Notes From the Future Desk - October


Natalie Miller

on 11/1/2016

This month we’re circling back to our digital strategists, Ben and Corinne, for tools of the trade, some advice about priorities, and an overview of this year’s Midwest UX Conference.


Week 1: Balsamiq, but not the kind that will taste good on your salad

When it comes to initial collaboration on wireframes, nothing beats a big ol’ white board. However, those aren’t very easy to share with the dev and design teams, or the client for that matter. That’s when we turn to Balsamiq, wireframing software. The best part? It’s suuuuuper simple to use. After about 5 minutes of exploring it I felt like a pro, but they do offer extensive tutorials if you want learn all the features available to you.

After meeting the client and assessing their needs, spending a couple hours collaborating on detailed wireframes in the beginning of the project is hugely productive.
With wireframes you can be strategic about the layout of the site, and allow the client to have a better visual. In the end some well thought out wireframes will make for a more efficient team and more successful end-product.


Week 2: Priorities!

If there is a trick that I have that consistently works when doing project management or product design – it’s to set things in order by priority. This seems like a small and obvious thing, but I guarantee the next argument you see when designing something is because the team doesn’t have it’s priorities in sync.

This could be goals by importance, users by revenue, functionality by difficulty, tasks by need-for-focus, whatever. If you don’t know what’s important, nothing is important. Decisions are way easier after this is done.


Week 3: SEMrush

SEMrush is a subscription service that’s pretty handy for maintaining or improving the rank of a site. Typically we will use this tool on a weekly or monthly basis to check to see if there are any broken links or review SEO recommendations for new site content.
Over time, SEMrush has been rolling out lots of new features and is becoming a one-stop-shop for all your Search Engine Marketing needs. Organic Traffic Insights is one new feature SEMrush offers that connects to Google Analytics. It’s an easy way to see a snapshot of your site’s organic search traffic, the most popular pages and the keywords associated with those. This kind of information is hugely helpful in planning future blog posts or strategically writing content.


Week 4: Midwest UX Conference in Louisville! (#MWUX16)

This last weekend (Oct 20-22), Louisville hosted the 5th annual Midwest UX (MW/UX) conference. I’m still unpacking all of what I did and saw, but here are some quick highlights:


  • Laban Movement for Designers was a physical workshop by Scott Sullivan and Erik Dahl opened my eyes to a great framework to describe interactions – you know, like “this button seems too heavy” or “the scroll action on this is too touchy.” Laban Movement Analysis gives you a framework to explain this.
  • Janice Fraser’s Keynote on lean startup hit me when she said “Pivotal Labs has zero project managers” – only client managers, UX/creative folks and devs. It’s a self-organizing team structure.
  • The Human-Centered Design Panel at Forest Giant not only made me jealous of their amazing office space but struck home these important points:
    • Empathy in design is critical (you are not your user)
    • Care less about user preference, care more about user performance
    • If they do their task correctly they will be happy and they will use the app more
  • I need to take a closer look at the work that Chris Avore and NASDAQ are doing for user research here:
  • And finally: I’m never going to another conference that does not give me access to a Slack channel for the conference.


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