design details come second

I was adding in too much details in the first few prototypes. I was overthinking my executions and pressuring myself too much. Evening 3 is a good example of this, where I was redesigning the Audible Bookmarks feature. I was trying to think about how the feature would look, how it would work and how the interactions would would work, all at the same time. Thinking about too much meant my final execution fell a bit flat (in my opinion).

I figured the task was more about communicating the idea and less about worrying about the design details. Transitions and nice UI can be injected later once the idea is more finalised.

A lot of elements to design/interact/idea to work = a lot to think about

5 — It’s a wireframe! Keep the styling and animations simple

Following on from the last point, I learnt to keep the prototypes super stripped back. I did this by splitting the task into manageable steps. The first step was thinking just about the idea and how it may work using pen and paper. Next step bringing it to life but with limited styling in Principle, (which would be suffice for this challenge). Once the idea is working the next step would be to inject style and then build it up over time. For this challenge making an initial prototype in Principle was enough, injecting the style can be done later when the prototypes are revisited.

The last 4 evenings is when I found my stride, as I was not worrying too much about the final design details. Instead I was having fun getting my idea across.

6 — Don’t be too safe!

A few of the problems I chose to tackle were “a bit safe” in my opinion. Working on these ideas were great for practicing techniques. But the problem was I struggled to let my mind wonder too much and push myself creatively. An example is evening 7 when I created a “visible edit mode” for Slack . I felt it was a nice idea but it was not hugely game changing. I felt the guys at Slack could quite easily create this within a sprint. Think the point I’m trying to make is, small details are great but try use personal challenges to solve more daring problems.

7 — Push ideas that make you nervous to share

I got the most satisfaction when I pushed out ideas I felt were a bit risky. Evening 9 is a good example of this. I pushed out an idea for “voting online” in the UK. The idea came off the back of the recent EU Referendum which as we all know saw the UK leave the EU 😢. Would things have been different if it wasn’t such an effort to vote? Taking this problem forward I created a prototype for voting online. I’m not sure why but I felt nervous about pushing this one out there! But then I thought this is only a suggestion. But after the 10 evenings I felt this was the most successful creation as it sparked a debate amongst friends.

The ideas you think are risky ideas tend to get the most attention. I found if the idea is backed up with a reason then people tend to warm to it. One person tweeted it too which I was proud of. It’s all about those small wins! ha ha.

one person tweeted it, it’s all about those small wins!

8 — Just have fun, let others judge

I had to keep reminding myself that I’m not doing this to pass a course, or to please a client, I’m just doing it for myself. This kept me from making the task into something bigger than it was. Just have fun!

I told myself to pretend I’m trying to explain my idea to friend at the pub. Keep it fun and lighthearted. Once you have something visual you can start to iterate upon it and make it better.

9 — Having a go is better than nothing!

This challenge gave me tight deadlines with a defined end goal of 10 prototypes. If I didn’t upload something to Dribbble each evening I felt guilty and felt I had failed the end goal. I had to stop being a perfectionist and think what is the least I need to do to communicate my idea effectively. Start with a problem, think of an idea, create it, ship it, move on. I kept reminding myself, everything can be improved or revisited later down the line. Don’t worry and don’t be scared of failing!

Not every attempt will work out, something is better than nothing ;)

10 — Fine tune a wireframing style

As well as brushing up on my animation skills and problem solving I started to refine a wireframing style. With the goal to communicate my ideas as simply yet effectively as possible. I experimented with a few styles to find something that worked for me. I tried to go too simple, too detailed and something in-between! The in-between option was working the best for me. As I continue to create wireframes my style will hopefully evolve! These challenges really do encourage you to try out new ideas and ways of working.


Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading through my lessons. In a nutshell it taught to stop worrying too much about the details in the early stage and focus more on communicating the idea. You can check out all 10 evenings work here.

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