Is Manufacturing still a big driving force on the final product decisions?

This week I’ve been reflecting on this topic, as my brother shared with me an interesting podcast (Asymcar – The View From Tokyo with Bertel Schmitt) on the topic of manufacturing in the Auto industry, and how car plants have a big role on influencing the final product the clients get to have in their hands.

Another interesting article on HBR touches the topic of Innovation coming out of China and how it will disrupt incumbents in high end industries because China is a manufacturing powerhouse, namely in the Shenzhen region with electronics plants, and Innovation gains a lot from being there, next to the plants.

For better or for worse, manufacturing still has and will continue to have a huge influence on Product decisions for the sheer reason that, changing manufacturing plants, assembly lines and processes is expensive, time consuming and difficult from a logistics point of view. Let’s say that manufacturing in the Auto industry is like steering a huge container ship, takes long time to stop or to change course. Has his own inertia.

Of course this varies from industry to industry, but there’s no doubt that the Auto industry where the costs of product development and manufacturing are very high, and cost reduction is done mostly through technology sharing, platform sharing, via gaining market access and market share is a very good example for all other industries to learn through this amplified effect of the automakers.




UX research: The future of good business

Something very dear to me, as I saw in my past experiences, that everytime you have the chance to perform some User Research, you bring home loads of new insights that can be translated into new requirements for product development.

“When user research is done well — i.e. thoroughly, and right at the beginning of the design process — the business impact is huge. It essentially means the difference between getting it right from the start or having to go back and fix your mistakes when you realise that, actually, the product you’ve designed doesn’t resonate with your audience.”

Read more here: The Rise of the UX Researcher

Someone is redesigning the Design Thinking process

So What? right?

Well, make a search on Google for “UCD process” or “Design Thinking process” and many different diagrams will show up. This means that for someone new in the field, it’s almost impossible to choose one, or, you hear people going on pointless discussions about which one is best.

They all look different, but the fact is that they are all just covering the same principles:

  • know your real problem through discovery, research, empathy
  • make your hypothesis visible via some sort of prototype
  • Test that prototype
  • Implement your idea or continue to iterate

I’m sure I’m missing some stuff on my description above, but for the sake of simplifying this post, let’s say it’s OK. These diagrams also depict a process that is more or less linear. This is not true. Real world work is way more complex than that. Real world work is not linear, is full of complexity.

Enjoy your reading here:

Read more authors here:

What do you look for in a Senior UX Designer?

I had a chat the other day about this topic, and that lead me to write down a few ideas I have about this topic. What to look for on a Senior UX Designer?… here’s a few things that pop up immediately:

  • Systems Thinking – understanding the how and why things work one way in society, organizations or technology is paramount to influence change on the right people at the right time
  • Change Management – Launching a new awesome app is just not enough if that’s not accompanied by proper communication and engaging strategies
  • Performing User Research and being a great observer, identifying patterns of behavior out of data and human observation.
  • Be able to establish analogies across different industries and apply best practices. “What have others figure out, that we haven’t?”
  • Practice evidence lead Design. Don’t follow assumptions, but instead validate them and change ideas/believes quickly about what he/she thinks is the best solution.
  • Visual Design or Art Direction, because in the end of the day the touchpoints of a system are mostly a visual interface.
  • Communication skills because presenting solutions to a problem must be compelling and simple to everyone to understand. While asking the right questions, to go deep into the origin of problems.

Quantitative VS Qualitative Data

…many companies are turning to customer research that is powered by big data and analytics. Although that approach can provide astonishingly detailed pictures of some aspects of their markets, the pictures are far from complete and are often misleading. It may be possible to predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but no amount of quantitative data can tell youwhy she made that click or purchase. Without that insight, companies cannot close the complexity gap.

My thoughts about Google Inbox


A friend of mine told me about Google’s new app, Inbox, and since I’m a designer, he would like to hear my opinion. This is my answer to him.

First thing I have to say, is that Google made a good decision by creating a separate product, instead of forcing a new set of features to the Gmail users.

After a few days using the app on my iPhone, here’s my initial thoughts:

  • It’s a mix of email inbox, a to-do list and a calendar, and I prefer to keep all those things separated. Because they are actually different things, I prefer to deal with them separately.
  • It’s an effort to try to put some order on the daily email clutter, assuming people don’t want to see all the emails (even if they are commercial messages, brand spam, etc). From time to time I like to give a look on the latest Groupon offers.
  • Creates bundles of emails by similar content, but so far I haven’t understood what is the criteria to do this. I would stick only to “subject”.
  • The iPhone app interface displays less messages on one screen, compared to the Gmail app for the same device. I prefer to see more messages on one glance.

Do I need another layer of “interpretation” of data between me and my mail box?

The best email interface innovation in the past years was introduced with the simple and genius grouping concept of email messages introduced on Gmail:

  • “important and unread”,
  • “starred”,
  • and “everything else”

This 3 groupings displayed in the same page, are more than enough for me and that’s about as far as I would go in terms of layers of interpretation of data between the user and the emails.

It’s always a challenge to “play” with people’s perceptions built over so many years, like the email. And the email concept comes from the actual physical mail that’s still around us, and will be for many years.

On the other hand I can understand that Google as a global giant in the internet services and with great teams of designers put together, has the pressure, the budget, the people and the media coverage to put new services outside. So, in that sense, bravo Google, for trying to re-imagine the future of internet services.

For now I’ll continue with Gmail, but paying attention to further developments.

Yes, Sir


I’m a big fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, the all Texan landscape and the plot got me hooked for months untill the last episode.

I’m also a fan of cars. I always turn my head for cars with beautiful and simple lines, like the italian sports coupés from the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s from Lancia, Alfa Romeo or BMW.

Well, it happens that Breaking Bad featured one of the ugliest cars ever designed and mass-produced… the Pontiac Aztek. It belonged to the high school teacher, Walter White, and helped to build his character.

No one understood what was going on the designers mind when he decided to design… that. It’s not an SUV, it’s not a wagon/estate, it’s not a sedan/berlina/saloon. And I’m thankfull we didn’t get it in this side of the pond, where Italian and German design set the tone for the all auto industry. It was built from 2001 to 2005. Was a flop for General Motors.


I have completely forgotten the subject, when recently I came across an article on Car and Driver telling a bit of the story of this car, by Bob Lutz (once responsible for the development of the Opel Ampera/Chevrolet Volt at GM).

And a sentence caught my attention as I fully agreed:

“The danger with the totalitarian management style is that people won’t speak up when there’s a problem. They’ll get their heads cut off or the messenger gets shot.”

And there you go. That’s how the Pontiac Aztek was born… everybody said: “Yes, Sir”, to a management team with a lot of wrong ideas. This is particularly dangerous in big corporations where responsibility lies in many people’s hands.

So, I was thinking. Does this apply to UX design as well? I mean, do you as a UX practitioner base your design decisions on the requirements you gathered solely and stay on safe ground? or, do you go beyond and try to push the users experience to a level they don’t really expect, but you are sure it’s going to be better for them, once they pass a quick learning curve?

Design Thinking in a nutshell

A few years ago I had the chance to have a training on Service Design with Arne from Design Thinkers, while I was still working for Novabase Consulting and based in Lisbon. Novabase was at that point starting to embrace these methodologies internaly to provide better advise to clients.

Just take 5 minutes of your time to hear some insights about how DT and Service Design methodologies can help create value for companies and customers.

Doing the good, can hurt – Apple and UX good practices

Doing the good deed to users? or basic UX mistake from Apple?… “Don’t give me what I didn’t ask” some might say. And they are right.
Others where probably happy to have a small gift from Apple. It’s debatable.

Apple went too far on trying to please the clients, for me it’s fine, I’ll just delete the files if I don’t want them.
But in a time when digital surveillance is a hot topic, Apple should be carefull on how they enter on client’s personal cloud services.

If in doubt, always stick to proven good practices. And from a UX point of view, it would be a better decision not to do it in the first place, or do it in a different way like sending an email with a link to download the files. That way the user as the final choice.


UX metaphor

Because I always find it difficult to explain to someone what I do, I found this picture to be a very good starting point of a conversation about the topic.
UX approach to solving design problems is one that goes top down from conceptual ideas (UX Strategy) to very specific design solutions (Interaction Design), in that sense our field needs powerfull memes like this one to help evangelize the field.

On the other hand when one is very much involved with IT development teams (like me for the past months) and the discussion is between “out of the box solutions” versus custom development, this image also helps explain the idea to developers and business.


Why companies need to gather good requirements

It’s common knowledge that companies throw small fortunes on IT development in the trash, without ever seeing a proper return on that investment. The numbers are public and speak for themselves.

This is one of the major concerns of decision makers who either buy software development externally or develop it internally. They are becoming aware of the need to implement a common framework for evaluating IT projects. This can be done by adopting common methodologies to gather requirements early in the projects. Keeping track of requirements from the source to the final output is the only way to control the money spent on IT.

But one thing is sure, integrating only Business and Technology requirements is not enough, if most of the time the requirements are based on assumptions and extrapolations. That’s where we, UX specialists, can help companies by also integrating requirements from the User perspective. Involving the users right from the start increases the chance of success for the IT development process:

  • Because the Business frequently has many misconceptions about what the user want;
  • Because this process brings final users on board, making them also “accountable” for the result;
  • And because some of the key users can become “evangelists” among their peers when it comes to adopting the new tool.

How can UX fit into Requirements Engineering?
Requirements gathering lead by Business Analysts often turns out to be a succession of (endless?) meetings with business teams. A group of people sit together during several hours and try to explain to analysts the way they work, what would they like to have in the future, and so on. What happens normally is that a lot of assumptions and extrapolations are made in these sessions. Assumptions about what final users want and how they really work. And this is a normal phenomenon as IT professionals working in house gain years of experience in their fields, they also lose some fresh perspective on their business and on their end users.

So, the work of the UX specialist is basically to “validate” all these assumptions (rather than “discover”) against real world scenarios. In the process you can be sure that many requirements will be dropped, others will be changed, and new ones will be uncovered.
Our aim, as UX specialists, is to design correct usable things, (rather than wrong usable things) and a big part of this is achieved by conducting correct user requirements gathering (commonly known as User Research) by applying the correct research tools to each project. These can include Contextual Inquiries, Field Studies, Cultural Probes, Focus Groups, etc, depending on time, budget, scope and availability of people. Different approaches require different resources.

In conclusion, the sooner a project is correctly aligned with the real user needs, and the requirements are traced from the beginning to the end of all projects, the higher the chances are of having a good return on the money invested in software development.

Is your value proposition easy to understand?

Frog design presents us with this nice short video that mixes two of my great passions: Experience Design and… Cars 🙂

So, they ask us a very simple question: Is your value proposition easy to understand to the client?

In a world of interconnected objects, ecosystems of products and so on, it’s hard for a common citizen to put in words what does he/she actually likes in an iPhone… But if you ask someone why does he/she likes to drive a vintage sports car… well, you might end up having a 3 hours chat on the subject.

So, the challenge for us, Designers, is to SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY services and objects.