When I finished my Fine Arts studies in high school and told my teacher I’m going to be a programmer, I couldn’t miss the slight disappointment on her face. She thought working in front of a computer for 9 hours a day for six years will kill the artist inside of me.
Well, 6 years later, I can say this artist is pretty injured, but learned and changed a lot.
Every once in a while I read an article or listen to a lecture that really sweeps me off my feet. I try to determine the unique element that keeps me so focused on the information I’m getting, and I think one of the most important ingredients of this success recipe is good storytelling. So, what does the word “storytelling” mean? Why is it so important? How can we use it? I took these questions for a little online reading aside my coffee and I’d like to share with you my insights.
Every year, an amazing company, called UniqUI, organizes a huge conference and brings some of the best UX designers from Israel and the whole world, to give amazing talks about UX. This year, with an awesome group of 5 volunteers, I helped them make this conference run smoothly. My part was pretty small and simple, but added to the UX talks, I came back home with plenty of new knowledge and insights.
It was a sunny Sunday noon at the office (In Israel, Sunday is a work day). I typed “mailchi” and let the autocomplete lead the way. I wanted to check something about my account, when suddenly I saw this:
I thought I wouldn’t write this week, because I’m too busy studying for my last exam for my Computer Science degree, although I formally finished the school year about half a year ago. Somehow I felt a sudden muse and a blast of motivation, so I thought I’d write about the reason I’m having a late last exam.
As I have mentioned before, I work in a big programming enterprise, working on many projects. My job, as a UX designer, is pretty much being the freelancer inside the organization. I meet the product managers, talk about their projects, understand their needs, go as deep as I need to go, and then offer them a variety of UX solutions. But, the role I probably like the most, is educating for better UX.
The thing is, you can’t be a single UX designer handling so many projects. It will be as exhausting as building the full-sized Eiffel tower with LEGO blocks. I mean, I’m a huge fan of LEGO, but I have some other things to do.
During my not-very-long career, I’ve worked on a big project, involving a lot of different components and modules. The UX process was done right and was really insightful, I learned a lot from it, pushed myself to my personal professional limits and achieved some impressive results. The only thing is, this was a very classified project, and it has its constraints, and one of them is the the fact I can’t really tell anything about it. So, I’ll explain the process of my work on a classified project, under the censorship restrictions.
I love being an early bird for new apps, I’m super-excited about new technology trends and, somehow, I buy a new phone about once a year. A quick diagnosis will probably point I’m a slave of innovation. Innovation is great, but it can be a curse if not treated the right way.
The past couple of months were a rollercoaster of feelings for me. I’ve had my awesome weeks of full control and self satisfaction — I designed awesome things, learned a lot of stuff and went to the gym a lot. But, there were also periods of disappointment and low self confidence — I didn’t enjoy my job, I felt stuck, and the only thing I wanted to do was get in my bed and play video games for ever and ever. This feeling is connected to many things in my life — work, money, fitness, etc.
It appeared to me that the key for being satisfied, for me, is Control.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
I switched to iOS lately and played with Health app — an app that learns almost every aspect of your health and habits — activities, eating habits and much more, depending on what permission you give it, of course. I know this is not a new and revolutionary idea, but an app that collects your data of a routine or a progress you’re going through is still satisfying and fun.
After playing a little bit with the app I was a bit frustrated with the structural way it works — You can measure and document your runs, but documenting gym workouts is a bit crooked. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not as easy. Gym workouts aren’t as measurable as runs, so there aren’t so many apps that do it, although generally all it takes is a little tick that you’ve completed a workout.
The improvement diary
My father cycled and swam for most of his life, and in order to document his progress, back in the past millennium, he wrote down his activities in a little diary, with a little illustration that describes the activity.
I really liked looking at these illustrations and records, both in a visual way and in a ideological way. So, a couple of months ago, I bought a cheap diary and at the end of every day wrote what I did in order to get better — Worked out, played the guitar, learned how to code in ReactJS, etc. This was pretty awesome, but still not so satisfying.
The all-tracking app
I don’t need to do a lot of persuasion work in order to sell the concept of an app that helps you become better, but I had an idea for an app that will help me get better and feel in control. The concept is really simple — It trackseverything. No complicated algorithms and no privacy-invading permissions. The concept is letting you say what you did, that was worth documenting, on each day. The missing ingredient that makes this app better than a physical diary, in my opinion is the option to review your progress summary. A weekly report of your process would be so satisfying to watch. The app doesn’t have to know what you did, the whole thing can be super-generic. Just seeing you worked out 4 times this week, learned piano for 7 hours, read a whole book… That’s so satisfying!
It’s as generic as a piece of paper
I can’t predict what type of activities will be tracked on this app; Some people like to go to the gym, while others like to practice on harmonica and others like to practice self-hypnosis. These are all things that require time and investment, for the long run — and that’s the common ground of these activities, not the way they’re recorded. An instance of an activity should have no more than these parameters: Category — The activities should have categories in order to be summed up. “Gym” / “Tambourine” / “Drawing”. Description (optional) — “A workout with my brother” / “Late night tambourine jam” / “First try of drawing with my eyes folded”.
Being in control makes me feel safe and comfortable, so for me, an app that keeps me in control of everything I want (again, I have the control), is the ideal way of being calm and satisfied. It would be a nice project for me to develop it myself and see how it feels. What do you think about this idea? Would you use it? Do you feel it needs any other upgrades? Tell me about it in the comments.
It’s 2:00 AM and I’m done building my portfolio. Wait. Let me just fix this minor little tiny issue here. Oh crap. It’s 2:30 and I’m done building my portfolio. I’ve had two very busy days of the last minute edits and now I’m finished. I accepted and accomplished HackingUI and .design’s one month portfolio challenge, while in the beginning of it I wasn’t even sure I have something to show in my portfolio. I know I have a lot of things to fix and a lot of things to improve in, but I’m happy — I wrote thousand lines of code in HTML, CSS and ReactJS, and I designed my own site and didn’t let myself down. My last posts were mostly about insights from the process of creating the portfolio. Now I can sum it up with some insights from the whole experience, from the perspective of the one who’ve accomplished the task.